Hollywood always seems to be on the look out for a unified villain that haunts our great American heroes from film to film, TV show to TV show. The Cold War was great for Hollywood because it delivered them the Russians. Then, there was a confused period where there was no unification of villains and every movie had to have a completely different villain. Then, Hollywood slowly started to place Arabs, Persians, and Muslims in general (often without really being able to distinguish these groups) as their "unified" bad guys. Problem is: some people started pointing out that this was fairly racist. So, the push for the unified villain somewhat moved on (I mean, the threat of being racist is not going to scare away all of Hollywood, I mean, Homeland is still on the air, right? Is it getting any better? I stopped watching).
This new villain really plays to the Hollywood favored demographic's biggest fear: having to work for a strong woman. So, we have seen numerous attempts lately to bring her down to size. And almost always by our great hero: the cis, straight, white American male! Woo Hoo, White Male, you finally are placed in the center of the fight! I'm sure you are very satisfied with yourself.
Here's a concrete example for you: The Mentalist. For the first few seasons, every episode was the same. Patrick Jane, the Mentalist, worked for Teresa Lisbon. I know, my white male friends, this is already quite scary for you -- I will tell you where we are headed so you are able to weather this emotional storm: don't worry, he never has to listen to his female boss and, in fact, actively undermines her at every turn.
At multiple points in each and every episode, Lisbon makes rational decisions based on the available evidence and solid police procedure, and, for each and every one of those decisions, Jane refuses to work with her, insists on doing the opposite of what she wants, and then turns out to be right, every single time.
So, what does Lisbon do? Spoiler alert (but only really a spoiler if you have never seen what happens to every strong female character in a show with a stronger man character who treats her like crap): she falls in love with him! Of course.
Isn't it romantic? Yeah, if what you think of as romantic is a man (who has no respect for a woman's intelligence, her role as his boss, and her attempt to follow proper procedures) and a woman (who has never been treated well and has been actively undermined on a regular basis but doesn't seem to care after a few years of it) falling in love... Excuse me, I have to go vomit. Be right back.
I guess I think of romance a bit differently.
Here's another recent example: Claire Dunphy going back to work on Modern Family.
Claire was actually a fairly strong character at the beginning of the show. She was clearly a stronger character as a stay at home mom than she has been while working for her dad. Every episode where Claire has been at work, she has been a disaster, but none as bad as when Claire was in charge.
On the recent episode, "The Verdict" (Season 7, episode 5), Claire is in charge while her dad is stuck at pre-school, and it just so happens to be bring your daughter(s) to work day: hilarity (and sexism) are sure to follow!
Of course, as the day gets started, it is clear from the beginning that none of the workers value Claire's opinion. She brushes off their lack of respect by telling her daughters, "Men are often intimidated by a strong, powerful woman.” And isn't it funny how she's just so wrong? As the episode continues, it is clear that Claire just can't do anything right (she messes up people's names, she doesn't even know how to order the cake, etc.), which is hilarious... I suppose.
I mean, I didn't get the joke, unless it is just that we are supposed to laugh at a woman trying to be boss? Like I said, I just don't get why this is supposed to be funny, and why aren't the viewers simply feeling bad for Claire instead of laughing? I mean, she used to be a strong, powerful woman, but once she is in charge at work, she just becomes the joke.
I don't know what's happened to Claire as a character. I think there was something slightly regressive about the women on the show being housewives while calling it "Modern Family." Yet, she was a strong, powerful, and centered woman, which was a rather positive portrayal of a housewife, and that made up for it.
At the same time, the ideas that such a woman cannot transition back to the workforce without making a mess of things, and that she certainly cannot fit in as a boss--with the expectation being that the audience will find it amusing how difficult it is for the employees to have to deal with her--are quire problematic.
These are only two examples of female bosses that are provided with villainous roles. I was going to add a third: The Mysteries of Laura has recently replaced the male boss with a female boss who is horrible. But, she is developing into a more well rounded character, so we will have to see how that goes. I'm sure there are a ton of other examples. It is starting to become a regular problem. Yet again, our merchants of media are attempting to play to the white males' insanely sexist worries, and the rest of us are just along for the ride.