Essays that about Twin Peaks, Pretty Little Liars, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? Sign me up. Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession by Alice Bolin was an obvious must-read. In it, Bolin turns a critical eye on pop culture and portrayals of girls, both living and dead, and the history of these current fascinations.
The language of Dead Girls is light and conversational throughout, even when closely examining films, TV shows, and literature. With that said, this book at times flits between being academic criticism and a series of personal essays. In some chapters, this seemed to work, though a lot of the time, it’s an uneasy juxtaposition.
Dead Girls also doesn’t seem to fulfill the promise it sets out to from the start. I expected essays about Twin Peaks, True Detective and other “dead-girl-centric” media like them to fill up majority of the book, though after a few short chapters, Bolin moves off the subject to talk about Brittany Spears, witchcraft, and a feminist werewolf film. While all of those topics happen to be things I love to read about any day, I felt shortchanged. I selfishly wanted to hear more about the “dead girls” the author titled the book after. I think the reason for this is that there’s something the author skirts around throughout those chapters: what could have been done differently.
This book wasn’t written for the content-creators it’s critiquing. There isn’t a direct call to action or suggestions for what contemporary writers should be doing to help the “dead girls” of today’s pop-culture.