Presenting the antiheroine in NBC’s Good Girls

Sugar and spice and everything nice is what little girls are made of, or so the old nursery rhyme would have us believe. While that may or may not be true, in NBC’s show Good Girls, viewers will get an eyeful of what women are made of when they find themselves being tossed on the horns of a moral dilemma.

The tale of the antihero has been almost exclusively the realm of men. Women’s roles have historically been more back and white, where they are either decidedly villainous or virtuous. Women who dared to step outside the moral standards of their enviornment are often shipped immediately into the same category as the evil queens, witches, and stepmothers of mythology.

Women, however, know the truth of their own experience, and that while navigating a world designed at every turn to suppress and dominate us, we’ve gained centuries of practice at making terrible choices for our own preservation. Now, as we seek to tell our stories separate from the patriarchal narrative, we find that there is a wealth of grey area for us to openly inhabit.

Good Girls seeks to show how women with strong moral centers wrestle with the decision of when to push back and how hard of a shove it has to be in order to walk away. The principle characters are heroic mothers who would risk life, limb, and sanity for their children, but they remain flawed persons who don’t always make the best decisions personally or practically.

I thought this movie was called Set It Off, but apparently it’s a network show called Good Girls.

Everyone has their breaking point, and Beth (Christina Hendricks), Ruby (Retta), and Annie (Mae Whitman) find their own in the pilot episode. The three mothers have been overwhelmed by domestic crises and financial strain to the extent that the only solution to their immediate problems is to turn to a life of crime.

Beth’s cheating husband has managed to drown her and their four children in insurmountable debt with his bad investments. Ruby is uninsured and has a daughter in the hospital struggling to survive, unless an extremely costly treatment can be applied. Minimum wage earner, Annie, finds herself in an expensive custody battle for her child with her more affluent ex-husband.

The ladies’ scheme to rob a local grocery store pays off, but with an astonishingly larger cash total than any of them had imagined. It would seem that their problems had seen an end, but of course we wouldn’t have a show if that were the case. The Good Girls find themselves connected to some very bad men because the grocery store is actually a front for a successful gang’s money laundering purposes.

This giant pipewrench in their plans is the catalyst for the women’s struggle throughout the series to keep the lid on their new life of crime. They will be forced to confront people and subjects they would never ordinarily deal with in order to stay afloat in a reality way outside of their experience. It certainly isn’t inside their comfort zone of PTA meetings and soccer practice snacks, which they still have to navigate on top of it all.

Well, that escalated quickly.

The series inserts the women’s flaws comically as they struggle to succeed in their new criminal livelihoods. They aren’t hardened professionals, and display their true natures as nurturing figures even in the midst of their attempt to instill fear and obedience to their demands. The absurdity of the circumstances the trio of women find themselves in will deliver the humor of an incredulous heightened reality.

Some worry that the framing of a dramedy on a network like NBC doesn’t have the ability to do Good Girls‘ antiheroine plot or the theme of moral ambiguity proper representation. Creator Jenna Bans, dismisses the idea that she needs to break ties with network television in order to tell Good Girls‘ story effectively. In line with the show’s touch upon modern financial woes, she is excited to be delivering the struggles of these women to all, rather than exclusively to those who can afford it.

Her idea for the series came to Jenna through conversations with her mother that centered around the darker feeling of her previous series, The Family, and the political triumph of blatant misogyny that shook many women to their core in the later half of 2016. Bans’ mother wanted to watch something that made her feel good, and so Jenna sought to create a show where women were seen taking their power back, but that was also warmhearted and funny.

In the immortal words of Cyndi Lauper, money changes everything.

The creative and ambitious women on screen in Good Girls have been attracted to the project because it teeters on the edge of what network television can do and is decidedly different than other roles they have done. The three principle actresses all made names for themselves elsewhere as easily lovable characters, and are excited by the prospect of displaying more range, and telling a new story as antiheroines.

Christina Hendricks’ tight-girdled role in Mad Men primed her for the chance to play Beth, who has a decidedly less conformist approach to self determination. Comedian, Retta, made a name for herself as a hilarious, self indulgent, office manager on Parks and Recreation, but has found a more dramatic role in Ruby. Mae Whitman is excited to be playing Annie, an adult struggling to make smart choices, after having long been type cast as wiseass teenagers in shows and films like Parenthood and Scott Pilgrim vs The World.

The delicate balance of humor, drama, and moral gray matter is a tight rope walk and these remarkable women are well equipped for the kind of acrobatic feat that Good Girls intends to perform. The new NBC series premieres on February 26th for not so Good Girls everywhere to enjoy.

Image Credits: NBC


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