(Oorspronkelijk verschenen op theunbecomingofagirl)
For years on end I have watched series like Gilmore Girls and Dawson’s Creek and looked up to the teenage girls who ‘had it all’. Because let’s face it – Rory Gilmore and Joey Potter were clever, beautiful and likeable. They had perfect grades, hot boyfriends and big plans for the future. But what they didn’t have was relatability. They never went through that awkward phase of wearing braces, or fucking up that first kiss. They weren’t confused or embarrassing. Sure, Joey Potter was scared of having sex. And sure, Rory Gilmore had doubts about becoming a journalist. But they overcame these struggles with ease.
I first started watching Gilmore Girls when I was thirteen. I had no friends and this show offered me a different reality I could escape to. Eventually I became so emotionally invested that I would dream of Stars Hollow at night. I would daydream about Jess at the breakfast table.
In Holding Out for a Hero, Roxane Gay writes, “We crave the ability to look up, to look beyond ourselves and toward something greater.” That’s why I fell in love with Rory Gilmore. She lived up to all the expectations the world could have of a young woman. She didn’t resemble me, but she resembled the person I wanted to be. I was already a bit of a nerd, but I started studying even harder, dieting, reading more books and doing everything in my reach to become like that faultless girl.
Only now do I realize that I based my whole personality on this kind of shows. This is why I wanted to be nice, smart and thin. This is why I felt pressured to live up to some kind of ideal that is impossible to achieve. And who defined that ideal anyway? Who said that to be happy, girls needed to be good students and nice people? Do we want boys to be nice? According to most, if a boy is called nice, he probably won’t get the girl. But if a girl is nice, she’s a keeper.
To be fair, I never second-guessed this paradigm until I started traveling. But when I was in Berlin, I met this girl who defied all of my standards. She wasn’t well-mannered and she never dressed up. She wasn’t skinny. Her laugh was hoarse and gave away her smoking habits. She got drunk quite often and was a bit of a mess. Long story short, she wasn’t ‘girly’. She was a girl.
I loved her and we became great friends right away, although we were very different. Upon getting to know her better, I realized that her not being the societal standard of beauty didn’t stand in the way of getting the boys she wanted. Her manners didn’t stand in the way of making a great deal of friends. She wasn’t the girl I originally aspired to be. But she was exciting and full of life.
It’s only when I met her, that I discovered the pleasures of living. We partied, climbed fences together, talked about music, books and sex. Now I’m not saying that to truly experience life you should go through this rebellious phase. Because that’s not necessary. I’m just saying that you should do whatever makes you happy. Because although you think everybody cares about whether you’re flawed or not, nobody gives a fuck. And even if they did, why should you?
Only now do I realize that the characters I wanted to be like, were unimaginative and boring. They all had the same dreams and aspirations. And because they did, I thought that I did too. But up until meeting my friend, I wasn’t happy. I was assuring myself that I was because I was so close to that stage of ‘having it all’ – I was skinny, had good grades and a social circle. All that I was lacking was a perfect boyfriend, but that’s something that even Rory Gilmore hadn’t truly figured out. What was there to be unhappy about?
But I wasn’t really following my dreams. I was fulfilling other people’s. Surely there are girls who actually want to have a perfect academic career and be amiable and have long legs. There’s nothing
wrong with that, if that’s what makes you happy. It just didn’t make me happy. I realized that when I discovered what my happiness looked like. It looked like late nights and new people and lots of falafel. It looked like freedom.
Every girl has her own vision of freedom. Every girl has her own version of perfection. Every girl should have her own role model. So why don’t the TV-shows offer us that diversity? Why are all the characters we can look up to, so similar? Where are the rebellious girls? Where are the vulnerable, fearless or fearsome ones? Where are the selfish ones? Honesty and rawness are lacking on TV.
There is some kind of improvement going on for women. There’s Bridget Jones, who is a major fuckup. There’s the new series Girls. So there are interesting characters being introduced to the audience, although these examples are very much discomposed of racial diversity. But they are not girls. They are grown women.
So what I’m asking for is – give girls something else to dream about. Give them the freedom to choose what they want. Give them a voice. Because girls don’t want to become another man’s perfect. They want to become their own perfect.