Like most people, I’m a simple creature; I boil down to the most rudimentary of pleasures. I’m like everybody’s favourite flop haired 90‘s pseudo-intellectual bellend Troy Dyer in Reality Bites (Ethan ‘tortured artist since ’93’ Hawke, yo. Don’t pretend like you don’t remember who Troy is, you liar) – I take pleasure in the details. A quarter-pounder with cheese, the sky ten minutes before it starts to rain, the moment where your laughter becomes a cackle (that script was so deep). The details. The fine lines. The in betweens. I love that shit.
And when it comes to characters like Troy Dyer – as terrible a character as he was – they’re literally dime a dozen. There are insane amounts of handsome, tortured artist, slacker men scattered liberally amongst tv shows and mainstream cinema. The type who really don’t have their shit together. The kind of characters who are all about the detail because they spend the majority of their time either sunk into a couch or staring forlornly into the middle distance or just leaning on shit (my heart sings Catalano – I just love the way he leans) – they have nothing but detail. They’re characters in a state of flux, a cocoon with only half a wing formed out of it. They’re losers and honestly, I love to watch losers.
But where are all the loser women at? Don’t get me wrong, I’m batshit insanely full of adoration for female characters with gigantic smarts, strength, ambition and success but sometimes these women just completely flatten me with how effortless life is to them. As if they’re using one foot to save the planet, the other to raise kids, an arm to woo an eligible dreamboat and another to pull in some dollar whilst they spin plates on their beautiful fucking heads. Most mornings I’m so tired that I have trouble figuring out how to put a foot into a pair of tights without completely ripping them from toe to gusset. Does that make me borderline brain dead?
The fact remains that these characters cripple me. Admire them? Yes. Feel good about myself after watching them? Hell shitting no.
I don’t always want to see perky Rory Gilmore downing her espresso through the streets of her Ivy League college on her way to another job interview with a potential newspaper. Nor do I want Dianne Lockhart or Alicia Florick and their wardrobes of unaffordable high fashion dazzling a courtroom where they’ve won yet another sexual harassment case for a woman who didn’t have a single person fighting her corner previous to them stepping in (ugh, I do love The Good Wife, though). Sometimes I just want to see Lena Dunham sticking a cotton bud into her ear enough times that she can violently pop the ear drum.
I’m tired of perfection. I’m tired of seeing women strive and fight for it and about it. I want to celebrate the flaw and surround myself with women like Jennifer Lawrence – women who win a fucking Oscar and fall up the stairs in front of millions of people when they go up to accept it.
Just where are these equivalents of the Troy Dyer’s of the World (I don’t care how shit that character is, I’m running with him as an example)? Because I’m so sick of still seeing the depressed, lazy guy with a beard who’s just lost his job, his lover and fuck knows what else and grows a beard to signify it. Because I’m yet to see the unemployed, single, life-down-the-shitter twenty or thirty something woman waking up in a pile of empty Tesco Premium Lager cans in a dress that reveals her wild, unshaven legs and lustrous underarm hair. That is a reality of life right there, and nobody has bothered to put it on film.
I want to see bored women. Women who aren’t reaching any sort of potential because nobody is giving them a single chance to. Women who don’t know their arse from elbow, whether they’re coming or going or how to put one foot in front of the other so they can start moving in any sort of a direction.
I mean, there’s something just so spectacular about when a production is put together where a ten minute scene can be made free of any dialogue showing a woman doing as little as possible yet still completely owning the scene and the film and the audience.
I mean, kudos to the whole ‘Mumblecore’ scene, which in spite of some of it’s failings as a genre, is one of the best for portraying some of its young women as being awkward, clumsy and miserable individuals who don’t have one single clue what they want or where to go or what to do. Women who don’t have their shit together. Like Marnie in Andrew Bujalski’s Funny Ha Ha who navigates her romantic shortcomings, lack of life achievements, propensity for drunken mistakes and hopeless career prospects by writing out to do lists in the dim hope of self improvement.
Or Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha who seems almost as though she’s standing still for the entire movie whilst her family, friends, room mates and lovers enjoy their money and their successes and jobs and their relationships and generally move quickly on with their lives whilst she’s still figuring out which foot she needs to lift up first in order to start moving forward.
I fucking love these women. Even Miranda July in The Future as she attempts to compete with the hundreds of thousands of views her work mate’s dance video has gotten on Youtube by filming herself laconically moving along to the slow thrums of Master Of None by Beach House. These are women trying to figure shit out. And, I don’t know why, but I think that’s a pretty important thing for women to see in pop culture.
So whilst it feels like men of mainstream cinema appear to be fixated with the idea of being portrayed on the whole as superheroes at the moment (seriously. Aren’t you guys bored of capes and muscles? Even I am and Henry Cavill, you guys. Superheroes managed to make Henry Cavill boring), I feel like women are starting to go in the complete other direction. We kind of just want to disappear for a while. We want to figure shit out and be disgusting and weird and awkward and slutty.
Because it almost feels as though for all too long we’ve had to be proving ourselves worthy of narrative and so deserving of fully fleshed out characters that we’ve over egged the pudding. It’s fantastic to have fully fleshed out characters, but they don’t have to be these over achieving super women all of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when they are, but I think I’m starting to love the ones who chew on pens for so long that they get ink around their mouth or the women taking a piss on a train station platform way more than the ones who are simply REAL FUCKING AMAZING 24/7.
Because it doesn’t feel real. And sometimes you just need some reals.
I mean, whatever you might think about Lena Dunham’s Girls (and I get the hate for the show, I honestly do. But I seriously, honestly love it), you have to admit that show is doing something that no other show has managed to yet. Yes, it’s continuing a tired tradition of representing white, privileged women in a multi-cultural city that only seems to allow white folk on set (seriously, has nobody learnt a thing since Sex and the City? Fucking hell) but it’s also capably re-introduced the idea of loathsome female characters into the TV lexicon. These are hideous people, make no mistake. But they’re exaggerations of everyone in their twenties. The show perfectly captures the kind of horrendous lethargy that comes with being a twenty-something despicably entitled loser in which you feel like you’re going nowhere in life and that your waitress job will be just about paying your rent until you die and that you’re also the most important person in the whole fucking World, so how in the fuck could this have happened?!!
Addressing young women in this way – making them more flawed than idyllic – makes the characters feel more human. And if there’s one thing that’s been missing from female characterisation in TV and Cinema it’s that whilst a female character might be written beautifully and with strength and enviable traits worthy of anyone they sure as fuck lack any kind of humanity. Women need to be allowed to fuck up, to be horrendous, to be clumsy and ugly and fabulously monstrous.
It was these kinds of traits that kept Sex and the City interesting. I still happily watch that show (up to a certain season, let’s not go nuts here) and its not for the shoes, costumes, cocktails or cock talk that has since somehow been solely associated with it but because those were some fucked up, flawed characters right there. Carrie Bradshaw in herself was a heinous individual. They might have dressed her up but they didn’t sugar coat her personality which was vacuous, self centered, greedy and destructively impulsive. These were women seen as having it all, except they didn’t. They had nothing figured out. They thought they did, but they had nearly everything all wrong. That was the beauty of the show – these women were far from perfect. That’s what made the show so likable, funny and dramatic. Those women were horrendous.
And there’s the details right there. Being human is all about the details and it integrates an endless variety of flaws. I need to see that. I need to have my bad days – of which there are so many because I too am a horrendously lethargic, under achieving, despicably entitled twenty something loser woman – reflected to me by Greta Gerwig and Lena Dunham and Miranda July. We deserve to be portrayed the way that we actually are, not the way that we envision the best of us as being.