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Blair Brown Says Fringe Turned from Female Protagonist to a "Boy Show"

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Fringe, Limitless and Orange is the New Black star Blair Brown appeared at the Netflix TCA’s today and had something to say about why OITNB is such an important show for women. In contrasting her time with OITNB (where she plays a Martha Stewart character who goes to federal prison), she said Fringe departed from its starting point as a show about a female hero.

“I loved my time on Fringe, but the truth is that was originally a story about a female protagonist… and the show turned into a story about father and son. Very often in this business, that’s what tends to happen.”

“A lot of the time, those boy shows, it’s not that there’s anything against women, they just don’t know how to write women, so they go right back to [the trope of Steven] Spielberg, father-son — and there are mothers and sons, and mothers and daughters.”

Before fans rip Brown apart for her comments, you need to consider her perspective. Brown is a five-time Emmy nominee and has been around this business for 30 years. She knows how it works better than we do as fans and viewers. If she sees this as an ongoing concern, that’s because she’s lived it as an actress. Her comments also give validity to those who feel TV shows like Once Upon a Time have drifted away from their core values. Brown’s statement about writers struggling to write women is on point. This is not a new problem, nor does it necessarily stem from producers and writers hating women. That’s not what she’s saying here.

Brown is also discovering what happens to older actresses who get to play the mother role. She described her role on Limitless, where she plays the lead male’s mother, as “a lovely place to work, but all I do is kind of nod and get food.”

If a TV show wants the mom to stand around and nod, that’s their prerogative, but women’s lives, loves, dreams, mistakes, and achievements don’t stop when we become mothers… or turn 45… or turn 60. That’s why actresses are flocking to OITNB – for the chance to play fully realized people whose lives are rich no matter their age, race, gender, or sexuality. It’s also why you had Oscar-winning actresses showing up to guest star on The L Word back in the day – the chance to not be defined by “mom” or “girlfriend.”

In other news from the Netflix TCA, season 4 OITNB premieres next June. We are in the midst of podcasting season 3 over on our podcast, The Litch Line.

Alex is a lawyer and opinionated.

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