When it comes to girls and young women characters there appears to be an odd belief that there are few examples of them in comedy, specifically examples who could be held up as comedic role models. I seem to have some extra time on my hands right now and rather than rearrange my wardrobe I have decided to dedicate an essay each to the fictional girls and young women who deserve more recognition for their comedy.
In 1979 author Lois Lowry unleashed the character Anastasia Krupnik on the world of fiction. Does anyone out there remember Anastasia Krupnik? She was a precocious, Cosmo-readin’, beer foam-sippin’
motherfucker only child. We meet her aged 10 and leave her at around 13. Looking back there is something of the Adrian Mole about her, only this is a book for children, not adults and Anastasia confides in her goldfish, Frank, not a diary.
The first Anastasia Krupnik book I read was Anastasia Again, the title did not alert me to the notion there might be a preceding book, and I absolutely loved it. Due to a decade of being the only child to artsy, liberal parents, Anastasia is a tad eccentric, earning her the tagline ‘the girl who thinks for herself.’ Comedy could only ensue. Natch.
Where much of this comic value came from was Anastasia’s acute embarrassment over everything. In her bid to be normal, just like every other teenager out there, Anastasia is forever being faintly ridiculous. Which makes her relatable and a great source of solace.
With a knack for coming up with outrageous solutions, Anastasia was there for you if you ever felt ashamed at your naïveté. You could remind yourself that at least you didn’t go on a bike ride with Robert Giannini who carried a suitcase for Pete’s sake. At least you didn’t try to fool a contemporary that you were middle-aged by stuffing your bra and putting talc in your hair. Not to mention the time when Anastasia convinced herself, rather like in 2005 when all women enrolled in pole dancing classes purely for core fitness, that modelling school was necessary if she wanted to be a bookshop owner with poise.
However, Anastasia wasn’t really a buffoon. She was just an awkward teenager who was maybe a little more articulate than you were at that age. She also benefitted from having very modern parents, when Anastasia says she has a crush on her female gym teacher her mother simply explains we get crushes on all kinds of people. More power to you Katherine Krupnik.
It’s possible nowadays that Anastasia’s simultaneous sophistication and innocence would not wash today. I was surprised to learn these books are on the ALA’s list of banned books, unless my memory is very foggy I don’t recall anything untoward, unless you count the time she plans to name her still-in-gestation baby brother One Ball Reilly. Or the time Anastasia unwittingly catfishes Septimus Smith, answering a personal ad with the acronym SWIFTY (Single White Intelligent Female, Tall, Young) which could have ended badly.
Now I am an adult I identify more with Anastasia’s mother – who also repeatedly forgets to take the meat for tea out of the freezer. However my heart still lies very much with our bespectacled, befreckled heroine who was delighted at being a ‘junior bridesmaid’, whatever that is. Her creator, Lois Lowry, tapped into the tw/een mind perfectly, with hilarious results.
If you have a character you’d like to suggest for this, then tweet me @funnywomened
Read why Helga Pataki is a comedy icon here!