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The "Smart Girl" Trope in Media Perpetuating Unrealistic Expectations

Smart girls are all the rage these days - the "smart girl" trope in popular media is becoming a staple of modern television. Some common characters such as Rory Gilmore, Alex Dunphy, Hermione Granger, Lisa Simpson, and Lindsay Weir embody this trope, representing ambitious and intellectually driven young women. However, the normalization of these characters raises questions about their impact on viewers. Does the "smart girl" trope offer inspiration and the potential to achieve greatness, or does it foster unrealistic expectations for academic success?

Be it Annabeth Chase, Blaire Waldorf, or any other “smart girl” portrayed in media, these characters are intentionally exaggerated, designed to get a laugh out of an audience, or add a dramatic flair to the storyline – not being necessarily accurate. But scrolling through hours of “Rory Gilmore Aesthetic” or “studying like Spencer Hastings” TikToks makes one realize that “smart girls” don’t just fulfill their onscreen roles; they inspire young girls to be their "smart girl" idols, despite their completely unrealistic depictions.

Therefore, as the trope becomes more common, it’s easier to blur the line between fiction and reality, causing one to relate to these characters on a personal level. When Rory Gilmore pulls an all-nighter to study for a Chilton exam, we, being impressed, may do the same, disregarding the practical limitations of such behavior. When we see everything that Alex Dunphy puts herself through to get into CalTech, we may find ourselves feeling as though we are not doing enough. Either way, it is easy to feel like you’re not living up to your full potential when someone onscreen seems to be working ten times harder than you, and being ten times more successful, even though these people have unlimited time to devote to achieving. Because they aren’t real. Although scrolling through aesthetically pleasing academic montage videos makes you feel as though you should put in more effort to live your “Rory Gilmore Era”, it is important to realize that popular media has tricked us into academically competing with young women who don’t even exist.

The "smart girl" trope in media presents a double-edged sword. While it has the potential to inspire and empower viewers, it also perpetuates unrealistic expectations and can contribute to academic and mental health pressures. Hence, it is important to recognize that we are not fictional characters; we are real individuals with unique circumstances and limitations.

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Interesting read! I do agree that the smart girl trope is harmful to a certain degree, for example, Rory Gilmore's style of extensive studying and then also drinking insane amount of caffeine does propose that one needs to be pulling all nighters and drinking coffee in order to succeed and get admission into ivy leagues, in doing so, the harmful effects of sleep deprivation or even caffeine are never talked about and Rory Gilmore has become an inspiration for many young girls. With Alex Dunphy's character, I feel like she studies to prove that she is good at something to the point where she also starts having these tantrums and I do not think that such is always the case…


It's interesting you've mentioned Alex Dunphy and Hermione Granger, because I was just thinking about the beauty and brains balance. Alex Dunphy states quite clearly that its okay that shes not pretty like Haley (her sister) because shes the smart one, and Hermione apparently puts so much work into sleeking down her bushy hair for the Yule Ball (Book 4). This gives us the idea that if you're smart, you're not pretty, and if you're pretty, you're not smart (see: blonde bimbos). It's crazy.


A very interesting read Khadija! Plus I really like how you highlighted the implications of this trope in detail through Rory’s example because she’s always the poster child for studying. However, in the context of Annabeth chase or Blair; I think their characters are portrayed with more depth and complexity rather than just being reduced to their academic rigour. Plus they also showcase the multifaceted nature of intelligence, promoting the idea that intelligence is not always limited to being booksmart.


I love how much I could relate to this read. The way these characters are portrayed, we begin to overestimate ourselves greatly but I have been able to notice situations when I'm able to balance out my mental health with overexertion and while that is a slippery slope, it does tend to bring out the best of me that i believe a reserved laidback version of me might not. It's just essential for one to be able to recognize just how much fuel they have left in the tank and this post is amazing to put that into perspective. (Wish i could enter the flow state while doing my readings smh)


very insightful! This post provided a new perspective and interpretation of academic excellence in the lives of women. Although i would feel as if i am not putting in enough effort, i thought it was not doing anything harmful. i felt that it was only pushing me to work harder but i can now see that it was only making me question my abilities.

I would also like to add that along with the overly ambitious smart girl image that is often portrayed on screen, the girl's life seems to center around that only. they are often times shown as rather clueless girls that are not liked or fancied by anyone and are often bullied. This only sends a negative…

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