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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 3. Ass-Kicking Women and the Fight for Justice: Constructing a (White) Feminine/ist Icon in Wonder Woman


Constructing a (White) Feminine/istIcon in Wonder Woman

Appearing on the big screen in a time of social unrest and divisions over issues of gender and sexual equality, race, immigration, and the nation under President Trump, Wonder Woman serves as a site of cultural and political negotiation. At the end of the day, “superheroes are more than fuel for fantasies or a means to escape from the humdrum world of everyday responsibilities. Superheroes symbolize societal attitudes regarding good and evil, right and wrong, altruism and greed, justice and fair play” (Nama, 2011, p. 9). Wonder Woman spoke to the issues of the day in U.S. society. Ranking seventh of the ten highest grossing movies in 2017, the movie was directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins, itself an important achievement when 96 % of Hollywood directors are men (Smith, Choueiti, & Pieper, 2018). The movie’s opening drew women out in almost equal numbers to men—a rare accomplishment for a superhero film. Its audiences spanned generations, signifying Wonder Woman’s long-standing cultural importance.1 Sperling (2017) describes how “little girls took to theaters in gold tiaras and star-dusted shorts; older women watching the film spontaneously burst into tears when Diana pulled off her disguise and threw herself headfirst into No Man’s Land” (p. 8). Deemed an inspiration for a new generation, the film’s impacts extend beyond its still-growing profits.

Declared “a symbol of feminist revolt” in the same year Roe v. Wade changed the landscape of women’s rights (Lepore, 2015,...

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