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Monday, February 27, 2012

Defending the female fuck-up

I really have no place writing this, considering that I have been anything but an avid consumer of new films and TV over, well, the past couple of years. But I really like Amanda Marcotte's treatment of females in comedy productions engaging in behavior that reveals them to be petty, emotional, short-sighted, vindictive....you know, normal.
The recent explosion of prominent women in comedy has brought with it an unfortunate but predictable debate about whether or not the characters that have resulted from all these women scribbling and acting are Good For Women. Of course, the underlying assumption of the question is that women have a bad reputation in the general public and media should therefore portray us in uplifting ways to counter negative stereotypes, which in turn means that the question answers itself: If a female character has flaws, then that is Bad For Women. Indeed, that's been the general consensus of all hand-wringing over this question. Silpa Kovvali, writing at Feministing, denounces Bridesmaids because some of the characters are insecure, some are unhappy, and some indulge at times in petty, vindicative behavior. Emily Nussbaum at The New Yorker rounds up similar concerns about the character Liz Lemon on 30 Rock, including Slate's Sam Adams complaining that Liz Lemon has gone the way of Homer Simpson. This parade of female slobs, neurotics, and discontents is setting a lot of teeth on edge. Why can't we have spunky heroines with inconsequential flaws, so we can all look up to them? 
Because that's boring is why.
Boring, unrealistic, and unfunny. Insisting that the women we enjoy in comedy be well-behaved is like insisting that they be beautiful. Comedy is about relating to the imperfections that exist in all of us, and it's hard to do any of that relating from atop a pedestal. Looking amazing and doing everything right is the opposite of funny, and insisting that women be such is like a mandate that they never succeed in comedy. Rare-- non-existent actually, I think-- is the family sitcom from the 80's or 90's in which the wife is the one who is ugly, slovenly, and/or messes things up all of the time. That role is for the comedian. That role is for the husband/man.

So even though I could do with some serious education on the shows/films in discussion here, I'm going to say that a feminist take on women in comedy these days should celebrate the female fuck-up, and consider her occurrence a mark of progress.

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