I’ve been thinking a lot about the character of the blonde popular bitch in teen movies. There are a lot of examples:
Regina George (Mean Girls), Sharpay Evans (High School Musical), Heather Chandler (Heathers), and Cher Horowitz (Clueless) just to make a few.
What is interesting is all of their characters are defined by three primary characteristics: being physically attractive, being ultra-feminine, and having ambition. Now what’s interesting is the first two characteristics are things that society likes in women, so in a typical story one would expect these characters to be treated as heros or at least love interests. But instead ¾ of these characters are either primary or secondary villains. Cher is the exception, being the protagonist of her movie, but many of her actions are vilified by the script so despite being the protagonist, it isn’t until the end that she is treated like a hero.
Why is this character type villainized?
The answer is that these characters are women who use the things that society likes in women (femininity, beauty) not for men, but for their own personal use. This goes back to the aforementioned ambition. These characters crave power, and are willing to work for it, more specifically, they are willing to use their ~feminine wiles~ to get it. By having this ultra masculine character trait, these characters are seen as villains when they perform simple acts like caring about their appearance, or being flirtatious. Traits like this, ambition, flirtation and even vanity are praised in male characters.
Many of the actions and personalities these women do/have are strikingly similar to many male anti heroes in action movies.
They are arrogant, clever, manipulative, self-aggrandizing, just like characters like Tony Stark, Loki, Han Solo and Deadpool. But whereas these anti heroes become lovable scoundrels with hearts of gold, these characters become the villains of their tales because they are teenage girls.
To me what this says is audiences and writers are fine with all the traits associated with ambition, they just aren’t fine when it’s associated with femininity. Because an ambitious clever man is a scoundrel, but an ambitious woman is a bitch.
As a little girl constantly seeing these characters portrayed as evil made me develop a really negative image of femininity. I wanted to think I was superior to other girls because I feel better presenting pretty masculine. I was really misogynistic to a lot of girls because of my preconceived notions about femininity equating to shallowness and bad intentions. I know there are a lot of gay/gnc girls that like me had similar misogynistic hang ups because of gender non conformity and that really sucks!
As such I think it’s really cool when movies subvert the blonde bitch trope. To some extent, Clueless did this, but I think a better example is Legally Blonde. Elle Woods is clearly ambitious and hard working, but she’s also a feminine pretty blonde woman. And she is absolutely the hero of her story, and she is able to succeed due to a combination of her femininity and her ambition without having to compromise either!
What, like it’s hard?
Allow women to be feminine and ambitious and written like heros!