Category Archives: pop culture

Faye Emerson, first queen of talk shows

fayeemerson1During the Great White Male Host Dance-off of 2014-15, people complained that no women were named as successors to any of the major late-night shows. Now we have Sam Bee and Chelsea Handler, and decades ago we had Joan Rivers, but she wasn’t the first. That crown goes to Faye Emerson, who was more than the first female late-night host; she was the queen of early television.

If you think women aren’t taken seriously as late night candidates now, consider 1950. It was post-war America, the men were home and the women were expected to resume their careers as mothers, housewives, or perhaps teachers and secretaries if they were really bold.

Enter Faye Emerson. Born on July 8, 1917, she was first an actress in war dramas and other hard-boiled movies of the 1930s and 40s. After she married the President’s son, Elliott Roosevelt, she was thrust into publicity opportunities like interviewing Stalin during a trip to the Soviet Union. When she appeared on a game show in 1949 with her husband, she was so smart and witty she felt she had to apologize on-air for upstaging him. Her talent was noticed, however, because she received an offer for her own CBS show later that year. While doing that show, she also signed with NBC for the Faye Emerson Show, making her the first woman with two simultaneous shows on television.  She could talk pearls or politics, and her habit of wearing evening gowns with plunging necklines earned her the tag of “The High I.Q. in the Low-cut Gown.” Her next show would be a travelogue, Faye Emerson’s Wonderful Town, showcasing cities around the country in 1952.

faye2After her divorce from Roosevelt, Emerson announced her upcoming marriage to entertainer Skitch Henderson on-air, something that simply wasn’t done back then. She and her new husband teamed up for their own show, Faye and Skitch, in 1953. Not only did she have her own programs, she was the go-to person for panels and substitute host duties. She occasionally covered for Edward R. Murrow on his show, Person to Person, and for Garry Moore as well.  While she could be the ultimate glamorous TV presenter, she also showed America she had a brain, discussing civil rights, unions, blacklisting and women’s rights, and debating conservative personalities like William F. Buckley. She was so well-known to audiences that she garnered the nickname of “Mrs. Television.”

Emerson’s thoughtful opinions, quick mind and lessening coyness earned her many detractors, who brought up her looks and curves often in an effort to demean her and diminish her role as a social commentator.

As television shifted from talk shows to pure entertainment ,Emerson took her leave from the glowing box in everyone’s living room in the 1960s and spent a well-earned retirement in Europe, where social views were more forgiving. She ended up in Majorca, Spain, where she passed away in 1983. Today her name is largely forgotten, but her legacy lives on in people like Barbara Walters, Lesley Stahl, Rachael Maddow, and Oprah Winfrey, along with so many others. Below is one of the few remaining episodes of Emerson’s show. At the 6:30 mark, she interviews William Cimillo, a bus driver who abandoned his route and drove to Florida, becoming a folk hero along the way. Enjoy.

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Filed under girl power, History, pop culture, Television, women

Move over, Tony Stark: new Iron Man is a young woman of color

riri-williamsWhat happens when a brilliant MIT student gets her hands on a set of Iron Man armor and has the brainpower to make it work?

Marvel is kicking off the next storyline after Civil War II with teenaged Riri Williams, the new Iron Man. The series is written by Brian Michael Bendis, who came up with Riri while working on another project, according to an interview with Time. 

“This story of this brilliant, young woman whose life was marred by tragedy that could have easily ended her life—just random street violence—and went off to college was very inspiring to me. I thought that was the most modern version of a superhero or superheroine story I had ever heard. And I sat with it for awhile until I had the right character and the right place,” said Bendis.

While Tony Stark recovers from the blows dealt during Civil War II, will he stay out of Riri’s way, mentor her, or do something else? Stay tuned, fans. Riri is set to debut in the comic later this year.

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Filed under Comics, girl power, pop culture, Uncategorized

Star Trek and Wonder Woman join newest girl geek trend in makeup

startrekmac

It all started with Star Wars.

That’s not quite true, but you can’t beat a beginning in a galaxy far, far away. Geek-themed makeup started popping up a few years ago in small boutique-style lines like Doctor Who Nail Polish. The first time geek-themed make-up went mainstream, however, was with the Star Wars Makeup collection by Covergirl, to celebrate the opening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Now a new force awakens, because the geek makeup trend has stretched to the final frontier and the pages of DC. The Star Trek MAC Collection will debut this summer, inspired by some of the franchise’s most memorable women: Uhura, Deanna Troi, Seven of Nine and Vina the Orion, smart choices that cover the majority of color palettes. The collection includes lip, eye and foundation products, and will be available before the official 50th Anniversary of Trek kicks off in September.

Hitting stores even sooner is a Wonder Woman-themed makeup collection, available in May and exclusively at Walgreens. The colors are brighter and very affordable; in the photo posted at Fashionably Geek, the Strawberry Empower-mint lip balm will go for $2.99 while the bronzer & highlighter will cost approximately $7.

It’s easy to get excited over these products, until you remember the #wheresrey grassroots campaign complaining about the lack of Rey action figures and toys, and wonder if the people in product development thought makeup would be enough to satisfy girl geeks. It’s not, obviously, because we want all kinds of products for all kinds of geek girls. Some wear makeup and cute TARDIS dresses, others wear jeans and roomy graphics tees. But the wide variety has even non-makeup enthusiasts thinking about purchasing a set, especially that oh-so-collectible Wonder Woman makeup bag. Besides, every geek girl is entitled to a bit of color. Even the Night Witches, the feared Russian female pilots who bombed nighttime Germany in World War II, gussied themselves up by using their navigation pencils on their lips.

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Filed under Comics, History, pop culture, women

Woman-themed coloring books for International Women’s Day

colorfulwomeninhistoryWomen’s History Month kicked off with a bang of the gavel, thanks to SheKnows‘ Ruth Bader Ginsburg coloring book. Since today is International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate by highlighting more coloring books fueled by girl power!

Dover Publishing has a fantastic selection of women’s history coloring books. Famous Women Aviators features 44 women of air and space like Amelia Earhart and Sally Ride, while Famous African-American Women showcases Maya Angelou, Coretta Scott King, and more. There’s also Famous American Women, covering Susan B. Anthony to Oprah Winfrey; Famous Women of the Civil War; America’s First Ladies; and, for a bit of swagger,  Pirate Queens: Notorious Women of the Sea. Color in famous female pirates like Huang P’ei-mei,who had a fleet populated with 50,000 plunderers who answered only to her, and you’ll have a sudden urge to wear a sword and an eyepatch to your next office meeting.

On Etsy, you’ll find Coloring Outside the Kitchen,  a hand-created labor of love created by teacher/librarian/artist Casey Landau, which rounds up a host of outstanding women, including Annie Oakley, first African-American female millionaire Madame C.J. Walker, artist Frida Kahlo and many more.

Author and illustrator Lisa Graves has created her own coloring books on Amazon: Colorful Women in History and The Witches. Both celebrate the true stories of women’s triumphs and challenges through the ages. Want something in a different size? Try Fat Ladies in Spaaaaace, a fun, body-positive coloring book by Theo Nicole Lorenz which shows women kicking butt and taking names in the final frontier.

 

 

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Filed under Books, History, pop culture, Space, Uncategorized, women

Celebrating Helen Malsed, toy inventor

slinkydogNo matter what decade you blasted through childhood, you know the work of Helen Herrick Malsed. She was an innovator and inventor with a knack for listening to children, and her work continues to charm the kid in everyone.

The Slinky was already a popular toy in the 1950s, but Helen overheard her young son wondering aloud how it would look with wheels and went to work planning a prototype. She pitched her pull toy idea through the mail to James Industries, who loved it and made the Slinky Dog and the Slinky Train into a reality. After decades as a staple of playrooms across the country, her pull toy doggie achieved animation superstardom when he was included in the “Toy Story” movies. “Slink” was introduced to new generations of kids, making him just as loved by six-year-olds today as he was nearly sixty years ago when he first appeared on the shelves.

malsedpatentMalsed was a college dropout, forced to quit her education when her father went bankrupt during the Great Depression. She had a sharp, creative mind, and even though she followed the traditional path of marriage, children and homemaking in the 1950s, that intellectual talent bubbled forth.

“She was always thinking up things,” her son said in Malsed’s Seattle Times obituary. “She was just exceptionally creative and an incredible speller and grammarian. She read every inch of print, even the classifieds, in both Seattle papers every day.”

In total, Malsed created over two dozen toys and games, including Fisher-Price Snap-Lock Beads and many other toys for different companies. According to varying reports, she earned approximately $1 million from her ideas, was the major reason James Industries expanded operations numerous times, and it all began with an idea in the mail.

Malsed passed away on this day in 1998 at the age of 88, but her legacy lives on.

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Filed under History, inventors, movies, pop culture, toys, women

Why Cat Grant is just as important as Supergirl

Photo: CBS

Photo: CBS

Monday’s premiere of Supergirl on CBS proved that people are willing to watch a female-led superhero show, but there’s more going on besides the adorable, plucky girl with the House of El crest on her chest. Admittedly, the premiere hits the girl power message with all the speed and force of a daughter of Krypton, and well they should. The waitress in the diner scene remarks that finally her daughter will have “someone to look up to” and out here in the real world, beyond National City, scores of little girls will dress up in red and blue and pretend to save civilization.

That’s awesome, but a girl doesn’t have to grab a cape to tap into this show’s female power. While Kara Danvers whips off her glasses and fights crime, Cat Grant, Kara’s boss and the head of CatCo, is kicking butt in her own way. She’s an entrepreneur who makes tough decisions and is completely comfortable in her own skin. Not only that, she expects the same from Kara, as noted in the scene where her secretly super assistant protests the name “Supergirl.”

“What do you think is so bad about ‘girl’?” she asks. “I’m a girl, and your boss, and powerful and rich and hot and smart. If you perceive Supergirl as anything less than excellent, isn’t the real problem you?”

She knows she’s attractive, shooting the “she doesn’t know she’s beautiful” trope in the face with a bazooka, and she has brains and she doesn’t need your approval, thank you very much. She also expects those around her to step up, and re-evaluates their worth once they do, as she tells Kara “If you can’t take credit when you do something well, you’ll be at the bottom of the pile forever.”

Supergirl’s sweet, innocent attitude is wonderful, and she’s a lovely role model. But any girl who grows up with the confidence of Cat Grant could actually change the world and make sure women finally earn as much as men.  There are girls who aim to be princesses and superheroes and that’s fine. There are also girls like my friend’s young daughter who grabs Mom’s pink Coach bag and pretends to be a CEO closing a global deal on a cell phone before jetting off to Europe. That’s even better. Because that dream can come true.

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Filed under Comics, pop culture, Television, women

Little geek girl complains about lack of female superheroes, DC turns her into one

Opinions are the universal tool in every geek’s toolbox, and 11-year-old Rowan Hansen put hers to good use when she noticed that DC Comics had far fewer girl superheroes, and that they wore less clothes than their male counterparts. She wrote a letter to DC outlining her concerns.

At first, DC responded to Rowan with a tweet, and then upped their response when the story went viral with suitably impressive gift basket of goodies including hard-to-find action figures of DC female characters, and original art depicting Rowan into a superhero herself.

Speaking of her favorite, Wonder Woman, on NBC’s Today show,  she said “It would be nicer if she didn’t wear a bathing suit all the time.”

In both her television appearance and her letter, she eloquently made her case for quality and quantity in the DC universe. We bet if DC needs some good storylines for their newest hero, the real Rowan should be able to help them with that, too.

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Filed under Comics, pop culture