Geena Davis went on CNN Wednesday to promote See Jane, the children's-entertainment watchdog group she founded. Specifically, See Jane seeks to boost the percentage of female characters in children's programming, and Davis seemed all set to talk about that. Unfortunately, CNN host Kyra Phillips seemed to have gotten the wrong script.
Early in the interview, Davis described watching TV with her young daughter and noting the dearth of female characters. Phillips responded with this non sequitur: "Well, it's interesting because you talk about this sort of long journey of self-discovery, and how for so many years you didn't feel comfortable in your own skin, and you didn't really have a lot of self-confidence. Now, fast-forward, oh my gosh: You have this amazing husband, these beautiful children, a great career, you're playing a female president ... um, I guess, maybe we should talk about how you got to that point. It wasn't easy, was it." Davis looked a little wary, but gamely acknowledged that feeling truly comfortable with herself has taken most of her adult life.
Now, it's not necessarily a problem for Phillips to ask Davis about her personal development, but the interview was supposed to be about See Jane. The title of the segment was "Watch 'TV president' on G-rated gender gap," and the accompanying blurb read, "Actress Geena Davis talks about a study she launched to look at the number of male and female roles in G-rated movies." Maybe Phillips is taking a page from Lesley Stahl's playbook, or maybe interviews with women are required to include mention of amazing husbands and beautiful children along with professional accomplishments.
But it's a bummer that she has to talk about her personal life instead of her media watchdog group in an interview that's ostensibly about her media watchdog group. Especially since, once Phillips got around to asking Davis how she talks about gender roles with her beautiful children, Davis had cogent and interesting things to say:
"Mitigating talk, they have found, is as effective as if you'd never seen the negative media. For example, violence on television. If you talk to your kids about it, have intelligent discussions about it, it has the same impact as if they hadn't seen the violent images. It's the same with gender inequity; we're not in any way recommending that you throw away a movie that doesn't have any female characters but is otherwise a great film. But when you watch it with your kids, notice -- help them notice, boys and girls. It's really important for boys to see that girls take up half of the planet -- which we do. Actually, roughly, it's slightly more, but I never want to quibble about that 1 or 2 percent; I'm willing to let that slide."
Aww, she's so great. And it's useful to learn that shielding children from objectionable media isn't the only available solution. But Phillips just steered the conversation back to Davis' home life: "Well, and behind every man is an even better woman, right? Isn't that the truth?" (I swear, that was her response.) Davis politely demurred, but Phillips couldn't let it go: "I know you're being humble, yet you have this amazing husband, Reza, 15 years your younger -- wow, Geena! Is that, uh, you know, is it easy? I know, what can you say: You're successful, you're beautiful, you've got it all. But has it been tough?"
At this point, I'm hoping Davis will snark back: "It's especially tough now that I've learned that apparently I'm behind him," but though she looked a little uncomfortable, she's too classy for that.
Anyone who wants to hear more about how to make it work with a younger man should watch the Phillips-Davis interview in full. Anyone who wants to learn more about See Jane and gender roles in the media, however, should skip the clip and click here.