thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Posts Tagged ‘friendship’

Hateship, Friendship, and the Power Dynamics of “Doll & Em”

In girl culture, TV on April 22, 2014 at 8:56 am

Sarah T.

Because I am very lucky, I’ve known a lot of smart, funny, talented, gorgeous women in my life so far. There’s no question that these friends have made my life richer and helped shape me into a better human being. There’s also no denying that—particularly in my younger years—I’ve sometimes compared myself to them and wound up feeling decidedly second-rate.

Of course, it’s not productive to feel gloomy because your friend has just nabbed a plum book deal or won a grant to spend ten months rafting down the Amazon or happens to have the luminous skin of a woodland elf. But feeling occasionally competitive with the people who are close to you—or at least having a little bit of a reflexive inferiority complex mixed in with all the love and genuine admiration—is only human. What’s important, I’ve found as I get older, is learning how to deal with those emotions. I can recognize the things that make my friends awesome and feel proud to know them while actively choosing not to listen to the little self-doubt piano tinkling away inside my head. Or I can let insecurities rankle and seethe until they finally threaten to torpedo the friendship for good.

The new HBO series Doll & Em, created by real-life pals Dolly Wells and Emily Mortimer, is about two old friends who take the latter, messier road. The power dynamic between Doll and Em seesaws back and forth as the women use one another as measuring sticks of success and find themselves constantly wanting. They know each other well enough to wound. But they also care about each other enough to decide that their broken friendship is worth fighting for.

Doll (Wells) and Em (Mortimer) grew up together in London. At 40, they love each other just as fiercely as they did in their childhood bathtub-splashing days—as is evident from the weepy phone call Doll makes to Em shortly after breaking up with her no-good boyfriend. Em, a successful movie star, ducks away from a red-carpet interview alongside Bradley Cooper to lend her old friend some support. She even comes up with what seems like a generous offer, hiring Doll as her new personal assistant and flying her out to Los Angeles. Read the rest of this entry »

True-er Detectives: “The Bletchley Circle,” Lady Sleuths, and Friendship

In feminism, gender, girl culture, TV on March 11, 2014 at 9:06 am

Phoebe B.

THE BLETCHLEY CIRCLE S1

I sit on the floor with my legs crossed, just a foot from the television, enraptured. I watch The Bletchley Circle alone, almost as if sharing the show with anyone else will change the way I feel when I’m watching it, interrupt my complete and utter devotion to the mystery.

Susan utters, “When this is over, we’ll have to be ordinary.” What she means is, We will have to pretend that we’re not brilliant. We will have to pretend we’re ordinary because we are women and smile politely at others’ accomplishments. It’s only been two minutes, but I am already devoted. I fear ordinary too. I fear boredom and expectations of marriage, children, home-owning. A life that is not your own.

I can feel my mouth forming a smile as Ted walks into the room to ask what I’m up to. I don’t want to answer and I don’t want to pause the show, because I’m worried that I might lose this feeling. But I do, and I do. Luckily, I don’t.

***

The Bletchley Circle tells the story of four former World War II code-breakers who happen to be women. The mystery at the center of the show is amazing; the characters who solve it, even more so. The series is about power in the face of powerlessness, determination and solidarity and what four brilliant women can do together. Read the rest of this entry »

Pretty Little Liars and the Power of Four

In girl culture, misogyny, Pretty Little Liars on February 27, 2014 at 6:52 pm

ImageSarah T.

The four of us sit in the grass by the farmer’s market. Together we form a baseball diamond, a compass rose.

Chelsea wears a printed sundress. Her short hair is perfectly mussed; her mouth is a red cupid’s bow. When I first met her I thought she was so glamorous that it was a little intimidating. As it turns out she’s fiercely loyal and easy to trust, the kind of friend who’ll usher you into the kitchen when you’re feeling sad to cook you a bowl of pasta. She’s equal parts sass and Southern sympathy as Melissa acts out scenes from last night’s party.

Melissa’s proud and fiery and mostly legs, equally comfortable pitching a tent in the middle of a rainstorm and spinning across a dance floor with a perfect cat’s-eye. I love listening to her tell stories because she always acts out all the parts. Now she waves her arms over her head, forms her hands into claws and growls.

Phoebe mock-recoils with a laugh. She’s warm and poised with bright blue eyes, quick with comebacks and questions and bear hugs, and sure about the things she loves in a way that makes her habits contagious. Spend enough time with her and you won’t be able to understand how you ever lived without over-salting your salads and speed-walking for at least an hour a day.

As for me, I’m fresh off a breakup. My bangs are awkwardly short because I was too depressed to tell the stylist when to stop cutting. It’s an appropriate look, as I am pretty sure I’m having at least three identity crises simultaneously. But together with these three women, for what seems like the first time in weeks, I don’t feel like crying. Read the rest of this entry »

True Life: I’m A Character From Girls

In Girls on January 22, 2013 at 11:59 am
Guest Contributor Rachel Louchen
just one example of hannah's fine cardigan style

Last Sunday was a big night for Girls. The show made a killing at the Golden Globes while the first episode of its hotly anticipated second season ran simultaneously on HBO. But while I enjoyed the show’s first season—Chris O’Dowd, please be in every show ever—I have not been looking forward to its return. That’s because I fear that along with it will come a fresh slew of comments about how similar I am to the show’s protagonist, Hannah Horvath.

This is not a self-assessment, but something that has been told to me dozens of time by dozens of people. On paper, I can see the similarities. Up until recently, I was a 24-year-old aspiring writer living in Brooklyn (Greenpoint, no less)—much like Hannah. Like her, I’ve had questionable relationships with guys who were decidedly not good for me, and I am definitely into contrasting patterns style-wise. However, I worried that the comparisons between me and Hannah reflected more than the surface-level paralells—which in itself makes me too close to Lena Dunham’s over-analytical heroine for comfort.

My first thought after watching the pilot was that I found Hannah an immensely unlikeable and self-absorbed character. So you can imagine my surprise when, not even 24 hours after the show premiered, I was inundated with emails and texts from friends comparing me to her.  They ranged from mildly annoying—“Hey, this girl on TV talks and dresses like you”—to full-blown off the mark: “I didn’t know you were on a television show.” Where was this coming from? Okay, maybe the job interview scene where she makes a date rape joke was in line with my ongoing problem with discerning what is and isn’t appropriate for a given situation. But I find that quality more Bridget Jones than Hannah Horvath.

I especially didn’t feel like I had anything in common with Hannah when it came to financial independence The pilot opens with Hannah’s sweet and supportive parents announcing they are no longer going to financially support her. She responds by being flabbergasted, shocked, and totally entitled. As a girl who always pays the rent check and successfully budgets, I couldn’t relate to her. I couldn’t even sympathize.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rebound: Samantha Brick and Beauty

In body politics, gender, news, Rebound on April 9, 2012 at 10:08 am

Chelsea B.

I want to draw your attention–again, I’m sure–to Ms. Brick, who has been impossible to miss on the internet this week. The condensed version of the story goes like this: Samantha Brick wrote an article for Daily Mail titled “‘There Are Downsides to Looking This Pretty’: Why Women Hate Me for Being Beautiful.” As is unsurprising, based simply on the title, people reacted strongly to her claims.

My concern with the whole debacle begins when Brick says in a televised interview:

‘People mistake self-confidence for arrogance […] But it’s a fact that women are not nice to one another.  They all stab each other in the backs in my experience.’

Disagreeing strongly, [Ruth Langsford of ITV] interrupted to suggest that rather than her beauty being the factor that creates instant enemies of other women when she enters a room, perhaps it is actually her arrogance and ‘air of superiority’.

I wholeheartedly agree with Langsford, one of the interviewers, that it is great that Ms. Brick is confident in her own attractiveness but problematic that she assumes and continuously asserts that women dislike her before even speaking to her based solely on her appearance. In other words, Brick is dismissive of anyone identifying as female, insulting their intelligence, compassion, and capacity for forming meaningful relationships based solely on a few personal experiences in which she believes she was mistreated by other women due to her attractiveness. Read the rest of this entry »