'Camping': Jennifer Garner's Kathryn might be the perfect anti-heroine of the #MeToo era
She has been called unlikable by many but the truth is that Jennifer Garner's Kathryn is a lot more than what she seems to be.
No one likes a woman who isn't what they expect her to be. Be it Annaliese Keating ('How to Get Away With Murder'), Claire Underwood ('House of Cards'), or the infamous Cersei Lannister ('Game of Thrones') who has been addressed as the "B***h" of Westeros ever since the first season, they are disliked for not being likable enough. Yet, none of these women are the villains of the stories. Neither are they good enough to be considered as heroes. All of these women straddle the thin line between being the hero and being the villain, and their dubious position makes them the anti-heroines.
Jenni Konner and Lena Dunham's 'Camping' has brought forth yet another anti-heroine who is probably the most misjudged of them all. Kathryn, who is played by Jennifer Garner, is an obsessively controlling woman who "plans" on having fun at the weekend camping trip arranged for her husband Walt's (played by David Tennant) 45th birthday. Unfortunately, Kathryn isn't really the one who has fun in a conventional way. She likes to plan things out and stick to the itinerary, and would under no circumstance like to deviate from her plan of action. However, all of this certainly does not qualify her as the "free-spirited" one- a trait very much evident in the foil character, Jandice, played by Juliette Lewis.
It was almost like a blow when critics and viewers began terming Kathryn as the most "unlikable" character. Before turning on them, and stating that their opinion is half-informed it is important to understand why Kathryn is being termed as the "unlikable" one. Well, the most obvious reason is that she isn't someone with whom people would like to hang out. She sometimes forgets that other people like to do things their way, such as not go bird watching on a bright summer morning- instead dive into the lake for a cool bath. She is a jerk in the sense that she does things in her own way and shoves it down other people's throats.
When Walt indicated to her in Episode 1 that stealing away other people's mattresses might cause inconvenience for them, Kathryn lashes out at him claiming that she was doing so to comfort her pelvic floor. Any sane-headed person would carry an extra set of mattresses in case they have any kind of physical illness but that probably never struck Kathryn. She does not even want the new people like Jandice and Lina-Joy's adopted teenage daughter to be a part of the trip because they were not on her list. Again any free-minded person would love to invite everyone and wouldn't mind new guests at their party.
However, none of these are sufficient to make Kathryn "unlikable". In the era of #MeToo when women are coming forward to present their story and claim spaces for themselves, inclusivity becomes a big factor. During a conversation with Marie Claire, Garner had stated, "Women are walking on eggshells. You want to take it for everything it’s worth and just surround yourself with the best possible women and make sure that you are fighting for and creating the most equality you can in every possible way you can. " Speaking about equality it is almost saddening to see Kathryn being pushed to the sidelines for not being someone relatable.
Maybe she is not relatable, but Kathryn has the unique tendency to naturally take up a responsibility and fulfill it with the truest grit. Most of her temperament and uptight-ness stems out of her physical insecurity. Kathryn walks around with a certain limp which probably resulted out of her chronic illness, she has undergone hysterectomy following the birth of her first child, and she does not deny from confessing that she is still functioning properly because of her prescribed medicines. All of this makes Kathryn difficult to relate to for people like us, who clearly do not suffer from any kind of physical discomfort as she does.
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Woop! I love it when PELVIC FLOOR references show up in the mainstream! Everyone watching this on @hbo will get to hear this 🎉😉 . 👏 Hard surfaces wreak havoc on my pelvic floor. . 👏 “Do you want me to have a dysfunctional pelvic floor...” . . I offered to be an expert on the set 😂. . . . #pelvichealth #pelvicguru #pelvicfloorexercises #pelvicpain #lowbackpain #physicaltherapy #pelvicphysicaltherapy . #Repost @lenadunham ・・・ We all have this friend, and yet we still commit to a birthday trip with them...#CampingHBO lands tonight at 10pm on @hbo. Join me on Twitter tonight where I will live tweet the whole damn thing- my parents are involved and it’s gonna be a riot. Also, please tag this friend below because I wanna hear the whole story... #pelvicfloor
Kathryn probably likes to plan things out and keep them in place because she knows that once her illness is triggered, it might create bigger issues for the people around her. She is a jerk, a dominating wife, and a hard-hearted friend on the surface but within Kathryn is encountering a continuous turmoil between letting things flow and keeping them in check. However, there is one thing that is undeniably good about Kathryn, she always keeps an eye on things. She might be hard with her words too, but not for once she gives up on actually caring for the people around her and being resourceful for them.
She is the one who will have all the necessary pieces of equipment with her and is easily reliable when it comes to dealing with hard times. It seems that she controls things around her, but all the woman is doing is stating her own ideas and opinions. Probably it all comes along as "controlling" because Kathryn's tone is a little heavier than the rest, she is quick to voice out what she thinks and is always ready with a counter-argument. But do these really make her so unlikable that you almost begin to loathe her presence? No. It certainly doesn't. We have all met people like Kathryn in our lives who are necessarily good but are perceived as unwelcoming.
Co-creator, Lena Dunham, had lashed out at the comment "unlikable" considering that even today the term is still being used for women who do not fit into the pattern of being ordinary. "I can't believe that we're still having a conversation about unlikable women on television. It doesn't matter if you like our lead character. It truly doesn't matter. What matters is that you relate and you understand." Kathryn probably wouldn't have been so "unlikable" had the character been put against a more suburban setting. However, stuck amid Nature among friends who do not like to compromise according to her instructions, it is obvious that she will have a hard time coping with her temper.
Kathryn's reception by critics proves that even today viewers are not prepared to accept a character who does not fit into the traditional pattern of a female protagonist. Probably had Garner stuck to her usual dimple-cheeked, gullible characters, critics would have been happier but we are not in that age anymore. The #MeToo era is an age of including everything in a bowl- irrespective of all differences. It is the time when society is trying to be more inclusive, more accepting, and walk with a broader mindset. Kathryn is not an unusual woman, she is just someone whom we do not see too often on screen. However, watching her being criticized for being an anti-heroine is simply disheartening.