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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

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"In the Dead Girl Show, the girl body is both a wellspring of and a target for sexual wickedness"

Alice Bolin has a terrific essay up at the LA Review of Books right now:

The Dead Girl Show’s most notable themes are its two odd, contradictory messages for women. The first is to cast girls as wild, vulnerable creatures who need to be protected from the power of their own sexualities. True Detective demonstrates a self-conscious, conflicted fixation on strippers and sex workers. [...] “How does she even know about that stuff?” Hart asks in 1995 when he and his wife discover sexual drawings his elementary-school-age daughter did. “Girls always know first,” his wife replies. This terrible feminine knowledge has been a trope at least since Eve in the Garden. Marcus compares Twin Peaks’s victim Laura Palmer to the teenage “witches” in Puritan New England who were burned to purge and purify their communities. In the Dead Girl Show, the girl body is both a wellspring of and a target for sexual wickedness.

The other message the Dead Girl Show has for women is more simple: trust no dad. Father figures and male authorities hold a sinister interest in controlling girl bodies and, therefore, in harming them. In True Detective, the conspiracy goes all the way to the top, involving a US senator and his cousin, a powerful minister. [...] Externalizing the impulse to prey on young woman cleverly depicts it as both inevitable and beyond the control of men.

"All Dead Girl Shows betray an Oedipal distrust in male authority figures, but in Twin Peaks and True Detective, the central characters are male authority figures," writes Bolin. Every other line in here has something fascinating to hang onto, so let me just recommend to all Dead Girl Show lovers/haters (Pretty Little Liars is the one that actually wins this, I gather?) that you go on and read the rest at LARB.

6 Comments / Post A Comment

stonefruit

See also The Killing.

isabelle bleu

Oh, man, the LARB has just been ON IT lately for excellent critical writing about TV.

mistersister

Can't wait to read this as I am both fascinated and repulsed by these shows. It's the mystery I love, the slow unwinding of characters and secrets. I hate that it's always a beautiful young girl, though. Men get murdered too, men have secret lives.

idrathernot

Maybe it's just because I'm a David Lynch fan, or maybe it's just because True Detective is on HBO (and therefore: boobs WILL be par for the course) but Twin Peaks just didn't seem to discount women as anything more than sexual objects as much as True Detective.

LooseBaggyMonster

This trope has a long, long history. As Edgar Allan Poe explained, "the death, then, of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world."

prelapsarian

What I got from True Detective is that the female characters' stories, going on in the background, were the most important for Rust and Marty - they just didn't know it until that last scene. There's still a lot of women-as-void in there, but the character arc for Rust and Marty was to come to understand that the womens' character arcs were missing. And I think this show is just meta enough to do that on purpose.

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