Thursday

"Females are strong as hell!" Post-traumatic reinvention according to "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," "iZombie" and "Finding Carter"


When you've recently been freed from an underground doomsday cult, turned into a zombie or discovered that the mother who raised you in fact abducted you from your real parents when you were 3, you'll find yourself wondering, "What now?"

Does trauma make us who we are, change who we are, or are we who we are despite trauma? The leading ladies of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, iZombie and Finding Carter had the circumstances of their lives radically changed, and each is a study in bouncing back from the horrific.

Kimmy Schmidt

The trauma: Being kidnapped and kept in a bunker for 15 years by a false prophet saying the world had ended in a nuclear apocalypse.

The aftermath: After a SWAT rescue, Kimmy moves to New York, is promptly robbed of all the money she has, and has to make her way in the world with a middle-school education.

The reinvention: Although Kimmy is obviously repressing some dark stuff (hence her violent outbursts when startled, her biting of her roommate Titus's nails and her fear of Velcro), she is unflappably cheery and resilient. She charms her way into a job that allows her to rent a crummy basement apartment she's thrilled with. Then she sparkle-glues together a crew of oddballs that needs her just as much as she needs them. Kimmy has a childlike enthusiasm about everything. And when stuff gets unbearable, she responds with kindness, confidence and her coping strategy of taking difficult situations 10 seconds at a time. She's amazing. She's totally a bad bitch.


My bookshelf recommendation: Pretty Little Mistakes by Heather McElhatton. The choose-your-own-adventure format would appeal to Kimmy's teen-like sensibilities, while the dark twists and often optimistic endings would speak to her experiences.

My makeup prescription: Kimmy needs some bold and sparkly nail polish to go with her glittery light-up Skechers. Formula X is like a candy bar of effects and colors. Because Kimmy's favorite color is yellow, this insanely gorgeous shade I reviewed would surely prompt that dazzling smile.

Liv Moore

The trauma: On the one night med student/overachiever Liv decides to let loose and go to a party, she's attacked and wakes up as a member of the undead with a distinct craving for brains.

The aftermath: Liv quits her job, dumps her sweet fiance out of fear of infecting him, and works at the morgue so she can eat the quota of brains she needs to prevent herself from going full-on zombie mode and being unable to pass as normal.

The reinvention: Whenever Liv eats a brain, she has visions of the deceased's memories, so she uses that power to work with a detective on solving homicide cases. She finds a sense of purpose and meaning after what she describes as "post-traumatic ennui, post-traumatic defeatism, post-traumatic 'what's the point?'" She also takes on some of the brain owner's personality traits and skills — a sensual painter's brain brings out her sexy, creative side, a hitman's brain numbs her to her painful emotions, and when she eats the brain of someone who knows kung fu, boom, she's positively lethal.


My bookshelf recommendation: Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho. After a failed suicide attempt, Veronika wakes up in a psychiatric hospital, told that she's done incurable damage to her heart and that it's only a matter of time before it kills her. The uncertain reprieve from her hastily considered death makes Veronika rethink her existence and look at everything with new eyes. I'm sure Liv could relate to that.

My makeup prescription: Bobbi Brown Corrector for those undead undereyes and Too Faced bronzer will help her pass for living.

Carter Stevens/Wilson

The trauma: After an arrest for trespassing with her delinquent friends, Carter finds out she was born Linden Wilson, was abducted as a toddler and has a family that's been looking for her for years, including a fraternal twin sister. She loses the only life she's ever known and is uprooted from her home and friends and planted in the complicated lives of a bunch of blood-related strangers.

The aftermath: Carter is a hot mess. Unable to accept her new family, she's determined (for a while) to reunite with her abductor, who she still considers her mother. But in the meantime, she raises hell, parties and falls in love with a gorgeous young criminal.

The reinvention: Over time, Carter begins to accept her biological family, in particular her birth mother. She makes better choices about the people in her life — although it requires some figurative pulling of teeth and literal bloodshed. Like Kimmy, Carter is pretty firmly Carter, no matter how much her circumstances threaten to throw her sense of self asunder.

My bookshelf recommendation: White Oleander by Janet Fitch. The mama drama at the heart of this book and constant uprooting Astrid experiences in the foster system while her toxic mom sits in prison for murder might make Carter's life seem stable.

My makeup prescription: My first instinct is to hook Carter up with some waterproof mascara, but even the toughest formulas might not stand a chance in the Wilson household. So instead, I think Carter should skip eye makeup and start rocking a bold lip. Something real messy, like an Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Lip Tar. Maybe that would dissuade her from making out with criminals like Crash. You just need some "me" time, girl.


Planning your own reinvention? I'll leave you with some motivational music.

Because females are strong as hell.

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