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Dangerous Dames

Representing Female-Bodied Empowerment in Postfeminist Media


Heather Hundley, Roberta Chevrette and Hillary A. Jones

This book illuminates the rhetorical work performed by contemporary representations of a specific type of postfeminist hero who has garnered a lot of cultural capital: women who are smart, capable, physically agile and fit, and proficient with weaponry and technology. Employing critical/cultural and feminist approaches, Heather Hundley, Roberta Chevrette, and Hillary Jones engage with a range of theories including intersectionality, critical race theory, postmodernism, and posthumanism to examine a range of contemporary texts, including Kill Bill, Volumes I and II; The Hunger Games films; Wonder Woman; Atomic Blonde; Proud Mary; The Bionic Woman; Deus Ex; Dark Matter; and Caprica. Contributing to a robust existing conversation about postfeminist media as well as tracing how representation has changed in recent years, Hundley, Chevrette, and Jones contend that portrayals of dangerous dames offer limitations and opportunities for audiences. Specifically, should audiences read these characters as evidence of a postfeminist apocalypse, they may heed warnings of the limited interpretations offered. Yet as more women serve as role models and gain public attention, particularly regarding their assets and abilities, they provide important equipment for living for navigating around patriarchal constraints raised by postfeminism, neoliberalism, and humanism.

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Chapter 1. Superficial Postfeminist and Postmodern Portrayals: Hegemonic and Hypermasculine Ideologies in Kill Bill, Volumes 1 & 2


We begin this book where Bad Girls (Owen, Stein, & Vande Berg, 2007) left off at the turn of the 21st century. In their analyses of media representations of transgressive women, Owen, Stein and Vande Berg argue that women and people of color are transgressive by their very nature because they are not at the top of the “rhetorically crafted…irrefutable social hierarchy” (p. 3). We agree, and we take this a step further. We claim that media representations of women and people of color not only are transgressive—they are also dangerous. The characters studied here are action heroes and villains, hence we embrace the polysemic nature of the term “danger.” Literally, the characters we examine are dangerous to other characters by virtue of their superior abilities to fight, use weaponry, and outwit their enemy. Simultaneously, the characters are dangerous to society as they transgress the boundaries of gendered expectations and offer alternatives to traditional roles. Yet, we offer another conception for the term dangerous. At a cursory glance, the strong characters we examine in this book suggest we are in a postfeminist era, in which feminist aims of equality between men and women have been achieved.1 Upon further investigation and deeper analysis, however, we find this superficial view dangerous to the millions of audience members and fans who approach these texts with an uncritical eye. The fierce females featured in our analyses ←23 | 24→transgress norms of femininity, and by disrupting societal expectations of the alignment of gender,...

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