BROOKE GLADSTONE: Recently the National Organization for Women released its Feminist Primetime report. Among the shows NOW recommends for their feminist themes and portrayals were ABC's What About Joan, CBS's That's Life, NBC's Ed, Felicity on the WB network and Buffy the Vampire Slayer which has moved from the WB to UPN. Those last two shows -- Felicity and Buffy --prompted a strong protest from Amanda Fazzone in The New Republic. NOW may praise Buffy for her butt-kicking assertiveness, says Fazzone, but the promo photos make it difficult to divorce the ass-kicking from the tits and ass. And Felicity, she says, is powerful only because she is sexually attractive and active. She says NOW should not anoint Felicity a role model. Anyway Felicity spends too much time ruminating on sex.
WOMAN: After you listen th-- [THERE IS SOUND LOST HERE IN TAPE CHANGE ??] ...actually picture what it might be like to be with a man for the first time, sexually.
AMANDA FAZZONE: All of the plot lines tend to cycle back to sex and I see that as, for young girls, not necessarily the best model for their life because they tend to be portrayed in a way that emphasizes their sexuality. In my multiple trips while researching this article to the Felicity web site, there is a picture of Felicity and her boyfriend, Ben, naked in the bathtub. She's a woman. She's 20 years old or thereabouts, and that's how she's being depicted on, on television.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:I haven't watched this show very much. We have here Maxine Kaplan who's a regular viewer of Felicity and Buffy. She also, in the interests of full disclosure, is a close relative of mine. Anyway, Maxine, what did you think just now of Amanda's depiction of the character of Felicity?
MAXINE KAPLAN: Well I have to say I disagree with it because Felicity I think does depict a real character - a college age girl - and college age people do generally have sex, and I've never once considered Felicity as a sexpot on the show.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Why not?
MAXINE KAPLAN: Well, A) she was a virgin when she came on the show which tends to dispute that claim. That's not her priority really.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Wasn't she following her boyfriend when she matriculated to NYU?
MAXINE KAPLAN:Actually no. Like Ben wasn't her boyfriend for one thing, and for another, in the very same pilot where she supposedly follows her boyfriend to New York, she also explains at the end of the pilot that it was more about escaping the perfectly planned life her father had for her.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: The role models chosen by NOW -- Felicity, Buffy -- to name two of them -- are they positive images do you think or not?
MAXINE KAPLAN:I think so! Cause-- Felicity, for instance, is intelligent. In numerous episodes she's proven that she doesn't need her boyfriend to be happy. She's just self-reliant and knows what she wants. And Buffy, well-- she killed Angel in one episode to save the world, and that's the man she loved, and-- it's-- very soap opera-y, yes, but it's not a bad message. [MUSIC]
ANGEL: [WHISPERING] I love you.
BUFFY: [WHISPERING] Close your eyes. [SURGE IN MUSIC]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Okay, that was a heartbroken Buffy killing her vampire lover to save the world. Amanda, you object to Buffy, and to Felicity and to a lot of the characters on Dawson's Creek, but are there any programs on NOW's list that you would approve of?
AMANDA FAZZONE: There are shows and long-running shows -- ER for example is one of my favorite shows, and I've never perceived that television program to be in any way exploitive. I've always perceived it to be a very positive show in terms of the way that the female characters are portrayed.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:But there's still a lot of sex in relationships in ER. I mean George Clooney is a hunk; Julianna Margulies is a babe. And they have sex.
AMANDA FAZZONE: But there is a distinction between the shows that I was addressing in the program and ER which is a program about adults and teen sexuality is inflammatory to begin with because it can lead to a lot of things that are not necessarily beneficial to teenagers such as STDs and unwanted pregnancies.
MAXINE KAPLAN: May--maybe it's-- well maybe it's because I'm a teen, but I don't really think that teen sexuality is as significant to us when watching the shows as it seems when adults talk about them. I mean we all know that sex can result in pregnancy and STD's. They've been ramming it down our throats since we were 6th grade. We, we know. We-- have been taking health class, and it's also come up in the show. Just recently in Dawson's Creek Joey [sp?] had a pregnancy scare. Also this could be my bias, but sex is an important to teenagers and it's not the only one discussed on the shows. A lot of it has to do with what colleges they're going to get into; the gay issue; being accepted I guess that can be used as a sexual issue, but it's also about social acceptance and equality. And family issues often comes into it. I just think it's not as prevalent as it seems and as it's usually portrayed.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:I'd like to thank both of you for joining me -- Amanda Fazzone is an assistant editor for The New Republic. Amanda, thank you very much!
AMANDA FAZZONE: Thank you so much.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Maxine Kaplan, also thanks to you.
MAXINE KAPLAN: You're welcome.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Maxine Kaplan is an 11th grader, and-- my daughter. [MUSIC TAG]