WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FOR CRITICISM
A FINALIST FOR THE PEN/DIAMONSTEIN-SPIELVOGEL AWARD FOR THE ART OF THE ESSAY
"If Hollywood's treatment of women leaves you wanting, you'll find good, heady company in You Play the Girl."—ELLE
As a kid in the 1970s and 80s, Carina Chocano was confused by the mixed messages all around her; messages that told her who she could be—and who she couldn’t. Dutifully absorbing all the conflicting information the culture has to offer on how to be a woman, Chocano grappled with sexed up sidekicks, princesses waiting to be saved, and morally infallible angels who seemed to have no opinions of their own. She learned that "the girl" is not a person, but a man's idea of what a woman should be—she’s whatever the hero needs her to be in order to become himself. It wasn't until she spent five years as a movie critic, and was laid off just after her daughter was born, however, that she really came to understand how the stories the culture tells us about what it means to be a girl limit our lives and shape our destinies. She resolved to rewrite her own story.
In You Play the Girl, Chocano blends formative personal stories with insightful and emotionally powerful analysis. Moving from Bugs Bunny to Playboy Bunnies, from Flashdance to Frozen, from the progressive ’70s through the backlash ’80s, the glib ’90s, and the pornified aughts—and at stops in between—she explains how growing up in the shadow of “the girl” taught her to think about herself and the world and what it means to raise a daughter in the face of these contorted reflections. In the tradition of Roxane Gay, Rebecca Solnit, and Susan Sontag, Chocano brilliantly shows that our identities are more fluid than we think, and certainly more complex than anything we see on any kind of screen.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Longtime arts critic Carina Chocano's incisive, hilarious, and timely take on the depiction of women and girls in pop culture manages to be both deeply personal and universally relevant. With keen insight and biting humor, Chocano assesses the relative impact of various female archetypes—and delivers an explosive critique of sexism and the power of mass media. You Play the Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Train Wrecks & Other Mixed Messages is like a long talk with your smartest, most impassioned friend.