The Return of the Selfish Heroine

Tina Fey in Baby Mama

Entertainment wunderkind Tina Fey returned to movie theaters this year with a film about the raunchy adventures between a recent divorcee and her sister who both decide to live it up one final time before reality sets in. Maybe you’ve seen the movie before, since it is similar to that other Tina Fey movie Baby Mama, where a hopelessly single career woman decides to throw caution to the wind and hire a surrogate mother to give birth to her child. Both films are similar in nature to the movie “Trainwreck,” a film about a shamelessly promiscuous woman who decides―when she’s ready, of course―to give love a chance for once in her life.

Tina FeyWhat do these films have in common? They all feature women who live by their own rules and make their own happiness, even if it means shunning meaningful relationships with male partners, their children or their families. Female narcissism, it seems, has become today’s trend du jour. It seems that before our very eyes, the airy romantic chick-flick genre is being replaced by a new entertainment category focused entirely on bringing to the big screen the you-go-girlism once confined to Women’s Studies classrooms. You’ll find this narrative also plays out in books and television shows.

These feminist films are misguided in that they glorify very shallow representations of female empowerment in relationships and workplaces. These movies are actually feminist fantasy, where long-term consequences for selfish behavior never arise. It is rare for these movies to criticize a female character’s poor decision-making when it ultimately leads her to a life of singledom, loneliness and unhappiness. None of these “you-girl-go” films chooses to show what comes after their female lead characters kick their no-good men to the curb or decide to become single mothers on their own. How do they cope, at age fifty, with the regret of knowing they could have had a family but chose instead to pursue their own career goals? Or, how will they balance high-demand jobs with single-motherhood, as Fey’s character will have to do in Baby Mama?

As much as these films shun relationships, the truth is that a life led just for one’s self is a self-centered and lonely existence. Instead, happiness can be found in the joy that comes from stable and loving relationships. Despite all of the female empowerment nonsense pumping out of Hollywood, the fact is that men and women need each other to feel completely and wholly fulfilled, even if admitting that fact sounds less politically-correct than some would like to acknowledge. Relationships push individuals to think about the world outside themselves by forcing them to be conscious of the needs of their spouse. It is in healthy relationships that people learn to be more caring and less selfish.

What will become of this entertainment trend in the future? I, for one, am not going to sit passively and wait for more narcissism propaganda from Hollywood. It is for this reason that I joined a partner in starting Ladies Again, a site for young women learning to be a little more feminine, altruistic and caring. And a little less selfish. As the daughters of two single working mothers, we are educating ourselves independently about femininity and womanhood―learning concepts about femininity that our grandmothers and great grandmothers knew instinctively. Together, we are discovering tips on everything from how to cook, to dinner table etiquette, to how to let a man take the lead.

But as fulfilling as writing for Ladies Again can be, just having these conversations online cannot be enough. We must use the power of the purse to support films, shows, books, and even news sources that support functional families and relationships, particularly those that applaud togetherness and not narcissism. So, will you see the new Fey movie? I hope that you’ll choose to support art that promotes functional relationships instead.

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