Cougar Town: Offensive, Empowering, or Promoting a New Consumer Demographic?
So did you watch it? What did you think? I hadn’t intended to tune in, but an article on salon.com convinced me to check it out. This article focused on whether or not self-respecting feminists should use the word ‘cougar’. Some say it’s an offensive term. Others point out that there is nothing inherently bad about it – a cougar is a sleek and powerful creature! Others say it can be reclaimed for empowered use, as has happened with designations like ‘queer’.
Where will Cougar Town come down on this argument? Well, Jules is certainly sexy, sort of powerful (has a career; pays her ex-husband alimony rather than having him pay it to her), and is seeking to have a full life. But she’s also neurotic, terrified of being alone, and confused about her friendships. And when her son catches her beginning to perform oral sex on a man she’s known for a few hours in her backyard, she doesn’t handle it particularly well. So far, I’m not convinced that this will be a term of empowerment!
What really intrigued me, though, was one of the commercials. It opened with a group of men excited that school was getting out. First we think they’re anticipating the uniformed teens, but it turns out they’re waiting for the teacher. The refrain plays as the internal monlogue of the men: “The whole world belongs to the woman – you and I, we just live in it…. ” What is this ad for? At first I thought, shampoo?? Is this a new herbal essence without the shower type commercial? No, it’s for cougarlife.com, a new dating website that sets cougars up with cubs; that is, independent, sexy, successful women with youthful, fit, sexually driven, younger men (their words, not mine).
As it turns out, the ‘cougar’ is less about offense vs. empowerment. It’s actually about the creation, development and perpetuation of a new market demographic. Sigh.
I’m dubious, but I’ll give it another try.
Yes, I did watch it, but I contemplated turning it off several times I was so bored. I loved the salon.com piece you sent me and that is an interesting debate: is the word cougar something that can be embraced? (though even that article suggests that the term might be a marketing ploy to reach a new “demographic”). As far as this particular show goes, I’m more in agreement with this review in Slate. There is almost nothing sleek, powerful, or even mature about Courtney Cox’s “older woman” character. She is still fundamentally a girl-child, trying to please everyone and stumbling toward anything like understanding pleasure herself. And did we have to have so many monologues about how much harder life is for women than men? Or that speech about younger men’s virility (“how cool is that?”)? Come on people, show don’t tell.
The most insulting of all: Courtney Cox’s body. If the miniscule belly flab (that was no where in evidence once the lingerie was out) is a sign of despair, all the other women in the show – not to mention the audience – should kill themselves now.
Yes, I agree with you. Thanks for the Slate article. It was dead on on Cougar Town, although I would part from its assessment of Community, which I thought was especially full of boring stock characters that would border on offensive if they weren’t so ridiculous!
I had the same thought about the (body double?) belly fat. But at the same time, I was pleased to see that the three core female friends all had fairly different body types. Of course, we didn’t see the other two in their underwear, Laurie’s sexuality was cast more as playful hijinks, and Ellie’s sexuality was mocked by setting it in the context of an unattractive husband and a less-than-wonderful sex life. It might be too much to hope that they do something more interesting with this.
You’re right, though – Jules is a girl-child. And the attempt to make her look less so by including an even greater boy-child ex-husband bordered on pathetic. As he tries to piece together work and live off alimony, though, he leads me to think more about Jules’ career. What is up with using real estate to demonstrate women’s professional power? We saw it with Annette Bening’s character in American Beauty, with Edie in Desperate Housewives, and now this. It makes me wonder if it allows a non-threatening view of female professional success, still bound to a domestic sphere.
Oh well, at least we have The Office tonight!