The Ascent of the Female Anti-Hero
The ‘man-child’ phenomenon has existed for a while — in laymen’s terms: a grown man, nearing the age of 30, who remains unacceptably reliant on others for basic life functions. Buzzfeed did the honors of compiling a list of 23 characteristics that define a man-child, perhaps at the helm, “he will flat out refuse to do things for himself, as if his is above that” and he lacks any sort of ambition to become a responsible, self-reliant adult.
Man-Child to Lady Rogue
Truly a winner. While most of us are familiar with the man-child complex, the rise of the woman-child remains largely unknown. Lauren Duca, writing for the Huffington Post, details the emergence of the ‘woman-child’ label, chronicling its unconscious appearance in various entertainment platforms.
Duca’s piece, “The Rise Of The Woman-Child,” begins discussing “Preggoland” protagonist Ruth — a 30-something who spends her time working “working at an off-brand Walmart and drinking out of a cellphone-shaped flask.”
Ruth’s situation is reminiscent of the single girl in a group of friends who are all well on their way to following the traditional life trajectory: a mid-twenties marriage followed by baby number one soon after.
Her friends grow tired of Ruth’s behavior and lack of ambition, their feelings reflect that of modern audiences, Duca writes. Ultimately, the man-child’s female counterpart finds it “near impossible” to garner a modicum of sympathy. Female anti-heroes don’t typically do well at the box office — their ‘groundless’ nature seems to work against them. According to “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig, the challenge was getting people to stay invested in Annie, for the sheer fact that audiences unfamiliar with the female anti-hero “need something to root for.”
Female Anti-Hero Hate
Today, many loathe the female anti-hero. We condemn her for all that she is not, for all of the requirements she does not presume fit. Yet, we revel in male characters who embody the same supposed flaws. Feig said:
“Classically, male characters have been able to get away with that more in the past. There’s this weird thing ingrained in our culture that it’s no fun to watch a woman out of control. You know, versus with a guy out of control, where the idea is that’s just what they do.”
Women are expected to ‘keep it together,’ but grace under pressure doesn’t always work. It is characteristically human to become frazzled and flustered on occasion. “If you’re a female, then you should have your shit together and you should be figuring it out,” Anna Kendrick said, discussing the role. “With men it’s just like, ‘Oh, you know, he’s just still a frat boy at heart, and it’s no big deal,” Anna Kendrick told the Huffington Post.
From “Girls” and “Broad City” to “Young Adult” and “Obvious Child,” we increasingly see the female anti-hero in popular television shows. Typically, they are women in their 20s and 30s, undergoing the transition from adolescence to adulthood.
We witness characters like Girls’ Hannah Horvath and Marnie Michaels stumble through “professional inertia” and “small nervous breakdowns” in a bit city setting, as a Rolling Stone piece describes it, yet they come out the other end armed with “profundity” or something like it.
Female Friendships Are Key
The resolution? Its origins can often be found in the deeply-rooted relationships that exist between women, the sense of loyalty and kinship that develops from sharing in similar life experiences. Women understand that it is nearly impossible to have it together all the time, as is expected, and as part of the maturing process, we too experience a wide range of emotions and inevitable challenges.
“We see all of it, and want to show all of it, and we don’t want to be told that we can’t be leaders just because we’re lazy or we’re messy sometimes. Sometimes everybody is lazy and messy, and it’s okay.”