My TV Show Isn't About "Strong" Women — That's The Point

YouTube/AwesomenessTV/courtesy Mackenzie Yeager
By Mackenzie Yeager, As Told To Karen Fratti

Mackenzie Yeager was doing theater and writing plays in Chicago when she realized that she wanted to move back to Los Angeles and try her hand at acting and writing for television. After earning writing and production credits on shows such as All Night, The Goldbergs, and Girl Meets World, the 31-year-old decided it was time to create her own series about the kind of female friendships she just wasn't seeing onscreen. Here, Yeager explains to Bustle Associate TV Editor Karen Fratti how she chose to depict female friendships on her show Overthinking With Kat & June, which is produced by Awesomeness TV and premieres Dec. 19 on YouTube Premium.

I have been in a ton of writing rooms that were almost completely all men.

Actually, every writing room I’ve ever been in has been run by men, and not even a No. 2 woman. All the top five people were always men, too.

It’s been really frustrating because all of those writing rooms I’ve been in have also been for shows about teen and young women, with mostly men writing them. It’s very weird, and very frustrating, because I got to learn and be in those rooms, but in my eight years in the business, it's only now that people are having a conversation about why more diverse writing rooms and production crews are important. So, now we’re at least aware.

Which is why it is so exciting for me that now we get to see shows completely done through a female lens, like Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag or Tina Fey's Great News. It doesn't feel like they're adding a woman to the cast just to have her there and then forget about her. For example, in Waller-Bridge's Killing Eve, it wasn't just that there was a lead woman in a thriller, but they have the serial killer talking about her clothes, and she talks about them in a way that a woman actually would.

The show is about how women think. It’s about the twisty, complex, beautiful nature of the female mind, shown through the relationship of these two human people. Who just also happen to have vaginas.

I read so many scripts from applicants while staffing writers for my show and so many were still writing through the male gaze, even women. Like, the trend of female characters who act like men, so they’re cool and hot. Women characters don’t have to be “male” to be funny — always falling over drunk or smoking weed, being really brash or making lots of sex jokes. Not that there’s anything wrong with those kinds of characters, but to me the funniest women I know aren’t that at all. While writing Overthinking With Kat & June, I was really digging into why, especially in comedy, so many writers still rely on those tropes. I think it's the little details about what make women unique is what’s going to change the types of comedy we’re going to see.

I was also thinking a lot about friendships writing this show, and I do feel like we’re in this amazing time where we’re finally getting to see shows about beautiful female friendships written by women, like Broad City. But I wanted to show the weirder kinds of friendships women have, that don’t look perfect on the outside, but maybe are on the inside.

All of us have this great best friend, but we also have that person who we realize later on that we love them, but we didn’t even like them to begin with. Those relationships that feel familial in a good and bad way.

It’s also been billed as a “girl power” show — and I don’t even know what that means! They’re not the Spice Girls!

I was very aware of the horrible stereotype of women somehow innately not getting along with each other, so I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t doing that, because I’m not writing a story about two best friends that unconditionally love each other.

Kat and June are not the kind of friends that met and thought right away, 'Oh my god, we speak the same language, we get each other.' These women are not like that at all. It’s more like a roommate situation, where you’re kind of forced to be with that person. I wanted to showcase that kind of relationship, when people are super different from each other, and sort of fall into friendship anyway.

You can see that right away when you watch the show, but still the very few articles about this show when it was announced all included something about how it was a new show about "strong, female characters and friendship.” The one thing I want people to know is that these people are flawed, they’re in their twenties, and don’t know what the f*ck they’re doing. They’re going to be strong later in life, but at this point, they’re not strong!

No one ever looks at that twenty-something just out of college, that f*cks up every day and thinks, 'Oh yeah, she's strong.' These characters are weak and dumb at points, and do the wrong thing all the time. Just like I feel male characters get to do all the time. But we never say a comedy about men — like, say, the Seinfeld characters — is about “strong” male characters. But every time you put two women front and center, and women are writing about them, the story is about "strong women." My show has also been billed as a “girl power” show — and I don’t even know what that means! They’re not the Spice Girls! But there is a relationship that grows between them.

Really, it's not that complicated. I wanted to showcase those weird, complicated female friendships that I have had in my life, that come up kind of unexpectedly. The show is really just about how some women I know think; it’s about the twisty, complex, beautiful nature of the female mind, shown through the relationship of these two human people. Who also just happen to have vaginas.