When it comes to verisimilitude, television has always had a ways to go. For the most part, we're willing to overlook these fantastical lapses. For example, the apartment in Friends is far too large for ragtag twentysomethings in New York City. My brain is willing to put that fact aside though, mainly because I would also love to have an apartment that's far too large. Current television is mildly better at representing reality, but there's one issue that I cannot excuse: good hair. Specifically, well-done hair. Hair that has been blown out, straightened, pinned, and braided into an updo worthy of the Oscars. When did this become routine for women on television?
The small screen has recently given us some of the sloppiest characters we've ever seen. We have the woman anti-hero, a fortunate development for feminist television consumers like myself. There's Hannah Horvath from Girls and Mickey Dobbs of Netflix's Love, as well as countless others. These women are a blessing — they actively own the label of "millennial fuck-up" and provide a crash course on how not to handle your life. But no matter how messy their lives get, these women have the ability to crush a mean French braid, topknot, or fishtail, something I can't even achieve for an annual visit to my grandparents.
Let's examine Mickey Dobbs (Gillian Jacobs). She barely contributes to her job as at a radio station. When we first meet her in the pilot episode of Judd Apatow's Netflix series, she's high on pills and rocking a red bathing suit as a top. She cheats on her boyfriend. She lies. But when it comes to hair, Mickey Dobbs might as well be a stylist. In the second season, Mickey invites Gus (Paul Rust) on a casual date night in. He wears a T-shirt. She wears overalls. Let's reiterate: It's a casual date. But Mickey's hair features a tidy French braid at the crown of her head. Observe.
I can't imagine that the same character who later climbs out of a window to avoid a livid ex-lover would also be so detail-oriented as to kill a great hairstyle.
And then there's Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham). In Sunday's episode, Hannah deals with an unexpected pregnancy. Hannah also wears a charming pair of braided pigtails. Observe.
Both hairstyles would take me most of my morning to accomplish, and I consider myself to be someone who has a decent handle on my life. (Knock on wood.) In March 2016, Racked published an essay on "television hair." Instead of braids, the article examined the loose waves that every woman on television seems to obtain sans effort. A stylist interviewed for the piece claimed this hairstyle was simply "easier" for camera work. Perhaps this is true — arguably, the Friends apartment was so large because the cameras needed enough space to shoot. But the systemic issue is that women on television seem a little over-styled. When Hannah Horvath steps out for a coffee, she looks ready to hit the clubs (albeit in Bushwick). And when Mickey Dobbs dashes out to escape a rabid ex, she still manages to tie a neat topknot over her head.
At the end of the day, it's harder to relate to a character who's clearly spent the last few hours in the hair and makeup chair. In the interest of realism, these characters should do what I do: Roll out of bed, take a shower, and cross their fingers that their hair doesn't acquire any strange poofs throughout the day.