Laura Reed & Deep Pocket - “Happy”
I sadly missed the entire Girls debate, but one thing about it, among many, that I never understood was the criticism that that Hannah was unlikable because she made bad choices, or was spoiled, or directionless.
In our post-Sopranos anti-hero television era it seems strange at best troubling and misogynistic at worst to criticize a show for its main character being “flawed” or a quote-unquote bad or unlikable person. Tony Soprano killed people. So did Vic Mackey. And Walter White. And nearly everyone on Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire and The Wire. There’s almost not a single male character on Mad Men who would be classified as a “good” person who makes “good” choices with their life. And yet all of these shows are or were watched by millions with no complaints. But yet there was a huge outcry among certain segments of the population about the flawed and complicated and not always morally upstanding main characters of Girls.
And that’s probably because the women most people are accustomed to seeing on TV are easily definable. They are happy, or sad. They are the heroine or the bitch. When they are allowed to have problems or complexities it’s that they’re beautiful but work too hard, they’re smart but a klutz. And if they kill someone it’s for explicitly justifiable reasons.
I know I’m not breaking new ground here, but until female characters are allowed to have the full range of human choices and emotions and experiences the same as men are then we wont be living in an equal society. Sexism today is rarely of the “women are stupid and have smaller brains” variety but more of the subtler “I can watch a show about an amoral murderer with no problem if he’s a man, but I just can’t relate to a show about a woman who’s a spoiled slacker with questionable taste in men” type. Sentiments like that just reinforce the idea that women need to fit themselves into identifiable boxes. That they need to force themselves to have a happy face.
So, people who create things, time to stop reflexively putting either a happy or a sad face on all female characters. And time to start letting them have a face that doesn’t yet know what it wants to be. A face that’s somewhere in between. Somewhere where real women actually live.
(Also, congrats Lena, well deserved)