IN DEFENSE OF THE HOT MESS / A CALL FOR LADY ANTIHEROES
Lately I’ve been really into weird concepts of something like failed, desperate, self-conscious deliberate performative femininity? Part of this is evidenced by the fact that I’ve been doing my hair in big curls with my kinda-crappy-blonde-dye-job and wearing a ridiculous faux-leopard coat with ripped tights and messy eyeliner, and part of it comes together more in at least 47 different e-mail conversations about books and movies with “unrepentantly fucked up” lady characters that I’ve been having with at least 5 different people of late. Some of these ideas have been written very eloquently by other folks already, and some of it is obvious and some of it is still vague, and all of it is definitely not “complete,” so, like, go at it in the comments, y’all, I wanna know what you’re thinking.
It begins, I think, with my ongoing frustration that when we are presented with male characters (or personas, or even real persons) who are basically bad people with one redeeming quality (still sleeps with a teddy bear, is a brilliant filmmaker) we let that one redeeming quality, you know, redeem them, and are collectively charmed by their fucked-up-ness. But I have a really hard time coming up with similar female examples: all of the ones I can think of we have opted to either lambast or concern-troll instead. And we always need to redeem them. They always need to learn something or be rescued, which we all know is basically the opposite of how the world really works. Kids, I am a hot mess, and almost all of the women I admire and love and am fascinated by are also hot fucking messes, and I so rarely see that represented in a real, nuanced, and fascinating way. To simplify: I am eternally tearing my hair out over the fact that I desperately want more female antiheroes. In books, film, pop culture personas, whatever. And I’ve been seeing this idea come up again and again lately.
As a brief list of some of what I’m referencing: There’s this Lana Del Rey album review, which is kind of the most astute thing I’ve read on her yet, and which hit the nail on the head of my bizarre, obsessive preoccupation with her and her aesthetic — though it condemned her where I obviously am fascinated instead. There was that Marie Calloway brouhaha, and the fantastic response to it all from Kate Zambreno, which also lead to The Rejectionist’s interview with her here. There were a bunch of folks over at Emily Books who managed to somehow misread a lot of lesbian moralism into Eileen Myles’ Inferno, when I thought it was just a book about, like, someone very funny and intelligent and unapologetic, who also lived a life that reminds me an awful lot of my life now. There was Charlize Theron in Young Adult, who would have been way fascinating if not for Diablo Cody’s frustrating insistence on de-nuancing her characters in favor of twee trope-tastic banter. There’s Cat Marnell at XOJane and the no-nonsense-it’s-okay-to-be-human writing at Rookie. Sarah’s and my Rayanne Project (which sort of fizzled out probably partially because I am a little bit too much of a whacked-out womanchild to coordinate and motivate folks to write me things like that, but the stuff that’s up there is still amazeballs!) The Amy-Winehouse-inspired couture collection that Gaultier showed yesterday. Courtney Love, like, in general.
I am really into this, you guys.
this is so good i had to read it twice.
the second time? it made me cry.
i want those antiheroes too. i wanted those antiheroes when i was a teenager, and i wanted them five years ago, and i want them today and tomorrow.
i wish i could have read something like these when i was twenty-one and heartbroken. heartbroken because my best friend called me a slut, told me i was sleeping around because i wasn’t over my ex-boyfriend, the only reason i was sleeping with women was because i wanted approval from boys, that i wasn’t really in love with the person i was in love with and that an open relationship was just a code word for whore. i tried to tell her, drunkenly, angrily, no, i sleep with women because i find them attractive, and want to sleep with them. my sex life isn’t about me not being “over” something, anything. my drinking is about me wanting to get drunk, and just because sometimes when i get drunk i go home with people i don’t know very well and sometimes have awesome sex with them does not mean i am trying to block out some traumatic experience, or that i am desperate for approval.
after a lot of time had passed i realized so much of what she said to me wasn’t, in fact, about me at all. it was about these boring tried and untrue tropes we have for women who don’t fit into a tiny little box of what a “good” girl is supposed to be. it was the first time in my life i realized how pervasive the idea that “women have sex for any number of other reasons than sexual pleasure” is. that women have sex because “they want to feel loved.” that women have sex with strangers because they were abandoned by their daddy/sexually abused/etc. etc. etc.
how many aspects of our lives, of our experiences, are judged based on how messy we look, how messy we are? how many of us LOOK messy because it is the only way we can look in the mirror and feel like it is an accurate reflection of how we feel on the inside?
i love that meg talks about this in a way that is clear, that is awesome, that makes me want to hop on a bus to nyc and conquer the world in ripped fishnet stockings and smeared makeup and greasy unwashed hair. you should read it.