living deliciously

An Attempt to Define the ‘Good for Her’ Cinematic Universe

“Good for her” is misaimed fandom, willfully disregarding authorial intent as you stan. “Good for her” is Walter White for girls. Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos: Alamy

No. 1 culture theorist of our time Lady Gaga once said, “I don’t believe in the glorification of murder; I do believe in the empowerment of women.” Avenues for socially acceptable justice are closing around us. People are looking for catharsis wherever they can find it. We can’t get justice, but we can watch women onscreen get even: Enter the “Good for Her” Cinematic Universe.

Everyone has their own criteria for what does and doesn’t qualify as an entry in the “Good for Her” Cinematic Universe, first named by Twitter user @cinematogrxphy. But to me, its violent heart lies in its namesake: season three, episode one of Arrested Development. In it, Lucille Bluth watches a news item about a woman who drowned her children and yells at the TV, “Good for her!” The phrase excusse, or even celebrates, something inexcusable. More important, it’s not the vibe the news channel was going for. “Good for her” is misaimed fandom, willfully disregarding authorial intent as you stan. “Good for her” is Walter White for girls.

The GFHCU has been wildly inconsistent from that first tweet with screenshots from The Witch, Midsommar, Us, The Invisible Man, Knives Out, Gone Girl, Ready or Not, and the Suspiria remake. What is Marta doing there? She is a cartoonishly good person. Still, @cinematogrxphy had put a name to an impulse that’s run through our culture since at least Shego from Kim Possible. Or Medea — whichever. It celebrates women’s rights, as the meme goes, but more important, it celebrates women’s wrongs. Other film girlies ran with the idea, making GFHCU lists on Letterboxd, creating fan vids, and generally letting the primitive lizard part of their brains run the show curation wise. It’s a subgenre whose time has come.

But where does our empathy end? Certainly most of the women in the original tweet were white and conventionally attractive and had a pretty low body count, if they murdered anyone at all. Furthermore, does our capacity for stanning extend to nonhumans? M3gan counts as GFH, but what about a less anthropomorphic robot or an animal? What about a cocaine bear?

Here are 13 entries in the GFHCU ranked from least to most solidly “Good for her.” We break down their so-called crimes and their rizz (charisma) factor: why you shouldn’t be rooting for her and why you are anyway. This ranking functions as an illustration of the breadth of work being considered for the GFHCU rather than as a Hall of Fame. So just because your favorite murderess, fraudette, or criminelle isn’t on here, it doesn’t mean we aren’t all on her side.

13. Olive Penderghast, Easy A

Crimes: Pretending to be slutty?
Rizz factor: She got people to actually watch a web show, no easy feat.

Olives appear at GFHCU costume parties, maybe because a red letter A on a bustier is an easily recognizable costume. But, really, the worst thing Olive does is validate teen boys’ egos in exchange for gift cards. Gift cards! You have to dream bigger to get any higher on this list. If you really want to be in the GFHCU, you have to at least do bodily harm. For that reason, Olive is out.

Is there a TikTok? There is, but the real queen of Easy A’s TikTok presence is Stanley “I was gay once, for a while, we all do it, no big deal” Tucci.

12. Dani Ardor, Midsommar

Crimes: Not being better at resisting a cult.
Rizz factor: Dani has none, but Florence Pugh is basically carrying the Vogue YouTube channel.

Dani, grinning in her full May Queen lewk as her new Härga “family” burns her shitty boyfriend alive, is sometimes considered the poster child for “Good for her.” But is it good for her? YouTuber Rowan Ellis argues that the movie belongs to a “Yikes for her” subgenre since her so-called liberation is actually falling prey to a cult. For me, what keeps Dani so low on the list is that she doesn’t really do much of anything. The Midsommar fandom’s joy at Dani’s acceptance into the Härga, and at Christian getting beared the fuck up, feels GFH. But she is not the one behaving monstrously. (Her smile at the end, a weird trauma response, isn’t monstrous behavior.) This is less exaltation of a villain and more “I wish they still did lobotomies” energy. Dani is in the GFHCU, but she represents the floor.

Is there a TikTok? Dani’s big cry is a weirdly relatable meme, and every year on Halloween some absolutely cursed people think a Dani-and-Christian couple’s costume is a good idea. The man hasn’t seen the movie and thinks wearing bear-footie pajamas is easy. The woman is full of rage that will be quelled only with blood. She captions every pic of him with “this goofball.”

11. Tanya McQuoid, The White Lotus

Crimes: Boat murders, being mean to Natasha Rothwell.
Rizz factor: Jennifer Coolidge is the internet.

Tanya, the true “pretty, wounded bird” of The White Lotus, is someone the fandom often forgets is a bad person. She’s awful to Belinda, goes through assistants like some people chew gum, and tries to buy love from her husband, Greg. Is Greg worse? Sure. But Tanya’s folk-hero status (there was a krewe dedicated to her this year at Mardi Gras) glosses over her faults. So that’s how she is very GFHCU. But the actual murders she commits are quite justified within the text. Kill or be killed! Or kill and then be killed, as the case may be. If Tanya lived to live shitty another day, she’d rank higher.

Is there a TikTok? Please! These memes! Are trying to murder me

10. Addy and Red, Us

Crimes: Getting over (Addy), the return of the repressed (Red).
Rizz factor: That voice is too goofy.

The above chunk of this list has been mostly women whose crimes are too low stakes to really qualify as a GFH gal. Addy and Red’s crimes, on the other hand, really hit the big time. Red orchestrates what potentially is a U.S.-ending redo of Hands Across America, and she wouldn’t have done it if Addy hadn’t stolen her life when they were kids. But the themes of Us (the U.S. and capitalism as inherently exploitative, how anyone has the capacity to subjugate fellow human beings) are bummers, and you don’t say “Good for her” because you don’t feel good about yourself, either. On that note, the GFHCU is pretty dang white. It’s almost like there’s some sort of system that makes it easier for white women to be absolved of wrongdoings and that women of color don’t get the same grace … Much to think about.

Is there a TikTok? The trailer soundtrack is a staple of creepytok, but Red isn’t the focus.

9. Ava, Ex Machina

Crimes: Sentience, some light murder.
Rizz factor: Well it certainly worked on Domhnall Gleeson.

Much of Ex Machina focuses on the Turing test, which determines whether an AI can mimic humanity enough to trick a human. And what could be more human than scamming dudes? Ava’s quest for freedom is all consuming, possibly cold hearted. But she did what she had to do, and she got results. We should also take some time to think about the storytelling trope of always making the recently self-aware AI a hot girl. Ghost in the Shell, Blade Runner, Her (technically, there’s no body to ogle in that one, but you know what ScarJo looks like and it informs the piece). It’s the ultimate objectification of a woman, making her literally an object and offering a spirited debate on whether she deserves rights. No wonder we love it when Ava rises up against her creator. The “Good for cyberher” genre expanded this year with M3gan and will continue to reap dividends as long as people project all their hopes and fears onto computers and women with symmetrical faces.

Is there a TikTok? The dance scene, but a lot of the focus is on Oscar Isaac.

8. Thomasin, The Witch

Crimes: Living deliciously. Also matricide.
Rizz factor: Never underestimate Anya Taylor-Joy’s huge, sympathy-siphoning eyes.

The Witch is like one of those really long jokes with a deeply stupid punch line. Eighty-give minutes of setup for one Black Sabbath at the end. But what puts Thomasin in the GFHCU is how clearly her story states the underlying thesis of the entire cinematic universe. Sure, being evil is “bad,” but being good seems to suck. Walking the path of the righteous, shunning the Devil, not murdering any of your siblings — none of it really pays off for Thomasin, not when being evil and flying is right there for the taking. Or as TikTok user MJ Gray put it, “I am fully committed to not only being extremely beautiful but also evil. Because being beautiful and kind is just fucking dumb.”

Is there a TikTok? Yes, but Black Phillip is the main character.

7. Ladies of “Cell Block Tango,” Chicago

Crimes: Pop, six, squish, uh-uh, Cicero, Lipschitz.
Rizz factor: Lock them up for being too fabulous.

If you were a theater kid when Chicago came out, you know the seismic change it had on the girls. No joke, I translated one of the “Cell Block Tango” monologues into French for a test. That’s how obsessed we all were. Chicago is intended to be read with ironic distance. You’re not supposed to root for these murderesses, their corrupt lawyer, or the tabloid girl reporter. They’re part of a corrupt system that you’re supposed to feel above. But when you make a bop about justifying rage, people are going to play it. “Cell Block Tango” is a breakup anthem, sublimating the desire to murder your ex by singing along with a bunch of ladies who did it.

Is there a TikTok? TikTokers are more likely to go for the “Hot Honey Rag.”

6. Cocaine Bear, Cocaine Bear

Crimes: Possession with intent to deal (to her cubs), being too good a mother.
Rizz factor: Not since Robin Williams has there been someone so charismatically coked up.

Here she is! The titular Cocaine Bear belongs in the GHFCU because we never once begrudge her a kill. Is she the spirit of nature’s vengeance? Eh, maybe. Is she a killer punch line? Yes. Cocaine Bear has Michael Myers–level teleportation powers, and every time the camera pans to do a “She’s right behind me, isn’t she?,” it crushes. Cocaine Bear ranks high on this list because her kills are so gory. The audience I saw the film with cringed in sympathy with the victims of many of these gruesome deaths but still laughed whenever CB came back for more. And we forgive her for introducing her kids to drugs! That’s a huge buy-in from the audience.

Is there a TikTok? We’d love to see it. We really would.

5. Asami Yamazaki, Audition

Crimes: Serial murder, dismemberment, caring too much.
Rizz factor: A haunting, ethereal rizz.

If this movie came out now, there would be riots. Girlies in the street knocking over mailboxes, climbing streetlights, and chanting, “Deeper, deeper!” Asami is divine retribution. A man thinks he can essentially casting-couch his way to a bride, and he doesn’t realize that any woman willing to go along with his bullshit must be unhinged in her own special way? He gets exactly what’s coming to him. Asami leaves ruin in her wake in part because she’s cuckoo bananas but also because the men around her can’t stop setting themselves up for comeuppance.

Is there a TikTok? There are fan cams but nowhere near enough of them.

4. The Bride, Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2

Crimes: Bill-icide.
Rizz factor: Uma Thurman studied for years with a rizz master in China.

Beatrix Kiddo is a complex character, and you aren’t necessarily supposed to be 100 percent in her corner by the end of Kill Bill Vol. 2. She kills her child’s father, separating her from the only family she’s ever known. And she willingly sets Vivica A. Fox’s daughter on the same roaring rampage of revenge. A lot of Quentin Tarantino’s work is more ambivalent about the hyperviolence it depicts than it’s given credit for — which is why the Bride fits in the GFHCU. When SZA wrote “Kill Bill,” the only relevant part of the movie to her is the ex-BF-icide. No justification, no consequences. Just killing your ex as a mood.

Is there a TikTok? SZA’s song, Beatrix’s speech about the yakuza, even O-Ren Ishii’s big boardroom moment — sometimes it feels like TikTok is nothing but Kill Bill.

3. Amy Dunne, Gone Girl

Crimes: Self-kidnapping, false assault claims, murder, Missouri slander.
Rizz factor: Cool-girl alert.

Gone Girl does not have a happy ending for any party involved. Nick and Amy know each other for the manipulative cowards they really are, and they’re going to have a baby about it. And yet that’s not what the film’s reputation among fans has emphasized in the nine years since its release. Given Amy’s place high in fan assemblages of the GFHCU, you’d think she unequivocally comes out on top like Ava or Cocaine Bear. The willful “I pretend I do not see it” energy online surrounding Amy’s crimes (especially that false rape report) and her future with Nick is the epitome of “Good for her.” You have to be completely oblivious to root for Amy. Okay, so we’re oblivious. What about it?

Is there a TikTok? The parts of film-girlie TikTok that aren’t Kill Bill are the “cool girl” speech.

2. Jennifer Check, Jennifer’s Body

Crimes: Killing boys.
Rizz factor: At the time? None. Upon critical reevaluation? Sky high.

Jennifer’s Body is, at its heart, a film about a deeply toxic female friendship — the kind in which one girl with a weird hero worship consigns herself to being the quirky sidekick to the other’s main character. So, of course, every girl who’s had a friend like Jennifer winds up projecting her old bestie onto the character. To see Megan Fox chomp on some dudes, it’s like falling in friend love all over again. Is it healthy to have a Jennifer in your life? No. But it’s a thrill ride.

Is there a TikTok? “You’re killing people!” “No, I’m killing boys” gets some serious play.

1.  Pearl, Pearl

Crimes: Multiple murders, scarecrow fucking, making girlies bleach their eyebrows.
Rizz factor: Absolutely off the charts.

Mia Goth and Ti West set out to create a character who was a unique monster, but they accidentally stumbled upon an Everywoman. The number of people in my life who saw Pearl and said “She’s just like me fr” briefly gave me concerns for my physical safety. Even the part with the rotting pig? Yes, even the part with the rotting pig. Last Halloween was an ocean of Pearls with no eyebrows in frumpy little dresses. It says something about the age we live in that Pearl is so relatable. Frustrated attempts at fame and feral levels of horniness — these are the makings of a 21st-century woman.

Is there a TikTok? Oh hell, yes. Pearl is a star, a star, a star.

An Attempt to Define the ‘Good for Her’ Cinematic Universe