Why 'Barry’s' Sally Reed Is So Important

When my roommates and I started watching Barry, an HBO dramedy about an honorably discharged-soldier-turned-hitman, it was due to our unanimous love for comedian Bill Hader. Upon binging the series, I found a new love in Sarah Goldberg’s character, Sally Reed.

Sally Reed is introduced as a small-town girl trying to make it as an actress in Los Angeles. Initially given little backstory, she assumes the archetype of an all too familiar, self-obsessed white girl.

Sally Reed is unapologetically ambitious. I won’t deny that she has abrasive tendencies, but many watchers don’t give her credit where credit is due.

While Reed may be heavily flawed, her talents and positive attributes go commonly unnoticed.

These arguable complexities within her character are potential for great conversation, yet many viewers write her off as obnoxious and selfish.

Throughout the second season, the writers of Barry begin to provide more insight into why Sally Reed is the way she is.

After leaving an abusive relationship in her hometown, it is clear that Reed took big risks in order to pursue this passion.

While this doesn’t entirely dismiss some of her actions, it does give weight to her complete opposition to failure.

It’s unfortunate how many critics write off her determination to succeed as such a toxic trait.

As someone who is also pursuing a career within a creative field, it was inspiring to see Reed vigorously fight for what she wants.

Too often, women in television are given a backseat role in which they just watch their lives take course.

Sally Reed, while she may hurt people along the way, is undoubtedly driving her own life.

Perhaps she will more gracefully navigate her difficulties in season 3, but until then, I enjoy watching this imperfect personality unravel on camera.

When asked how she felt about playing an ‘unlikeable’ character, Sarah Goldberg responded with, “I find it so funny, because it just never occurred to me. I never read the script and thought, ‘Is she likable or dislikable?’ I just thought, ‘Oh, I know that girl.’”

In addition to the sheer relatability of Reed, Sarah Goldberg’s character also deals with past trauma.

Heavily explored in season 2, it is revealed that Reed had a physically and emotionally abusive significant other while she was still living at home.

Her acting class is given an exercise where they must choose a significant moment in their life and turn it into a script.

Reed chooses to act out the moment she left her husband, and the departure is nothing short of violent, explosive and melodramatic.

As she acts out the scene alongside Barry, the class develops misty-eyed sympathy for her past trauma and new strength.

It is later revealed not only did she repeatedly forgive her violent husband, but Reed’s exit was far less confrontational than she had depicted.

When she confesses this to Barry, it is evident that she feels a sense of shame.

I think this accurately confronts the real feelings of many women who have experienced domestic abuse.

Many survivors are angry with their past selves for not getting out sooner, but this show gives us a character who is learning how to forgive her past self.

She goes on to recreate the sketch and vulnerably share an honest, raw presentation of her experience.

This leads me to my final favorite lesson from Sally Reed.

There is a misconception that, in creative fields, stories of abuse have to have a certain amount of theatrics in order to evoke an emotional response from an audience.

Through the skit storyline, Reed realizes that just because her story is less “sassy,” her reality is still incredibly powerful and inspirational.

This creates the message that your truth doesn’t need to be anything other than that: the truth.

Sarah Goldberg expresses that with Sally Reed, “You don’t have to like her, you just have to know her. I feel like I know that girl. I’ve met that girl in LA and she’s heartbreaking because she’s not a bad person, she’s just stuck.”

Sure, Sally Reed has her flaws. But alongside those human characteristics are some really impactful lessons to be learned.