Fandom Friday | How Girls Grow Up In Fiction: George Eliot to Winona Ryder

Portrayals of girls in the media can be…interesting. Particularly when those girls are growing up. These plotlines are widely explored and range from weird to downright oppressive. Here are some of my favourite/least favourite examples:

The Good…

St. Trinian’s (Modern Reboot)

I can’t have been the only one who wanted to be Head Girl. Not my image but I’m an idiot and lost the link to it.

Okay, so this film definitely has some issues. I’m not a fan of the use of makeovers in film – they often encourage girls to change who they are, and just because the character is unlikeable this is no exception; the snotty uptight bitch puts on a short skirt and some lipstick and magically loses her prejudicial, sheltered viewpoint. Aside from the makeover, however, the film shows an aspect of growing up that many ignore; female friendship. In St. Trinian’s, girls of all social groups unite and bond. While there is some/a lot of slut shaming of the “posh totties”, overall the girls accept their differences and use their unique traits to advance their cause and save their school. Annabelle’s growth is dependent on her bonding with her peers. This kind of female support system is something I feel is important for girls to have and see.

The Bad…*

The Mill on the Floss – George Eliot


Poor Maggie. Maggie is much smarter than her brother Tom, yet being a woman in the 1800s her intelligence and potential are largely ignored. She finds herself becoming romantically involved with two men, neither of whom she can actually be with. George Eliot’s story is typically Victorian in many ways – a strong, intelligent female is consistently oppressed and unable to grow. Eliot’s tale, however, ends in Maggie and Tom drowning. Maggie dies unfulfilled and a complete contrast to the bright young girl she was at the start of the novel. Of course, it’s important to note that this is the odd one out in this list, being the only example from the 1800s. I had a lot of thoughts on it but I haven’t read it in a while so none of them made complete sense. I intended to discuss Hard Times as well but again, I haven’t read it in a while.

*I should clarify that by ‘bad’ I mean that Maggie’s growth is incredibly problematic in modern times, not that the book itself is bad.

The Weird…


Heathers Movie Poster


Bear with me here but I could (and possibly will) write an entire post about how Heathers is one of the most realistic teen movies ever. I know, I know, there is nothing realistic about a couple of teenagers creating a fad for suicides.

Somewhere amongst the shoulder pads and cutthroat psychopaths, however, there is a very twisted teenage journey. At the start of the film, you expect Veronica to go through a pretty typical “girly teen movie” plotline:

>Girl hates popular girls
>Girl joins popular girls
>Girl meets boy
>Girl lives happily ever after


>Girl hates but joins popular girls
>Girl meets boy
>Girl unintentionally kills “Queen Bee”, starting her off on a killing spree with her new psychopathic boyfriend.

Heathers is fuelled by hatred and jealousy, the exact opposite of St. Trinians’ “girl power” vibe. It’s weird, sick and strangely amusing, and that’s precisely the point. It’s immoral and problematic, and I love it.

And the Sexual..?

The Company of Wolves

company of wolves
Angela Lansbury </3 The Company of Wolves Movie Poster.

Don’t get me started. This film is massively Freudian, and intentionally so. The main character, Rosaleen, goes on an intense journey. She transitions from an innocent young girl to a young woman with an animalistic attraction to a hunter. Throw in some not-so-subtle menstrual imagery involving white roses and you have one of the most sexual depictions of female growth I’ve ever seen on film. I’m also still mourning Angela Lansbury.

Special Mentions

Wild Child – Typical “bratty girl becomes better by befriending ‘losers’” trope.

Labyrinth– Another “reformed brat”, but one who goes on a literal fantastical journey as well as a moral one.

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging– Relatable teen novels. Fairly typical boy crazy teenage girl confessionals, but enjoyable and amusing.

Maximum Ride – Max is a mother figure at 14. She has had to grow up fast, and I wish the series focused on her growth more (but it wouldn’t have worked with the storyline). She doesn’t have a traditional upbringing, and indeed isn’t traditionally “human”, being part avian.

What are your favourite/least favourite “coming of age” films/books? I feel like there are a million books alone I could list but when I sat down to write I drew a blank!

See you soon,


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veronica sawyer eye roll
Most important part of growing up: perfecting the teenage eye roll. Found on Giphy.

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8 thoughts on “Fandom Friday | How Girls Grow Up In Fiction: George Eliot to Winona Ryder”

  1. Ah, I used to love Maximum Ride and really enjoyed the film version of Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging! Heathers sounds fascinating too. I found this post very interesting as I recently read a Guardian article about fictional portrayals of female adolescence. I wonder if you’ve ever read/seen Carrie?

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    1. Max was my idol! I thing Fang’s letter (at the end of Max, I think?) was one of few times I’ve cried at books! I haven’t, I’m a massive wuss but it looks really interesting so I’d like to read it (I handle scary books better than films)! I did a module at uni about Victorian Childhoods & my lecturer did her PhD on girlhood & Victorian girls growing up so it’s something I’ve read a lot about but not really in a modern context. Will have to find that article 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the post!

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      1. The thing I liked about them was that were so easy to get through because they were so fast-paced that you just had to keep turning the pages to find out what happened next. I’m kind of curious to see where the series ended up, although I think I got a bit fed up with Fang! That module sounds fascinating! During my degree, I got really interested in the Alice books from a growing up point of view, especially with regards to food. I’ve only see the older film version of Carrie – to be honest, I found it a little underwhelming because not a lot really happens, but it was very well acted and I think it captured how cruel teenagers can be to each other really well too. I think it’d be interesting to compare it to the newer version because that’s set in modern times (apparently it also makes more use of blood as a symbol as well) and I’m also curious to see what the book’s like because of its form. On the subject of scary books/films, I do find it interesting how books don’t get age ratings even though the content can be just as graphic!

        Here’s the article I was talking about:

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      2. I read up to Nevermore but I think one more book came out a few years ago? Been meaning to read it. I used to love Fang but I know what you mean! The module was really good 🙂 we did Alice but I didn’t end up writing about them for it. Food is an interesting trope, I’ve not really considered it before! It is an odd one, we leave it to parents to judge when their kids should read books but not see films – I suppose films are more visual while books require a lot more attention to be able to get in your head, maybe that’s it? Age ratings are definitely an interesting topic, you should write about it (if you haven’t already)! I’ll give the article a read now!

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      3. That was a great article! Authorship/creatorship is something I wish I’d gone into on this post, especially with Mill on the Floss! There are so many different ways of looking at adolescence in fiction, and so many different things to consider! I feel like since I published this I’ve come up with another 3 posts worth of things to discuss about it!

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  2. I like how you talked about books and films in this post – it’s an interesting topic to think about as well, especially as none of these aspects really occurred to me when I watched/read some of them – e.g. the points you made about St Trinian’s.

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    1. It’s such a vast topic! I started writing it after talking to a friend about Labyrinth & how the main character is really annoying but how that’s the point and the reason for her journey. Glad you enjoyed the post!

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