Sharp Objects: Is Camille the female lead we need?

Amy Anne Marie Fox/HBO. Acquired via HBO Media Relations site.
Amy Anne Marie Fox/HBO. Acquired via HBO Media Relations site. /

In Sharp Objects, Camille Preaker, played by Amy Adams, is not your typical female protagonist. She is messy, has many flaws, and exactly the type of female character television needs more of.

Sharp Objects lead Camille Preaker (Amy Adams) isn’t a role model for girls … and that’s what’s so great about her.

In our current popular culture, we have become fixated on the idea of “strong female characters”. Now, don’t get me wrong this definitely can be a good thing. We need female characters who are tough both on the inside and outside, who work hard for what they want, and who won’t stand for any injustice.

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However, sometimes this need for “strong female characters” can create women who are more caricatures than real, multifaceted women. We get a girl who kicks butt but doesn’t have much of a personality besides that. A female character may be reduced to punchy one-liners aimed at anyone who gets in her way.

Showing strength in women is important, but showing weakness is too. In society, some people criticize women for being too “emotional”. Our culture seems to heavily criticize women’s faults. In so many areas of life, women are expected to be multiple things at once. Society expects women to be kind, polite, beautiful, and so on.

In Camille Preaker we have a female lead with plenty of emotional baggage. Years later, her sister’s death still devastates her. Her relationship with her mother is almost non-existent and when they do talk Adora (Patricia Clarkson) is usually chastising her.

Sharp Objects mental health
Episode 1, debut 7/8/18: Amy Anne Marie Fox/HBO. Acquired via HBO Media Relations site. /

Camille deals with this baggage in dangerous ways: by drinking copious amounts of alcohol and self-harming. Her behaviors are self-destructive and in no way something to look up to. However, it is refreshing to see such a nuanced, multi-dimensional female lead who makes a lot of mistakes.

“My demons are not remotely tackled, just mildly concussed,” Camille states while talking to an old friend. There is a pure honesty in this line that I love. In a town full of women who are trying to live up to society’s “standards” (Camille’s mom included), here is Camille being authentic about who she is, faults and all.

Sharp Objects shows not all women are stoic and keep going in the face of adversity. Sometimes we don’t always have that strength.

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“Strong female characters” are great, but we do not need every female character on television to be one. We need diversity in female characterization.  We need more messy women, flawed women, and women who aren’t always put together. Television needs more Camille Preakers.

Sharp Objects airs Sunday nights on HBO.