This article helped me put my finger on why I felt uncomfortable with an episode of the HBO comedy “Silicon Valley.”
For the unfamiliar, the series is about a small tech startup made up of five young men. In one second-season episode, they recruit a new employee, a woman named Carla. From the get-go, she embodies the “cool girl” attitude. She is sarcastic, foul mouthed, and dishes it out as well as she can take it. In fact, she goes out of her way to ingratiate herself with the male programmers by “busting the balls” of the most timid, unassuming member of the team in a way that makes him very uncomfortable.
I guess none of that is unforgivable, so far as it goes, but now I realize the problem: this woman was the archetypal “cool girl,” but she was *written by a man*. Consequently, there is no complexity to her character, no hint of the social pressures that she feels or has felt in the past that caused her to adopt this persona.
Could a woman just naturally have this personality that happens to mesh perfectly with a male-dominated, frat-house environment? I suppose its possible, but the writers of Silicon Valley weren’t making that statement. They put Carla forward as the perfect programmer chick, the girl who is attractive and fun and can “hold her own” with the guys. “Isn’t she great? *Don’t you wish all women in tech were like this,* instead of the wet blankets you usually meet?”
Now I get it. The “cool girl” is a sex-based twist on “a credit to your race,” and once you see it, it’s pretty gross.