It’s been an A+ year for women on the game show “Jeopardy!” This past Monday, contestant Julia Collins ended her twenty-game winning streak, walking away with $428, 100 and earning her place in the “Jeopardy!” hall of fame with the second-longest winning streak ever. Collins is only bested by Ken Jennings (with a seventy-four game winning streak). Fun fact: I secretly think Jennings may just be a computer wearing a human suit, because seventy-four games is just an impossible amount of “Potent Potables” and “Composers by Country” to fit inside one human brain.
“Jeopardy!,” which first started airing in 1964, celebrates it 50th birthday this year, and it’s thrilling that this big birthday coincides with women rocking it so hard on the program. Julia Collins is of course, this year’s Grand Empress High Jeopardy! Queen. That said, women on the whole have been nailing it in 2014. Out of the 75 non-tournament matches that have aired so far in 2014, 46 have been won by women.
Since before man landed on the moon and movies were something you could watch on your phone, “Jeopardy!” has been hanging out on your television sets, day after day, telling the world that brains are glamorous and that being smart is the same thing as being cool (At least, I think making hundreds of thousands of dollars off of your knowledge of Civil War battles and pop song lyrics is pretty freaking cool).
If you go on “Jeopardy!”‘s Wikipedia page and scroll down through the notable winners you will see dude name after dude named until you finally get to Julia Collins. It’s not a coincidence that this year not only did Collins annihilate this game, but two other women, Sandie Baker and Sarah McNitt, also held mega-long winning streaks.
Stephanie Jass (a 2012 7-game winner) seemed pretty on point when she told Vulture “I don’t think that women are getting any smarter or better at ‘Jeopardy!’ We’ve been plenty qualified for years! I just think that the show is getting better at finding good female players.”
It seems like over the past few years producers have been working a lot harder to find female contestants and the dividends are paying off. You go back and look at that Wikipedia page full of men with long winning streaks and you have to wonder if it would look the same if the producers of the game show had made this kind of concentrated effort to find female contestants decades earlier.
What’s really lovely is how supportive not only the women but the men of “Jeopardy!” have been of Julia’s winning streak. Arthur Chu, who, with an 11-game-streak was this year’s other major player, calls himself a member of Team Julia and went on record as saying “The days of men ruling Jeopardy are over.” Even Computer-in-a-Human-Suit Ken Jennings says “It’s been 10 years and nobody has passed 20 [games]. I feel like it can be done, but the odds are against me even doing it,”
It’s thrilling to see a show that makes being smart cool, feature so many smart and cool women. Really excited to see all the “Jeopardy!” Queens make bank off their brilliant brains in the years to come.