Festivals TV

ATX TV Fest 2018: Women Who Defy Panel

On Saturday, June 9, the Google Fiber Space hosted Women Who Defy, presented by SYFY WIRE’s Fangrrls. The panel, which took place bright and early at 10 AM, was moderated by the Managing Editor of Fangrrls, Cher Martinetti. The focus of Women Who Defy is female characters in genre television. The panelists will be familiar to most people who are well-versed in science fiction and fantasy TV: Emily Andras (creator/showrunner of “Wynonna Earp”), Sera Gamble (co-creator/co-showrunner/EP for “The Magicians”), Carina MacKenzie (writer/EP for “Roswell, New Mexico), and Maddie Hasson (actor, “Impulse”).

L-R: Martinetti, Andras, Gamble, MacKenzie, Hasson | Photo by: Jackie Ruth

One of the first questions Martinetti asked the panelists was what fandom they first remember being a part of. Each of the women had a different answer: it’s “Twin Peaks” for Andras, “Star Trek” for Gamble, “Supernatural” for MacKenzie, and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” for Hasson. Following MacKenzie’s pick, Martinetti asked whether she believes “Supernatural” or “Dancing With the Stars” will run longer, a joke that landed perfectly with the audience. MacKenzie’s reply is that she now wants to see the stars of “Supernatural” compete on the dance show in a crossover.

There were plenty of more serious conversations during the panel too. Martinetti asked if the showrunners feel pressured to make their shows more political in the current climate or to cover certain social issues. MacKenzie’s reboot of “Roswell” does cover some real-world issues, with primary characters who are undocumented immigrants – the show’s writers and other crew do their best to showcase that perspective and the perspectives of other marginalized communities.

In terms of TV covering these issues versus being a form of escapism, it seems the panelists leaned more toward the former than the latter. The shows already feature fantastical plot points and characters, so why not present them with issues that real people face? Gamble even suggested that seeing television characters you connect with go through the same trials as you may be a type of catharsis.

There was also a portion of the Women Who Defy panel dedicated to sexism within the industry and different stories each of the women had in which they felt they had been treated as less-than simply for not being a man. MacKenzie recalled one time when she wanted to re-shoot a scene and another man on set called her “adorable” for making the call; on a positive note, she did end up being correct about the necessary re-shoot. Hasson told the audience about a time when a fellow actress expressed being uncomfortable about removing her shirt during a makeout scene and was asked, “what’s the point of your character if she doesn’t take her shirt off?”

As creatives in charge of shows, Andras, Gamble, and MacKenzie also spoke to the state of women on television. They proclaimed to hate the word “badass,” agreeing that a woman doesn’t have to physically best a man to be “strong” or compelling. They also railed against the idea that female characters have to be “likable,” especially since that’s a subjective measurement.

Just because things are not yet great for women on or off screen, the fact that women like Martinetti, Gamble, Andras, Hasson, and MacKenzie work in the industry and want to make changes can give us hope that things are improving. This is particularly great for genre TV, which has a lot of fans in women and girls who want to see themselves represented and are finally getting that chance.

Featured image credit: Maggie Boyd/ATX TV Festival

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