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Intended Audiences

Sex differences are clearly a touchy subject, but sometimes its rears its head in unexpected places. Reading Dana Stevens' take on Entourage for example, one is led to wonder why, really, we should care what a woman thinks about the show. If you've seen the program and understand the economics of HBO, it's pretty clear that she's not supposed to like it. In a sense, of course, the intrinsic demographic/genre limitations of the series might be thought to limit its potential to be Great Art, but then again it's silly to equate broadness of appeal with quality. I wouldn't really defend Entourage as truly excellent drama, but I would defend The Wire on those terms and yet -- without making any claim that the difference is necessarily rooted in biology -- I also would expect the vast majority of women to find the show unappealing.

August 29, 2005 | Permalink


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I wouldn't really defend Entourage as truly excellent drama

Probably because it is a comedy, not a drama. (And, the best show on TV, IMHO.)

Other than that, the comment is right on, although, I suppose, that a TV critic like Stevens should be able to see the show for what it is, even if she is not the intended (or, really, in her off-duty time, actual) audience for the show.

Posted by: Al | Aug 29, 2005 5:35:00 PM

I'l add that Entourage is pretty obviously the male equivalent of Sex and the City. And I really didn't get the hype over SatC. But, as Matthew correctly points out, I wasn't intended to like it. So who really cared what I thought about it?

Posted by: Al | Aug 29, 2005 5:39:39 PM

I think that The Wire is the best show on television and I am a woman. I don't understand why you would think women would not like The Wire. It is extremely intelligent, but still emotionally gripping and addresses some of the most difficult issues confronting our society. What is not to like for a woman?

Posted by: Marianne | Aug 29, 2005 6:06:08 PM

I think that you're wrong about The Wire. The women I know love the show. It's genuinely interested in its subject matter, rather than just a shoot-'em-up. Unlike Deadwood, it doesn't reflect a fundamentally masculinist worldview. Plus, the actor who plays McNulty is, I've been led to believe, pretty dreamy.

Posted by: pjs | Aug 29, 2005 6:15:07 PM

Let me add my voice to the chorus: I'm a woman and I love the Wire, can't imagine why you would think women wouldn't like it.

Posted by: floame | Aug 29, 2005 6:31:14 PM

My wife and most of her friends love Entourage. Perhaps it is just a palatable 'peek into the other sides head' but that is the one show she will never miss. I think a broad "vast majority" statement is way off base here.

Posted by: StupendousMan | Aug 29, 2005 6:37:20 PM

My wife loves Entourage. Definitely a reach to say "vast majority" of women won't like it or are not supposed to like it.

Posted by: Blamster | Aug 29, 2005 7:56:52 PM

Yeah, um, my girlfriend loves The Wire. In fact, of the six Wire addicts I know, three of them are women.

Also, why the economics of HBO matter? If women don't watch HBO now, it's in HBO's interest to get more female viewers (think of this as "market making"); if women do watch HBO, then they have an interest in keeping their audience high.

One can make the case that optimal programming for HBO would involve lots of narrowly tailored shows, but I don't own HBO so can't say if the gender targetting of their shows is slanted one way or the other.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Aug 29, 2005 8:27:02 PM

My wife also digs Entourage -- in fact, she's been following it since Season One, whereas I've only just started watching it this year. I don't really see a gender split here. If you're the kind of person who likes to follow showbiz, you'll enjoy the show, whether you happen to be male or female.

Posted by: Jersey Exile | Aug 29, 2005 8:33:04 PM

It seems that TV and film critics alike are bumping up against the problem you're talking about - how does one talk meaningfully about popular culture pitched to a different demographic, not only gender but class, sexual orientation and race - but taken to its conclusion your stance would lead to an odd agnosticism in passing value judgments about any cultural product. I think journalistic criticism is helped by including voices from those excluded by the demographic and generic positioning of films and TV shows. It seems to me that Dana Stevens is perfectly right to call Entourage on its straight-guy wish fulfillment passing as coy irony. If you think that the assessment is not a fatal flaw, fine. I'm not part of Entourage's intended audience, but I enjoy it nonetheless. I still think Stevens suggestions would make it a better show.

Posted by: Chris Cagle | Aug 29, 2005 9:29:30 PM

I just don't care for the particular compound of sensibilities. In the last couple of years someone has discovered a demographic that consumes both Maxim and all that Belle and Sebastian-y wimp pop, and that is kind of who the show is triangulating, it seems to me.

Posted by: spacetoast | Aug 30, 2005 2:00:22 AM

"I really didn't get the hype over SatC. But, as Matthew correctly points out, I wasn't intended to like it. So who really cared what I thought about it?"

There's no way around it; I agree entirely with Al.

Posted by: Scott Lemieux | Aug 30, 2005 1:28:01 PM

My girlfriend respects The Wire, but doesn't love it--she says it requires too much work to get involved (which is a fair criticism; I just think it's worth the work). She did, however, say something in passing once to the effect that 90% of the characters are men. I think that percentage is overstated, but it suggests to me why Matt might think it wouldn't appeal to women.

Posted by: Tom Hilton | Aug 30, 2005 3:00:00 PM

She's not criticizing it because she fails to identify with the material -- she just thinks it's stupid. That is, the point of Stevens' review is *not* that Entourage is insufficiently "female"; it's that the show fails as a drama (or drama/comedy) due to there being no real conflict. That's a perfectly valid stance for a professional critic to take, regardless of whether or not you agree.

Posted by: Anon | Aug 30, 2005 4:11:05 PM

My wife likes the "wire". I thought this article was funny and true. Why do women like the "Law and Order"?

Posted by: Joe O | Aug 30, 2005 9:47:03 PM

"She's not criticizing it because she fails to identify with the material -- she just thinks it's stupid. That is, the point of Stevens' review is *not* that Entourage is insufficiently "female"; it's that the show fails as a drama (or drama/comedy) due to there being no real conflict. That's a perfectly valid stance for a professional critic to take, regardless of whether or not you agree."

Yup. And she's entirely correct.

The show has an inherent problem in being titled after its least interesting characters - Turtle and Johnny Drama. The stories of Ari, Vince, and 'E' could make up a fascinating show. But that's not what Entourage is really about.

And am the only one out there who thinks The Comeback is pure genius?

With The Sopranos, The Wire, and Curb Your Enthusiasm all on hiatus, The Comeback is the reason to watch HBO.

Posted by: Petey | Aug 30, 2005 9:53:08 PM

The Comeback??? Oh, Petey. I just lost all respect for you...

Posted by: Al | Aug 31, 2005 11:16:08 AM

"The Comeback??? Oh, Petey. I just lost all respect for you..."

It's damn funny stuff. Not quite as good as Fat Actress, but still damn funny.

Posted by: Petey | Sep 1, 2005 10:18:23 AM

My girlfriend *loves* The Wire (which we started watching because of your advocacy, so thanks Matt). She thinks Entourage is just OK.

I think that great art (like The Wire) will transcend any sort of demographic profile, while most forms of popular entertainment just pander to a paticular niche. Emo for sensitive teenagers, country music for red-staters, Entourage for men, SatC for women, etc.

I still like Entourage a lot... the best aspect of the show is the way that it mocks macho guy culture at the same time as it celebrates it. In that respect it’s probably a step above pandering. However I do think that Dana Stevens’ critique has a lot of merit to it. It could be a better show if it aspired to be.

Posted by: RC | Sep 1, 2005 11:33:15 AM

I love the Wire. Hands down one of the best things that HBO does. All three seasons. I am a woman.

I initially hated Entourage. My initial reaction was, Who cares about a rich rising star who gets as much ass as he wants in Hollywood and his leaching hangers-on going to the Playboy mansion in their Hummer, buying expensive watches and ginormous TVs? My sister encouraged me to keep watching.

However, they have developed the characters enough that I am actually starting to care....

Posted by: cl | Sep 3, 2005 4:24:17 PM

Nothing could make me waste any more time with The Comeback.
Maybe it's the female in me....

Posted by: cl | Sep 3, 2005 4:27:47 PM

I must agree with the above commentators. I love The Wire. The complexity of the plots, the depth of the characters, the excellence of the acting are what appeal to me. Those things cross gender lines in my experience.

Posted by: Brenna | Sep 6, 2005 8:11:16 PM

I was introduced to The Wire by my boyfriend when we started living together -- before that, I didn't have HBO in my old place -- and holy crap, was I hooked. The character development and storylines that delineate how people within a city thrive and die, holy crap. Yum. Fine, fine work. I subsequently found his books, "Homicide" and "The Corner", and devoured those too. Makes me wish I'd gone into journalism.

Posted by: YooHooligan | Sep 6, 2005 10:50:14 PM

A) It's a lousy review - her critiques were so "I don't get it" I worry about her value as a TV critic.

B) As a guy who loved SatC and loves Entourage, I don't think anything's impossible. I've got male and female friends who like or love it. Of course a show about 4 rich, young, slightly boorish straight boys will have issues in the way it presents women. This show negotiates the landscape surprisingly well, considering.

Posted by: weboy | Sep 16, 2005 6:11:25 PM

Entourage seems to be missing the mark as of late.

Posted by: How to Pick Up Girls | Jul 5, 2006 2:36:05 PM

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