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“In this insightful book, Cat Mahoney offers a fascinating analysis of contemporary TV dramas such as Home Fires, Land Girls and The Bletchley Circle. Developing the idea that history is told through the preoccupations of the present, she argues compellingly that these are postfeminist dramas which work through troubling ideas about heteronormative romance, domesticity, beauty and whiteness, while reinforcing the idea that feminism as a political movement is not necessary. A bold and original contribution to television studies, gender studies and popular history.”

̶ Rosalind Gill, City, University of London, UK

By examining contemporary television drama set during and immediately after the Second World War, this book illustrates the ways in which postfeminism has shaped representations of women in contemporary culture. Mahoney offers a new perspective to debates that have previously been concerned with questions of historical accuracy. She argues that depictions of women from the past in modern television drama spawn from the neoliberal postfeminist media climate which originated in the 1990s. These depictions respond to a cultural need to naturalise and de-historicise a version of neoliberal postfeminist femininity that is compatible with the current media climate and far more reflective of the concerns of the present than any “real” or lived experience of women in the past. The result of this process of naturalisation is the assertion that postfeminist values are natural and eternal, rather than a product of the 1980s economic turn and the present political moment. By identifying and interrogating postfeminist norms within four television drama series produced since the 2008 financial crash, this book argues that postfeminism is a dominant structuring force in their depiction of female characters and of the past.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Relative Tensions

Abstract
Postfeminism is not an ideological position or coherent theoretical framework that can be applied externally to the analysis of texts. Popular postfeminism is knowable only through its workings in the representation of gender in ‘postfeminist’ media texts. The introduction along with the rest of this book, therefore, seeks to identify and deconstruct a postfeminist sensibility within its source texts. It demonstrates that this postfeminist sensibility inflects representations of women from the Second World War and immediate post-war period. Because of television’s central role in the formation of cultural memory, it creates a lens through which women’s history and women’s historical identities are viewed in the present day. This postfeminist lens is thereby dehistoricised as an aspect of essential femininity and the politics of the present are cast onto the past.
Cat Mahoney

Chapter 2. Finding a Feminine Space in Female Ensemble Drama: Postfeminist Visions of Female Liberation in Land Girls

Abstract
This chapter will examine the representation of the Women’s Land Army (WLA) in the BBC series Land Girls (2009–2011). It will discuss the drama in the context of the postfeminist media climate in which it was created and as an example of female ensemble drama (FED). Thinking about the potential of FED, it will explore the concept of women’s history on television and the possibilities created when male characters are de-centred. It will consider the ways in which Land Girls utilises its affiliation with ‘women’s genres’ to generate realism that is not reliant on historical accuracy. Through this affiliation postfeminist norms are dehistoricised and woven into the cultural mythology and memory of the Second World War.
Cat Mahoney

Chapter 3. The Horror of Transgressive Femininity in The Bletchley Circle

Abstract
This chapter will examine The Bletchley Circle’s depictions of femininity in crisis that manifest as a result of deviation from the postfeminist script. In Bletchley, these crises can only be resolved through an acceptance of and adherence to postfeminist gender norms. In its representation of its characters’ attempts to reject or move outside the normative boundaries of postfeminism, Bletchley demonstrates the futility of the attempted alternatives. With reference to aspects of horror scholarship, this chapter will discuss the series’ depiction of gender as a whole and particularly the depiction of Susan, the series’ ostensible main character. In this way, it will seek to demonstrate the ways in which the space outside of postfeminism and those who willingly occupy it are constructed as dangerous, deviant and destructive.
Cat Mahoney

Chapter 4. Marvel’s Agent Carter: [Peggy Punches Him in the Face]

Abstract
In discussing Agent Carter, this chapter will explore the ways in which the series’ historical setting, as well as its location within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), facilitates its apparently ‘feminist’ tone. It will demonstrate that Agent Carter’s construction of a pleasurable yet politically empty version of second wave feminism simultaneously affirms feminist discourses and yet undermines their political goals. Drawing on scholarship around female spies, female action heroes and postfeminist gender identities, it will discuss the depiction of Peggy Carter as a viable feminist hero, yet one whose narrative depiction is constrained by the ideological and aesthetic ideals of postfeminism.
Cat Mahoney

Chapter 5. Home Fires: Deconstructing the Domestic Ideal

Abstract
This chapter will argue that Home Fires depicts and endorses postfeminist norms, such as domesticity, the privileging of heterosexual marriage and motherhood, and the terror of the single woman, despite its setting in a pre-second wave feminist time. It will suggest that depictions of masculinity and fatherhood are central to the series’ construction of postfeminist femininity. In its depiction of an apparent ‘pre-feminist’ idyll, this chapter will argue that Home Fires is a postfeminist text that employs nostalgia to establish a trajectory for postfeminism. Consequently, the series suggests the possibility of a journey from pre-feminism to postfeminism without the need for the disruption of second wave feminism in between.
Cat Mahoney

Backmatter

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