cover image Fierce Females on Television: A Cultural History

Fierce Females on Television: A Cultural History

Nicole Evelina. Rowman & Littlefield, $36 (280p) ISBN 978-1-5381-6565-2

This entertaining study from novelist Evelina (Sex and the City) surveys how, since the mid-1990s, a new crop of shows has centered around “stronger” and “more independent” female leads than the medium had previously seen. She suggests that such shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias, and Jessica Jones foreground the concerns of ordinary women, even when their protagonists have extraordinary abilities, marking a shift from the working mothers (Clair Huxtable in The Cosby Show) or unrelatable superheroes (The Bionic Woman) that had been the norm. Buffy, Evelina argues, was a “poster child” for third-wave feminism, remarkable for both her “determination to make her place in the world on equal terms with men” and for her relatability (the supernatural plotlines, Evelina suggests, allegorized boyfriend troubles and other trials of growing up). According to Evelina, Agent Carter and Orphan Black use extraordinary circumstances to explore questions of equality and autonomy, with the former focusing on the eponymous character’s efforts to be taken seriously by her male colleagues at the fictional CIA-esque agency she works for, and the latter depicting women clones striving to free themselves from the control of the biotech corporation that owns them. The analysis is smart, though the opening section introducing the shows’ characters and major plotlines with minimal commentary is a bit of a slog. Still, fans will enjoy the fresh insights into some old favorites. (Oct.)