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Women, Feminism, and Pop Politics

From “Bitch” to “Badass” and Beyond

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Edited By Karrin Vasby Anderson

Women, Feminism, and Pop Politics: From "Bitch" to "Badass" and Beyond examines the negotiation of feminist politics and gendered political leadership in twenty-first century U.S. popular culture. In a wide-ranging survey of texts—which includes memes and digital discourses, embodied feminist performances, parody and infotainment, and televisual comedy and drama—contributing authors assess the ways in which popular culture discourses both reveal and reshape citizens’ understanding of feminist politics and female political figures. Two archetypes of female identity figure prominently in its analysis. "Bitch" is a frame that reflects the twentieth-century anxiety about powerful women as threatening and unfeminine, trapping political women within the double bind between femininity and competence. "Badass" recognizes women’s capacity to lead but does so in a way that deflects attention away from the persistence of sexist stereotyping and cultural misogyny. Additionally, as depictions of political women become increasingly complex and varied, fictional characters and actual women are beginning to move beyond the bitch and badass frames, fashioning collaborative and comic modes of leadership suited to the new global milieu. This book will be of interest to students and scholars interested in communication, U.S. political culture, gender and leadership, and women in media.

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8. Relying on or Repudiating Stereotypes: Saturday Night Live Parodies of Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton (Erika Falk)

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8. Relying on or Repudiating Stereotypes: Saturday Night Live Parodies of Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton

Erika Falk

Israel Institute

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Saturday Night Live ran a sketch in which Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was depicted as calm, experienced, competent, knowledgeable, and smart. In the skit, she was portrayed as having a sophisticated understanding of foreign affairs and the ability to keep cool during an international crisis. She was also depicted as strong, commanding, and authoritative. However, the skit was framed by two revealing elements: as the skit begins Clinton says, “I am Hillary Clinton and I approve this unfair and deceptive message,” and it ends with the announcer stating, “What you have seen is a dramatization based on…specious campaign talking points.”1 The message is clear; this portrayal of a competent woman in the White House is a joke. In this chapter, I engage in a critical analysis of Saturday Night Live parodies of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and argue that the humor of the sketches is based in the depiction of Clinton as violating traditional gender norms for women (i.e., submissiveness, domesticity, and purity) and thus conclude that these sketches rely on rather than repudiate traditional stereotypes and fears about powerful women.

Over the last decade, researchers seeking to better understand political communication have begun to study drama and comedy shows, noting that “the distinction between entertainment and public affairs content is not clear-cut...

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