"The Woman in The House Across the Street from The Girl in the Window": A Perfect Portrayal of the Modern Alcoholic Woman

Holly Hanau

It’s a mouthful, I know. If you haven’t seen the original of which this series is a spoof, The Woman in The Window released on Netflix in April 2021. I recommend taking a look so you can get some context, but the show is fun regardless if you’ve seen it or not. It gave me ‘Scary Movie’ vibes, in that there were some tense moments quickly broken up by satire. The series features Kristen Bell as Anna, a divorced single mom, always with a heaping glass (I’m talking an entire bottle strategically poured) of red wine in her hand. When a handsome and single Neil (Tom Riley) moves in across the street, she’s smitten — until she becomes convinced that he murdered someone in cold blood in his home.

Image: Netflix

Every time a shot reveals Anna pouring another glass after something particularly annoying or frustrating happens to her, it sets the tone and makes it clear that she’s currently dealing with some past trauma. Although it’s an obvious exaggeration, it's an all too familiar scene for some women. With the popularisation of the "I need a glass of wine" stereotype, alcoholism in young women has steeply risen. Many studies have shown that women are drinking more heavily for one reason: to cope. Women feel the need to cope with stress from their jobs, with trauma or grief, or with everything that comes with the neverending pandemic — and they have a higher risk of developing an alcohol disorder compared to those who drink for pleasure.  

Neil tells Anna early on in the show, “grief derails things,” and it’s true. Grief can derail our plans and force us into survival mode. Heightened anxiety about the future can increase alcohol consumption and exacerbate symptoms of alcohol use disorder, and this quick fix to get through the daily stress can have devastating consequences for women long-term. Though alcohol can provide a temporary ‘solution’ to numb the pain from traumatic events or stress, it makes it difficult for us to actually cope with problems in a healthy way. It diminishes our ability to think critically and properly process emotions and feelings. 

Historically, alcohol use and abuse has been a male-dominated topic, but women are quickly closing the gap. Women who drink heavily have a higher risk of alcohol-related problems compared to men, such as liver disease, heart disease, and cognitive decline. Women weigh less than men on average, and since alcohol resides predominantly in body water, women have less water in their bodies than men. If a woman and a man of the same weight drink the same amount of alcohol, the woman’s blood alcohol concentration will be higher, putting her at greater risk for harm.

Anna mixes prescription pills with alcohol daily, which contributes to her hallucinations and inability to remember important events. She reads thriller novels which let her imagination run wild, and blacks out from excessive drinking. Many times referred to as just “a sign of a good weekend”, “blacking out” is often depicted in popular culture; even making it into the holiday calendar in some countries. The glorification of alcohol consumption has led to unhealthy and dangerous drinking habits among young people, especially women. People do things completely out of character when they’re blacked out, and may not even be able to recognize how their behaviour affects them or their loved ones. Even Anna's best friend Sloane felt the need to prioritise her friend's addiction over her own ambitions, paying for her exorbitant bail and giving up other important things in her personal life to take care of her. Anna has a few flashbacks of some terrible things she did while blacked out that later make her the primary suspect of the murder she thought she witnessed. 

Whether or not we are explicitly aware of it, we are influenced by what we are exposed to on social media, television, and music. Additionally, the rise in popularity of hard seltzer drinks over the past few years has targeted women with their fruity campaigns. We are exposed to alcohol consumption everywhere we turn, so it’s no wonder that this phenomenon has increased so dramatically. 

When we think of the stereotypical ‘alcoholic’ — an old, sordid man with a bottle of liquor in a brown bag — women tend to not second-guess their drinking habits. They don’t fit the stereotype so there’s no question to whether or not they have alcoholic tendencies. There is a lot more to alcoholism than that, and by reducing the stigma we can encourage women to get the help they need to reduce their alcohol consumption. 

The Woman in The House Across the Street from The Girl in the Window was an overall enjoyable binge (4 or more episodes in one sitting) with a hilarious and ridiculous twist at the end. It uses comedy to shine a light on some interesting questions about how modern women are dealing with stress in our ever-changing world, and we could all use  a laugh now and then.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from alcohol abuse, it’s important to have these discussions to reduce the stigma. Search online for resources in your country that can help, most are anonymous and only a phone call away.  

Holly Hanau

"What makes the human experience so incredible is that we have the power to heal one another. By sharing our stories and embracing our differences we can confront the topics and paradoxes that make life both interesting and challenging. I love learning from and working with a diverse group of women from around the globe — we can embrace the unknown and explore the unfamiliar as we all navigate this world together."
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