Young Female Writers: It’s all about the romance but never happy endings
By Allegra Lopez
Writers. Writers are portrayed in many ways when it comes to popular culture. Some are shown as messy, some as broke, some successful, and others trying desperately to make a name for themselves. But writers are generally shown as males in a lot of popular culture. So then what about females? I researched the term ‘young female writer’ to see how they were portrayed in television and movies. It seemed like every single cultural artifact I looked at involved a storyline filled with heavy romance. Furthermore, in two out of the three sources I looked at, the storylines ended with the female writer picking work over love. This was incredibly interesting as the main character from each was at a different point in her career—beginning, middle, or end—yet the romance was always, always present. But I suppose they had to be—that seemed to be the only way for the young female writer to be independent and, in turn successful. So with that I came to the conclusions that according to media, a young female writer is independent though troubled with a stumbling, messy love story that gets in the way of her success.
The first television show I looked at was the ever popular, seven season worthy show The Gilmore Girls. The young female writer in this show is Rory, the daughter of the great mother-daughter duo. Rory is a budding journalist who seems to be constantly working in her school’s newspaper (both high school and college). She is smart, witty, a hard worker, and pretty easy on the eyes. She’s a very ‘good girl’ character in her younger years—a habit which she loses the older she gets. Throughout the story she falls in love with various guys, having three steady boyfriends throughout the show (don’t worry not all at once). Considering this, it is no surprise I found romance being heavily involved with the plot lines of female writers is apparent across all three of my sources—though more on that later. Throughout the seven seasons she has ‘revelations’ about her work and career—the most important being the one that causes her to really dedicate her time to being a journalist. This one comes after hooking up with an ex-boyfriend who has become a successful author. She then goes on to college in later seasons and begins interning at a newspaper where she is told she wasn’t meant for a journalism job and she should just quit. This is of course fires Rory up to prove this wrong. The series continues with Rory becoming more independent, having a great time with her boyfriend, having a brief period of turmoil about what to do with her life. Of course everything falls into place and all seems well by the end of the series. Except it’s not really. At the end she is faced with marriage or ‘freedom’ to pursue her career, and like the independent woman she is—she picks her career. Everything about Rory screams ‘drama’ which I found seems to be an extremely important part to any story with a writer in it. The trials and tribulations of becoming one is hard after all (look at poor old J.K. Rowling who struggled before finding success). Still, this seems like the very typical story of ‘booklover’ to ‘professional writer’. Oh, and one more slight thing? Apparently if you’re a hard-working aspiring female writer, you can play around with guys all you want but there aren’t any ‘happy endings’ in romance if you want to be successful.
In the second source I looked at, a movie called Young Adult, the main character Mavis was at the end of her career, writing the last chapter of a book series that was cancelled. In this story the female writer was portrayed as messy, not very put together, and possibly even a little crazy—well maybe more than a little crazy. The plot line deals with Mavis being convinced that she should be with an ex-boyfriend who is already married and has a kid and therefore tries to get between the happy family. The entire story is presented in a comedic fashion—making fun of the ‘tortured writer’ more than anything else. This author was shown to be so extreme, and so completely mental that the word ‘tortured’ came to mind—though not in the typical way that I would imagine when thinking of the tortured artist. This movie takes it to ridiculous levels. However, you’ll notice that just like Rory, Marvis’ storyline deals heavily with the idea of romance as she is convinced that she should be with this ex-boyfriend and is attempting to get him back. Of course in the end she sleeps with another person from her past and has the wonderful revelation that she needs to move on. Spoiler alert: the movie ends with her putting all behind her, ending her book series, and ending up—surprise surprise, alone. While it hopefully ends the tale of her craziness and shows her independence and ability to be on her own, it strangely contrasts Rory’s ending. While Rory was able to have a budding career, Mavis finds herself thinking the end of her book series may be the end of her success.
The popular television show that premiered on HBO in April twenty-twelve (and is still running with a new season planned for twenty-fifteen), Girls has a main character named Hannah who is an aspiring writer. Hannah’s story begins in turmoil as she is cut off from her finances and left to fend for herself. Her stories throughout the first three seasons show her struggles of finding a job to tide over her financial situation and dealing with her ‘friend with benefits’ and then ‘on again off again boyfriend’ Adam. So basically like any good television show, it has drama and lots of it. Hannah finds herself working at a law firm for a little bit and then a coffee shop in the second season; something I found humorous as there’s a stereotype of an author working in a coffee shop on their manuscript but here Hannah is working in a coffee shop as an actual barista. Hannah’s character is portrayed as an attractive twenty something year old with her fair deal of problems—a fact that definitely draws people in as it makes her feel real. While she does seem to find success at one time—finding an editor and getting an ebook deal, that slowly falls apart. After thinking about her love life, Hannah decides near the end of seasons three that she needs to get serious so she applies for a writing program, which (spoiler alert) she gets in the season three finale. I feel like out of the three source characters, Hannah is the most accurate representation of a young female writer as she doesn’t fit into any stereotype really—okay maybe the one about aspiring authors being broke but hey, I’m a young female writer and I’m broke too. Plus, despite the fact she does have that slightly irritating on again, off again relationship, she powers through a lot and ends up in a good place by the end of season three. Of course Hannah does become an independent woman like all authors seem to be portrayed as and the fact that she’s a well put together mess makes her seem very real (I guess since the premise of the show and lots of plot elements were based on Lena Dunham’s real life experiences). Still, I would be happier to be related to Hannah than I would to Mavis or even Rory.
While I may not agree with all the plot lines and character aspects of the three characters from my main sources, I have to admit that there are a lot of things I see in myself. For instance, like Rory I was a book lover before an author and was very ‘prim and proper’ in high school but just as she changed in college, so did I. Then with Mavis, though her crazy tendencies are a bit over the top, even I have my crazy moments. Plus she seems to use her series as an escape—a reason why she doesn’t want to give it up, and I know I thought of my writing an escape when I started writing. Then there is Hannah. People have related my personality to hers before but I never bothered to watch the show until this assignment and I must say—I see the similarities. I do notice that overall a female writers plot line deals heavily with love—perhaps because authors are seen as romantics and I’m not going to lie—love is always on the mind in my other friends who are writers. Drama is also always present in these storylines as drama is almost always a part of life in general (just more so for writers apparently). However, it is notable that according to an article I read, females in general are more likely going to be part of a romance comedy or romance drama plotline (Azad). But the one thing that actually irritated me a little is that no matter the storyline, the character seems to end up alone but successful and independent. Perhaps this is a stand on the whole ‘women don’t need no man’ but I find it a little depressing that balance can’t be made. Perhaps Hannah will bring a new hope for happy endings whenever Girls finally comes to an end. For now though we can see the way that young female writers are portrayed: independent, successful gals who overcame drama and romance to end up alone. But while writing this a single question lingered into my mind. I wonder if the term tortured artist is not coined from troubles preset; but rather comes from the fact that the artist who hopes from something more creates trouble for themselves as they search for that something more. Whether it be in success, love, or anything else. It’s a curious question but one to save for a much later time. For now I’ll keep on writing vigorously and try to go against these stereotypes and take the whole package: success, independence, and romance. It’s time to write a story with a new ending.
Azad, Sifat. “Are Women in the Media Only Portrayed As Sex Icons? Statistics Show a Massive
Gender Imbalance Across Industries.” Identities.Mic. 20 Feb. 2012. Web. 16 Nov. 2014.
Gilmore Girls. Dir. Amy Sherman- Palladino. October 5th 2000. Television
Girls. Dir. Lena Dunham. April 15 2012. Television
Young Adult. Dir. Jason Reitman. Paramount Pictures, 2011. Film.