Designing Women

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Designing Women TV Poster Image
Sassy social commentary for teens and up.

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We think this TV show stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The show deals with many controversial issues, including racism, homosexuality, AIDS, domestic violence, and sexual harassment. The discussions of these issues are often feminist in nature and focus on being socially aware and morally responsible.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Strong, independent female role models (even Suzanne) who demonstrate compassion.

Violence

Occasional discussions of violence against women.

Sex

Mild references to sexual behavior. Lots of dating and romance.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Occasional references to alcohol, including wine and homemade alcoholic beverages. Characters rarely smoke, but when they do, it's treated as negative behavior.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Designing Women takes on strong, sometimes-controversial topics (AIDS, racism, etc.) from a feminist point of view. There are also occasional non-explicit references to sexual behavior (after all, the women do have "designs"). Perhaps most significantly, this series emphasizes strong, independent female roles and discusses important social and moral issues.

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What's the story?

Featuring four sassy-but-charming southern women from Atlanta, Georgia, DESIGNING WOMEN stars smart, outspoken Julia Sugarbaker (Dixie Carter), who owns Sugarbaker and Associates, an interior design firm where she and her sister, former beauty queen Suzanne Sugarbaker (Delta Burke), work with Mary Jo Shively (Annie Potts of Joan of Arcadia), a recently divorced single mother of two, and somewhat naïve Charlene Frazier (Jean Smart of 24). The women spend much of their time with Bernice Clifton (Alice Ghostly), a family friend with a slight dementia problem. Also part of the group is Anthony Bouvier (Mesach Taylor), a convict-turned-delivery person-turned-business partner whose masculinity isn't threatened by his overwhelmingly feminine environment. While recently widowed Julia dates attorney Reese Watson (Hal Holbrook); Suzanne continues her quest to (once again) marry a rich man; Mary Jo attempts to balance the dating scene while trying to raise her kids; and Charlene eventually finds her Mr. Right.

Is it any good?

This feminist-leaning, sometimes-controversial show examines some of the prominent themes of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Characters grapple with larger political, social, and moral issues while they struggle to resolve their professional and personal problems. Designing Women also tackles issues like domestic violence, AIDS, racism, sexual harassment, and attitudes toward the overweight; their opinions are often summarized by Julia during her many indignant speeches about the world's injustices.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the role of women in today's society compared to the time of Designing Women. Are men and women treated equally? Should they be?

  • Families can also talk about the many contemporary political, social, and moral issues that we're surrounded by every day. What do you think about how they're handled by institutions like the government and the media? Are people obligated to follow moral codes of conduct? Why or why not?

  • How do the characters in Designing Women demonstrate compassion? Why is this an important character strength?

TV details

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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