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Reel Women: Greta Gerwig Is Headed to CBS and It’s Okay to Feel Conflicted About It

Frances Ha
IFC Films

News broke this week that indie darling and ‘Frances Ha‘ star Greta Gerwig is headed to CBS to write, produce and star in the new sorta-spinoff of ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ titled ‘How I Met Your Dad.’ Cue surprising controversy as fans lashed out at the precious star: is she selling her soul to the home of lesser cable programming, or is this an opportunity for Gerwig to line her pockets and make more of the films she wants to make? Should we feel angry and betrayed, or thrilled and supportive? Why can’t we have mixed feelings about it? In the realm of the internet, our reactions can only ever be extreme.

Honestly, I’m mixed on Gerwig’s move to CBS, and I think that’s a perfectly rational response. But the internet doesn’t deal in rationality, and it’s almost shameful in this day and age to voice a middling or cautiously optimistic opinion; you’re either a rabid supporter or a raging dissenter, and there’s no in between. To exist somewhere in the middle, to voice moderate opinions, contemplate the pros and cons, and weigh the validity of both sides of an argument is to be seen as weak.

But I can’t really pick a side here, and I don’t feel like I — or you — need to. On the one hand, I’m thrilled to see more strong female voices in network television, especially on CBS, where the only female voices exist in tandem with male voices, as shows like ’2 Broke Girls’ and ‘The Good Wife’ are co-created by women with men. But, the programming on CBS has long been a problem, and while shows like ‘The Good Wife’ are definitely worth tuning in for, ’2 Broke Girls’ was a massive disappointment from the get-go, with jokes and plots that never really cut deep enough, leaving it to flounder in shallow waters.

There’s hope, then, for Gerwig’s ‘How I Met Your Dad’ — with Gerwig at the helm and with her own comedic, dramatic and feminist sensibilities, we could get something a little deeper than a traditional sitcom. I haven’t seen much of ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ but what I have seen was pretty solid and definitely better than other CBS offerings, particularly the grating and offensively myopic ‘Big Bang Theory’. The biggest disappointment in this for all of us, then, is that we’re going to have to watch CBS now — you know, like our grandparents and weird cousins and people who have boxes for their coupons.

Plus, it gives Gerwig exposure to a wider audience — audiences who didn’t see films like ‘Frances Ha’ and ‘Greenberg.’ Those people will be inclined to seek out her earlier work, and will commit to whatever she does in the future. Speaking of which, this project will line her pockets with plenty of money for her future creative endeavors. In the most recent episode of ‘Girls,’ Hannah gets a job at GQ and struggles with the compromise that comes with juggling work for pay and work for creative fulfillment, a struggle with which many of us are all too familiar. I’m not saying that Gerwig won’t be creatively fulfilled on ‘How I Met Your Dad’ (she is writing and producing, after all), but it is a lucrative gig, and one that will allow her to pursue passion projects without worrying about where the money will come from.

On the flip side of this, there’s the concern that committing her time to a sitcom means we’ll be seeing less of Gerwig committing her time to the stuff we love to see her do. But she doesn’t exist for us; she doesn’t belong to us. She didn’t sign a waiver to making her own choices the moment she first appeared on a screen. You can be annoyed by this decision, but maybe you should reserve judgment for, I don’t know, a few more years — let’s see what this show is like first. It’s pretty bold for CBS to put someone like Gerwig in charge of a show like this on their network, and if you love Greta Gerwig so much, give it a chance. All we can do is wait and see what she does next. This knee-jerk idea that she can’t possibly handle a sitcom and making films at the same time is ludicrous. How many actors and actresses do the same year-round? Is she so precious?

Am I worried about Gerwig joining CBS? Yes. Why? Because it’s CBS, the home of crap sitcoms like ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and ‘Two and a Half Men.’ I think she deserves better. But I also think she can elevate this network, and I take it as a sign that this network is ready to take some evolutionary steps after decades of stagnation. Am I thrilled about Gerwig joining CBS? Yes. Why? Because I am incredibly fond of her and her talents, and she deserves more attention and admiration — and more money to continue making more things that I love.

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