Invocations of feminism: cultural value, gender, and American quality television

Havas, Julia Eva (2016) Invocations of feminism: cultural value, gender, and American quality television. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the emergence of a trend in American post-millennial television often described in journalistic discourses with the term ‘feminist quality TV’. While the strategic reliance on feminist politics is a historically established method in American television to promote certain programming’s cultural value, the cultural specificities of the early 21st century deem this phenomenon unique enough for an in-depth study. The emergence of ‘feminist quality television’ is governed by the rhetorical subversion of two phenomena simultaneously: the much-debated development of the era’s masculine-coded ‘quality television’ culture on the one hand, and the dominance of ‘postfeminist’ popular culture on the other.
Post-millennial ‘quality television’ culture cultivates the idea of aesthetic-generic hierarchies among different types of scripted programming. This category’s development has facilitated academic interest in television texts’ evaluative analysis based on aesthetic merit, an approach that other strands of TV scholarship contest for sidestepping the gendered and classed processes of canonisation informing the phenomenon. By the mid-2010s, the debate between aesthetic versus political analysis had intensified in television studies. The thesis intervenes in this by arguing for a synthesis of approaches that does not further foster already prominent processes of canonisation, but interrogates the cultural forces underlying them. Via detailed analyses of four programmes emerging within the ‘feminist quality TV’ trend, namely 30 Rock (2006-2013), Parks and Recreation (2009-2015), The Good Wife (2009-2016), and Orange Is the New Black (2013-), it seeks to understand how they mediate their cultural significance by negotiating formal-aesthetic exceptionalism and a politicised rhetoric around a ‘problematic’ postfeminism, thus linking ideals of political and aesthetic value. The ultimate purpose of this research is to demonstrate the necessity in television analysis of unpacking both the specific genderedness of television’s cultivation of aesthetic value, and the context of aesthetics and form in which the programmes’ political implications emerge.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Gillian Aldus
Date Deposited: 30 Mar 2017 11:42
Last Modified: 30 Mar 2017 11:42
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/63135
DOI:

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