Even though Women in Cable & Telecommunications’ Tribute Accolade honors two different programming categories, this year’s winners — Home Box Office and Showtime — produced content with a striking similarity: strong leadership in the face of extreme adversity.
In the category that encompasses drama, music, variety and comedy, WICT crowned HBO’s Iron Jawed Angels due to its uncompromising depiction of two defiant women, Alice Paul (Hilary Swank) and Lucy Burns (Frances O’Connor). The two activists pushed the boundaries of political protest to secure women’s voting rights in 1920.
But how could such obscure subject matter make such an impact? Len Amato, co-executive producer of Iron Jawed Angels, says the film takes an in-depth look at a historical event but doesn’t feel like “taking medicine” when you watch it. “I also think the subject matter may particularly resonate with women because it’s a little-known historical tale of female empowerment, sacrifice and triumph against great odds,” Amato says.
Ultimately, Iron Jawed Angels stirred the hearts and minds of WICT judges because it is in the spirit of moving women forward by giving them rights they didn’t traditionally have, according to Parthavi Das, WICT director of research and advocacy. “It really fit into the mission of what we are doing.”
Likewise, Showtime nabbed its Tribute Accolade by personifying the WICT mindset with What’s Going On: Girls Education In India. The documentary follows three Indian children who demonstrate great differences due to varying accessibility to education. The stories show the importance of education to all children, and especially girls, because when a girl is educated, she passes the benefits on to her family, her community and her country. “It really paralleled what we do, obviously in a very different way,” says Das. “It personifies the whole spirit of leadership, communication and helping others.”
A key component to the documentary’s success is the collaboration Showtime shares with the United Nations. “The U.N. was critical to the show,” says Amato. “They educated us about the key issues and provided structure to the research.”
Girls is a prime example of how families and children watch television together and come away with a deeper understanding about human nature. “It’s a terrific honor and I am particularly pleased to be celebrated on the same night that Judy McGrath—who I think is an extraordinary executive—and has championed a number of the notions embedded in this show in her role at MTV,” says Amato.