12 July, 2023.
This review contains spoilers. There is also discussion of sexual harassment, rape, transphobia, assault, and misandry.
From left to right: Annie, Ruby, and Beth. Annie and Beth are sisters.
This show focusses on three women, all mothers, whose amateur criminal careers begin with the robbing of a grocery store.
Ben, pre-transition in season 1, when he is still known as Sadie.
Ben, post-transition in season 4.
When Isaiah Stannard, a trans boy actor, auditioned to play Annie's child, the plan was to make Annie's kid either a cis boy or a cis girl. But the writers, wishing to employ Stannard, decided to reevaluate the planned character and instead make Annie the mother of a trans boy.
At the beginning of the show, Stannard's character is closeted, answering to she/her pronouns and the name Sadie. In season 2, he comes out as trans in a scene which is very gentle and sweet. You can watch it below.
Issues faced by him, even prior to coming out, include bullying and sexual harassment by his peers. He discusses these struggles with his mother, who is shocked to find out that people have been pulling his pants down to try and figure out (in his words) "what I am". This is due to his masculine-presenting style and obvious gender non-conformity.
Schoolchildren being threatened by a grown man.
Annie, in a scene which is bizarrely comedic, makes a violent criminal come to Ben's school, where the man threatens and physically assaults Ben's bullies. Just to be clear, the bullies are... children. And Annie's solution is to have a criminal break the bones in a young boy's hand, to dissuade the boy and his friends from harming her kid. It's twisted and disturbing but, in classic Good Girls fashion, Annie quickly moves on with zero qualms.
Ben playing hacky sack with his friends.
Ben transfers to a new school where he is accepted and allowed to wear the boy's uniform, even before he comes out as trans. After he comes out, he doesn't immediately start using the name Ben, but his family immediately switches to using he/him/his pronouns. Minor and major characters also refer to him as Annie's son. All in all, I really like how Good Girls handles his trans storyline. I enjoyed the fact that his behaviours and masculine preferences were established before he labelled himself aloud, as occurs for many of us.
Ben with his family.
In the second episode of season 3, Ben is celebrating with his family (mother, father, stepmother) after he wins a national debating competition. When his stepmother deadnames him, his mother corrects her and Ben charitably says, "it takes a minute". It felt very realistic to how many transitioning people handle slow-changing family members.
Ben, settled in his male identity.
As the show continues, Ben simply becomes Annie's son. He plays lacrosse, goes to school, throws parties for his friends, and deals with his mother's antics. His medical transition is briefly discussed and then occurs offscreen. The wonderful part about Ben being played by a trans male actor is that, as the seasons progressed, Isaiah Stannard transitioned physically too. Ben's transition is authentic in a really cool way.
When the series ends, Ben is being emotionally supported by a man named Kevin, who is his mother's... partner. Sort of. (She used him for sex while he was experiencing homelessness, until eventually deciding to treat him like a human being who has, y'know, dignity.) While Kevin's presence in the show is riddled with harmful stereotypes about people who struggle to access housing, I did enjoy many of his interactions with Ben. He accepts Ben as a young man, teaches him lacrosse techniques, and changes Ben's domestic life for the better. It was really awesome to see a trans guy getting a positive, older male role model. It's just a shame that had to happen in the steaming pile of garbage that was season 4.
That's all I have to say about Ben. I congratulate and thank Isaiah Stannard for his performance. All that being said, let's move on to the reasons you might not want to watch Good Girls.
Good Girls is at its tamest when the three protagonists are staging an armed robbery with fake guns.
The show deals with themes that could make many viewers uncomfortable. You should prepare for the following:
Violence, including physical altercations, firearm use, assassinations, kidnappings, etc.
The dismemberment of a corpse.
Infidelity and conflict in marriages.
Excessive alcohol use, the use of alcohol to deal with stress, and drug use. Alcohol Use Disorder is handled laughably, insofar as it's mentioned twice and then never brought up again. A character relapses and it's not even addressed.
Trivialisation of drug trafficking and other serious crimes.
Referenced financial elder abuse.
Body shaming via small dick jokes (no, those so-called jokes aren't funny).
The term "Indian burial ground" used to refer to Native American burial sites. This comment was... bafflingly outdated.
There is also sexual harassment and assault in many different forms:
The onscreen attempted rape of a woman.
The offscreen rape of a woman by her fiancé.
Annie makes sexual advances at her therapist, who refuses her. She tells him "grow a pair", as though not consenting to sex makes him less of a man.
Annie intrudes into her therapist's relationship, inquiring about his sex life and other personal, inappropriate matters. It's textbook sexual harassment, and it occurs after he has already refused her. Taking no for an answer is not something this woman understands.
Annie graphically describes initiating sex, and then having sex, in order to make her therapist uncomfortable. It was a disgusting scene that was very difficult to sit through and, I promise you, if the gender dynamics were reversed then Annie would be slammed as a disgusting creep.
Later on in the show, Annie sexually assaults her ex-husband by abruptly kissing him without his consent.
Sexual coercion of male employees by a woman, who controls which business opportunities they can access, and offers promotions to men who have sex with her. This is dismissed as being funny or okay.
Sexual coercion of a man by a pimp, who wants him to have sex with a woman.
The rape of men in prison is joked about.
I struggled to watch Good Girls because the sexual assault and harassment of men is considered funny or irrelevant. Annie (a serial harasser) is never held accountable for what she's done, and she remains a much-loved main character. It's a double standard I've seen in too many shows. But I don't know what I expected, to be honest, considering the fact that a serial rapist of women (a guy nicknamed Boomer) is dismissed as a bumbling idiot at best, and redeemed at worst. The show mishandles male and female experiences in unique, disgusting ways.
Beyond that, the show's handling of White storylines versus PoC storylines has been justifiably criticised by viewers. Plus, Annie frequently misuses AAVE and is consequently (in my opinion) extremely cringey. (Which is a word I usually hate but, hey, if the shoe fits...)
I also find Beth to be a hypocritical, irritating character, although I'm sure she has many fans. I hope you like slow motion close-ups on a completely emotionless face, because she serves a lot of those, along with the perpetual belief that she's a poor, downtrodden mother whose problems are caused by everyone else, rather than her own determination to commit crimes. People of colour, particularly, fall afoul of her victim complex.
In season 3, Lucy is introduced. She is a kind, intelligent, talented, and law-abiding woman. Beth decides she will blackmail Lucy into committing a crime, chiefly through stealing and threatening to harm Au Jus, Lucy's beloved pet bird.
After Lucy is violently murdered, because Beth involved her in criminal activity, Beth... keeps Au Jus. Now that Lucy is dead, Beth immediately considers herself entitled to keep Lucy's pet, not hesitating in the slightest to hoard a precious piece of Lucy's life now that she's gotten the younger woman killed. In fact, she gives Au Jus to her own kids and renames the bird Dorito, instead of returning Au Jus to Lucy's surviving partner, who descends into paranoid depression after losing both his girlfriend and their treasured pet. The only reason she eventually gives Au Jus back is because her theft is discovered.
If I wasn't writing this review, I would've stopped watching following Lucy's murder. I found the handling of her storyline utterly gross. Beth fucking sucks, and from that point onward I struggled to give a shit about any of the challenges she came up against.
With two of the main characters being a sexually inappropriate creep (Annie) and an irredeemable egotist who annoys the fuck out of me (Beth), it became very difficult to watch for the sole trans character, especially since he's a supporting character rather than a main one. Based on my experience alone, I wouldn't recommend watching Good Girls.