We desperately need nuanced narratives about women in power, and Netflix must deliver.
When Variety announced that Jennifer Aniston and Tig Notaro would be teaming up on a new Netflix movie together, the internet was set alight — and for great reason. Their film, titled First Ladies, will be about America’s first female president and her wife. It will be written by Notaro and her spouse and fellow One Mississippi scribe, Stephanie Allynne.
The First Ladies press release doesn’t even detail much about the film beyond its catchy premise: “behind every great woman… is another great woman.” But honestly, that sounds good enough for me and the world at large.
jennifer aniston playing a gay president omfg W I G pic.twitter.com/ydhFlbdejW
— panchhi 🦋 (@catexblanchett) May 18, 2018
EXCUSE ME. DID I JUST READ JENNIFER ANISTON WILL PLAY THE FIRST FEMALE PRESIDENT AND WILL HAVE A, LISTEN TO THIS, WIFE?!?!! Omg I didn’t know I needed this until now
— Katya (@madamparriIIa) May 18, 2018
First Ladies will undoubtedly serve as a vital stepping stone towards further shaping a representative media landscape. In a time when audiences are still navigating films and shows that don’t portray women or the LGBTQ community in wholly positive or simply well-rounded ways, we need a movie like this.
We’ve seen a number of women presidents on screen over the years, but the nuance of their actual characterizations leaves plenty to be desired. Firstly, there’s obviously still not enough of them, period. Moreover, onscreen women presidents aren’t actually as subversive as they could be, supposedly shattering proverbial glass ceilings by taking up such an important role in office but being subject to subtly sexist storylines. Many onscreen women presidents aren’t even elected into office, instead finding their way to the highest honor in the Oval Office via ascension. And if women officials are actually elected into office in these fictional worlds, many of their storylines prefer to focus on them finding a “work-life balance.” This wouldn’t be inherently bad if not for the fact that fictional elected men don’t tend to have to deal with the same issues.
What then is anyone to expect from queer women in politics on screen? That stuff is non-existent in film and TV, not least of all because queer women aren’t greatly represented in the media to begin with. As GLAAD announced in November last year in its annual report on TV representation, the majority of queer stories are still dominated by white, male perspectives. A different GLAAD study from earlier in 2017 concluded that mainstream portrayals of the LGBTQ community on film are not up to scratch either, for the same reason.
First Ladies has the opportunity to change these statistics — not in one fell swoop, as it is but one film. However, this will certainly open up a vital conversation about how we conceptualize queer women on screen and which spaces they are allowed to inhabit and own. Plus, the fact that Notaro and Allyne are writing a comedy makes the project seem even more enticing, because I’ve just about had enough of watching queer narratives that only tell upsetting narratives.
The only real hurdle I can possibly see in this equation is Netflix. The fact that they have such a visible platform is a real plus when it comes to getting First Ladies seen by as many people as possible, and they have a worldwide reach. But the quality of their original films has always been hit or miss. That being said, The Incredible Jessica James and Little Evil have had luck with critics thanks to the respective talents of James C. Strouse and Eli Craig.
So, if the creative team is what matters, we can rest assured that Notaro and Allyne will deliver a killer script. With credits like One Mississippi under their belt, we can likely expect something compassionate and story-driven to deliver the film’s timely messages. For her part, Aniston is a huge name who owns at doing comedy and a great choice to make sure as many eyes are paying attention to First Ladies as possible.
Both Aniston and Notaro have plenty on their plates alongside this potentially groundbreaking new comedy. Notaro’s stand-up special Happy To Be Here will land on Netflix May 22nd, and she is expected to appear in the second season of Star Trek: Discovery. Meanwhile, Aniston has an Adam Sandler comedy, a Reese Witherspoon project, and an R-rated parenting comedy in the works.