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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 5. Hybridizing and Networking Beyond Boundaries: Cyborgs and Cognispheres in the Bionic Woman and Dark Matter


Up to this point, we have examined how dangerous dames who kick ass have been featured in films in the contemporary postfeminist media landscape. Our final two chapters extend to incorporate episodic media: television and video games. Science fiction television and games provide a robust space for exploring how gender articulates in posthuman contexts. Posthumanism complicates long-standing binaries, dualisms, and dialectics that undergirded Enlightenment humanism. Thus, like science fiction, posthumanism has the capacity to expand the horizon of possibilities for feminism.

From the ensemble of skilled assassins in Kill Bill to Mary’s fierce motherhood, the women we have analyzed so far all employ advanced, and violent, skills. Although each of these protagonists employs fierce fighting abilities that extend beyond typical human limits, of the characters discussed thus far, only Wonder Woman possesses actual superhuman powers. Our final case studies build on our consideration of how expanding ability affects the representation of gender in postfeminist media. Thus, we turn our attention to dangerous dames who have been enhanced mechanically. These added abilities emerge from technological innovation rather than superpowers or magic. We cannot all hail from Krypton, but we all have the capacity to become cyborgian or distributed throughout digital spaces.

In this chapter, we consider characters in two science fiction television shows: the Bionic Woman reboot and Dark Matter. These women find themselves with superhuman abilities due to technological augmentations imposed upon them without their explicit knowledge or consent. Thus, the ways they navigate technological modification...

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