Monday, March 27, 2017

Are Post-Feminist Characters Actually the Worst?

I saw this article on BuzzFeed recently about the "25 of the Worst Main Characters From TV Shows" and in addition to Piper Chapman, Walter White, and Dan Humphrey (and I would add Lucas Scott to my personal list) the two main characters from Girls and Sex and the City also made the list. According to BuzzFeed and their users, both Hannah Horvatt and Carrie Bradshaw are annoying, self-centered, and needy women and I began to wonder if this is what our TV representations of women have become? According to Angela McRobbie, post-feminism is defined as the process in which the feminist accomplishments of the 1979 and 1980s have “come to be undermined” (255). McRobbie continues by saying: “[post-feminism] proposes that through an array of mechanisms, elements of contemporary popular culture are perniciously effective in regard to this undoing of feminism, while simultaneously appearing to be engaging in a well-informed and even well-intentioned response to feminism” (255). If we look at these two characters it is easy to see them as well-rounded and accomplished women. They are both college-educated, are actively pursuing their careers, and are sexually liberated individuals. However, upon closer examination, do either of them really exemplify a completely positive representation of a modern woman? I know I have quite the soft spot for Carrier, or at least Carrie’s closet, but upon closer consideration I would have to say probably not. Each woman has her moments as a well-rounded individual and are in ways representative of current women, but overall their flaws tend to outweigh their positive attributes therefore not fully allowing them so serve as positive representations of female characters.     

1 comment:

  1. I think the question that you pose is an interesting one: are the representations of women in these shows actually positive? I’m thinking mostly through Girls in relation to your question (because I’ve hate-loved kept up with the entire series), and how the show demonstrates a lot of McRobbie’s notions of “undoing of feminism” through disavowal. The show, it seems to me, is primarily invested in trying to show the complexities/flaws/nuances of their primary female characters—to the point that there are moments when the show seems to be ironically parodying itself. That is, deploying what seems to be either a self-critique or persistence in the face of its critiques. I’m thinking of the critiques for the first season in regards to its all-white cast. This leads Lena Dunham to introduce a fleeting love-fling for her character Hannah with a black male character, only to have him be written out after one episode. Is this show embodying its own critique by very explicitly enticing the viewers with a black character and then kicking him off, or is it not this self-aware and is simply perpetuating its casting problem? The larger point here is that a show like Girls seems to really complicate the idea of “positive representation.” As it embraces a lot of postfeminist tropes and ideology (as our authors have told us: individualism, sexual agency, etc.), it seems to do so through the complicated registers of irony, parody, and self-awareness. And perhaps these modes are the most emblematic of the postfeminist move to “undo feminism.”

    As Girls nears a series end, I’ve also been very intrigued by how the show attempts to rehabilitate and recuperate its characters after many seasons of being—quite bluntly—horrible people. Hannah, for instance, is now expecting to be a mother, and for the first time, we see Hannah becoming a character viewers care for and sympathize with. There seems to be a larger ideological move happening here about white single motherhood and its function to soften some of the instances of postfeminism-gone-awry (i.e. not simply having individual agency but being too self-absorbed). I would love to think through this connection further.