Slate’s Jessica Grose has put together a terrific taxonomy of the “omega male” in contemporary movies, citing Ben Stiller’s character in Noah Baumbach’s new picture Greenberg as a particularly vivid representation of the archetype with his utter inability to hold down a job or maintain an adult relationship. Grose’s observations are right-on, but her piece all but begs us to ask the question: What is the female equivalent?
Aside from characters played by Charlyne Yi and Sarah Silverman, the girls of Ghost World, or the lead in the largely -forgotten TV series Wonderfalls, pop culture is short on direct analogues to the layabouts of the Baumbach, Judd Apatow, and Jonathan Ames canons. Nevertheless, portrayals of stunted femininity abound in “chick lit”, romantic comedies, and the spawn of Sex and the City. Whereas their male counterparts represent a fear of failing masculine expectations, these depictions of women touch on similar neuroses from a different perspective: not being married, not having children, not “having it all.”
The tragic difference here is that in confronting the same anxieties about aging and maturation, the female archetype favors settling down and being “grown up,” while the Greenbergs of the world opt to linger in an agency-free extended post-adolescence whether they’re happy with it or not. Surely there’s an obnoxious dating-advice book to be made out of all of this: Men Are From Judd, Women Are From Carrie, anyone?