Friday, December 20, 2013

Strong Female Character Friday: Chloe (Don't Trust the B*)

First, before we actually get into the article for today, I want to say that I am sorry that the site has been so erratic for the past few weeks (month), but that I have at last moved and unpacked and am now back to a normal schedule - at least until my parents arrive for Christmas and then my sister gets married and ALL OF THE THINGS HAPPEN WAY TOO FAST. It's cool. I'm cool.

Anyway, thanks for bearing with me.

Let's talk about Don't Trust the B's Chloe, as played by Krysten Ritter. It's telling that the title, which fully reads Don't Trust the B* in Apartment 23 refers directly to Chloe, and to a line said in the very first episode, when lovely and naive June (Dreama Walker) comes up to rent a room from the nefarious Chloe. Chloe charges her an extraordinary amount to move in, then tries to terrorize her into moving out so that she can pocket the money. June, however, turns out to be much more steadfast than the usual victims, and refuses to leave. And so Chloe is stuck with a roommate, and maybe an actual friend.

Usually for Strong Female Character Fridays I like to talk about female characters that are aspirational in some way. Characters whose behavior is impeccable, or at least understandable, who overcome great odds and who strive to make the world a better place.

Chloe does none of those things. In fact, her general mode of operation can best be described as "think of the worst thing someone could possibly do in this situation, now do it." She scams her roommates, tries to set June up with her (still married) father, solves problems by getting drunk or getting other people drunk, lies outrageously to everyone and anyone, walks into a magazine office and declares herself boss then manages to run the company for two weeks before anyone catches on... I could go on, but I hope you get the point. Chloe is a terrible person. And it's awesome.

It's awesome because this is a female character we almost never get to see, and we pretty much never get to see as the head of a successful sitcom on a major network. Chloe is pure id, pure "I want it so I will take it," and as such she flies in the face of what conventional wisdom tells us women are and do. She's openly rude, flagrantly sexual, angry, bitchy, the kind of person you would never want your parents to meet. She's that girl standing behind you in the checkout line stuffing candy bars in her purse while the cashier is distracted then blaming you for it. 

And, again, she's awesome.

I'm not saying she's great because I think these are things that people should actually do. The entire joke of Chloe's character, and the show in general, is that she flies in the face of social conventions. No one is supposed to like lying or cheating or being generally awful, but Chloe is and does. She has no compunctions about her immoral behavior, which is what makes her funny. She says and does the things that the rest of us are way, way too moral or uncomfortable or sensible to do. 

This is important because in her own weird way, Chloe is a step forward for women on television. She's a woman who is unapologetically bad, and who never gets punished for her behavior. There is no moral lesson on the show. She never turns over a new leaf. Chloe is a terrible person and continues to be a terrible person because she's good at it and she likes it and she has no reason to change. 

We see male characters like this all the time. How I Met Your Mother's Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) comes to mind immediately, but he is by no means the first man to embody this trope. What about Seinfeld's Kramer? He did weird, amoral stuff all the time, and the narrative never punished him for it. He wasn't unhappy. 

But women? Women are supposed to be good. We're supposed to follow the rules and want 2.5 kids and a dreamy husband. We aren't supposed to recoil in horror when handed a baby or to try to scam the foster system into giving us a foster kid so that we can have a personal assistant for a few weeks. We're supposed to be nice. Chloe isn't nice.

I guess in a weird way, Chloe is aspirational. We all kind of want to be that bitch, who doesn't worry or care about what anyone else things, who goes through life like a hurricane hitting someone else's house. She's horrible and mean and sometimes I wish I weren't such a good person because it looks like being Chloe would be so much fun.

It's funny, because Chloe is based on Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany's. Like Holly, she's kind of sort of an escort, a woman who makes her living by "entertaining" powerful men. Like Holly, she's blissfully uncomplicated about the moral implications of her job. But unlike Holly, Chloe neither needs nor wants a man to take care of her. She doesn't want a fairytale ending, she's not a romantic at heart, and she doesn't particularly desire to mend her ways. She is never redeemed by the story.

And that's okay. I mean, obviously, I would have a huge problem with anyone who suggested that Chloe serve as a role model at all for anyone ever, but I like that she's out there. I like watching her subvert all the social norms, mess stuff up, be completely unapologetic, and then go do it all again. I like watching her help June find her inner bitch, and I love seeing the two of them learn to navigate a female friendship that isn't about baking and sweatpants, but about cocktail dresses and poor life choices. 

I love Chloe because she is bad. Because she's the kind of bad that I don't actually want to be. I like her because she's fun to watch, and because she's the first girl I've seen who does that. Who doesn't take any crap, from anyone. Who is empowered and strong and cool, but still feminine. Who openly enjoys sex. Who says the worst thing at the worst time and doesn't mind.

I love her because she's my id. She acts out so I don't have to. And if guys can have Barney Stinson and Kramer and dozens of others, then why can't we have this one? Why can't I have Chloe?

Oh right. Because ABC cancelled her show. Whoo.

And, because I love you all, have a massive collection of Chloe gifs. Merry Christmas.


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