I’m just a female dirtbag, baby

Ever since first watching the 2000 film High Fidelity in high school, I found myself relating to the record store-owning protagonist Rob, played by John Cusack. Rob was a moody, unlucky in love music snob, too in touch with his emotions and stuck in the past— embarrassingly relatable. 

So, when I heard that High Fidelity was getting a TV remake, starring the iconic Zoë Kravitz as a gender-swapped Rob (now short for Robyn), I was instantly excited. My issues with the film had always been my cognitive dissonance between relating to Cusack’s Rob, but struggling with his toxic “but I’m a nice guy” demeanour—something I found inherently masculine and obnoxious.

Yet, High Fidelity (both the film and the new Hulu show) is shown through Rob’s eyes, as the character often breaks the fourth wall to talk to the camera directly. So when Rob is played by the dreamy Cusack, with his puppy dog eyes, you can’t help but be pulled into his guise, no matter how much of a dirtbag he is.

Watching the Hulu adaptation made me wonder why I felt the need to relate to Rob. I realized that while there has been no shortage of “cool girls” on screen, their range was always limited. The cool girl is never the main character. She’s often a foil placed in opposition to the stereotypical uptight, prissy, feminine character due to her chillness (think the iconic Gone Girl monologue).

In Hulu’s “High Fidelity,” Rob is undoubtedly cool—Kravitz just seems to bring that to everything she does. Yet, no matter how hip she appears on the outside, Rob is still a complex character with as much agency as any male protagonist. Like Cusack before her, Kravitz takes on the role of an utter dirtbag.

The female dirtbag may be a useful subversion of the cool girl archetype. BBC’s “Fleabag” made a huge splash in 2016 arguably due to its realistically messy, horny and self-involved main character, depicted by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. She’s well-dressed and creative, but deeply flawed in her relationships and unabashedly gross. Similar to “High Fidelity,” Waller-Bridge often faces the camera to engage the audience in her outer monologue. Sure she’s cool, but she’s in control of her own story.

There’s a misconception that for a female character to be “strong,” they have to be exceptionally smart, confident and capable. But, how many among us can truly relate to Captain Marvel or Buffy Summers? Not even mentioning these characters’ overwhelming whiteness and thinness. This outdated focus on strength should be replaced by an imperative for truth and realism.

One trend within this new wave of female dirtbag representation is that most of these narratives are helmed by women. The aforementioned 2020 “High Fidelity,” “Fleabag”—and we can’t forget the pinnacle of female grossness—”Broad City” were all created by women.

When women are allowed to shape their own stories, they’re bound to represent a more truthful depiction of the female experience—warts and all. 


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Let’s kill the cool girl trope

She’s pretty! She’s fun! She likes sports and hot dogs but still looks great in a little black dress! You know her well! She is the cool girl

A trope we see everywhere, whether she’s in the latest action movie, romcom, drama or even manifesting herself in a Jennifer Lawrence’s celebrity persona, trust me when I say —  everywhere. But, here’s a little secret — she doesn’t actually exist.

That’s right. The cool girl is not real, sorry boys! This is not to say that women are not cool, because trust me, they are. This is to comment on the fact that the cool girl we see in the media is made up and simply a manifestation of male desires.

To clarify, I am not saying that women are not naturally drawn to stereotypically male interests; that’s ridiculous. Women are complex, making their desires diverse and vast. I am simply referring to a systemic trope; one born from male writers, directors and producers who create a female character solely to fit the male gaze. It’s not just about her liking sports or fixing cars, it’s that above all these characters must be insanely hot. It’s a crucial prerequisite, characters have to look like Megan Fox or Sandra Bullock before they are even considered on the cool girl radar. People will say, “she’s not like other girls,” but ha! You’re wrong. Friends, she is like other girls, she just might be better at hiding it.

According to a video by The Take, many women go through a phase where they want to be seen as the cool girl and honestly, I can relate. After fiddling with my sweaty ponytail in an attempt to look effortlessly windswept when I was playing soccer with my guy friends, or trying time and time again to look cool in a baseball cap, I have given up. Cool girls might seem effortless, but I can assure you — they’re not.

The Take explains that the cool girl is often juxtaposed with a very uptight and traditionally “girlier” version. This girl is shown to like more stereotypical girly things such as shopping, painting their nails, and does her makeup, a girl who is seen as annoying, superficial or less-than by the male characters and audience. The cool girl and the girly girl are both very demeaning to women and are both portrayed for the sole purpose of living and dying for male attention. These tropes plant deep roots of internalized sexism between women, often turning them against each other.

To be the cool girl you must renounce your gender, separating yourself from stereotypically feminine characteristics, while also being flawless. How exhausting!

Once we identify these patterns, they are very difficult to miss. When was the last time that you consumed a movie, television show or book where there was only one redeeming female character? I have a feeling you won’t have to look very far.

All this being said, things are getting better. Jennifer Lawrence has calmed down, and at the same time, we are starting to see representation of many interesting and emotionally intelligent women on screen.

Can you imagine? Female characters that reflect the multidimensional interests, motivations, hobbies, hopes and dreams of real people! Female characters showing each other love and support and not putting each other down to gain credibility. Movies like Bridesmaids and Gone Girl address this stereotype head on, using humor and even fear to explain the ridiculousness and the damage of continuing to write women this way.

So let’s move away from “being one of the guys,” and let her just be. Who knows, maybe you’ll find that real women are pretty cool after all.



Collage by Brittany Clarke

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