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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 2. Appropriating Feminism: The Naturalization of Patriarchal Power Structures in The Hunger Games


Soon after the release of the Kill Bill films, women in action roles appeared primarily as sole characters. Films such as Underworld (2003), Catwoman (2004), Elektra (2005), Underworld: Evolution (2006), Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009), and Avatar (2009) included dangerous dames surrounded by a mass of masculinity. At the dawn of the next decade, Salt (2010), Underworld Awakening (2012), Her (2013), Fast and Furious 6 (2013), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Maleficent (2014), and Divergent (2014) offered audiences strong female-bodied protagonists; however, unlike Kill Bill, Volumes 1 and 2, these films failed to feature a collective of strong and powerful women. In fact, the only ensemble cast of women to appear early in the decade starred in the postfeminist romantic comedy Bridesmaids (2011), in which the characters turn on each other based on petty jealousies and competition. Although the increase of female-bodied action heroes compared to the prior century may suggest feminist progress in representing women, the narrow range of portrayals proves otherwise.

The Hunger Games films (2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015) feature a strong female-bodied lead supported by additional women in active roles. As an extended series whose books and films were globally popular, The Hunger Games warrants attention. Over 100 million copies of the young adult books ←43 | 44→were printed worldwide and spent five years on the New York Times’ best-seller list (Levithan, 2018). The films, based on the best-selling books, earned a combined box office income grossing $2.9 billion worldwide (“Box office revenue,...

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