We love the topic of the Dead Girl. She haunts our favourite shows and books, and is the reason our male characters are so amazing. The Dead Girl exists as a symbol for many things. Victimhood. Obsession. And, toxic masculinity.
Alice Bolin unveiled this collection of essays around the (supposed) topic of the Dead Girl in 2018. Her goal with Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession was to reveal the complex situations that both the Dead Girl and the living girls handle on a daily basis, but she unfortunately often missed the mark with her writing. Focusing dominantly on her obsession with Los Angeles and living within the city, she rarely hits the subject.
Instead, readers are graced with a continuous onslaught of roommate scenarios and watching late night Dateline, as well as an obsession with the concept of obsession. Occasionally, Bolin managed to cling to her topic, diving into the toxic masculinity issues in Gone Girl and the cultural representations of teenage girlhood in We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I personally prefer her in-depth studies of literature, but she also manages to yank at the concept of the Dead Girl in television briefly, which was also quite good.
However, these small glimpses of success do not derail from the fact that the marketing cheated prospective readers. The Dead Girl is often the symbol that lures in readers and viewers, which has grown increasingly problematic in instances such as Thirteen Reasons Why, and this collection of essays was intended to critique this strategy. However, Bolin is no different, unfortunately, and seems to intentionally use the Dead Girl to gain attention for her own history of living in Los Angeles and being, well, sad. While living in the city she experiences loneliness, which inspires much of the essays she writes. The Dead Girl concept seems to grab attention and aim to reveal her obsession with reality-based shows like Dateline as something more intellectual. After the first twenty pages, the Dead Girl nearly vanishes entirely from her essays, and it’s depressing being tricked by a writer who just wants to reminisce of the time she spent in bed, while living in Los Angeles.
Did I mention that she lived in Los Angeles? Because she does.
There are a few gems within this collection of essays, but they do not distract from the faulty marketing and branding that accompanies this book. Pop culture feasts off the body of the Dead Girl, which is a very interesting concept, and Bolin’s collection of essays managed to make me reconsider aspects of American culture and media, but I personally don’t think a book is worth the money if it has to lie to readers.
Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.