Fierce Females on Television: A Cultural History

Rowman & Littlefield. Oct. 2023. 280p. ISBN 9781538165652. $36. TV
Award-winning Evelina (Sex and the City: A Cultural History) uses 10 television shows from 1994–2022 to explore feminist issues. The book begins with an overview of historical archetypes and perhaps oversimplifies the narrative trajectory by suggesting a shift from “housewives to heroines,” missing some nuances about the ways in which women characters on earlier television shows subverted gender norms or subtly drew attention to gendered double standards. The book lays out issues that women on the screen have embodied, confronted, and attacked, metaphorically murdering the images of Donna Reed and other paragons of 1950s femininity with stakes, magic, and guns, while still being well-dressed. While the shows—Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, Orphan Black, Alias, and more—support Evelina’s hypothesis about the shifting nature of women’s onscreen power, there’s an element of selection bias and a bit more plot summary than a study of this kind requires.
VERDICT More intended for fans of the shows described than feminist or cultural theorists, this is an accessible study of archetypes and their pop culture iterations. Evelina gives viewers of the featured 10 shows an excuse to binge watch some of their old favorites.
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