When you’re watching a show like “You’re the Worst,” you don’t go in expecting to love and relate to characters who steal cats, burn down apartments and get hammered at baby showers. Maybe that’s why it’s so interesting that the female characters of Gretchen (Aya Cash) and Lindsay (Kether Donohue) are some of the best on TV right now.
Too often, it seems like the entertainment industry tends to think writing “good” female characters for TV means making them actually good — honest and kind and strong and a little sassy, but not too sassy. The absolute perfect blend of everything young women want to see.
“You’re the Worst” kicks that idea to the curb, choosing instead to depict Gretchen and Lindsay as weirdly wonderful trainwrecks who are constantly making self-destructive decisions.
They’re not good. They’re real.
“I embrace the complexities that I get to play with Lindsay,” Donohue tells Zap2it. “I like how she’s not just written as a one-dimensional sidekick female. Particularly with beauty standards these days, she could be portrayed as sexy but also gross. She could pig out and eat froyo out of her hand and then she could also be sensual and sexy. Broken, but also fun to be around. I like that [creator Stephen Falk] has encompassed the complexities of real women that I can identify with.”
Obviously, showrunner Falk is flattered by the compliment to his writing when it comes to women, but according to him, it’s barely even a conscious choice to make his female characters so complex.
“My social justice sense and also the fact that I like women a lot more than men in general and just find them more interesting just leads me down that path,” Falk says. “I’m happy to be able to create complex female characters, but at the same time it wouldn’t even occur to me not to.”
We’re glad it comes so effortlessly, especially in relation to how Falk writes the failings of these women as well as their strengths.
Gretchen and Lindsay are crude and sassy, but they’re also plain mean sometimes. That character flaw is not always an endearing quality to others as tends to happen with most female “flaws” in everyday media — think Bella Swan’s clumsiness and how it was oh-so-charming to everyone she met.
Gretchen’s Season 2 struggle with clinical depression is probably the best example of a woman on TV being allowed to be flawed in a very unsexy way.
Even as she sprawled out on the couch, unwilling to speak or move for days, her illness enhanced her character arc without having to making it “appealing.” We didn’t have to watch her make a triumphant return to fun-loving Gretchen again or fight her way through perfect hair and makeup to show us how truly upset she was.
We got to see the gritty, kind of gross and definitely alarming truth about what a woman struggling with mental illness really looks like.
As far as Cash is concerned, she’s glad to be able to portray Gretchen in the messy manner we’ve seen so far. “I think we’re lucky that the standards for female characters are changing. We’re allowed to be more messy and complicated … There’s many different kinds of women in the world, and I think we’re just two kinds of women portrayed.”
“You’re the Worst” premieres Wednesday, Aug. 31 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FXX.