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Why It’s Good We Are Getting Over Being a Hot Mess

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Emilie Aries’s brilliant article for The Huffington Post sheds light on the “hot mess” trend among young women. She asserts that over the last few years, it has become in vogue for women to not only come across as frazzled, insecure, disheveled, anxious, overworked, and tired, but for them to embrace it. Aries attributes this in large part to how women are portrayed in pop culture. We’ve been convinced that these traits make us charming or enchantingly “adorkable.” Watch 10 minutes of any show that has the word “girl” or “girls” in the title and you’ll see her point. The tagline for Girls, “almost getting it kind of together,” is literally the national motto of hot messes.

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I don’t mind seeing characters that aren’t perfect on television. I actually prefer it. After all, I can relate to them more because I’m no where near a perfect human. Yes, the occasional mismatched sock or missed appointment happens to a majority of us, but when did it become cool to promote that we can be disorganized and frazzled? This clip from Girls is a perfect example:

Why has it become cool to, as Urban Dictionary defines it, have “thoughts or appearance in a state of disarray, but maintain an undeniable attractiveness or beauty.” Being undeniably attractive is always nice, but should it be in spite of the fact that you haven’t brushed your hair and were an hour late for your friends’ rehearsal dinner?

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Aries argues, “Messages that tell us it’s charming to be that confused girl in our 20s can hamstring us for life.” I enjoy watching New Girl, 2 Broke Girls, and Girls. However, if I went by the female characters’ logic on those shows, I would often leave a room screaming and running, make fake dolls of my guy friends, do drug tests for money, not wear pants in public (I don’t care if you just poked your eardrum with a Q-tip and have to go to the emergency room. Throw on a pair of shorts for God’s sake), spontaneously burst into song (or serenade my ex-boyfriend’s coworkers whom I’ve never met before), charge hipsters to ride a horse, and pee next to train stations. Yes, these situations have been funny to watch, but you have to be as charming as Zooey Deschanel or Lena Dunham and have an excellent writing staff, camera crew, production team, and makeup to pull it off.

That’s why I want to thank Aries for calling pop culture out on this and asking that we shift away from the “hot mess” trend and toward the “owning your success” trend. I’m not saying I want to see a bunch of women who look like Victoria’s Secret supermodels playing rocket scientists with perfect lives. Yet it would be nice to see a character who says, “I am not going to try to go to my 9 a.m. spin class, show up late, look terrible, and not enjoy the workout because I was working until midnight.”

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Producers and writers may already be listening. Aries points out Mindy Lahiri on The Mindy Project is a good starting point. The character definitely highlights her flaws on a regular basis, but she also owns her success and often flaunts it. A show called Hot Mess was also recently pulled from MTV’s lineup.

As sweet as being adorkable is, owning your success is even cuter and, as Aries points out, can be a real turn on:

Other women in comedy and music in particular are showing us there’s an alternative way. Beyoncé. Janelle Monáe. Nicki Minaj. Tina Fey. Amy Poehler. All of these women take their business seriously, are unapologetic for their success, and show that while we all struggle to balance love and a rewarding career, we don’t need to play down our accomplishments to date. I just wish there were more 20-something’s to list here.

This is not a plea to be embarrassed by your flaws and to not admit you have them, but to admit you are also awesome. Be a hot dynamic person! Talk about having a 401k, how you rocked that presentation at work today, and managed to make it to the gym (not for a whole hour, but a solid 40 minutes).

Photo: Girls HBO / Facebook


#Television #Exercise Finance Work-Life Balance #Success #Pop Culture Presence Career Advice Lifestyle News
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Love this! To me, the notion of being a "hot mess" is pretty demeaning, yet its' use is so accepted by society and it has become so normal to hear the term. I think it focuses way too much on image and honestly hinders women being seen as equals to men on an intellectual scale.

I think almost any young person, man or woman, goes through a "hot mess" phase. This is such a crazy time in your life, I would be amazed if anyone had it all together perfectly!

I've never thought about how being a "hot mess" has become the hot trend; me and my friends are constantly referring to ourselves as a hot mess and we frequently reference "Girls". I think owning the fact that you're a "hot mess" is important because it's nothing to be ashamed of. If you can own up to the fact that you're a scattered brain mess, you're on the right track. I really really loved this article!

I wish more characters on TV could be like Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation (portrayed by the wonderful Amy Poehler): she's extremely dedicated to her career and very competent. It's also wonderful to see a female character who can make mistakes, but learns from them in a realistic and constructive way. Her life is messy, too, but she is always working to get it together. And, perhaps best of all: her ambitious, type-A personality is portrayed as a positive thing. In fact, it's one of the things her co-workers and friends admire the most about her, which is downright radical when it comes to women on TV!

Couldn't agree more with this article. I am over the character type of the hot mess. I wish there were more female characters who had their stuff together on TV - Dr. Meredith Gray could have been so much cooler if she'd not been falling apart every five seconds on Gray's Anatomy. I think if television portrayed more female characters as not just intelligent, but also strong and capable of dealing with the really tough stuff that impacts us all, the next generation of young women watching television would realize it is possible to deal with even the worst of situations and survive, or maybe even thrive.


I don't think the shows you mentioned (Girls, Mindy Project) are demeaning or somehow take away from being successful. It is possible to be a "frazzled, anxious, insecure" and still be competent at the same time. Nobody has it together in their 20s! If you are in the 1% of people who do, congratulations, life must have thrown you some solid curve balls!!
Mindy, in the Mindy Project is a talented gynecologist. And, oh, Tina Fey? In 30 Rock (an almost auto-biography), see a stressed, yet talented woman who compares herself to Cathy. Insanely rich Beyonce, along with insanely rich Jay-z still named their baby, Blue Ivy. Amy Poehler's character in Parks and Rec, is older and probably learned from messing up as a 20 something. In fact, in the show she still has to balance her perfectionism to let some of the mess in.

Life is messy for 20 somethings and any somethings, whether man or woman, because this is how we grow! If there are shows that acknowledge and celebrate that uncertainty, so much the better!

I think a lot of this boomeranging from perfection to "hot mess" is actually all of us becoming comfortable with ourselves so we are falling into the extremes. With so many outside pressures and internal pressures on who we should be and how we should behave it's easy to be everyone but yourself. That is where I think this tension is coming from.

Lauren Fox
Lauren Fox

This was the perfect thing for me to read. After just graduating college, I've found it hard to transition from being a free-spirited college student or a "hot mess" at times to a professional. It's a hard balance, and sometimes it's nice to be able to be frazzled and disorganized without feeling like a failure or having something to apologize about, which I think those characters give us that freedom. I think this article is great in saying to "own your success". However, I find it hard to own success without seeming boastful especially when friends are having trouble finding careers and jobs.

As usual, it seems that our society is once again defined by our extremes. On one hand, it's no longer appropriate to externalize your struggle to figure out life as you enter adulthood (which, by the way, is constantly changing. I, like many other so-called adults are looking to change fields in our late 20s and early 30s). On the other hand, we have a serious problem occurring in universities, such as UPenn ( where young people are feeling obligated to demonstrate that they have it "together" while falling apart on their own. Rather than celebrating the "hot mess" or the "success" (I use quotes to suggest that what others might view as success may not be what the person who holds said success is feeling), why don't we appreciate and respect the process that individuals go through to find the best version of themselves?

Thanks, Jessica! Right on.

True. None of us are as one-dimensional as either extreme. I'm just so tired of seeing the "hot mess" trope glamorized and give the impression of weak women = attractive women. It should be appealing - not intimidating - to see a woman who's got her shit together.

Katy Koop
Katy Koop

I do love that we're moving away from the 'hot mess', but at the same time, I think the trend is targeting 20 somethings that do feel like hot messes. Like even the capable women who are making the change- Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Mindy Kaling were kind of hot messes in their 20s. I'm in the mire of it right now, and even if you manage to get in with a company and or in a grad program and kind of have your sh*t together as a 23 year old, you're still very confused. At that age like Amy Poehler was waitressing and taking comedy classes,and right before she went on an improv tour with Poehler, Tina Fey was working at the YMCA. Mindy Kaling was struggling in NYC and trying the best she could by doing a weird Mark and Ben 2 man comedy show. And after struggling and figuring it out and being kind of hot messes, they figured it out. So, as a semi-hot mess, I don't want the trope to go away completely but I do want varied stories. Like hot messes and people who have it together can be friends. So maybe this step is towards a more realistic portrayal.

Love that I saw this article promoted again on FB - it's refreshing to have someone else recognize how painful to watch and cliche this 'trend' has become. Another step towards the removal of these 'categories' we place women into - in both pop culture and real life!

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