Why the world needs more female anti-heroes

With this weeks release of “Maleficent,” we see a rise in popularity of a female anti-hero, someone who is seen as a protagonist though they lack the noble and respectable qualities that make a person such.  Through shows like “Breaking Bad,” “Dexter,” “Mad Men,” and “Boardwalk Empire,” we have learned to embrace and root for the anti-hero, but only when said character is a man.  In our society, women are taught to be likable and the majority of female protagonists are portrayed this way.  When we see a woman doing the morally corrupt in order to get what she wants, we view her as selfish and entitled.  Though these women are ones we may not want to come across in our own lives, it is important that media portray all sides of women.

An argument could be made for each of the four protagonists (Hannah, Jessa, Marnie, and Shoshana) in HBO’s series “Girls.”  This is a show that resonates with me and many of my twenty-something peers because the characters find themselves in familiar situations--struggling with finding a job in the current economy, awkward dating scenarios, the ups and downs of female friendships--which are depicted more honestly than they usually are in media.  We are used to seeing women in more stylized situations and are often made uncomfortable by seeing these characters more realistic reactions.

Nancy Botwin is perhaps the closest we have, at least on this list, t0 a female Walter White.  The series “Weeds” picks up after the death of Nancy’s husband when she finds herself in a financial rut.  Through the first seasons audiences applauded Nancy for finding a solution to these problems, even if it meant growing and selling marijuana.  Unfortunately for Nancy, society sees mothers as a symbol of morality.  We have a much easier time letting it slide when a male character is depicted as being a bad dad, thus audiences shied away in later seasons when Nancy became more self-focused and was willing to put her family in dangerous situations to better herself.

Having been a high schooler hellbent on being the hippest girl in school (I strongly believed a love of “Garden State” was all there was to it) when “Juno” came out, I was ecstatic several years later to hear Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman would be teaming up once again.  What may be the worst quality of Young Adult’s Mavis Gary, is that she knows how terribly and immature she is acting, but has no plans of changing her ways anytime soon.

“Masters of Sex” was one of my favorite new shows this year and a lot of that had to do with Lizzy Caplan’s portrayal of Virginia Johnson, one half of the groundbreaking team of sexologists Masters and Johnson.  One quality of an anti-hero is that they violate societal norms while continuing to succeed in society.  Though this show is set in the 1950’s, Virginia must overcome many restrictions women in the workplace still battle today.

Originally written June 9, 2014