IN PRAISE OF KELSEY PETERS, THE TRUE POWERHOUSE OF ‘YOUNGER’
You can’t touch Peters. She has many lives.
Hilary Duff’s role as Kelsey in TV Land’s hit ‘Younger’ is the most important and entertaining to watch. Kelsey Peters has big dick energy and it’s very hot and needed. While Liza (Sutton Foster) was initially highlighted as the focus of the show, the divergence into other character developments and the narratives of supporting characters like Kelsey has been important because of the impact she’s managed to forge. She stands as a strong female figure in the corporate world, somehow navigating and balancing the struggles of co-worker conflicts, pressure from her bosses while succeeding to keep a social life intact. She makes the optics of maintaining control seem easy despite failures and many intense conflicts with assertive characters like Diana (Miriam Shor).
The troubling thing about ‘Younger’ apart from their lack of diversity (almost making it seem like there are no minorities in publishing or in all of New York except for one or two people) is that it’s often vapid and unrealistic. Liza who is played by Sutton Foster, is a 42-year-old former housewife who had to find a job after a decade of an employment gap from publishing. She tried applying for jobs with her honest resume but was rejected by almost every publishing house she applied for expect for one – but that’s because they thought she was a young 26-year-old recent graduate looking to take her first bite into the publishing industry. It’s very difficult to believe that someone would take Liza for a 20-something year old because Foster herself is a 44-year-old woman and, as beautiful as she is, she looks her age. So, in fact, the show sort of perpetuates the ageist ideas which it tries to combat by making her seem negligible and less of value because of her age. This unrealistic, painfully awkward, and problematic idea is rote throughout the entire series, from her relationship with her boss, her lying to her coworkers, to even her relationships with her friends and family. Above it all though is Kelsey, the saving grace of the show.
Kelsey is the closest thing viewers have to a firm and honest portrayal of what it takes to work hard to succeed. True, she has a lot of privilege (given that she is a young blond white woman in the U.S.A ) and a lot of luck but she also has grit. In the first few seasons alone, she shows us that she won’t allow anyone to disrespect the idea she has of herself and will not be discouraged easily. She did this when she asserted boundaries with both Liza and Charles (Peter Hermann), forcing them both to acknowledge her stature when they crossed a line by undermining her. The fantastic thing about ‘Younger’ , and the quality that makes her special is her ability to navigate all these rigid situations with tact and in a manner that leaves her with an air of control and results while also keeping her relationships unblemished.
In season 6 of ‘Younger’ , this strength is tested as she embraces the new leadership role of publisher. The role is an achievement but it has its pitfalls. Joanna (Ashley Bryant), an author who pitches her book idea to Millennial for publishing, reminds us that Kelsey may be a victim of the scapegoating of women in leadership roles. More, she faces her own form of ageism because since she is young, that is often used against her because she’s called inexperienced. But she doesn’t relent. She tries so hard to fight for her respect and career, she even puts her health at risk. Still, she has time to finesse her strength by forcing boundaries between her and her on-and-off again play mate Zain Anders (Charles Michael Lewis). When Zain crosses a line, she has no qualms about loudly speaking up her mind. She moves with so much authority and precision even in moments after she faults and makes mistakes like she did in episode 4. She can only be described as dominating.
It’s no wonder then that the other characters in ‘Younger’ pale in comparison. To put this in perspective look closely at the other roles and their character arches in comparison to Kelsey’s. Liza started of confident and a little bit dishonest but now has progressively become so deceptive, that to pacify the people around her (who may still be resentful of how much she has lied to them) she is always very careful of what she says and is scared of speaking her mind. Remember, she’s supposed to be a 42-year-old yet Kelsey has much more confident and success that she ever had. Then there’s Charles, a 40-something white man who built his career and money off his father’s empire. He’s never had to understand the reality of making it on his own and toiling to even attain a certain level of stability, so it’s easy to understand why he went from being authoritative and calm with experience to impetuous, overly emotional and as a result, fraught with bad decision making skills. In comparison, Kelsey has managed to navigate unfair working conditions due to his favoritism toward Liza, yet still asserting herself in her career enough to even be in the running for a higher position of power. Meanwhile Charles is going through a midlife crisis and competing against his own people.
Diana, like Josh (Nico Tortorella) is too naive and quick to trust; too open with her heart and is often hurt as a result. Apart of that, like Maggie (Debi Mazar) and Lauren Heller (Molly Bernard), Diana and Josh have very little character developments, they keep making the same mistakes and they progressively grow but is slow. This is why Kelsey’s exponential development from being just another background character like the aforementioned people is so remarkable. Every sentiment she delivers is done with a lot of weight. She grew from a hard-core party girl who was lost, barely making it and living with her friends’ parents rent free (she couldn’t afford rent and food) to a publisher. Isn’t that outstanding? No wonder Lauren feels the need to get her and Kelsey more space at the bar. She deserves it. Make room for Kelsey’s ‘huge psychic shillong’ and deal with it.