Thursday, June 5, 2014

With Amy Bruni Gone From 'Ghost Hunters,' Where My Ghosty Ladies At?


For those longing to pursue ghosts and the proof of the unexplained, the paranormal reality genre on television is the same as other genres when it comes to inspiring people and providing role models. As a medium -- and not the kind that talks to dead people -- reality television in particular can allow the audience to see itself reflected back.

So where my ghosty ladies at?

I don't have a demographic breakdown, but as a woman who digs paranormal programming, and has lots of female friends who share the interest, it seems to me that the genre doesn’t have much interest in representing the population that may be tuning in.

While the paranormal television genre may not be on its way out -- but certainly in an evolutionary state -- we are seeing less and less women in the paranormal reality game. True, we are also just seeing less paranormal programming.

Still, just last last week, the audience lost one of the biggest females in the TV ghost game, Amy Bruni of "Ghost Hunters." With her gone, we only have one prominent female left: Amy Allen, who leads "The Dead Files" with Steve Di Schiavi.

Let that sink in: One lead female left on paranormal reality TV.

Why Bruni left is neither here nor there in this particular discussion, and yes she has already announced
her plans to re-emerge on the paranormal TV scene before too long. But she has already been replaced on "Ghost Hunters" by a man. Not that a one-for-one trade is necessary, but I was still disappointed by the missed opportunity to bring on another female -- especially on a show that used to tout that a big chunk of its audience was women.

In the traditional paranormal investigative format there is a scarcity of women involved. "Ghost Hunters" has notoriously struggled to keep a woman on board, nor on "Ghost Adventures." In all fairness, the "Ghost Adventures" format has never changed from day one with the three male co-leads. And "Ghost Hunters" does frequently include one of two of Jason Hawes' daughters, Haley and Samantha. While I wouldn't want to detract from their abilities, patriarchal nepotistic casting isn't exactly worth a "Yay, paranormal feminism!" cheer.

So I ask again, where my ghosty ladies at?

There are plenty of women paranormal investigators not on TV, and they are really, really good at what they do. I find it hard to believe that when a casting call comes around, these ladies simply aren’t applying.

It is not as if there haven't been shows that did better at representation. For a brief time, Kris Williams led "Ghost Hunters International;" "Paranormal State" was fairly well-rounded; and half of the reporters on "Paranormal Paparazzi" were women (and they had an African-American cast member, which is even more rare). Over at Animal Planet, research biologist Ranae Holland has the mission of "Finding Bigfoot," and she deserves mention for being a main player on the network's ratings performer, but she's no ghosty lady.

Curiously, looking back, women were trailblazers in the paranormal field long before television got involved -- from the Fox Sisters (and the matriarchal Spiritualist movement) to Lorraine Warren. Any paranormal researcher or investigator worth their sacred salts would cite these women as instrumental within the field.

What changed? I am not a casting producer. But I do know it's often a painful process for those who apply for television gigs. And in the current environment, the more eccentric, the better. So that makes it harder for strong, composed women to make the cut. And while there is more, shall we say, flexibility about the physical appearance of guys on paranormal reality TV, women still have to look a certain way.

Maybe, hopefully, since the paranormal reality TV is in a flux state -- and new approaches are always being sought out -- audiences will see more women and minorities emerge as leaders and role models in the genre. There is an audience for women in the space that reaches beyond that of a psychic or witch (and don’t get me wrong, I love psychics and witches). We all like looking at Zak Bagans’ crazy big arms, but where is our Daphne or Velma (or Kate or Lorraine) in the grand, spooky scheme of things?


Melody Waite said...

I believe you are right. The biggest target group for the paranormal shows are women our age. I am not medium but I am sensitive to spirits being empathetic. THEY MAKE SURE I Know they are there. I would like to tryout for Ghost Hunter's. Where do I go??