Unlikeable Female Characters: The Women Pop Culture Wants You to Hate (Paperback)
"A fresh feminist appraisal of the pop culture canon." —Publishers Weekly
How bitches, trainwrecks, shrews, and crazy women have taken over pop culture and liberated women from having to be nice.
Female characters throughout history have been burdened by the moral trap that is likeability. Any woman who dares to reveal her messy side has been treated as a cautionary tale. Today, unlikeable female characters are everywhere in film, TV, and wider pop culture. For the first time ever, they are being accepted by audiences and even showered with industry awards. We are finally accepting that women are—gasp—fully fledged human beings. How did we get to this point?
Unlikeable Female Characters traces the evolution of highly memorable female characters, examining what exactly makes them popular, how audiences have reacted to them, and the ways in which pop culture is finally allowing us to celebrate the complexities of being a woman. Anna Bogutskaya, film programmer, broadcaster, and co-founder of the horror film collective and podcast The Final Girls, takes us on a journey through popular film, TV, and music, looking at the nuances of womanhood on and off-screen to reveal whether pop culture—and society—is finally ready to embrace complicated women.
Praise for Unlikeable Female Characters:
"Fascinating, insightful, and kick-ass." —Emma Jane Unsworth, internationally bestselling author of Grown Ups and Animals
"Beautifully written." —Chelsea G. Summers, author of A Certain Hunger
"Part-cultural exposé, part-Taylor Swift album." —Clarisse Loughrey, Chief Film Critic at The Independent
"Brilliant masterpiece breaking down the tired tropes of TV and beyond." —Aparna Shewakramani, author of She's Unlikeable and star of Indian Matchmaking
Anna Bogutskaya is a London-based freelance film programmer, broadcaster, writer and creative producer, connected in both the worlds of US and UK film. She is also the co-founder of the horror film collective and podcast The Final Girls and Festival Director of Underwire Festival. Previously, Anna was the Film and Events Programmer at the British Film Institute. In 2019, she was selected as one of Screen International’s Future Leaders in Curation and Programming and was invited to become a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and in 2020 was selected as a mentor at SXSW.
Good pop-culture writing is the literary equivalent of a nutritious Twinkie. Anna Bogutskaya's Unlikeable Female Characters is a nutrient-rich and delicious exploration of film and television's so-called unlikeable women... such dishy fun that it's almost possible to forget the problem that brought the book into being in the first place.
"Fascinating, insightful and kick-ass. This book is a super smart and deeply personal addition to the canon. All hail the unlikeable female!" — Emma Jane Unsworth, internationally bestselling author of Grown Ups and Animals
"Anna Bogutskaya's beautifully written Unlikeable Female Characters takes a deep dive into bitches, sluts, trainwrecks, psychos—and more—to prove that bad girls make good films and even better TV. A necessary read for all Harley Quinn fiends, Fleabag aficionados, Promising Young Woman stans, and Shonda Rhimes fans, Unlikeable Female Characters blows apart the myth of likeability and reveals the female liberation (and male fear) of girls gone wonderfully bad." — Chelsea G. Summers, author of A Certain Hunger
"For me, being vilified on a global Netflix show in the height of a pandemic didn't come with a guidebook. But oh, I wish it had—and I wish it would have been this brilliant masterpiece breaking down the tired tropes of reality television and beyond. Time’s up for the archetypes outlined by Bogutskaya. We're here for the unleashing of brilliant, ambitious women who are three-dimensional, complex, and gracing us with their whole selves." — Aparna Shewakramani, author of She's Unlikeable and star of Indian Matchmaking
"There’s a certain alchemy to Anna’s writing—what looks like a book about the fates of women on screen turns out to really be a book about how women have always been forced to perceive themselves through mirrors built by other people's presumptions. Unlikeable Female Characters is part-cultural exposé, part-Taylor Swift album. An illuminating read and a true comfort for any woman who’s ever been called a slut, bitch, shrew, or weirdo." — Clarisse Loughrey, Chief Film Critic at The Independent
"Anna Bogutskaya’s Unlikeable Female Characters is a sweeping, celebratory journey through the tropes of unacceptable femininity, saluting the unladylike and improper and creating a fresh lens through which to appreciate notions of strength and independence. A how-to guide as much as a pop cultural history, Bogutskaya captivates and activates in equal measure." — Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author and film critic
"Not only is this a smudged eye-liner written love letter to the perfect imperfection of unlikeable women on screen, but a searing and essential analysis of decades of iconic characters. Packed with smart observations and laugh out loud asides, Anna Bogutskaya’s Unlikeable Female Characters is a wry and constantly entertaining history of the mean girls, angry women, psychopaths, and weirdos we let into our hearts. Prepare to see your watchlist with new eyes. I didn’t want it to end." — Louise Blain, writer and broadcaster
"Her explorations invite the reader to come to their own conclusions about why we have been conditioned to mark out such limiting parameters around these roles in pop culture, but Anna gives us the tools in this book to see how it has been done and what is needed to break out of this cycle. Reclaiming the word ‘unlikeable’ has never felt so good." — Rhianna Dhillon, film critic and broadcaster
"A fresh feminist appraisal of the pop culture canon." — Publishers Weekly
Unlikeable Female Characters is deeply researched, with fascinating behind-the-scenes details and insightful analysis. It is also wildly entertaining, categorizing characters as bitches, sluts, witches, mean girls, angry women, trainwrecks, crazy women, psychos, and shrews.
""From Barbara Stanwyck to Lana Del Rey, Regina George to Amy Dunne, Unlikeable is an awesome reconsideration of the TV and film canon and its patriarchal gaze." — BuzzFeed News" — BuzzFeed News