Ladies are very powerful in culture right now, particularly between the ages of 22 and 32. Or so we would think from the End of Men and the rise of Lena Dunham. But if you grew up between women getting the franchise and Riot Grrrl feminism, you might be mildly uncomfortable with the boy-obsessed, nail art loving, and “like” dense speaking habits of ladies dominating our cultural landscape. I don’t think we have to give this mildly self-hating new version of lady power a total free pass, but let me defend some of my favorite iterations:
The Mindy Project
Mindy Kaling has brought a woman of color into a starring comedy role on network television. Amazing. But Kaling has basically failed to have any other women on the show. After early attempts at Mindy having a best girl friend, the show really found its groove when it dropped all other lady characters and made Mindy’s male co-workers the center of the show. Like the New Girl, the show is most funny when it explores the friendships between Mindy and her boy buds. But unlike the New Girl, Mindy is a strong center to this dynamic. Mindy is unabashedly “girly” and competent and she is the heart of the comedy rather than the foil.
This show is based on the premise that girls have a code that helps them navigate the troubled waters of dating, boozing, and shopping. Unfortunately there does not seem to be any place in the code for figuring out how to get a raise or decide between engineering or chemistry as a life path. But despite this narrow focus, this show features more young female comedians than ANY other show on tv. Cast from UCB and the stand up circuit in NYC, the young and diverse cast is both funny and sisterly. I actually would feel pretty okay about my daughter learning about drinking from these ladies because they describe “partying” as a pretty boring box of wine that you drink with your girlfriends while talking about your butt sweat.
Taylor is not as impressively calculated as Beyonce, or as authentic as Kacey Musgraves. But Taylor is totally and completely devoted to honestly describing the experience of being an emotional and deluded young woman. And that is all you get. She doesn’t dance, she is not an amazing performer, nor does she have much of a voice. But Taylor writes the kind of songs that are both sweet and stupid enough to actually express how ridiculous young women feel about themselves and the world. And these perfect pop/country songs are expertly crafted (if that category makes you cringe, you need to take a long hard look at your love of Patsy Cline, ’cause that was some pop country if I ever heard it).