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The rise of the “Messy Millennial Woman”

Maggie in Everything I Know About Love: peak MMW

If you’ve watched any female-centred TV over the past few years, you’ll be acquainted with “Messy Millennial Woman”, says Rachel Aroesti in The Guardian. She’s the protagonist of shows like Fleabag, I May Destroy You and I Hate Suzie. This week, she has re-emerged in Everything I Know About Love, an adaption of Dolly Alderton’s memoir. Maggie, the lead, is the archetypal MMW. She’s charismatic, “self-destructive, irresponsible, and determined to live life to the full”. And like all MMWs, her life is “emotional chaos”: her relationships are complicated; her family is dysfunctional. She’s an unreliable employee and an only slightly more reliable friend.

The rise of the MMW has been a “net good”. Two decades ago, “proudly flawed heroines” were rare; now they rule the zeitgeist. But the trope is getting tedious. Despite the chaos and trauma, we glamourise the MMW’s reckless behaviour – the “rock’n’roll” of destroying every relationship in her life. Is this really behaviour to aspire towards? For “chronically risk-averse” women like me, Maggie’s reckless abandon – at one point, she drunkenly gets a taxi from Manchester to Liverpool for a party – is simply alienating. My hope is that once Everything I Know About Love finishes, we can say goodbye to the MMW for good. Maybe Gen Z can rustle up a new trope that’s more than just a “whirlwind of thrilling disarray”.