When Commander in Chief first aired last fall, I worried about how perfect Geena Davis as President MacKenzie Allen would have to be -- it's what we demand of any woman who is a first. After all, she represents us, and when there are so few of us (and there has been only one female president in prime time television), it's what's demanded. The first primetime television African-American president on the hit series 24, Dennis Haysbert, had the same issue. The character "had to be squeaky clean," Haysbert said, "Had to be...they would have found any kind of chink in his armor to exploit."
As a creator of Take Our Daughters to Work which we celebrate today, I know a lot about perfection. The research behind that campaign found that so many adolescent girls strive to be "perfect girls" as a way to deal with the issues of coming into womanhood. I knew that our nation's daughters needed to be seen for their potential, not their feigned perfection. The campaign worked. Fourteen years after its launch, millions of girls have joined the campaign that allows them to explore their opportunities by heading to the office today.
But what I didn't think about with regards to our first female Commander was the expectation that the show might have to be perfect too. An oversight! First they changed writers, then the show was subsequently pitted against the most-watched show ever (American Idol). Media and the public quickly jumped on the ratings drop. The show took a break in order to regroup and recover, only to return opposite another idol, Without a Trace. Now there's enormous speculation that the show will be plucked from the line-up.
I hope not. The show still fills a valuable need: it offers Americans a weekly opportunity to see a woman make tough decisions about foreign policy and national security while she manages the security of her children. It's helpful to people everywhere to see a woman that doesn't wither under the constant dirty tricks of her powerful male colleague, Speaker Templeton (Donald Sutherland). And for the first time, young men and women get to imagine a country where half the people are reflected in its leadership -- something that this show prepares us for in real time.
On the first Take Our Daughters to Work day, an ad appeared in the New York Times and in subway cars across New York City. It showed pictures of a variety of successful women, as girls and adults, and asked, "If all she's ever told to be is a good girl, how does she grow up to be a great woman?"
Women who had been, or still were trying the hopeless strategy of perfection read it and gasped. One waitress wept as she told me how it spoke to her. Women and men still sometimes tear up, or more often puff up with pride when Commander