Hi M! I was wondering if you could tell us a bit more about Meredith's character? (Like you've done with Wren and Alexander). I sometimes feel like I get her, but other times I really don't. Like why did she go through the guys in the group like that? (started with James, then Richard, then Oliver) Did she just want to have sex with all the guys in the group? Did she want to pair up with the best male actor? And what has been people's general response to her as a character? Thanks!
Meredith has spent her entire life being made to think that her personal worth is dependent on her sex appeal. That is a very, very difficult lesson to un-learn, and it is a large part of the reason that she craves romantic attachment; she sees it as a form of validation. She has also spent her entire life starved for the attention and approval of the male figures in her family, so she looks for it from other men. She’s been conditioned to think (partly by the society she’s grown up in, partly by people like Gwendolyn who insist on casting and costuming her the way they do, and partly by her father’s and brothers’ disinterest) that the only reason a man would ever take an interest in her would be sexual, so that’s how she pursues it. That moment James mentions–“Decided she wanted me and assumed I wanted her, because doesn’t everyone?”–isn’t about arrogance. It’s about insecurity. (It’s remarkable how often those two things look the same.) James misrepresents it because he has his own issues with Meredith, is consistently hypercritical of her, and in this instance is actively trying to make her look bad. He’s a good representation of how men (and women) have been treating her all her life: dismissive, superior, and suspicious of her intentions. (His questions are actually not so far off from the ones you’re asking. Does she just want to have sex with everyone? Does she just want to pair up with the best male actor? None of the automatic assumptions are good or even neutral ones. Is it so crazy to think that she actually just liked them all individually at different points in time? Three people in four years is not that many, and it’s not surprising they might come from the pool of people you work most closely with. Yet we tend to leap to the worst conclusions. Food for thought.)
It’s perfectly possible I haven’t written her well enough for all this to come across, but she deserves more credit than James (and many others) give her, and that’s where Oliver comes in. Oliver, unlike James and Richard and most of the other people she’s had occasion to interact with in her life–Alexander and Filippa and even Colborne make suggestive jokes about her–does not see her as just a set of homewrecking curves walking around. And when he does catch himself treating her that way, he recognizes that behavior as (1) learned and (2) not good, and makes a conscious effort to improve that. Is he attracted to her? Absolutely. But he also respects her, and that’s the big difference.
To answer your questions about people’s responses to Meredith, they have definitely been varied, but what I think is most telling is that people who are older (and especially women who are a little bit older) tend to be more forgiving of her, and much more sympathetic. I think that’s partly because they’ve just had more time to see how how badly the world can mess young women up. Meredith has a lot of problems. She is often unpleasant and for a lot of people totally unlikable. But she’s not just a sex-crazed pretty bitch, and part of her story arc is her realizing that she’s not a sex-crazed pretty bitch, which is the role she’s been cast in, in life as onstage, time out of mind. Her life is harder than it looks, and she is more fragile than she seems.