I am warrior woman, hear me roar

I am warrior woman, hear me roar

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I am warrior woman, hear me roar the challenge and reproduction of heteronormativity in speculative television programs
Clark, Leisa Anne
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[Tampa, Fla]
University of South Florida
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Second wave
Third wave
Dissertations, Academic -- Women's Studies -- Masters -- USF ( lcsh )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


ABSTRACT: This paper explores how the "warrior woman" trope in western culture, as portrayed in late 20th century science fiction/fantasy and speculative television, reflects heteronormative/heterosexist discourses of femininity in American culture. First, I will examine feminine discourse in American culture, especially in the late 20th century. Then I will discuss how the tenets of second and third wave feminism influenced western paradigms of "the ideal female" and impacted pop culture by producing "warrior women" who both reflected and challenged heteronormative ideas and feminist principles. By examining several television shows produced in the United States and Great Britain from the late 1960s to 2007, I hope to show how the warrior woman trope has grown and changed under the influence of feminism and 20th century values.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2008.
Includes bibliographical references.
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Title from PDF of title page.
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Document formatted into pages; contains 66 pages.
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by Leisa Anne Clark.

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I am warrior woman, hear me roar :
b the challenge and reproduction of heteronormativity in speculative television programs
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by Leisa Anne Clark.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 66 pages.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2008.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
3 520
ABSTRACT: This paper explores how the "warrior woman" trope in western culture, as portrayed in late 20th century science fiction/fantasy and speculative television, reflects heteronormative/heterosexist discourses of femininity in American culture. First, I will examine feminine discourse in American culture, especially in the late 20th century. Then I will discuss how the tenets of second and third wave feminism influenced western paradigms of "the ideal female" and impacted pop culture by producing "warrior women" who both reflected and challenged heteronormative ideas and feminist principles. By examining several television shows produced in the United States and Great Britain from the late 1960s to 2007, I hope to show how the warrior woman trope has grown and changed under the influence of feminism and 20th century values.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Advisor: Marilyn Myerson, Ph.D.
Second wave
Third wave
Dissertations, Academic
x Women's Studies
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
4 856
u http://digital.lib.usf.edu/?e14.2355


I am Warrior Woman, Hear Me Roar: The Challenge and Reproduction of Heteronormativity in Speculative Television Programs by Leisa Anne Clark A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of Womens Studies College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Ma rilyn Myerson, Ph.D. Kathryn Weedman Arthur, Ph.D. Frances Auld, Ph.D. Sara Crawley, Ph.D. Date of Approval: March 6, 2008 Keywords: feminism, second wave, third wave, gender, femininity Copyright 2008, Leisa Anne Clark


Dedication To the PaleoNerds for the coffee and tea, talking me down from the ledge and for recognizing that chocolate a nd laughter will cure anything.


Acknowledgements This thesis could not have been comp leted without the help of many people: Thank you to Marilyn for everything you have done for me during my semesters as a graduate student: for always knowing when I needed a hug, for having confidence in me and for always having an open ear and an open heart. Thank you to my wonderful committee, Sara, Kathy and Frances, for bearing with me as I traveled this long road from I want to l ook at women in science fiction to this final thesis. You have all inspired me to th ink outside of my co mfort zone and beyond. Thank you to Amanda for applying copious discounts to my DVD purchases and calling me when used copies of televisi on shows appeared at the store. Thank you to Mom and Dad for encouraging me to do anything I wanted, even if it meant being a 30+ year old student! Thank you to Ruth and Rene for many year s spent writing almost-good space operas and parodies of the televisions show s I reference in this thesis. Thank you to Erin Gray for allowing me to talk your ears off at several MegaCon Conventions, and for giving me some intere sting background information about working in television in the 1970s and 1980s. Thank you to my Live Journal Friends for bei ng with me through all of this, for offering constructive criticism and a lot of support. And most of all, I want to thank Sally fo r always knowing when it was necessary to pull me away from the computer, but also sensing when I needed to be left alone to work. Thank you for loving me and inspiring me to go way beyond our original plan for just an AA. I love you!


i Table of Contents Abstract ii Chapter One: Introduction 1 Categorically Astounding Genres 3 Literature Review: Let There Be Woman 5 Findings and Discussion: The Heteronormative Paradigm 8 Second Wave Feminism and 1970s Television 13 Chapter Two: Methods 19 Chapter Three: The 1970s: Disco Warrior Women 22 A Woman in Disguise 25 “Who” am I This Time? 31 Model Warriors 33 Chapter Four: The 1980s Backlash: Wh ere Have All the Warriors Gone? 40 Chocolate, Body-suits and Gossiping on the Bridge 43 Chapter Five: Welcome to the Future 46 Performing Woman 52 Xena: Warrior Feminist 54 Buffy the Barbie Slayer 56 Chapter Six: Conclusion 58 Where Do We Go From Here? 60 Works Cited 61


ii I am Warrior Woman, Hear Me Roar: The Challenge and Reproduction of Hete ronormativity in Speculative Television Programs Leisa Anne Clark ABSTRACT This paper explores how the ”warrior woman” trope in western culture, as portrayed in late 20th century science fiction/fantasy a nd speculative television, reflects heteronormative/heterosexist discourses of femi ninity in American culture. First, I will examine feminine discourse in American culture, especially in the late 20th century. Then I will discuss how the tenets of second and third wave feminism influenced western paradigms of “the ideal female” and impact ed pop culture by produc ing “warrior women” who both reflected and challenged heteronorma tive ideas and feminist principles. By examining several television s hows produced in the United St ates and Great Britain from the late 1960s to 2007, I hope to show how the warrior woman trope has grown and changed under the influence of fe minism and 20th century values.


1 Chapter One: Introduction “Why does Mrs. Robinson always have to cook and clean? Why can ’t she go out and explore with the men? Even her son, who is younger than me, gets to go out and have fun.” – Excerpt from personal diar y, Leisa Clark, 1979 (age 11). When I was growing up in the 1970s, I wa s only peripherally aware of feminism and women’s rights activism, but I knew enough to be concerned about the women I saw on television. My parents limited our exposur e to television during the school week, but my sisters and I had control over what we watched on the weekend, especially on Saturday mornings. Even as a little girl, I did not enjoy cartoons, so I waited until the afternoon to watch reruns of shows like Lost in Space (1965-1968) and Star Trek (19661969). While watching the 1960s version of the future, I grew increasingly troubled by the options presented for young women in th e next century: It seemed as though my choices were limited to receptionist or housew ife…in space. Even without the discourse to identify and explore why these issues we re problematic, I became increasingly aware of the messages inherent in the programs th at I was watching. These messages told me that to be a “woman” in contemporary west ern culture, I had to be young, thin, ablebodied, white, and heterosexual, and that my career choices would be limited in the future. It was not until I was ol der that I began to ask “why?” Adrienne Rich suggests that we exist in a paradigm of compulsory heterosexuality that is a major organizing principle in our culture (241). She asks that we look at heterosexuality as being historically situated (an idea echoed by Foucau lt), yet constantly reinforced by a culture that rewards individu als who fail to challenge the rules. Monique


2 Wittig and Marilyn Frye both challenge no tions of heteronormativity by asking what defines a woman (Wittig 103; Frye 97). Wittig, Fr ye et al challenge us to look outside of the constraints put on identity by western culture. One may think that a TV show that chooses as its setting a futurist ic or fantasy world might find this a way to be freed from social mores. This should be liberating! Th e problem is that before one can challenge those roles, first one must understand that ge nder discourses are so cially constructed. Under an essentialist view that there is an immutable, innate and transhistorial “femaleness”, taking the contemporary rules fo r female behavior and applying them to the future makes sense. NOT challenging how gender is performed is easier than understanding gender conformity based on culture and social order. Here I explore the more complex understanding of gender as soci ally constructed in television discourses. During the past forty years, Science Fi ction and Fantasy television shows have held a dominant place in network and cab le programming. More than any other programs on television, those in the Science Fi ction/Fantasy genres have challenged the “function” of women in contemporary west ern culture by reflecting and projecting gender into futuristic or fantastic set tings; however, even as they challenge heteronormativity and white, heterosexual west ern culture, often these programs end up reinforcing the mores and values they set out to critique. Each of the programs I examined for this study, specifically late 20th century American and British television shows featuring warrior women as primary characters, support my hypothesis that western cultural ge nder paradigms are reflected by television, even within the structures of Science Fiction and Fantasy.


3 This paper explores how the “warrior woman” trope in western culture, as portrayed in late 20th century science fiction/fantasy a nd speculative television, reflects heteronormative/heterosexist discourses of femi ninity in American culture. First, I will examine feminine discourse in American culture, especially in the late 20th century. Then I will discuss how the tenets of second and third wave feminism influenced western paradigms of “the ideal female” and impact ed pop culture by produc ing “warrior women” who both reflected and challenged heteronorma tive ideas and feminist principles. By examining several television s hows produced in the United St ates and Great Britain from the late 1960s to 2007, I hope to show how the warrior woman trope has grown and changed under the influence of feminism and 20th century values. Categorically Astounding Genres Speculative fiction is a broader category that include s both science fiction and fantasy, but also can include ho rror and adventure stories. As a genre, science fiction has existed for at least one hundred years. Th ere is no moment everyone can agree upon for when it began, although I find that I agree w ith Justine Larbalesti er, who writes that science fiction is “something that is publishe d as science fiction and read as science fiction (so therefore) is science fiction” (emphasis in original, xvi). While this might not be the most elucidating of desc riptions, to fans of the genre, it is apt. Science fiction challenges the boundaries of what we perceive as “normal” or “familiar” by looking at the present and imagining a future. Most people probably think of science fiction as taking place in outer space and/or in the fu ture, filled with robots and technological


4 wonders and aliens. But at its core, science fiction is about conject ure. It is about imagination and an attempt to understand our worl d by looking at others. Most of all it is about “actions and events that have not yet occurred within the realm of human experience but conceivably might” (Weedman 6). Science fiction and fantasy are often sepa rated into two distinct categories, with the former being more scientific and “reality”-based, and the latter existing in the spaces of complete imagination, where one fi nds unicorns, dragons and magic-wielding sorcerers. Fantasy, as described by Weedma n, “centers around events and characteristics that apparently cannot happen” (6), so in a sense, it is th e converse of science fiction, which suggests that the events included in the stories might be possible in the future or in an alternative universe. The distinctions may sound like mere semantics, but as genres, they are separate entities, especially on television, where fantasy is less often seen1. For the sake of this paper, I am sugges ting that all of my warrior women exist in the “speculative fiction” realm for multiple reasons. Some television programs ( Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who ) are firmly rooted in the science fiction/outer space category, whereas shows like Wonder Woman, The Secrets of Isis and Xena: Warrior Princess fall in the cracks between fantasy and adventure. Arguably, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The X-Files can be viewed as “horror”, while Firefly is best described by wr iter/creator Joss Whedon as “a mixture of genres, a Stagecoach kind of drama with a lot of people tryi ng to figure out their lives in a bleak 1 Fantasy is usually relegated to “children’s televi sion”. I believe this is primarily because unicorns, dragons, magic and fairies are asso ciated with children in American culture. Any programs featuring magical creatures such as these are generally cartoons or low-budget shows aimed at children, such as H.R. Pufnstuf (1969-1971), Land of the Lost (1974-1976) and Power Rangers (1993-present). It is beyond the scope of this paper to examine all of the fantasy television shows produced for children from the 1960s forward.


5 and pioneer environment” (6). These are a ll speculative fiction categories, and for the sake of clarity in this paper, they serve the purpose of uniting all of my subjects under one rubric. This is not to discount scien ce fiction, fantasy, horro r and adventures as individual categories, but to unite them by their similarities rather than separate them for their differences. Literature Review: Let There Be Woman ”It seems to me that Wilma (Deering) should have all the power because she’s a general but instead, she takes orders from Buck. Why does she do that when she’s supposed to be in charge and he isn’t even from that centu ry? It doesn’t make sense.” – excerpt from personal diary, Leisa Clark, 1980 (aged 12) As a child and young teenager, I was expos ed to multiple “warrior women” on television, as speculative fiction in all its forms was popular in the mid to late 1970s. At the time, it never occurred to me to wonder why these programs were so trendy: they were just there2. Later, with the advent of strong female characters on television in the 1990s, I started thinking about the heroines of my childhood, and what their roles were in creating or reflecting the “feminine ideal” for American audiences in the late 20th century. The women portrayed on television programs such as Wonder Woman, The Bionic Woman, Secrets of Isis, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Doctor Who were on the one hand, strong, independent and sexually mature, when compared with their early counterparts, Uhura on Star Trek and Maureen Robinson on Lost in Space But at the 2 While developing the historical context of warrior women is beyond the immediate scope of this paper, I recognize that warrior women are more common during different periods of history. In this case, I am noting specifically that they are prevalent on television in the 1970s and again in the 1990s.


6 same time, these very strong women were subjec t to the decisions and instructions of the men who were their employers, love inte rests or, in rare cases, coworkers. How does the late 20th century/early 21st century television “warrior woman” trope both challenge and reproduce the cont emporary heteronormative paradigm? Does the TV warrior woman continue a long traditi on of warrior women s ilenced just as she obtains true strength or is she emerging as the paradigm for the new post-modern woman? In this paper, I am using the phrase “warri or woman” to describe all of the female protagonists explored. “Warrior woman” is a specific choice because I feel that these women exemplify the characterist ics of the warrior trope in literature and history. Within myths there are certain common entities and motif s – namely the hero and the journey or quest. Traditional oral storyt elling tells the tales of powerfu l heroes, like Archilles and Hector of The Iliad Siegfried of The Nibelungenlied Roland of Le Chanson de Roland and Beowulf of Beowulf who use sword and shield to face enemies of their people. Traditionally, these heroes ar e of noble birth and are give n the tasks of saving their kinfolk from outside forces. In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell describes the archetypical hero as someone “who ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural w onder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero come s back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man” (Campbell 30). Myths and legends provide us with a motif from which to ex amine warriors, and thus, warrior women. Novelist Jewelle Gomez wrote that “the women’s movement show(s) us how much we want heroic figures” (87), suggesting perhaps that a lack of female warriors in


7 contemporary literature leaves a gap in the pop culture narrative. Human history has had a long tradition of female warriors, godde sses and Amazons, but these heroic women often degenerated to the damsel in distress prot otype with the advent of heroic fiction and epic poetry like that of Homer, Virgil, a nd the anonymous tales of Beowulf and Roland. Although often existing on the outskirts of soci ety, warrior women reflected the mores of the cultures that embraced them, often chal lenging widely held beliefs (Helford 5). Whether the women are “real” is inconse quential in mythology, they persist in the legends and folk stories over the vast hist ory of human existence. At the end of 20th century, American and British fantasy and science fiction tele vision programs reintroduced the warrior woman to millions of viewers, recreating her for contemporary audiences and reflecting current cultural values and fears. If science fiction and fantasy television s hows are representative of fantastic or futuristic settings, why does it appear that the women por trayed on these shows are bound to contemporary gender expectati ons? If we are looking at soci eties that are “not us” (i.e. future, alternate realities, fa ntastic settings), why are we us ually confined to the same gender expectations? And, very importantl y, what happens when the gender paradigms are challenged? Examining television shows as modern myth s illustrates the idea that even in a world of science and technology, humans still need these stories on some deep level. We are drawn to heroes and heroines because they seem to do great things that are beyond the reach of average, everyday people. Most of us will never take a literal journey to Oz or Middle-Earth or Dagobah, but we can join Dorothy, Frodo and Luke Skywalker because their experiences are familiar. We unde rstand the stages of change and growth


8 encountered by the hero in the stories we read and the movies we watch because each of our lives are similarly narrated as a quest. As such, it is clear that myths and heroes will remain with us for as long as we need to understand ourselves. Warrior women help us understand who we are in contemporary west ern culture because they reflect and challenge the accepted roles of women in society. Findings and Discussion: Th e Heteronormative Paradigm “I want to be another Wonder Woma n, traveling and doing something exciting! Bringing JUSTICE to a country that needs it.” excerpt from personal diary, Leisa Clark, 1983 (age 15) As suggested by West and Zimmerman, Butle r, et al, there are specific rules and requirements for how women are expected to be have in order to be considered “normal” members of society. Some of these expecta tions include marriage a nd childbirth, but also extend to mannerisms, clothing and interac tions with other indi viduals. Symbolic Anthropologists, such as Mary Douglas, sugge st that “the body is a model which can stand for any bounded system” (433). As a sy mbol of western culture, the female body becomes an object, and women portrayed on television become i ndicative of cultural values and unachievable, but greatly desired, ideals. It may also be argued that 2nd and 3rd wave warrior women both reflect and challenge the paradigms of femininity for fe male-bodied individuals, in that they do not always follow the rules, but very often confor m to expectations for gendered behaviors. They are powerful (often exhi biting supernatural or super-po werful strength and fighting skills), but they capture the bad guys while wearing skirts, low-cut tops, and very often,


9 high heels. Their powers are almost always hidden from outsiders, with few, if any, individuals knowing their secrets, so that externa lly, they appear to be secretaries, teachers, students and journalists: respectab le careers for single women of the 1970s, as well as the 1990s. Additionally, 2nd and 3rd wave feminism has been affected by the portrayals of women on television. As television is usually a reflection of the cu ltures that produce the programs, feminists, as a subgroup within the dominant culture, cannot help but be influenced by what they watch on televi sion. Young women and men growing up in the 1970s reaped the benefits of 2nd wave feminism every time they turned on a primetime drama or Saturday morning program and saw self-actualized, single women with careers as the protagonists, like Diana Prince of Wonder Woman Jaime Sommers of The Bionic Woman and Colonel Wilma Deering of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century I suggest that as adults, many of the children who watched thes e programs openly challenged tenets of 2nd wave feminism to create the 3rd wave. The definition of “woman” in western culture is subject to interpretation. Feminists, for the most part, agree with a constructionist perspect ive that “there is nothing about being female that naturally binds women” (Haraway 155) while Sandra Bartky adds “we are born male or female, but not masculine or feminine” (90). This suggests that how we look at women is not on ly constructed and s ubjective, but changes through time. The “rules of femininity have come to be culturally transmitted more and more through the deployment of standardized visual images” (Bordo 17) and what we see in 20th century media portrayals is generall y someone who is thin, young, and able-


10 bodied, someone who does not take up a lot of space, and who navigates the world in a somewhat subordinate position to the men around her. West and Zimmerman suggest that not only do we perform gender, but that others hold us accountable for how we present gender. Gender is performed in multiple ways, including dress, occupation, a nd sexual identity. In c ontemporary American culture, female-bodied individuals are expected to be have in a prescribed manner that includes being soft, gentle, quiet, and nurturing, taking up less space and never demonstrating their own powers. They are mothers or at least mothering and they are in submissive positions physically and psychologically. Addi tionally, they are expected to enter into heterosexual relationships, to marry and to eventually produce children. If West and Zimmerman are correct, we hold ourselves a nd each other accountab le to these rules every day. If we know what “female” is “suppo sed to” look like it, then we are pressured to conform to those requirements in order to be “normal” members of society, even when these rules are fantasies. In contemporary western culture, a woman is expected to be feminine and to display the behaviors asso ciated with femininity and described by cultural paradigms. Western culture is primarily binary and heteronormative, not only assuming that everyone is heterosexual, but having a vested interest in conveying that message across generations. Heteronormativity is described by Michael Warner as a “default” position in western culture, and suggests that it “has a totalizing tendency that can only be overcome by actively imagining a necessarily and desirably qu eer world” (7). It is the idea that not only does everyone want to be heterose xual, everyone “natur ally” is. Since heterosexuality is the preferred state (see Rich, Compulsory Heterosexuality ), then


11 individuals must act and react as part of the heteronormative paradigm. If they are not heterosexual, they should at least give the im pression that they are through behaviors and actions. West and Zimmerman have argued that we perform our gender and that we are accountable to one another for our gender roles, stating that “gender itself is constructed through interactions” (1 29). Children are taught gender by parents, teachers, peers and the various institutions humans put in place for control. These control mechanisms are culturally and historically embedded, with th e most dominant institutions or individuals “making the rules” and also holding ever y individual accountable to them everyday. Anyone who departs from the so cial structure may be consid ered to be an outcast or deviant. The word “woman” has historical and cultural implications. Monique Wittig suggests that “one is not born a woman”, but by and large, we “assume ‘men’ and ‘women’ have always existed and will always exist” (104) because that is how western culture labels individuals: as binary opposite s. If one is not a man, one is a woman by default. Public discussion of “woman” ofte n degenerates to an e ssentialist biological description of someone who is an adult human and female-bodied, designated by the presence of vagina and enlarged mammary gl ands (and in general a supposition that she has functioning ovaries and uterus). The simplistic and heteronormative definition of “woman” does not generally take into account women who are no longer (or never were) capable of reproduction or a woman who has e ither undergone surgery to create a female form or who inscribes “female” on her body th rough clothing, make-up and behaviors. It


12 also dismisses the experience of intersex indi viduals who are genetical ly neither male nor female, or perhaps male and female at once, creating other sex categories. Television shows that are supposed to reflect futuristic, fantasy or “other” worlds are still created as part of our cultural narrative, and as such, reinforce contemporary values. What we, as a culture, envision as “i deal” is reflected on television – we idolize and idealize certain performers because of their “perfectio n” at meeting our cultural discourses – or for their abil ity to reflect the social and cultural norms for the United States (or all English-speaking na tions in many cases). It is ea sy to think of the future or fantasy worlds in a utopian way. Accord ing to producer/writer Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future as reflected on Star Trek everything will be better – there will be gender equality and no health problems and everyone will be rich: the American dream incarnate. But often “gender equality” looks like a token woman (white or non-white) as part of the “command team” or in a lead role but dressed in mini-s kirts or tight-fitting leather. Uhura on Star Trek (1966-1969) is one infamous example of an African American woman who was placed on the Bridge of the Enterprise, wearing mini-skirts and answering the “comm” like a secretary. Pe rformer Nichelle Nichols often expressed her frustration at being a “glorified telephone operator in a short skirt”, as she was well aware of her token position (she filled two roles – woman and minority) on the show (Nichols 161). She threatened to quit unless given more of a role on the show, but she reports that a conversation with Dr. Martin Lu ther King, Jr. about the impact of the show on African Americans convinced her to change her mind (Nichols 164). The sexualization of the character was troubling, but because the fashion codes of the late


13 1960s suggested that a mini-skirt was not onl y appropriate, but desirable, the few women on the show were indeed dressed in this manner. The show may have taken place 200 years in the future, but Uhura’s mini-skirts and long, painted fingernails were reflections of the values of Vietnam-era America. U hura was performing her gender, “woman”, in a way that fulfilled requirements and expecta tions of social values for female-bodied people in 1960s America. She did not pilot the Enterprise. She was not the Captain or even second in command. Uhur a was the telephone operator. Second Wave Feminism and 1970s Television Susan Douglas writes that the baby-boo mer generation (children born between 1945 and 1960) “grew up internalizing an endl ess film loop of fairy-tale princesses, beach bunnies, witches, flying nuns, bionic wo men, and beauty queens” while hearing subliminal messages “to be all these thi ngs all the time” (18). Because of mixed messages telling girls to “know a women’s pr oper place” while at the same time extolling the virtues of an education and life experi ence, young women of my mother’s generation felt a disconnect between what they were being taught, and the realities of their own mother’s lives (Douglas 42). From this disconnect came the gene ration of women who went to college in droves, wanted careers in stead of jobs, and were some of the founders of 2nd wave feminism. Although historically women (especially wo men of color) have always worked in and out of the home, in 2006 the United Stat es Census Bureau reported a sharp increase in women wage earners over the past fifty y ears, from approximately 36% (of women in


14 the labor force) in 1960 to 58% in 2000 (Clark and Weisman tle 4). According to the 19th century ideology “doctrine of the women’s sphere”, women3 were primarily responsible for everything that occurred within the home, which was their domain, while men exercised control over wages, employment and public offices (Woloch 72). Even if women did work outside the home, they did so in traditionally female positions, like seamstress, midwife, cook or maid: jobs th at were associated with the home, and therefore did not challenge the concept the doct rine of the women’s sphere or the idea of what was proper behavior for women, especially if they remained unpaid or earned very little money (Woloch 72). This changed with the onset of World War II, when due to the economy, as well as the need for war materials, women were encourag ed to explore jobs in areas that were traditionally male, such as “factories, shipyards, and steel mills” (Yellin 39). After the war, men returned wa nting their old jobs back, but “women had had a taste of making their own money and ha ving their own life outside the home, and many liked it” (Yellin 71). The tensions between expected roles for women and the “dissatisfaction felt by many middle-class hous ewives with their lot as housewives” contributed to the rise of 2nd wave feminism in the 1960s (Nicholson 1). The first wave of feminism is generally acknowledged by scholars as encompassing the time from the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Conference in 1848 to the ratification of the nineteenth amendment (g ranting National Women’s Suffrage) in 1920. After women’s suffrage was signed into la w, cultural events, such as the Great Depression of the 1930s and the United Stat es’ involvement in World War II in the 1940s, shifted the focus away from women’s rights for several decades. Some women spent the war years playing “a number of role s…war bride, military wife, career woman, 3 “Women” in this context primarily pertained to white, middle or upper class women.


15 Red Cross girl” while others “worked in defense plants” (or)…”joined the military in non-combat positions” (Yellin xiv), then after the War, many were expected to return home and take up the mantle of good wife and mother for the returning soldiers. In the book Where the Girls Are, Susan Douglas writes that her mother was one of the millions of women who found some aut onomy and freedom during World War II, then spent the successive years resenting the return to domestic ity as required by the cultural rules of the 1950s and early 1960s (47-48). Douglas, as a child of the so-called Baby Boom generation, felt the anger her mother projec ted at the mixed messages from the 1930s (“don’t steal a job from a man”) to the adm onishments that women needed to work for the War effort in the 1940s to the “backl ash against our mothers (that) began nine seconds after Japan surrendered” (47). Susan Douglas argues that growing up with a mother who felt angry at the hypocrisy of women only being allowed “the money, the sense of purpose (and ) the autonomy” of working outside the home when it was convenient for men to be a catalyst in spurring on the advent of 2nd wave feminism in the 1960s (46). Nicholson suggests that ‘something happened in the 1960s in ways of thinking about gender that continues to shape public and private life” a nd that what happened was th e Women’s Movement (1). The early 1960s were a time of cultural change and upheaval from the Cold War anxieties to the Civil Rights Movements to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to the entry of the United States into the Vietnam conflict. Women were left wondering what their place was in this new, tumultuous world. Betty Friedan’s groundbreaking The Feminine Mystique (1963) planted an ideological seed that suggested


16 women are more than just housewives and mothers; they are people who deserve a chance at professional and persona l success outside of the home. Failure to see the shift out of the home and into the labor force represented on television implies that as a medium, television is in the business of myth-making rather than reflecting common and current ideologi es. The world was changing, but for the most part, television seemed to be more conc erned with projecting a “fantasy” than the realities of life in the mid-20th century. Fictional televisions shows produced at the end of the 1960s often ignored the Cold War, the Ci vil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, the anti-War protests and feminism; concerns th at would have been on the minds of most Americans during that time. Because of the upheaval from the myriad changes in ideology and culture from the 1950s into th e 1960s and beyond, there became, in the early 1970s, a need for the juxtaposition of “r eality” with the entert ainment fantasy that television had always provide d, but television production is a business first and foremost, and the fear of offending too many viewers with “feminism” was a genuine concern (Dow xxi). Traditionally, prior to 1970, the “preferred mode of representing women in series television was as contented housewives in popular shows such as The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952-1966), Father Knows Best (1954-1963) Leave it to Beaver (1957-1963) (and) The Donna Reed Show (1958-1966)” (Dow xvii ). Media and feminist scholars such as Bonnie Dow, Susan D ouglas and Susan Faludi all point to The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977) as the advent of “feminist television”, if it can even be argued that such a thing exists. The Mary Tyler Moore Show was not only extremely popular, it presented a female protagonist w ho was not married and who had a successful


17 career in a male-dominated field (TV news cas ting). Mary was a feminist without being one of the “angry and militant radical feminists who were depicted as ugly, humorless, disorderly, man-haters desperately in need of some Nair” (Douglas 189). At age thirty “Mary (was) not a ‘girl’ biding her time un til marriage…but a woman who has chosen to pursue a career instead of a man” (Dow 30) She paved the way for other career women on television, and because she existed in a sp ace that allowed for a woman to fight for autonomy, Mary helped to la y the ground work for the women warriors who followed her half a decade later. What was it about the 1970s that that pr ovided fertile grounds for the introduction of the feminist warrior woman into popular culture? In 1975, th e Vietnam War ended after over fifteen years of conflict during which time the American people were ideologically divided4. The children of the generation who had proudly fought in World War II were questioning the legitimacy of th e United States’ involvement in Vietnam and were speaking out against the war and agains t the draft. Anti-war sentiment combined with the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Rights Movement created a very different climate from that of thirty years prior, when World War II ended in victory and triumph, producing a generation of people who benefitted socially and economically from that experience. Men who returned from Vi etnam were generally not greeted as heroes, and many were broken spiritually and physica lly. The women to whom they returned (assuming they had female partners) did not necessarily have experience with helping 4 As a child, I was aware that the Vietnam War was happening, but I knew little about it. Conversely, during World War II, everyone was asked to make s acrifices for “the boys” overseas and even children were involved in the war effort to some extent. My interviews with individuals who were children in the 1940s (for another project) suggest that this aw areness of war as a community and national event influenced children of the World War II era in a way that the Vietnam War did not impact the children of my generation.


18 broken men, but because of the changes infl uenced by 2nd wave feminism, they did have some of the tools necessary to enter the workforce and support themselves, as well as their families. The generally self-reliant and often unapologetic providers of the 1960s and 1970s were the mothers of my generati on and from these women sprang the Warrior Women who informed my childhood years.


19 Chapter Two: Methods Reinharz suggests that “a...postulate for fe minist research is using a variety of methods in order to generate multi-faceted information” (197), so in this paper, I use theory and extant literature as a lens fo r critique of contemporary culture through television. I begin my content analysis as an investigation of hete ronormativity and its influence on the characters portrayed by women in science fiction and fantasy television shows by watching, reviewing, and analyzing multiple episodes of televisions shows produced in the 1970s an d 1990s/2000s, including Star Trek Xena: Warrior Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, A lias, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, The Bionic Woman, Wonder Woman, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and The Secrets of Isis5, focusing on the strong female characters portrayed on these pr ograms. Although there have been dozens of television program s produced in the past forty years that fall under the genres science fiction/fantasy/specu lative television, I specifically chose these shows because all feature female heroines who challenge gender expectations, while at the same time performing gender in ways that reflect late 20th century/early 21st century mores. The method used for content analysis wa s to watch a sampling of entire episodes from full seasons of all of the programs I wished to analyze. With the advent of television 5 Additionally, I briefly explore Lost in Space (1965-1968 ) and Bewitched (1964-1972 ). The reason I do not delve deeper into Lost in Space and Bewitched is because although thes e shows feature female protagonists in key roles, I do not consider the women on these programs to fit th e “warrior woman” trope. Maureen, Judy and Penny Robinson were firmly rooted in the late 1950s-early 1960s ideology that said women should be homemakers and mothers only. Samant ha Stevens is the antithesis of a warrior woman: she was a very powerful witch who deliberately tried not to use her powers because the powers emasculated her husband.


20 series on DVD, I was able to view programs multiple times when needed. I took copious notes while watching these ep isodes, specifically looking fo r behaviors, comments and interactions with other characters that woul d illustrate how the wo men in these programs reflect or challenge heteronormative paradigms6. I did not use charts or graphs, but I had a list of key terms, including, “heteronorma tive”, “warrior”, “feminine”, “feminist”, “sexualized”, “motherhood/nurturer” and “het erosexual”. These terms helped to set a framework for analysis, as I was specifically looking at the characte rs and their behaviors within the scope of the televi sion shows and the shows’ settin gs. It is important to note that historical context was always ta ken into account: I could not apply 21st century values to a television program produced in 1969, but I could cri tique the prevailing cultural mores reflected at different time pe riods, especially when those values are still familiar to contemporary audiences because they have not entirely changed. My content analysis explores how women are portrayed on these shows, specifically whether or not, and how, they challenge or reinforce heteronormative paradigms. In particular, I examine their relationships with others (both sexual and platonic), their functi ons as caregivers and mothers, and their behaviors as “warriors”. In addition to my analysis deri ved from watching television progr ams, my literature review includes material written about the shows in the form of essays, scholarly papers, and books, as well as appropriate feminist and anth ropological theories pe rtaining to the topic of gender performativity and expectations. Examples from the above references television programs include strong female characters, like Zoe Alleyne (from Firefly ), Starbuck (from Battlestar Galactica ) and 6 At first, I was looking specifically for illustrations of reinforced heterosexist/heterosexual interactions, but I started realizing that many of the women were also challenging some of these ideas. I later began focusing on warrior women, requiring me to go back and re-watch several key episodes from many programs.


21 Buffy (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer ) who are successful and independent, yet are often shown dependent on men or in caregiver pos itions that result in rendering them less effective at their jobs. Additionally, th e continual reinforcement of “compulsory heterosexuality” (Rich 1993), th e distinct lack of non-white women in primary character roles, and the absence of women of size, older women and differently-abled women, suggest to me that few attempts are being ma de by the creators of television programs to challenge contemporary white, western para digms even when setting the shows in futuristic or fantastic worlds. In my analys is and examinations of the materials, I show examples of challenges to these paradigm s, while discussing the reasons why these paradigms are continually repeated and generally left unexamined.


22 Chapter Three: The 1970s: Disco Warrior Women The idea of a warrior woman did not spring fully formed from the minds of western television writers and producers in the 1970s, like a recalcitrant At hena bursting from Zeus’ skull. The Western culture warri or women trope has been present in history and literature, best illustrate d by the Goddesses of the Cl assical World, European and North African Amazons, and Warrior Queens, like Boudicca. These strong women were portrayed in art, architecture, literature and legend starting with the earliest examples of writing found in Mesopotamia (“Hymn to In anna” circa 2300 BCE) through the prose of Herodotus (5th century BCE) and in the myths of S candinavia (Valkyries). That these women segued into the “damsel in distress” pa radigm suggests that the patriarchal social structures of the Medieval and Renaissan ce periods did not have a place for strong women who challenged social mores and religi ous edicts of the tim e. Early and Kennedy assert that “few women…have achieved warrior status in (the) hegemonic war chronicles…their stories often have been belittled or excised from historical memory” (1), suggesting that although we generally know of the existence of warrior women, they are not necessarily part of the dom inant discourse in western culture. Primarily, speculative, science fiction a nd fantasy television has been the most successful genre at creating strong, independent, self-reliant women in key positions. Star Trek in the 1960s was the first program to feature women in command positions and non-white individuals in key pa rts, a tradition that was re peated on the 1970s programs Battlestar Galactica (original series) and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century In the 1990s


23 and into the 21st century, science fiction and fantasy programs have often featured women and non-white characters in lead roles. Howeve r, as my research shows, in many cases, these characters are “tokens” or stereotypi cal caricatures. Women are given power, only to have it taken away when they are repla ced by men, or when the characters marry or (most often the case) they become mothers or in some other way lo se or give up their autonomy and personal empowerment to settle into the expected ro les for women of the time. Warrior Women in 1970s speculative televisi on fall into two distinct categories: individualist heroines fighting for a “greater good” and companions to male heroes, albeit with “powers” of their own. Of the form er, we have Wonder Wo man/Diana Prince from Wonder Woman (1975-1979), and Jaime Somers from The Bionic Woman (1976-1978), while the latter include Colonel Wilma Deering of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-1981), Andrea Thomas from The Secrets of Isis (1975-1977) and Sarah Jane Smith from Doctor Who (1963-1989; 2005-present). Although I categorize them all as “women with powers of their own”, it is important to stress that neither Diana nor Jaime ever work alone; both have male “bosses” who delegate responsib ilities and often give them di rect orders. Both work for government institutions with their inherent pa triarchal hierarchies firmly in place. Wilma Deering is technically in a high-ranking military position, but as part of the team that includes Captain Buck Rogers (an astronaut from 400 years in the past) and a human-bird hybrid named Hawk, Wilma is often relegated to the subordinate position. Sarah Jane is quite literally “companions” to the always ma le Doctor Who, so much that the title “Companion” has been used to describe all of the people the alien, time-traveling Doctor


24 has picked up over the centuries. Andrea Thomas, in her incarnation of the Egyptian Goddess Isis (a transformation she achieves through the use of an ancient amulet) has a male and a female partner who often run errands for her and fill the role of sidekick, to use the superhero lexicon, but these partners do not have equal powers or abilities. It is important to note that there is neve r any doubt as to the physical and mental skills of any of the warrior women described in this paper, but it is just as relevant to stress that in the 1970s, the women often appeared powerless, even when the viewers were aware of their training, skills and/or supe rnatural abilities. Their superhero talents reflected the empowerment often experienced by 2nd wave feminist women, while their lack of authority catered to menÂ’s fears of emasculation. Women were given just enough power to be useful members of society, and es pecially to be useful to the men in their lives, yet they were not permitted autonomy. None of the 1970s warrior woman worked completely alone, and if they were ever in a position to have to re ly on their own skills and intelligence to extricate themselves from danger, they usually did so through overt sexuality. Although the 1970s warrior women frequently matched wits with female villains, their primary opponents were male. As such, th ey often were taken prisoner and usually detained by the villain of the week, and were then forced to escape. Warrior women with supernatural powers or increased strengt h, like Wonder Woman and the Bionic Woman, found themselves tied in ropes, restrained by handcuffs, drugged or otherwise held hostage in increasingly comple x ways (how many times can an audience watch Jaime Sommers use her bionic legs to break free from metal shackles before it gets boring?)7. 7 There are, of course, sexual implications to this: historically women who are captured or held prisoner are often placed in a position of helple ssness whereby they may be forced to perform sexual acts or they may


25 Strong women forced into subordinate posit ions by seemingly dominate men was a common theme, although often the men gained control of the women through use of weaponry, like handguns. The warrior women of this time rarely used handguns, swords or knifes, weapons traditiona lly associated with male wa rriors and heroes. When they used weapons at all, they were already part of their arsenals – costume pieces with more than one use, like Wonder Woman’s magic lasso and bullet-deflecting bracelets or Isis’s mystical amulet. However, even with limited weapons, the warrior woman always prevailed, but not before she was forced into a position of powerle ssness. Not only did this illustrate that she was flawed and able to be subdued, however briefly, but that she was not all powerful and immediately able to dominate men. She was still a woman: just one with supernatural abilities. A Woman in Disguise Reproduction of the heteronormative paradigm is found in the costumes, as well as in the behaviors of the 1970s warrior women. Fashion of the time did allow women to wear tight pants and low-cut shirts, as well s hort skirts, so to suggest such clothing was worn by the heroines solely to titillate male audiences woul d not be entirely correct. However, the styles of clothing popular at the ti me left little to the imagination. In the cases of Wonder Woman and Isis, their disgui ses rendered them even less clothed than their “street clothes”, as bot h fought crime in little more than a bathing suit (Wonder use their sexuality to obtain their fr eedom. The strictures of 1970s tele vision prohibited rape as a plot devise, but did not disallow Wonder Women or the Bionic Woman to be sexually coy or seductive in order to trick their captors into getting close enough for th e women to overpower them, steal their keys or talk them into setting them free.


26 Woman) and skimpy dress (Isis). Underwear always seemed optional, in or out of disguise. The costumes worn by all of th e characters showed the audience that the warrior women were sexualized women firs t and warriors second. As women, they dressed in soft, feminine attire shifting only to warrior garb by necessity of circumstance. Wonder Woman and Isis had distinct outfits separate from the clothing of Diana and Andrea, but Wilma, Sarah Jane, and Ja ime did not have superhero disguises. Wilma’s costume was intrinsically different from those of Sarah Jane and Jaime because Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was set in the future and one can see that there were attempts by the costume designers to reflect th is in the outfits worn by the characters. The use of reflective materials, holograms and sequins created a futuristic appearance to what were basically 1970s fashions in space. Sarah Jane and Jaime often wore what any woman on the street might wear at the time: slacks with bell bottoms, ponchos, gauchos, flowing sleeves and long dre sses. In many episodes of The Bionic Woman Jaime was forced to rip her pants or skirt in order to r un fast or kick an att acker, but Jaime never appeared on screen asking for a more comfortable uniform, and I have found no evidence to suggest that the ac tress ever made this plea. Usually, Jaime was undercover and required to wear an evening gown with heels, leaving the a udience to wonder how she was going to fight when the time came. The long gowns were so inappropriate to her undercover work that they ofte n led directly to her kidnapp ings or overpowering by the villains or his cronies. 1970s fashion simp ly did not have warrior women in mind! In many ways, Wonder Woman is the epitome of the 1970s Warrior Woman: she is a powerful fighter, but also very feminine spouting feminist ideology at one moment by telling Steve Trevor that “maybe all women can do wonders if put to the test”


27 (“Fausta: The Nazi Wonder Woman” 1976), then proudly informing younger sister Drusilla that she takes orders from a ma n (“The Feminum Mysti que: Part 1” 1976). Diana Prince sees herself as a savior in many ways, viewing the out side world separate from home of Paradise Island and requiring her assistance (“Pilot” 1975). Her entire purpose is to keep Steve Trevor (and by extens ion, the Allied Forces) from harm, because after the first few episodes, the focus shifte d from Diana’s love for Steve to a more “maternal protector” role. Although Diana Pr ince’s initial reason for donning the mantle of Wonder Woman was because she was attract ed to American War Hero Steve Trevor, the romantic possibilities soon took a back bur ner to saving the world from the Nazis. As Yeoman Diana Prince in Washington, D.C. the Amazon princess, who in her home setting of Paradise Island is known for her athletic and warrior qualities, deliberately mimics cultural expectations for female-bodied individuals in the 20th century (specifically in the 1940s). She is soft-spoken with dulcet tones barely registering above a whisper, she does not offe r much opinion unless she is asked, she is neat, and she is unassuming. Additionally, Diana serves Steve Trevor (war hero extraordinaire) as little more than a glorified secretary, proj ecting the role of subservient caregiver to those around her. Secretary is a perfectly acceptable position for a single woman, in the 1970s as well as the 1940s. Diana Prince takes up very little space, so it is interesting to note that in order to transfor m into Wonder Woman, she must spin in place with her arms out to the side, shedding the “costume” of Yeoman Prince for the “costume” of a super heroine, thus taking up space in the process. As Yeoman Prince, Diana has the perfect disguise because no one notices her and sees beyond her large glasses, bun and simply cut skirt in order to observe Wonder


28 Woman. She is not seen because she is not sexu alized at all; she is part of the furniture, as is reflected by the Baroness’s comment about her: “she seems so plain and uninteresting. Her coloring is rather like wet Bisquick, and I'm sure she's blind as a bat without those glasses” in the episode “Wonder Woman Meets Baroness Paula Von Gunther” (1976). This is furthe r illustrated by the f act that Steve Trevor is enamored of Wonder Woman, but barely even notices wh en Diana seemingly disappears for long stretches of time. He never connects the dots that they are one and the same, because the neutral, asexual Diana has not hing in common with the scant ily clad, long-haired warrior that is Wonder Woman. Two other characters whose disguises hide their true id entities as “superheroines” and “warrior women” are Andrea Thomas ( The Secrets of Isis ) who is an Art Professor (not a math or science professor, or even archaeologist ) and Jaime Sommers, who teaches middle school, when she is not play ing professional tennis. Andrea finds the amulet that enables her to transform into Is is while she is on an archaeological dig in Egypt (which is why it would have made more sense if she had been an anthropologist or Egyptologist). Even though she has access to th e power of Isis, she rarely does more than rescue teenagers from bad c hoices in life. No one conn ects Andrea with Isis, because she, similar to Diana Prince, assumes the a ppearance of a mousy intellectual professor, with her hair tied back and the addition of glasses, fo r that nerdy librarian look superheroes often adopt. Jaime is not disguised to the same exte nt as Diana and Andrea because she does not have a secret identity beyond “the bi onic woman”. Her family and friends are unaware of her bionic enhancements, and they see her as the school teacher and former


29 tennis pro that she is: she just goes out of town more than most small town teachers usually do. Her bionics are al ready hidden, as they are surg ically grafted to her bone, muscle and skin, so the only time it is visibl e is when it is damaged. She works as a secret agent, but her employers know who she is. It would be very possible for Andrea and Diana to throw away the super-heroine costumes and perform their heroic acts in st reet clothes, as Jaime Sommers does. That they do not says something about the comi c book genre that spawned them: superheroes always have a secret identity in comics. Their disguises act as barriers between the “real” world and the world where they are powerful and self-actualized. In many ways, this reflects the fragmented role of many late 20th century American women. Women have to be wives and mothers at home, but professi onal and skilled workers at their places of employment. This often cause s an identity split, wher eby the woman tries to be everything and ends up denying one role in favor of the other, depending on circumstances. A woman in the workplace is of ten expected to leave her family at home and focus solely on the job at hand. A good wife and mother does not bring the office or the classroom home with her at night. Dian a, Andrea and teacher-Jaime exemplify this duality because in many ways they are not permitted to be whole. They have to hide their abilities so that they are not exploited and to keep them safe from harm from stronger powers. Women in the workforce (especially single women) often must suppress their female characteristics in exchange for mascu line qualities in order to succeed – but not too much! If a woman becomes too aggressi ve and goal-oriented, she is condemned for that as well.


30 In disguise, Diana, Jaime and Andrea’s be havior is that of “proper women”, with one glaring exception: they are not married a nd they do not have children, but there is nothing to suggest that this would no t be a future goal for any of them8. In the 1970s, the heroines were definitely unmarried, reflecting the 2nd wave idealism of “getting out of the kitchen” and into a career before (or as a replacement for) marriage and children (Friedan et al). Characters like Diana Prince of Wonder Woman Jaime Sommers of The Bionic Woman Sarah Jane Smith of Doctor Who and Colonel Wilma Deering of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century were gainfully employed and unafraid of their own sexualities. They overtly displayed their bodies, not just as sexual objects, but also as powerful tools to fight evil. They are sexualized characters w ho are not overtly sexual (Crawley et al 72): there is nothing to suggest any of them except maybe Wilma Deering, are actually having sex at any time, even off screen9. On The Bionic Woman school teacher-cum-tennis pro, protagonist Jaime Sommers works secretly for the Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI) as an operative, but to her friends and family, she is a former tennis pro turned middle school teacher. Except for very early mentions of her relationship with Steve Austin ( The Six-Million Dollar Man ), Jaime remains very unattached during the run of the show. In fact, Jaime was conveniently stricken with a coma-induced form of amnesia so that she forgot she was ever engaged to Steve Austin, enabli ng her to live single and fancy free – and allowing her to use her feminine wiles to se duce or coerce the male villains with whom 8 Jaime does marry Steve Austin in one of the reunion movies filmed a decade after the show ended. 9 As single women, they are “allowed” to be sexu alized and “available”, whereas if they were married, being seen as a sex object to other men would be unacceptable. In the discourse of the 1970s, married women were still objects and vessels of motherhood, and this was not sexual behavior – even if sexual behavior is what leads to mo therhood in the first place!


31 she interacted. If Jaime had been married or in a committed relationship, it is doubtful she would have been permitted to use her charms to capture enemies. “Who” Am I This Time? The Fourth10 Doctor’s Companions on the long-running British series, Doctor Who are also products of 2nd wave feminism. The best exam ple is Sarah Jane Smith, who at the time of their initial meeting in 1973 lives alone and works as an investigative journalist. Sarah Jane is introduced in the ep isode called “The Time Warrior”, and in true Companion-fashion, she is promptly kidnapped. She uses her wits to escape on her own and to help the Doctor thwart the evil villai n, proving that she is a very capable and selfassured woman. This is further illustrated in the same episode, when the Doctor demands that she make him some coffee and she pointed ly refuses. Sarah Jane is a product of 2nd wave feminism, in that she is hyper-aware of her position as a wo man and Companion to the Doctor, but is also firm in her insistence that she be treated with respect. Of all of the Companions, Sarah Jane is th e longest lasting, and during he r tenure on the program, it is hinted that she may be in love with the Do ctor, which explains he r continued association with him, even when he fails to acknowledge her contributions to the missions (“The Sontaran Experiment” 1975). The possibility of Sarah Jane’s love fo r the Doctor is not thoroughly explored until 2006, when she encounters the Ninth Do ctor and she declares her anger and 10 In order to allow for various actors to play the role of the alien Time Lord over the forty or more years the show has been in existence, th e primary character of th e Doctor is able to regenerate every time one actor leaves the show and is replaced by another, while “Companions” simply co me and go (Cartmel 2). Fans simply refer to each incarnation either by the actor’s name or by the regeneration number. The current Doctor, played by David Tennant, is the tenth and is often called “Ten” by fans (Russell 188).


32 frustration over his abandoni ng her when she loved him ( School Reunion ). In 2006, like in the 1970s, Sarah Jane does not exhibit any in terest in marriage or settling down with a family: her career comes first. 2007’s children’s show, The Sarah Jane Adventures confirms this “career woman” ideology, as now in her early 50s, Sarah Jane is unmarried and freelances as an investigator of alie n artifacts. She does eventually adopt a young son (more to appeal to young viewers than anyt hing else, as it seems out of character for her), but she tells those who asked that she never married because she only had one love and he left her ( Invasion of the Bane 2007). I am in no way suggesting that Jaime, Di ana, Sara Jane and Wilma’s unmarried status automatically mark them as fervent 2nd wave feminists. It is their focus on career and personal satisfaction with life over housewifery and moth erhood that separates them from earlier science fiction char acters like Maureen Robinson of Lost in Space who in spite of being described in a voice over as “the distinguished biochemist of the New Mexico Institute for Space Medicine”, is fi rst introduced as the wife of John Robinson ( The Reluctant Stowaway 1965). She spends much of the three year run of the program making dinner, doing laundry and worrying abou t her children. Freed from the bonds of motherhood and marriage, the 1970s warrior woma n was allowed to express herself as a self-actualized, independent person in ways that Maureen Robinson could not, yet she still remained constrained by discour ses of feminine performativity.


33 Model Warriors Little girls growing up in the 1970s probably never imagined themselves as warriors. After all, there were no archet ypes from which to model one’s imagination until Ripley picked up a flame-thrower in Alien (1979) and fought killer “demons” after the men on the Nostromo had already met th eir makers. But Ripley was an anomaly11. Girls coming of age in the pre-Reagan years had for role models the heroines of the uncomfortable marriage between 2nd wave feminism and the hedonistic hyper-sexuality of the Vietnam era. We did not have the ass-kicking warrior ba bes of Generation Y; Xena, Buffy and Scully may have been the ch ildren of our revolution, but they were born out of the backlash against feminism, not of it. In the 1970s, we had Wonder Woman, Char lie’s Angels, Isis, the Bionic Woman and Colonel Wilma Deering. The 1970s seem ed to be the perfect breeding ground for a new type of warrior woman; one w ho was steeped in the tenets of 2nd wave feminism and the sexual revolution with their messages of empowerment and sexual freedom, but who bent under the strains of patriarchal oppression and the male gaze (Mulvey 62), ultimately failing to achieve autonomy and any real power. Unlike their later counterparts (like Xena a nd Buffy), Wonder Woman, Isis Wilma Deering, the Bionic Woman and Doctor Who’s Companions never seemed overtly tormented by any of their choices, and who was good or who was evil was always completely clear to them. The characters were not threatening to male or non-feminist female viewers because, even 11 The role of Ripley was not specified to be male or female in the original script, and until Sigourney Weaver auditioned, it was assumed the part would go to a male actor (Penley 173).


34 though many of them possessed almost magi cal strength, none ever challenged the established patriarchal ideals fo r how heroines “should behave”. In the history of science-fiction and fa ntasy television, women were “virtually non-existent (and) if presented at all, they were depicted in the traditiona l stereotypical roles of wife, mother, and home maker” (Ginn 2005:25), as in Lost in Space (1965-1968). In the 1970s, attempts at creati ng characters that could be perc eived as feminist at first glance fell short upon more careful examination. The characters of Wonder Woman (1975-1979) and The Bionic Woman (1976-1978) appeared to be strong women who embraced their own power, always acting for the good of mankind and in the best interests of the United States. The problem with both shows was that the super-heroines were “far-fetched, metaphorical cartoons in which women, without special effects, were powerless” (Douglas 1994:217). As their alte r-egos, Diana Prince and Jaime Sommers, Wonder Woman and the Bionic Woman were wea k, ineffectual and invisible, both hiding their identities from the general public and fr om those who were supposed to love them. Are all of the warrior women discussed thus far guided by any moral principles or do they merely stumble upon their roles by virt ue of ability or transformation? Diana Prince leaves her home on Paradise Island solely to help the “right” (meaning “American”) side win World War II against th e fascists, so clearly a moral stance has been taken by Diana. As a tool of pr opaganda, Wonder Woman fi ghts “for your rights, and the old red white and blue” ( Wonder Women theme song by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox) and fulfills the role of enforcer and protective mother, seeing the United States as morally good, but in need of guidan ce and assistance to win the ultimate battle.


35 A clear enemy (the Nazis in the 1940s) sets Wonder Woman apart from the other warrior women, who fight ever-cha nging, weekly threats. In the 1970s shows, who is clearly “good” and who is “bad” is established at the beginning of each episode, and there is rarely any question that the villain of the week deserves to be thwarted or that the heroin e (and whatever organiza tion or institution she represents) is entitled to stop him. There is never any attempt to analyze the motives or dig into the characters of the villains; just to prevent their plans from coming to fruition. The television landscape of the late 70s and 80s was one of supposed sexual liberation and the pretense of strong women in tight clothi ng without bras who gave an illusion of power that actual ly fell apart upon careful examination. Wonder Woman was 500 years old, but she ran around Washington, D.C. in a red, white and blue bathing suit taking orders from the barely lite rate Steve Trevor. The women on Charlie’s Angels were trained police officers hi red by Charlie for their strength and intelligence, but were reduced to sex objects whose main purpose appa rently was to “jiggle” on camera. These women were supposed to be enlightened femi nists (and indeed, femi nist ideology can be found in the dialogue of some episodes), but when all was said and done, they probably helped millions of heterosexual boys (and a few budding lesbians) through puberty. Young feminists in the 1970s had to look elsewhere for empowerment. My adolescent self saw the character of Colonel Wilma Deering as one of the few strong women on television, and my multiple diar y entries to that effect wax poetic about Wilma’s strength and power as a woman in a leadership position. As a child of the 1970s, I was raised on evening television show s that proclaimed fe minist ideals, but when examined thoroughly, proved to be a ndrocentric models of what strong women


36 should be like. On some level, I underst ood this, because I constantly looked for women in power on television and f ound only reflections of what might have been. Wilma Deering represented the perfect model of 1970s womanhood: Her strength came from intelligence and warrior-like powers in battle, yet she was idealized for her femininity and her ability to take orders from men wit hout complaint. Even at twelve, I did not understand how someone with such a high ra nking military office could be rendered incapable of profound thought whenever a probl em arose, yet would defer to a 500-year old astronaut who did not even know the current linguistic slang. In many ways, I sympathized with Wilma. I felt I understood her frustration because she was in a position of leadership, but forced to “look” ultra-feminine in order not to emasculate the men around her. The mi xed message sent was that it was all right for a woman to be strong and powerful, as l ong as she had hair sprayed to the point of immobility, the right shape under the spandex, and the ability to bat her eyelashes and give the appearance of stupidity. Worst of all, Colonel Deering had to wear heels because even though the 1980s accidental time-tr aveler, Buck Rogers, taught her judo, she was not expected to successfully fight off any assailant: she was supposed to get captured or rendered unconscious. Yet, for some reason, it did not always happen as planned. By the end of the episode, even though Buck was always the hero, Wilma would be positioned in the background, calmly a nd with great reserve, knowing that she had contributed to the final outcome. It was as if she secretly knew that she was humoring the men with her blue hot pants and big hair, because when push came to shove, she did not need them. She was strong, intelligent, powerful and still feminine, with her long, perfectly coiffed hair, satin jumpsuits and carefully applied make-up and


37 nail polish. Although employed as a “Colonel” in the military, a position which she obtained through hard work and skill (Gray, Q&A), Wilma rarely wore a uniform and when she did, it was often a mini-skirt and high heels: very different from the uniform the men were required to wear! By virtue of challenging th e expectations that she would be a beautiful and helpless female, yet still outwardly submitting to the rules of heteronormativity, Wilma managed to create an illusion that it was po ssible to challenge the “requirement that one be and appear heterosexual” (Frye 24). Sh e existed in a world “in which men are men and women are women, and there is nothi ng in between and nothing ambiguous” (Frye 25), but by being in a position of high aut hority in the government, she often “pulled rank” to control the men around her. I year ned for the ability to pull rank, because I always had the feeling that, left to her ow n devices, Wilma woul d jettison Twiki, the annoying robot, into space, and hunt down a nd kill Season One’s perpetual villainess, Princess Ardala. The only thing preventing her from doing so was the social structure that gave her rank, but no power to back it up because she was born a woman. In addition to being forced to wear restrictiv e, overly feminine clothing (even while in uniform), Wilma was limited to performing the expected female role, in spite of her title “Colonel”. Wilma Deering certa inly did not seem to be in complete without Buck, yet there was purposeful sexual tension in their interactions. This mi micked the relationship Diana Prince had with Steve Trevor: Diana, as Wonder Woman, had great strength and the ability to extricate herself from any da nger, but she continually placed herself in jeopardy at the behest of her “boss” and object of a ffection, Steve Trevor.


38 The warrior women of th e 1970s were strong, independent women, who were nonetheless restrained by the boundaries of 1970s values an d expectations for women. They were permitted supernatural strength and/ or abilities, while at the same time, they were limited by social structures that suggested they needed to reproduce the heteronormative paradigm. Although unmarried and childless, all of the women were overtly heterosexual and exhibite d clear attraction to the men in their lives. Even if the word “marriage” is never uttered, the implica tion is that one day, they will bag up their magic lassos and amulets, and put away their ray guns to pick up an apron and duster. This is illustrated in the many exchanges be tween the male and female characters: in most cases when the warrior women interact with their male co-workers, bosses or friends, the physically stronger women are shown seated or in the background, with men in the forefront. Diana Prince is usually at her desk, Wilma Deering stands behind Buck, Jaime sits on employer Oscar Goldman’s desk and Sarah Jane follows the Doctor out of the TARDIS and into new worlds. Even when the woman is clearly the stronger character, the man is somehow shown to be dominant, or at least capable of seizing power if he does not already have it. In many ways, the warrior women of the 1970s reflect social and cultural values of that time through the reproduction of hete ronormative paradigms and by illustrating their characters as “female” a nd “feminine” to the audience. Feminism in the 1970s was often associated with women who “wanted to be men”, the myth of the “masculine feminist” took root, creating an idea of a feminist as “a dour executive with cropped hair pictured first at her desk, grimly pondering an empty family-picture frame, and then at home, clutching a clock”, as if worried about running out of time to give birth (Faludi 92-


39 93). By creating warrior women who were bot h feminist in their ideologies of equal opportunity and ability, but femi nine in their clothing and interactions with males, 1970s speculative television programs created a my thical being for young girls and women to emulate. The message was that one coul d be powerful within the constraints of femininity, and as long as one knew her place. That place was deferring to men, dressing in a manner pleasing to and designed to attract men, and refusing to think too much for oneself. A strong woman is sexyÂ…as long as sh e wears a red, white and blue bathing suit or satin hot pants. The probl ems start when those women rea lize they are really the ones with all the power. As I disc uss below, when that happens they have to be rendered ineffectual or they cease to exist. At the end of the 1970s, the warrior women simply vanished off the airwaves, not to return for another decade.


40 Chapter Four: The 1980s Backlash: Wh ere Have All the Warriors Gone? “Beverly (Crusher) and Deanna (Troi) working out and talk ing about guys? What I want to see is Worf and Riker drinking coffee a nd talking about their hair and makeup.” – excerpt from personal diar y, Leisa Clark, 1989 (age 21) Susan Faludi’s groundbreaking Backlash contains an analysis of the short-lived Angels `88 and discusses how, although a spin-off of sorts, it was supposed to be different from the “three jiggl e-prone private eyes that t ook orders from an invisible (male) boss” on Charlie’s Angels (153). Everything released to the press about the show (and the show itself) proved that it was actually even LESS self-actualized than Charlie’s Angels Aaron Spelling’s idea of a new woman for the 1980s was incompetence and an inability to do the j ob on her own (Faludi 154)12. Unfortunately, his perspective was not an isolated one. Faludi refers to the 1987-1988 TV season as “the backlash’s high watermark”, as almost none of the lead characters on TV in that year were women. Women over age 21 were even harder to find and minority wome n were practically non-existent. As Faludi noted “an analysis of prime-time TV in 1987 found 66 percent of the 882 speaking characters were male-about the same proporti on as in the 1950’s” ( 156). Interestingly enough, when women disappeared from the ai rwaves, the viewers stopped watching, in spite of network assertions that they we re responding to audience demand by creating fewer and fewer strong female characters (Faludi 156). So if audiences were not 12 I only vaguely recall this show existing, and mercif ully, it has not been released on DVD. Faludi suggests that the women in this program did not think for themselves ever, wore as little clothing as legally possibly and were completely vapid (154).


41 overwhelmingly demanding he-man action heroes and female victims, why were they so prevalent on TV in the late 1980s? I would suggest that th e backlash against feminism led to the creation of anti-feminist charac ters on shows dominated by men because they put women in their place (back in the kitchen or in bed). In 1987, the few women who were on tele visions were wives and mothers (with the exception of Murphy Brown, who later became a single mother). There were many family shows in the late 1980s, but in many of them, the mothers were absent or dead. Television was replacing “healthy independe nt women…with nostalgia-glazed portraits of apolitical `family’ women” who often stressed family values and gender roles that sounded like something out of Father Knows Best Additionally, Faludi argues that the singl e woman vanished in the late 1970s and 1980s but given the publicati on date of the book, she was not able to predict the reemergence of a “brand” of single woman (a la Ally McBeal ) that was a backlash response to Mary Tyler Moore in the 1990s. Ally McBeal was a la wyer with an es tablished careertrack and decent income, but she was hyper-sex ualized, always portrayed wearing micromini shirts and heels, and for such a high-powered lawyer, she often acted unintelligently in social situations (p articularly with men). Her singular goal was to fight the adage that stated “a woman was more likely to get hi t by lightning than get married after age 35” (Salholz 1) That statement in itself illust rates a backlash agains t feminism, suggesting that feminists who place career goals above all else will be lonely and unwed, regretting that they ever took the car eer track over the “mommy track” (Douglas and Michaels, 208). Certainly, at the end of the Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1977, career-oriented Mary has no marriage prospects and is faced with a job loss when the st ation who owns WJM


42 fires the entire staff ("The Last Show"). Perhaps in a post-Mary world, career woman like Ally McBeal felt they had more to fear from being successful rather than married (being both does not seem to be an option). Mary (and her 1970s counterparts) cut their teeth on Betty Friedan’s ground-breaking The Feminine Mystique, which told them that the “only way for a woman, as for a man, to fi nd herself, to know herself as a person, is by creative work of her own. There is no othe r way” (Friedan, 344). But Ally McBeal’s generation was more jaded. In f act, the idea of the “Opt-Out Revolution” is steeped in the idea that “many female careerists were fo regoing their fat salaries (though not their husbands ) in favor of the stroller-pus hing suburban life” (Faludi x). I do not think the man-crazed single woma n was much of an improvement, but we also got Scully and Xena in the 1990s, at th e same time as Ally McBeal was growing in popularity. That single wome n were portrayed as broken, overachieving bitches who “want it all” was definitely paramount to th e idealized “wife and mo ther” paradigm that exploded all over the airwaves in th e 1980s (particularly with the show thirtysomething ). It showed motherhood and being a good wife as the highest possible achievement for a woman. Susan Faludi acknowledges, in the 2006 Preface to the fifteenth anniversary edition of Backlash, that there has been some progre ss since 1991, but points out that in the current conservative socio-political cl imate (especially following 9/11), too many people think feminism is dead (xvi). One of the reasons for this is that many people believe that women have succeeded in getting ev erything we need to be equal, but Faludi believes this is just a distr action created by politicians, adve rtising and the media to keep women at the current status quo. Faludi ar gues that many women are also just missing


43 the point. An audience member at one of he r lectures stated that “feminism has been nothing but a burden for my generation…(b ecause we) have to get the highest grades…best LSAT scores…get into the most prestigious law firm…” (xvi). This statement worries Faludi (and me as well) who argues that many women are misunderstanding how feminism is defined. “Wha t is missing is the deeper promise of a woman’s revolution, a revolut ion that was never intende d to champion cut-throat competition or winner-take-all ethics, a re volution that was abandoned on the road to economic opportunity” (xvi). How this is refl ected in the sudden rise of Warrior Women in 1990s television is open to debate. Chocolate, Body-suits and Gossiping on the Bridge In the 1980s, there were science ficti on/fantasy and speculative television programs on television, but none produced any characters I would de fine as “warrior women” by any stretch of the imagination. Shows like Voyagers (1982-1983), Werewolf (1987), The Powers of Matthew Star (1982-1983), Quantum Leap (1989-1993), Superboy (1988-1992), Starman (1986-1987) and Manimal (1983) featured no regular female characters at all, while shows like The Greatest American Hero (1981-1983) made a clear delineation between the “hero” played by William Katt, and his girlfriend, who was generally the damsel in distress for him to rescue. Beauty and The Beast (1987-1990) can definitely fall into the “speculative fiction” category, but by no stretch of the imagination could the primary protagonist, Cather ine, be viewed as a “warrior”. In her position as employee in the District Attorney’s office in New York City, Catherine often


44 fought for the underdog, but it was clear that she had lim ited power and she was not intended to be a fighter. Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994), a spin-off show from the classic 1960s Star Trek series, did address some of the comp laints about the lack of women in key positions on the original program, but still fell short of producing strong female characters that were known for thei r fighting skills and heroic behaviors13. The introduction of Security Officer Tasha Yar in the fi rst few episodes showed promise, but the character was killed in the first season, after having been given no chance to develop. Aside from the ill-fated Tasha Yar, Star Trek: The Next Generation had two reasonably self-actualized fema le protagonists in Dr. Beverl y Crusher and Deanna Troi, however, “the two most prominent women aboard the Enterprise `D’ are involved with the traditional female roles: they are co mmunicators and healers” (Johnson-Smith 81). Although Deanna Troi has been through Starfleet Academy and has earned a military rank in the same way as the others on the Enterprise ‘D ’s Bridge, she is primarily known for her role as “Ship’s Counselor”, she is us ually referred to just as “Deanna”, and her rank is almost never discussed. Additionall y, Deanna is rarely seen in uniform, especially in the later seasons of the show when the writers/directors/costumers seemed to forget she was supposed to be a bridge officer and instead dre ssed her in a flowing blue dress, low cut and tight enough to disp lay the assets for which she was primarily known to fans. Dr. Crusher is at least respec ted as the Chief Medica l Officer, but spends 13 Some of the critiques came from the previous discussed issue of Uhura serving a telephone operator, and Majel Barrett’s position as second in command in the original pilot reduced to the role of Nurse Chapel, whose primary function was to hand Dr. McCoy tools an d pine away for her replacement on the bridge, Mr. Spock (Johnson-Smith 80).


45 more time mothering her son and building a pers onal relationship with various male guest stars than she does operating or treating illnesses. Neither Deanna nor Beverly Crusher could be seen as warriors simply because they did not perform the same functions as their 1970s antecede nts: they rarely, if ever fought villains or aliens, they almost never defended themselves from attack and they never carried weapons. Even though both reta ined military ranks, neither ever led an away team mission or fought in military opera tions. Famously, the one time Deanna was left in charge of flying The Enterprise she crashed the entire sh ip into a planet (film: Star Trek Generations 1994)! After producing some of the most memo rable warrior women on television in the 1970s, strong female characters of the 1980s leave something to be desired. Even the UKÂ’s long-running Doctor Who and Red Dwarf (1988-1999) offer no shining examples of female warriors during this time, as the DoctorÂ’s Companions during this time were either male, or the prototypical damsel in distress, and Red Dwarf Â’s primary characters were all male until the late 1990s. In fact, it was not until the 1990s that we see a return of the warrior woman on television at all. But when she returned, she came back with blades drawn, attitude on fire and ready to take back the airwaves.


46 Chapter Five: Welcome to the Future In the 1990s, we see the re-emergence of the strong warrior woman “hero”/lead or title character. What sets her apart fro m her 1970s counterparts is that she often has strength and training, but not always super powers. Even when she has a male boss (which she almost always does), she often i gnores his edicts to think on her own. She echoes the feminist ideologies of her predecesso rs in that there is no doubt that she sees herself as equal to (if not stronger than) th e men with whom she interacts, and she does not see her biological sex as a deterrent to obt aining her goals. This description fits every one of the women I am examining in this section: Xena from Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001), Buffy Sommers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), Kara “Starbuck” Thrace from Battlestar Galactica (2004-present), Dr. Dana Scully from The X-Files (1993-2002) and Zoe Alleyne from Firefly (2002-2003). All five women are talented and trained warriors, but unlike th e women in the 1970s, they are often faced with moral ambiguity and i ndecision that forces them to make difficult choices. Xena, Buffy, Starbuck, Scully and Zoe sh are many traits in common, even when their stories and characters are completely different. Xena lives two thousand years in the past, in an alternative version of history, while Zoe exists in a fairly dismal future where humans have spread throughout the gala xy, but have failed to achieve the better universe envisioned by Gene Roddenberry in his Star Trek series. Starbuck lives in completely different galaxy from our own, and Buffy and Scully live in the late 20th century, in the United States. The settings ar e important because the shared themes and


47 values do not in fact reflect the diverse cultures displayed on the televisions show, but the paradigms for 20th century America, especially for accepted female behaviors. Although in the late 20th century and early 21st cent ury, futuristic televisions shows have attempted to challenge the generally accepted mores and values of American society, programs still rarely deviate from ge nder expectations. The critically acclaimed remake of Battlestar Galactica, for instance, features a woman who is an Admiral commanding an entire fleet (she gets too pow erful and is assassinated), a woman who is the President of the last remaining human so ciety (she has breast cancer), a woman who is assistant chief mechanic for the fleet (she has a baby and is often “away”), and a woman who is a kick-butt, chain smoking, hard drinking, boxer with a foul mouth and a bad temper (she died in one of the most recent episodes). It is almost as if the writers and producers were eager to say “look – there is much more equality in the future – they have a female President”, but then did not know what to do except mimic the familiar. While screen writer and producer Ronald D. Moore was creating strong female characters for Battlestar Galactica he (and the other producers ) also decided that they would all be heterosexual (no lesbians seem to exist in the future) and the show goes out of its way to reinforce heteronormative paradi gms. The strongest female characters are all “partnered up” with even stronger males, most of th e woman fighters and mechanics are married and many have babies. Even when they are fighting a war and struggling to survive, they are having heterosexual love affairs and producing offspring. Apparently, it is much easier to reflect current mores and values for a society than to completely challenge them.


48 When Judith Butler argues that we all “do gender”, she also suggests a need to “undo” gender – to challenge expectations and erase the boundaries (“Imitation and Gender Subordination” 317). Gender becomes performative because we have to make decisions every day about what we will do to tell others who we are. Susan Bordo suggests that how we do gender is reflected on our bodies – not just in genitalia, but in how we say to the world “I am female, here ’s how you can tell”. As suggested by Frye, West and Zimmerman, et al, ot hers can tell who is female not simply through biological clues such as, for example, larger breasts or smaller stature, but because in western culture, women generally walk a certain wa y (small steps, holdi ng the body close and protected), wear particular cl othing (skirts, dresses, lowercut shirts, etc.) and adorn themselves with make-up and jewelry. Not to do so is to challenge the idea of “woman” in this culture and when the body is restrict ed by social mores, women (especially, but men as well sometimes, because straight men ar e careful not to be mistaken as “gay”) are forced to construct their bodies in ways that match the gender they are performing – which our culture discourses suggest is “fem inine”. Women do not just buy the “right” clothing and make-up, but in western culture, often starve themselv es and physically hurt their bodies to fit in with expectations. Womanhood is th erefore not a natural state, because if it were, then there would be no m odifications necessary to become a perfect reflection of that gender perf ormance: all females would al ready be women, as dictated by western culture. When looking at heroines of science fic tion and fantasy televisions shows, it is hard for someone with feminist awareness to ignore how femininity is reinforced by the characters. Bordo might look at characters like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena not


49 just for their warrior status (which definitely challenges fe minine paradigms), but for the fact that while they are fighting monsters a nd villains (mostly male), they are perfectly coiffed, they do not break their nails and they kick butt in skirts! Buffy even manages to kill vampires with fancy martial arts moves, never once feeling the need to kick off her wedge heels. It seems okay for women to be warriors and heroines; as long as they are feminine while doing it (then it also can be male fantasy – the dominant patriarchy often being a major consideration when constructi ng these characters). When female warriors start to seem too “butch”, this is quickly corrected through the clev er use of costuming and motherhood. Gabrielle (the sidekick and companion to the title character on Xena: Warrior Princess ) wears long, flowing skirts and blouses that hide her body until she takes on a more “warrior” role during Xena’s pregnancy. Gabrielle’s often reinforced position as pacifist and peacemaker is challe nged when she, by necessity, must take up arms to defend herself and Xena against multiple enemies over the course of Season Five, as Xena carries, then delivers, a baby girl. Once Gabrielle starts fighting and is labeled “warrior”, her clothing seems to diminish in direct correlation to the build-up of her pectoral muscles. There is something th reatening about strong women, but a feminized warrior woman is acceptable: Gabrielle is not masculinzed by her well-developed muscles, short hair, or her bad-ass skills with sais and quarterstaff because she is underdressed and clearly still a fema le and sexualized as female. On Battlestar Galactica speculations about the very “butch” Starbuck’s sexual orientation were answered when the charac ter was shown having one-night stands with three men in a matter of three episodes. Th e audience was told more than “Starbuck is straight”. By placing her in submissive, “bo ttom” positions in sex scenes, some of her


50 power was removed as well. She was made into a sexualized and feminine being by removing her clothing (which was usually a utilitarian, unisex fighter pilot’s uniform) and showing her curves and a hint of breas ts. Clearly, showing Starbuck as naked as non-cable TV would allow proved that she was definitely female and traditionally feminized by sexuality. Showing her in be d, under several men proved that she is definitely normatively hetero sexual. As Judith Lorber would say “gender done” (141). As I discuss earlier, the discourses for “femininity” in American culture usually reflect not only gender and heteronormative pa radigms, but also reflect the values of white (and middle-class) women. Neither Bu tler nor West and Zimmerman discuss how doing gender might be different for women of co lor. In looking at decades of science fiction and fantasy television shows, it beco mes clear that even the women of color on these programs are expected to fit into the gender expectations for this culture. Uhura may have been black, but she lacked ethnic iden tity outside of her name and skin color. She was one-sided because her identity was the same as everyone else’s on Star Trek ; they reflected a hopeful, futuristic utopian mono-culture that Gene Roddenberry created (Johnson-Smith 58). Roddenberry’s future without racism also seems to be a future in which there are no cultural differences, no ethnic id entities at all. How can there be racial problems if everyone is the same? But wh at kind of message does send non-white viewers? They are essentially being told that their identi ties do not matter because in the future, everyone will be white, even if th eir skin color is not white. When Uhura performed her gender as token woman on the Br idge of the Enterprise and kissed Captain Kirk, the censors were in an uproar at the first interracial kiss on national television14 (Golumbia 84), but the characters did not reflect on this as an issue at all. Uhura was the 14 “Plato’s Stepchildren” (1968)


51 only woman available, and as su ch, of course she was the one to kiss Kirk because that is what women do. The fact that she was Af rican-American was problematic in a time when interracial embraces where never show n on television, but because she was the only woman present, there were no other choices : two men kissing was not an option in 196815. The challenge in looking at gender performance in thes e TV shows is to situate the shows historically and cu lturally, when they are not meant to exist in our time and place. The shows apply contemporary rules for femininity to characters that supposedly live in the future or in alternate realities, so in my analysis I must first deconstruct the rules and then look for the challenges. Ar e the shows not challenging cultural codes because the writers, directors and producers wa nt to ground the shows in a reality that audiences want, or simply because they do not know how to envision a deconstructed gender? West and Zimmerman introduce the notion of accountability: Not only do we have to perform gender, we are held accountable to others when we refuse to do so (131). Because we know the cultural codes for gende r, we know how to behave. Because the characters on science fiction and fantasy te levision shows are constructed within our culture, they reflect our cultural discours es. The definition of “feminine” in contemporary society includes obedient, qui et, taking up less space, compliant, pretty, heterosexual and, ultimately, married with children. 15 It is also important that the two characters where under the influence of alien mind control at the time, perhaps “excusing” the behaviors as aberrant. If Ki rk had freely and of his own will sought Uhura as a romantic partner, this would not have been allowed by the censors…or most audience members at the time.


52 Performing Woman Buffy and The X-Files are not set on another planet or in fantasy worlds; they are quite deliberately placed in the late 20th/early 21st centuries and their alternative worlds of the paranormal, conspiracy and intrigue are a pr oduct of the same influences as the rest of the planet. Because the stories exist within the “real” world, it makes sense that they would reflect the social issues dominant in We stern culture today. To completely dismiss the fact that they exist in th is historical time and space w ould cause the shows to seem incoherent and, hence, less powerful. Home has historically been the provenan ce of family and the one place where the woman might have some influence and author ity. There is a sense of “place” that rings true with both shows, and Buffy and Scully both have a “home base” to return to, where they want to be relaxed and keep their families safe. Often, episodes of both shows feature scenes in which those homes are in vaded by outsiders, dest roying the illusion of safety. Scully’s home is often broken into by other members of her own FBI team, as well as by the “shadow government” and al iens who are determined to undermine Scully’s attempts to get to the truth. Buff y continually is attacked by demons, monsters and vampires at her mother’s house, and agai n in her college dorm room when she moves away. The running joke about the cost of replacing windows and furniture serves to jar the viewer by creating a realis tic threat: the enemy is real and he just broke your mom’s favorite vase. Placing Zoe Alleyne on a space ship without a home planet immediately shows the audience that she is far from being a housew ife, with all that enta ils, but to Zoe, the


53 spaceship Serenity is her home, even if she is not the person who cleans the bridge or washes the uniforms. Even though Zoe is married to Serenity ’s pilot, Wash, she rarely takes on the traditional housewife role, excep t on one occasion when she nurtures Wash after he is tortured and makes what he cal ls “wife soup” (“War Stories”). Zoe is described by Wash as “a warrior woman” in another episode (“Ar iel”), and as the Captain’s clear second in command, it is Zoe, not Wash, who leaves the ship for missions of a generally criminal nature. She fought in the War of Unificati on (on the losing side) and has not left behind her military chain of command or instinctive reaction to attack, barking orders while defending herself and the rest of the crew. So even though she is a warrior, Zoe is also in the “protector” role, looking afte r those who are less capable, especially in battle. In the back story for the show, it is clear that Zoe’s formative years were spent in the military, and that she fought on the losing side in a failed rebellion. She is skilled with weapons, take orders with little hesitation16 and is the first to put herself in the line of fire when the crew or ship comes under attack. Phys ically, she is very ta ll, with defined (but not overly pronounced) muscles and a defiant stance, but this is softened by the casting of a beautiful woman (Gina Torres) in the role. Zoe is never masculinized, even when firing a gun or aggressively taking control of situ ations because, although Zoe is a hardened soldier who wears tailored pants and utilitarian shoes, Firefly ’s creator, Joss Whedon makes it obvious that she is feminine. In one telling moment, Zoe casually suggests in one breath that if she were to wear a dress it would “be one with a little slink”, while at 16 Zoe is too intelligent to follow orders blindly once she has left the military. Although she respects Malcolm Reynolds as the Captain, she often ignores or alters his orders when she feels he is wrong.


54 the same time threatening to hurt a co-worke r who objectifies her after she makes that comment (“Shindig”). In spite of the warrior stance, the to ugh speech and the no-nonsense approach, Zoe is not asexual: she and Wash clearly have a sex life that is often referred to (and sometimes seen), but she falls short of being a sexualized object primarily because everyone watching her from the audience knows that she will not hesita te to shoot anyone who looks at her the wrong way. Zoe is not an object, but like Buff y, Xena and Starbuck, she is a woman who just happens to be a warr ior, rather than a warrior who just happens to be a woman. Xena: Warrior Feminist Xena: Warrior Princess (1995-2001) is a genre-bending show that seems to fit best, but not neatly, into the category of “fantasy” television, because although Xena: Warrior Princess has semi-historical and mythical settings, most of what occurs in the narrative is outside the realm of possibility. Having establis hed that tentative definition, it is important to note that in spite of fantas tic and imaginative settings, the characters on Xena: Warrior Princess always seem extremely grounded in current-day discourse when it comes to their actions and behavior. Similarly, Xena: Warrior Princess was born during the last decade of the twen tieth century and is a manifest ation of the values of that time in Western society. To say that the show is character-driven is an understatemen t: Most of the plots are decidedly unrealistic, and Xena’s am azing skills and feats of acrobatic daring


55 challenge even the most talented trapeze artists. Even when taking on Valkyries17, helping the Trojans fight the Greeks18 or flirting with the destiny of Julius Caesar19, the relationships between Xena, Ga brielle and many of the charac ters they encounter, make it easier to ignore outrageous plot devices (X ena's destruction of the Olympian gods, for example) and the tendency for the show to go from tragedy one week to slap-stick comedy in the next with neither rhyme nor reason. Although often “play(ing) fast and loose with history, plundering the canon and in terweaving revamped historical events and figures with others borrowed from mythol ogy, literature, and twentieth-century popular culture” (Jones 2000:404), careful charac ter development saves the show from degenerating into mindless entertainment. Never taking the audience for granted or underestimating the power of its fan-base allows Xena to challenge some preconceived notions about women action-adventure heroes The tenets of third wave feminism (Walker 1992:39) are mirrored in the concerns and actions of Xena and Gabrielle, with key plotlines often pivoting on the strength of the two protagonists as strong women who do not rely on anyone but each other in times of great crisis. This is a change from their earlier counterparts, Wonder Woman, th e Bionic Woman and Wilma Deering, who always turned to the less powerful men in their lives for assistance. 17 “The Rheingold” (6:07), “The Ring” (6:08) and “The Return of the Valkyrie” (6:09) 18 “Beware Greeks Bearing Gifts” (1:12) 19 “Destiny” (2:12), “The Deliverer” (3:04), “When in Rome” (3:16), “A Good Day” (4:05), “Endgame” (4:20), “The Ideas of March” (4:21), and “When Fates Collide” (6:19)


56 Buffy The Barbie Slayer Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a very self-reflexive tele vision show that is usually not only aware of its fictive nature, but also wi lling to share that knowledge with viewers. By continually bringing “real life” references into the fict ional settings, “the introduction of the ‘unreal’ is set against the category of the ‘real’” (Hol linger 200). The storyline and setting are fiction, but they seem to coex ist with the known worl d and the show often reacts to the fact that a real world exists separate from the fictional sphere. In the pilot, “Welcome to the Hellmouth” (1.1), Buffy just about winks at the audience, tearing down the so-called 4th wall when she says “now, this in not gonna be pretty. We're talking violence, strong language, adult content...”, she is referring directly to the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board’s warning labels being slapped on television programs. In a sense, Buffy is telling the viewers, “hey this is a TV program…and it should be rated TV:MA”. As the heroine of the show, she is going to challenge expectations of what a young woman should act like within the confines of the High School social structure. Pretty young blonde cheerleaders are not expected to partic ipate actively (a nd with skill) in violent acts, use strong language or even c onsider adult sexual behaviors. Buffy does all of these things skillfully and with relish. At another point in the same pilot ep isode, Buffy is chagrinned to realize that everyone seems to know who she is: the chosen Vampire Slayer, alon e in her generation, who is gifted with the supernatural skills required to rid the world of vampires and demons (Billson 24). The line “having a secret identity in this town is a lot of work” is a direct reference to the idea of OTHER hero es, like her predecessors Jaime Sommers,


57 Andrea Thomas and Diana Prince, having secret identities. Buffy does not wear a cape or a mask, but there are clearly reasons w hy broadcasting to other humans “I am the Slayer” would not be in her be st interest unless she wants to spend all of her time looking for monsters under beds and seeking ghosts in attics. Being aware of her place in the superhero lexicon emphasizes the fictive nature of the story because we have a superhero discourse in literature and pop culture. Many viewers are presumably aware of this and expects that it will be underst ood immediately for what it is. It adds an additional level, suggesting that, like earlier wa rrior women, Buffy exists in di sguise, hidden from the lens of the outside world. Buffy is a fifteen-year old sophomore in Hi gh School when the series begins. She looks helpless, the type who runs to a football player boyf riend if someone insults her clothing choice for the day, but in reality, she has super-human strength and the honed training of a killer. By the time she graduates high school, she has stopped the Apocalypse several times and has brutally slain hundreds of vampires and monsters, rarely breaking a nail and never quite regretti ng her actions. The mask she wears is that of mediocre student and semi-well behaved daughter. Because her body is not overtly muscular, nor does she appear to be athletic or strong in any way, sh e is able to hide within the masses as one of them, all the while hiding the secret identity “Vampire Slayer”.


58 Chapter Six: Conclusion In this paper, I explore how the ”warri or woman” trope in western culture, as portrayed in late 20th century science fiction/fantasy a nd speculative television, reflects how women are “supposed to” perform gender in American culture. Through analysis of the paradigms for how women are “supposed to/expected to” perform gender in American culture, especially in the late 20th century, I show how the tenets of 2nd and 3rd wave feminism influenced the western paradi gm of “the ideal woman” and impacted pop culture by producing “warrior women” who both reflected and challenged heteronormative ideas and feminist principl es. In the 1970s, she is sexy without being sexual (Crawley et al 72), she rarely uses weapons and she answers exclusively to male bosses who make the major decisions in her life, yet she is unmarried and child-free, epitomizing the disco era’s pre-AIDS sexual freedom20. By the 1990s and 2000s, she is often in a long term relationship (if not married ), she almost always has a child and she is nurturing of others, but by the same token, she is an independent agent whose sexuality comes not just from her ability to attract men, but from her skills, education and personal strength21. This trend towards operating independen tly of a team or male boss continued 20 Jaime Sommers, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, Colonel Wilma Deering and Andrea Thomas/Isis 21 The late 20th century characters are a little more complex than those of the 1970s. Xena is the only one who exclusively never takes orders from a male boss, but Buffy sheds her Watcher in the 6th season and Dana Scully works with Fox Mulder and their primary boss is male, but they rarely listen to him. The characters who exist within a military world are more lik ely to have males in charge, but they are less likely that their predecessors to follow him blindly. Zoe Alleyne who is the 1st Officer of the Serenity, follows Captain Mal Reynolds orders, unless she feels he is wrong, and Starbuck continually disobeys Admiral Adama, which ultimately leads to her death,


59 through the early 2000s, culminating with th e cancellation of “warrior woman” shows like Xena, The X-Files, Firefly and Buffy after the events of September 11, 200122. Following the post-9/11 trend towards ensemble cast shows23, this past year has offered several programs that hearken back to the 1990s warrior woman: however, one ( Painkiller Jane, 2007) has already been cancelled and one (an updated version of The Bionic Woman 2007) suffers from lackluster reviews and audience disinterest24, while the third ( Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles 2008) has enjoyed critical success, but at this wr iting has not been on the air long enough to predict its impact, if any, on the genre. In many ways, the female protagonists of all three shows mimic the warrior women who came before them: Jane Jaime and Sarah are powerful (the new Jaime Sommers is even more forcefully bion ic than the earlier edition, and Jane Vasco has the ability to heal from any injury, wh ile Sarah Connor has trained extensively in combat), but only Sarah operates on her own. Jaime and Jane both work for top secret paramilitary organizations. Jaime and Sarah have teenagers to care for, while Jane is in and out of relationships, but has no childre n. The three shows have not existed long enough to analyze thoroughly for the purpose of this paper, but the fact that they exist at all suggests a possible renewed inte rest in warrior women on television. 22 At this point, there is no s upportive evidence, nonethe less, I am suggesting that there may be a correlation between the events of 9/11/01 and the canceling of many television shows featuring strong, female protagonists. This is something I wish to explore further in the future. 23 Such as Lost (2004) Heroes (2006) and Battlestar Galactica (2004) represent the few remaining shows in the speculative genre, but the “team player” shows like CSI, Law and Order, Gray’s Anatomy, etc. have flourished the past five years. 24 http://www.tvseriesfinale.com/2007/12/bionic_ woman_has_the_nbc_series_been_cancelled.php


60 Where Do We Go From Here? Ideally, in the future, I would like to see a futuristic or speculative television program that acknowledges the diversity in appearance and experi ences of all women without reproducing the motifs we have seen for the past several decades. The warrior woman I would love to see on television a strong, older woman who wears over a size 14 (because one does not have to be small to have fighting skills). She would be less concerned with proving she is heterosexual th an with winning battles against evil, but she would still embrace her own sexuality and she would be comfortable exploring her sexual identity. If she has a child, it is not to prove her femininity, but because she has chosen to have a child. She would have comfortable fri endships with people of all genders, colors and creeds, as well as all sizes and ages. Clearly as a culture, we still have a way to go before achieving his, but I continue to hope that the warrior woman will once again but on to the airwaves, kick butt and take na mes, on speculative tele vision shows of the future.


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