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A Brief Survey of Gallerinas in Pop Culture

The gallerina is everywhere. Over the past several years, the female art gallery assistant has subtly slipped herself into a host of rom-coms, Candace Bushnell-esque chick lit, and sitcoms about independent women trying to make it in the big city. Now, the stock character is getting her own reality show. Bravo recently released the trailer for its new series Gallery Girls, which premieres August 13 and follows the lives of young women in the New York City art world.

So what about the female gallery assistant makes her such a popular female trope? In a hilarious excerpt from Mindy Kaling’s book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? that was featured in The New Yorker, Kaling deems the art gallery assistant a popular rom-com specimen because of her posh pedigree and vague, unthreatening career. The gallery girl also plays another important function in the realm of female-geared media, as a sort of balance to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl; while both are creative, the Gallerina is as focused and ambitious as the MPDG is whimsical and carefree. After the jump, we’ve rounded up our favorite gallerinas in pop culture as a quick study of this 21st-century archetype.

Charlotte York, Sex in the City

The character that started it all, Charlotte brought the vague career of “art world girl” into the TV-watching mainstream. Aesthetically, Charlotte fits the gallerina cliché to a tee. With her classic bone structure, perfect Kate Middleton hair, and tailored clothing, she’s always perfectly polished — and that, more than any specific detail of her work, seems to define her professional life for the purposes of the show.

Beth Martin, When in Rome

Not familiar with this romantic comedy? That’s understandable; it’s pretty awful even by rom-com standards. In the film, the wonderful Kristen Bell is utterly wasted as a young and rising curator at the Guggenheim. She is motivated, ambitious, and a bit anal. Frazzled about an upcoming show, Beth jumps through hoops and experiences mini-meltdowns to make sure it goes off swimmingly. Yup, that’s the gallerina archetype all right — career-driven to a fault.

Brooke Meyers, The Break-Up

Jennifer Aniston’s Brooke feels like she is neglected and unappreciated by her boyfriend. Her boyfriend Gary (Vince Vaughn) thinks she’s a controlling perfectionist and wants some time away from her constant nagging. As we notice when Brooke throws a fit when Gary doesn’t help her clean up, gallerinas like to keep everything in its place. They are perfectionists both at work and in the privacy of their own homes.

Marnie Michaels, Girls

When Girls was inevitably compared to Sex and the City, many inevitably pegged Marnie as the younger, modern-day version of Charlotte. But Marnie contributes more to the gallery girl archetype than just her looks. Unlike her unemployed friends, she’s financially successful, put together, and plays life by the book. But after a surprising change in outlook during the season’s final episodes, we’re curious to see if Marnie breaks the Type A mold and gives us an entirely new kind of gallerina in Season 2.

Hannah, Made of Honor

In Made of Honor, Hannah (Michelle Monaghan) is independent, in control, and a devoted to her job at an art museum. What makes her the perfect embodiment of the gallery girl archetype is the type of men she attracts, ranging from a Scottish Duke to a rich coffee entrepreneur. Unlike the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, art world girls don’t attract the lost, sensitive boy who needs help finding the light in life. They simply don’t have the time or patience for that.

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