Charlie’s Angels and Empowerment

Today I digress a bit from the usual topic of living with cancer and living well. I’m aiming for something more on the lighter side. As a child, I loved watching Charlie’s Angels on TV. I must have been about seven to ten years old. I thought Sabrina, Kelly, and Kris were all independent and gutsy.

Reruns were on over summer. It is also four decades later and I look back on the series with a slightly different lens. Here are some things I noticed:

  • The opening sequence begins, “Once upon a time, there were three little girls who went to the police academy.” Apparently the notion of women in a police academy needed to be likened to that of a fairy tale. Back in the 1970s, it also apparently was just fine to refer to women as “little girls.”
  • The little girls were given “very hazardous duties” (crossing guard, telephone operator, etc.) and Charlie was able to take them away from these. Did Magnum P.I. need to be rescued from hazardous duties? He did not. He was smack dab in the middle of danger several times an episode.
  • Charlie always had scantily clad female company in his office, no matter if his companion was playing backgammon or doing his accounting. I have never done either of these activities in my swimwear. Maybe that’s one of my problems.
  • Sabrina, Kelly, and Kris wore very stylish clothing and heels that didn’t easily lend themselves to chasing the bad guys or physical confrontations. They often seemed unprepared for that possibility. They almost always managed to get themselves into scrapes because they went places alone. This was done on repeated episodes. It must have been a formula that worked for the writers that gave good ratings. Unfortunately, it also perpetuated a stereotype.
  • Episode topics usually dealt with crimes where there was some sort of attack on women where the woman was helpless. There was always a reminder of male dominance in a show meant to showcase independent females. The series did progress to smarter storylines in later years, but by then the series seemed to be on its way out.
  • Bosley was a perfectly nice man. He was not seemingly all that fit, he spoke with a bit of a lisp, and never once was shown in a speedo. Neither was Magnum to my recollection, but Magnum had short shorts that he simply had to wear because he lived in Hawaii.

How is any of this empowering? Sabrina seemed the smartest and quickest on her feet. She really acted as the glue in almost every episode. I guess empowerment at the time meant a show that provided images of independent women working in nontraditional roles. It portrayed women working together for a common cause where women supported one another. It also showed that women didn’t have to sacrifice their femininity to be successful. All good points.

I define empowered women today as women who are shown as intelligent, independent, and physically and emotionally strong. These are women who are competent and able to stand on their own to accomplish goals and see opportunities as growth when tougher choices are needed. They live what they believe and tell the truth. Charlie’s Angels paved the way for what continues to be an evolution for women’s empowerment. Empowerment involves dimension. We all have dimension with our interests, achievements, passions, and even our flaws. Flaws make us unique and add a lot of dimension. None of us are fallen or broken. We’re just growing our wings. Then we fly.