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.
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?
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.”
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