Skip to main content

A24’s Pearl and the Rise of the Female Anti-Hero

by Susan Moore

Warning: Contain’s Spoilers

On September 16th of 2022, the movie Pearl was released. The prequel to Ti West’s X, it was released mere months after its former, a move that could have easily brought its downfall. However, Pearl was welcomed with open arms, arguably for one main reason: the character Pearl herself.

Ⓒ A24

While its easy to understand how audiences would enjoy the character of Maxine Minx (played by Mia Goth), the scrappy final girl of X, Pearl (also played by Mia Goth) is a bit more of a mystery. She’s erratic, hot-tempered, deluded, cruel and downright insane. However, there are parts of her that filmgoers not only enjoy but love.

To say Pearl has received attention would be an understatement. Despite her movie having been released just a little before Halloween, many still dressed as her for the occasion. There have been many Pearl memes, and many TikToks with audio from the “NOOO I’M A STAR” scene. 

Other than the fact she is played by a gorgeous actress (the halo effect must be acknowledged here), it is baffling why she has received this much fandom.

Ⓒ A24

Already, the media is experiencing a sweep of female antiheroes, an archetype that had previously been in short supply. We have Dani of Midsommar, the protagonist of My Year of Rest and Relaxation, arguably Fleabag of (you guessed it) Fleabag, Cruella of (yup) Cruella, among many, many others. 

It is easy to understand why. Women are tired of seeing themselves be the bigger person on screen when it is still widely expected for them to make “noble” sacrifices in the real world. There is something secretly empowering about watching a woman shunning anything closely resembling being a virtuous housewife in favor of being selfish and petty.

Ⓒ A24

Still, Pearl is possibly the most extreme example of the recent female anti-heroes. While some are morally dubious and others have been pushed to questionable actions, from the beginning it becomes clear that there is indeed “something really wrong about” her. Yet, there is something undeniably charismatic about the way Pearl carries herself on the screen that makes her faults far from unwatchable.

While calling Pearl relatable might be a stretch, the themes in her life can definitely resonate with the modern viewers. After all, with the pandemic and ongoing wars, her world being reduced to her family and small trips to town doesn’t feel that far fetched. While people of today can compare her feelings to being in lockdown, it is her outbursts that make her so captivating, particularly for female audiences.

Ⓒ A24

Pearl throughout the film (and for most of her life, it seems) has been waiting for her life to change. She is waiting for the Spanish flu pandemic to end, for the war to end, for stardom, for her fiance to return and take her away from her dismal farm life. Perhaps it is the waiting that drove her crazy. At the very least, the waiting was the final straw for her, and we see her take charge time and time again. 

Granted, her use of violence does basically nothing to bring her closer to her goals, but as Pearl herself says, she is “making the best of” what she has.

When the man she is sexually involved with disapoints her, Pearl kills him on the spot. She kills her parents, who she sees as having held her back, as well as her best friend in a moment of envy. 

Ⓒ A24

While I’m not attempting to justify her murderous acts, Pearl’s strong displays of rage have been cited as almost relatable - as if we can live out our horrible fantasies through her character. Watching her onscreen allows the audience to, for just a moment, live vicariously through her. In other words, she is unhinged in a way people secretly feel they could also be.

Pearl is a complicated character, both in how she exists in the media and how she exists in her own story. While her story is a cautionary one, what can be done with the fact that she feels so relevant and real? Perhaps Pearl is fated to end up like Tyler Durden, the manifestation of our most harmful desires in a story where the moral is blatantly ignored. Perhaps, however, her relevance does not make her a troubling character. Perhaps, Pearl can symbolize how we felt in this era, an example of the inner turmoil we all seemed to face.


Most Popular

‘Make Tattooing Safe Again’: Sheffield Based Tattoo Artist Exposed for Indecent Behaviour

 by Emily Fletcher TW: SA, Animal Abuse, Transphobia Photo Credit: @ meiko_akiz uki Recently, an  Instagram account  has been created to provide a  ‘space to safely give a voice to those who want to speak out about the behaviour of one, Sheffield based tattoo artist’. A  total of 40+ posts have been made by the above social media account regarding  one of Sheffield's most popular tattoo artists .  Thankfully, all posts are prefaced with a Content Warning prior to sharing screenshots of the messages that have been sent anonymously to the page. The majority of Content Warnings refer to sexual behaviour, abuse, and sexual assault. It is clear that there is a reoccurring theme within each submission, as many clients appear to have had the same experiences with the tattoo artist. Women, mostly, are being made to feel uncomfortable while being tattooed. One of the most vulnerable positions anyone can be in, tattoo artists should make their clients feel comfortable and safe during the pro

Eurydice’s Last Words

by Kate Bradley I do not want to return To sit in the stalls, Of an empty black box Strewn with petals Leave the ghost light on, Let it shine like a call home, But I will not come back To turn it off alone. I learn this as we walk Our ever so solemn path Our thudding funeral march, You think we’re going back. As I trace my old steps, I fear of the day When the symphony swells, And I land my gaze On you, yet you will be Enraptured by the sound, If you did twist To turn around, You would not see me. So I am not sorry, I speak out into the empty air And I am not sorry. “Turn Around.” You do, you look You think  I fall But I run on, Arms wide open To fall in love With it all “Perhaps she was the one who said, ‘Turn around.” On the X45 bus, back from the Tyneside Cinema, I wrote a poem entitled “Eurydice’s Final Words”, after having seen “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”.  That poem was terrible, so I wrote a new one, as my response to the beautifully poignant film.  In one scene, Héloïse, an 18

Single Review: ‘Tell Me’ - Jay Moussa-Mann

by Ilana Hawdon The feeling of pure betrayal and heartbreak is perfectly captured in Jay Moussa-Mann’s latest single, ‘Tell Me’. Jay Moussa-Mann is the folk dream we have been waiting for. A favourite on BBC Introducing, Radio 6 and BBC Radio Tees, Jay ’s sound is easy on the ears but delightfully addictive. With a background in writing and film, she began her solo musical venture when she released her debut album, ‘Little Deaths’ in late-2019, and since then, Moussa-Mann has defined herself as an artist with unbelievable range and promise.    ‘Tell Me’ is completely timeless; with notes of Carole King and Joni Mitchell, Moussa-Mann creates a folk-inspired track which is simultaneously heart wrenching and strangely empowering. Beginning as a simple guitar tune, ‘Tell Me’ builds with layers of luscious strings and twinkling piano, tied together with Jay ’s vocal line which is equal parts melancholic and divine. The song feels unwaveringly intimate; the lyrics ask, ‘what was I worth?’