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From Somebody, Somewhere to Fleabag, it's "liberating" to see so many lazy, drunk, broke women on TV representing "The New Female Antihero"

  • Bridget Everett's Somebody, Somewhere character Sam is the latest example of female antiheroes on the small screen. "It’s a relief to see the women of small-screen comedy and dramedy turning their backs on ambition, personal growth and self-actualization," write University of Colorado, Denver professors Sarah Hagelin and Gillian Silverman in their book The New Female Antihero: The Disruptive Women of Twenty-First-Century US Television. "From Enlightened to Broad City, from Girls to I May Destroy You, female protagonists flout expectations that they be hard-working and socially responsible, gravitating instead toward indolence and self-sabotage. They quit their jobs when they get bored; they reject stable relationships, remunerative work and even personal dignity. It may sound dangerous to celebrate all this narcissism, fecklessness and sloth, but it’s also liberating: Who among us has not wanted to ditch a boring job and set their wellness plans on fire? We were already exhausted before lockdowns and day care closures; now, nearly two years into this pandemic, 'it’s as if our whole society is burned out,' wrote Noreen Malone in The New York Times Magazine. Somebody Somewhere is a far cry from the single-girl sitcoms of the past, which have generally followed the arc of the bildungsroman, in which the protagonist develops self-reliance and self-respect, ready to meet the challenges of becoming an adult. These new story lines are, instead, versions of what the feminist scholar Susan Fraiman calls narratives of 'unbecoming,' featuring protagonists who undermine their own growth and education, and are more likely to be mired in failure than striving toward wedding rings and corner offices." As Hagelin and Silverman point out, it's been accepted for men to be obnoxious slackers on TV, from Jerry Seinfeld to Larry David to Louis CK. But, they add, "audiences expect cheery competence from women while tolerating laziness, violence and rule-breaking in men, the female antihero represents a far more profound threat to the status quo."

    TOPICS: Bridget Everett, Fleabag, Somebody Somewhere, Women and TV