In my last post I made a passing mention of the cult classic 80's film, 'Heathers' - purely in reference to the fact that I'd been playing croquet at a picnic over the weekend, and to be honest, it's been on my mind ever since. It turned out that nobody else at the picnic had seen Heathers before, so I gave a super brief, non-spoiling description to the interested guests that, "It was a cult 80's high school film starring Winona Ryder and featured heavy doses of dark humour".
The comparison was immediately drawn between it and 'Jawbreaker', a film which I remember watching on VHS when I was still in the early years of high school, and starred Rose McGowan and featured a cameo appearance her then boyfriend Marilyn Manson. For the record, I really enjoyed this film when I was young - and I'm a little tempted to give it, and 'The Craft' another viewing - just for shits and giggles and "old times sake".
Anyway, this all got me thinking about pop culture references to Girl Gangs - particularly in the films I grew up watching - and the interactions between female characters in them, and I was struck by how overwhelmingly negative the relationships were.
In pretty much all of them, there's backstabbing bitchiness, competition over boys, perfectionism, idealised superficial beauty - and murderous cat fighting.
Even if I think back to stuff I watched as a kid - 'The Addams Family Values', 'Daria', and the relationship between Darlene and Becky in 'Roseanne' - the sarcasm, snark and straight-up resentment that played out between these fictional girls, was intense! And yes, I totally identified with the "odd-girl out" in all of these examples.
About the only examples I could think of which featured solid Girl Gangs, were 'Now & Then', and 'The Baby-Sitters Club', which was originally a book series (books that I devoured copies of faster than my Mum could bring the next one home from the Second Hand Book Shop) before being made into a film. The fact that I grew up and became a Nanny, is no freaking coincidence when you think about this.
This isn't just limited to films intended for teen audiences ('Bridesmaids' is a good example of this), although it's super prevalent in the whole high school film genre.
In reality, most female relationships are not this fraught - and for the most part, these films are a great excuse to hang out on the couch in your PJ's with your own Girl Gang, eat pop corn and laugh at the absurdity of it all. Yet the overwhelming message in most of these instances, is that as girls, we are automatically and intrinsically pitted against one another and will fight to the death.
There's rarely any real, deep learning - let alone genuine self-acceptance that takes place by the final act of the film, and whatever "feel-good" message we end up with, is usually pretty generic and superficially blase. I could very easily get into a rant about how this is all because patriarchy is still a thing, but that's not really the point of why I wanted to write this post.
I suppose I've been thinking about this sort of thing a lot more recently - especially since I created The Rad Bitch Girl Gang. Although in truth, I've probably been thinking about this - at least on a personal level, since I started on this whole adventure of rebuilding my own world over the last few years - because my focus is on creating positive, supportive relationships and safe spaces which encourage and facilitate growth.
So as not to sugar-coat stuff, I've definitely had my share of falling-outs with girlfriends, and regrettably have dished out as much Girl-on-Girl negativity as I've copped over the years, but it's a pattern I've worked damn hard to recognise, repair, to change and improve upon.
One thing I have DEFINITELY recognised over the years, is that I am far more likely to treat others well, and to feel confident in my relationships when I'm feeling confident and comfortable within myself.
I believe that there are three sides to this:
- First of all, we have to do the work to create our own genuine sense of self confidence.
- Secondly, there's the Karmic side - What you put out into the world comes back unto you.
- And thirdly, I wholeheartedly believe that we teach others how we to be treated through how we treat ourselves.
As much as I think it would be cool to have a well known pop-culture reference to point out as an example, and confidently say, "YES! THIS!! This is exactly how my Girl Gang feels!" I honestly can't think of one - yet! So, in the meantime, I suppose I'm working to create what I hope to see more of in the world - groups of amazing girls and women who treat themselves and one another beautifully.
I'm proud of the fact that The Girl Gang is a safe space for many of The Rad Bitches to share and support one another, and I'm proud to know some incredible women who are working to empower women in ways that will seriously change the world.
Remember, each of us is enough as we are.
There is enough in the world for each of us.
PS: '10 Things I Hate About You' will probably ALWAYS be my favourite high school movie, ever.
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