Elisabeth Moss on the importance of flawed feminist characters
Elisabeth Moss has played some badass women, both on the stage and the screen — most notably, of course, Peggy Olson on Mad Men. (If you haven’t seen that .GIF of her counting cash like a total boss, I’m just not sure you’ve really taken advantage of the Internet properly.) Peggy is the epitome of a woman hustling in a man’s world, and we couldn’t be more excited to see what she gets up to in the new season.
But while Peggy has become somewhat of a poster child for strong women on television, in a recent interview with HuffPost Live‘s Ricky Camilleri, Moss made sure to remind us of the most important part of the character: her imperfections.
“Peggy was incredibly flawed and naive and sort of stubborn, and she was not some sort of martyr of feminism,” Moss said. “She was an incredibly flawed, vulnerable person, which made you identify with her.”
Given how often women seem to be criticized for not adhering to a very narrow view of how a feminist should be, Moss brings up a wonderful point: there is no right way to be a feminist. Peggy — and other rad TV heroines like her — is an excellent reminder of this, and while her character may exist in the past, there is plenty we can learn about feminism from her that still applies to the present.
“I think it’s what we can do now and embrace as women now: You can be strong and smart and a feminist. You can also be soft and feminine and vulnerable . . .You can be sexy and be a feminist. You can just be yourself and be a feminist,” Moss recently said in an interview with Sirius XM.
“If you believe in equal rights for men and women, I don’t understand how you could not be a feminist,” she continued. “I think that any true feminist would say it has nothing to do with women being better than men or taking over the man’s role. It’s about equality, that’s all. It’s pretty simple to me.”
Moss goes on to discuss her latest role as Heidi Holland in the Broadway revival of “The Heidi Chronicles,” the Pulitzer-winning play that explores the changing role of women from the ’60s to the ’80s. And while Moss herself may not have been alive (let alone an adult woman) for a majority of the time in which the play takes place, she was surprised to find that, just like Peggy, there was something universally relatable to the character.
“The questions that women face are the same,” she said to The Hollywood Reporter. “You’re expected to have a great job, be a great mother, be a great wife or partner. You’re now expected to do it all because that’s what we fought for. And I think that there’s a backlash and a pressure that women feel from that of ‘OK, well then does that mean I have to do it all? And what does that all mean?'”
Moss flawlessly addresses that there is not only this ever-existing pressure for women to be perfect in all aspects of their lives, but also that we each struggle with it in our own ways — and it’s that struggle which has been vastly underrepresented in art for too long.
“You get asked, ‘Oh, are you choosing this because it’s a feminist? Are you choosing this because it’s a strong woman?’ And I’m like, ‘No.'” Moss said. “I choose [a character] because [she’s] a complicated, interesting woman that I feel like I can relate to and other people will relate to.”
Clearly, Moss has made some excellent choices when it comes to portraying complex female characters, and her work has contributed to the ever-growing collage of multi-faceted women on television. Keep it coming, Elisabeth!