Set up Your TiVos For a New Kind of American Idol (TWHP Blog from 6/5/09)

The wise C.J. Cregg once said, “How do you keep fighting the smaller injustices when they’re all from the mother of injustices?”.
C.J. isn’t a speechwriter for the Obama administration, or a politician of any kind. C.J. is a fictional character on The West Wing, and her words – quotes like the one listed above – have inspired many to get involved in politics.
C.J. Cregg, played by Allison Janney, grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and worked in Public Relations for a huge Hollywood firm where she was paid over $500,000 a year before she decided to work for President Josiah Bartlet’s campaign for only $600 a week. C.J. wasn’t afraid to jump in head-first, to become someone active in politics after being someone who wasn’t even remotely in the political sector – and her fearlessness paid off. She became White House Press Secretary after President Bartlet is elected to office, and White House Chief of Staff after former Chief of Staff Leo Mcgary passes away. She starts her day at five AM and lives, breathes, and eats politics. She speaks her mind to powerful political figures without a moment’s hesitation and stands behind her convictions.
C.J. Cregg isn’t just a political force to be reckoned with – she’s also a woman. She has to learn to balance family, friends, relationships, and her job – one of the processes that makes many women hesitate to get involved in politics. Cregg is intense, but she gets it all done – all with a soft sense of wanting to help in anyway she can. She’s proof that any woman, in any job, can get involved if they’re just willing to take the leap and let themselves.
You may be wondering why, exactly, I’m telling you all the intimate details of a fictional character’s life. It’s all for one huge, simple reason – so that we can all learn how strongly Television can impact us – and future generations – to get more and more involved in politics. And she’s not the only TV role model out there.
C.J. Cregg was more behind-the-scenes, but in the short-lived show Commander in Chief , Geena Davis played Mackenzie Allen, a female president – “Madame President” – and she was strong, powerful, and decisive. Right after she’s elected to office, her first act is to rescue a Nigerian Muslim woman who was sentenced to death by stoning for having sex outside of marriage. She made the decisions that only the leader of the free world could make – and she wasn’t indecisive, or a flip-flopper. She did what she needed to do; what she thought was right.
C.J. Cregg and President Allen have something to teach all of us. While many of us won’t end up becoming President of the United States or White House Press Secretary – we can take the lessons they teach us as strong, female political leaders and apply them to our everyday lives and even political careers; and pass those characters and the lessons on.

So what do you think? Do you agree that television has the potential to shape the way we look at history and at the potential for women getting involved in politics? Or is the fact that TV is a fictional world override all of that and instead make it harder for normal girls to relate? Should we be idolizing powerful women in TV faux-politics, or should we be idolizing those in the real world, or some combination of both?

Any way you want slice it, I think we can all agree – when a strong female character involved in politics hits the airwaves, we should set our TiVos to “RECORD” and watch what happens – because it’s bound to be interesting


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About beckawall

AU Alumni, feminist, master of peanut butter brownies. Lover of Teddy Roosevelt, politics, analyzing popular culture, and general nerdery.

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