Why We Need To Stop Using The Term "Female Version"

Photo: Jason LaVeris/Getty Images.
This week, Pamela Adlon and Louis C.K. released the trailer for their upcoming FX comedy Better Things. Based on the preview, the Adlon-starring show looks like it's going to be a hilarious — and realistic — look at single motherhood. (Read: How to deal when your kid asks you for pot, how to navigate emotional preteen hormones, and how to hide your masturbation ritual from your kids). As soon as I saw the trailer, I knew I had a new addition to my fall TV lineup.

The rest of the internet was excited, too. But one headline in particular caught my attention: Buzzfeed's "There's Going To Be A Female Version Of 'Louie' And It Looks Damn Good." I wondered: Did Better Things need to be called the "female version" of Louie? Couldn't it just be "Pamela Adlon and Louis C.K.'s New Comedy Looks Damn Good?" It reminded me of how the media automatically began to call the Ghostbusters remake the "female version" of Ghostbusters. Hollywood does remakes all of the time; when you automatically just call a remake or similar iteration of something a "female version," it somehow feels lesser than — like women are copying something that was already done by a man.

Of course, the comparison to Louie is understandable, since Better Things was co-created by Louis C.K. and shares many similarities with his series, which also shines a light on the not-so-glamorous side of parenting with plenty of dry humor. But couldn't the article's writer, Keely Flaherty, have just made that connection in the text, versus labeling Better Things a "female version" of something else off the bat? I reached out to her to get her thoughts.

I, for one, will aim to stop falling into this pattern, and I hope other pop-culture lovers will, too.

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"This is something we talk about a lot for headlines," Flaherty said via email. "Is it reductive to only differentiate a project because it's 'female' instead of 'male'? But with Better Things, I was drawing a direct parallel between the male version of this story in Louie — Louis CK's [sic] character struggling as a single dad — and the new version: Pamela Adlon's character struggling as a single mom. I wanted to highlight in the headline that this was going to be a show told through a woman's lens, because that's immensely important — and appealing."

I definitely see Flaherty's point and can relate as a writer — especially about the importance of celebrating that this is a story told from a woman's perspective. And I'm probably guilty of making similar comparisons myself in the past. But the more it happens, the more I realize that simply labeling an awesome new show starring and and co-created by a woman as the "female version" of something else diminishes the importance of the project (and is perhaps even a little condescending). So I, for one, will aim to stop falling into this pattern, and I hope other pop-culture lovers will, too. After all, a show told from a woman's perspective doesn't have to be the "female version" of something else — it can just exist, completely on its own.

Check out the trailer for Better Things — which premieres September 8 on FX 8 — below.
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