with Lynne and Leslie

Why Steel Magnolia’s ratings were so high…or please make more movies for adults. Thanks.

by SweetMidlife


Who’s that writer? Who’s that writer? It’s Les! (Shout out to my New Girl fans!)

The Lifetime Television For Sadists Women remake of Steel Magnolias, featuring an all-black, mostly-star cast, brought in crazy ratings for the melodrama-loving network on Sunday – the third-largest audience in its history, somewhere behind that badly acted, badly written but still oddly sob-inducing Fantasia Barrino auto-bio-pic. Like the Fantasia movie, critics frigging hated it. They thought the acting was mostly great, especially Alfre Woodard and Phylicia Rashad, but that the transition from the 1989 big screen version (itself a play originally) to the small screen and the 200s was not smooth. And Shelby came off like a giant self-important nag, didn’t she?

Obviously, nobody who watched it cared. Even if they did, Nielsen got them when they needed them. I imagine that my friends in media will wonder why such a badly-reviewed and not entirely successful film did so phenomenally. The wringing of hands and the not-so-subtle condescending disapproval of the Pablum-loving masses is sure to follow.

But without having to do a bit of research, I can tell you why. And it’s the same reason that Fantasia, and Tyler Perry movies, and Army Wives, and Diane Keaton movies, have been hits, even when they aren’t that good:

Because normal, adult women like to see themselves, or at least people who resemble themselves, on TV. They are tired of being made to understand that a 45-year-old woman can play the mother of a 30-year-old guy because women over 45 can’t actually have been the guy’s GIRLFRIEND, while Sofia Vergara and Al Bundy are a thing on Modern Family. They like a show about friendships, about real people like Fantasia overcoming the worst kind of setbacks, even though she’s a bad actress and almost didn’t succeed in playing herself. They love her anyway, and they love her story. And they love imagining that men fight over Diana Keaton, because she’s hot. They don’t believe that being over a size 8 makes you a heifer or unworthy of love. They don’t believe that non-white women have to be the quirky best friend or the secretary or the noble what-have-you that teaches the white women about love or sacrifice. And they don’t believe that you have to look like Kerry Washington to deserve hot sex.

Steel Magnolias, no matter who’s in it, is not emotionally complex, ironic or glib. It’s straight-forward in its manipulative emotionalism, its brave diabetic moms and grieving families. But it bears a heck of a lot more resemblance to a lot of grown people’s lives, even in its sweet pink haze, than a thousand episodes of Grey’s Anatomy or The New Girl or what have you. I like escapism. But I also like some earnest goofiness where a guy moves into town to be with Alfre Woodard, because why wouldn’t he? She’s fierce! And hot black actresses who play the second banana in other instances get to be the hot, pursued star of Tyler Perry movies, even if they have to be in Tyler Perry movies for that to happen.

Hollywood…perhaps if you made more movies and TV shows with diverse leads, about fundamental human stuff that didn’t have to be edgy or complicated, you’d have more ratings like that. Just saying.


3 Responses to “Why Steel Magnolia’s ratings were so high…or please make more movies for adults. Thanks.”

  1. lucretiaanderson@gmail.com' Lucretia Anderson says:

    Amen sistah!!

  2. indijenk@gmail.com' Mikea says:

    I think the fact the new “Steel Magnolias” has an all-star black cast, was enough to pique most viewers curiosity. I am a fan of the original, and it piqued my curiosity as well. I was unable to watch this movie when it aired because of my work schedule at DISH. I did set my Hopper to record it, and since there is a ton of DVR recording space I recorded my other favorite programs. Once I get a free moment I will try to watch this movie without bias for the original. I think viewers are just tired of all the violence, and language that is on television these days, and this movie is a refreshing change, even if it is a remake.

  3. hpindell@yahoo.com' Heidi says:

    I am glad I was not the only one who found Shelby annoying, more than Julia Roberts’ version. Loved the first movie, liked this one.

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