Alice Bolin examines iconic American works from the essays of Joan Didion and James Baldwin to Twin Peaks, Britney Spears, and Serial, illuminating the widespread obsession with women who are abused, killed, and disenfranchised, and whose bodies (dead and alive) are used as props to bolster men’s stories.
Informed by the literature of Raymond Chandler, Joan Didion and others, as well as films, television shows and other pop culture ephemera, Bolin branches out, exploring toxic masculinity, myths of femininity and the American West, where ... Bolin does not hesitate to inspect her own stigmas and beliefs—she’s watched her fair share of Dateline. Her dryly humorous, deeply researched collection is a thoughtful critique of American culture and its disparate and disturbing fixations and fears.
During a year when male resentment toward women is violently coming to a head—a school shooting brought on by jilted teenage desire, a man driving through a crowd of pedestrians because women won’t have sex with him—a book like Alice Bolin’s Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession feels particularly relevant ... the most interesting parts of the book are the (too infrequent) moments in which Bolin explicitly ties those tropes to social phenomena and statistics in real life—in which we can clearly see how these stories both reflect and perpetuate a dangerous relationship to women ... Presumably because of the intended scope of the book, however, there are few more instances in which Bolin ventures beyond examining media and into the broader conversation about American misogyny and constructed social hierarchies. Finishing the collection, I was left wondering how these depictions relate to things like pick-up artist communities, rape on university campuses, and violence against sex workers.