The 'Charmed' audience: gender and the politics of contemporary culture

Feasey, R (2005) 'The 'Charmed' audience: gender and the politics of contemporary culture.' Spectator: The University of Southern California Journal of Film & Television, 25 (2). pp. 39-48. ISSN 1051-0230

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Existing work on gender and the politics of television culture suggests that seemingly tough girls such as Emma Peel (The Avengers, 1961- 1969), Jaime Sommers (The Bionic Woman, 1976-1978) and Jill Monroe (Charlie’s Angels, 1976-1981) were less action chicks than they were powder puffs. After all, despite the seemingly active roles that these characters played from week to week, the strength, intellect and autonomy of these women was routinely undermined in a variety of ways, including marriage, male-rescue and masquerade. Moreover, these programs have been critiqued for emphasizing the surface appearance and sexual attractiveness of their stars as a way in which to diffuse the threat posed by second wave feminism. With these notions of feminism, feminine beauty and desirability in mind then, it is relevant to consider the ways in which representations of today’s tough girls can be understood within a wider discussion of contemporary feminism. Theorists such as Charlene Tung, Renny Christopher, Sarah Projansky and Leah R. Vande Berg have recently praised the representation of strong female characters such as secret agent Sydney Bristow (Alias, 2001- ), Officer Aeryn Sun (Farscape, 1999-2003) and Xena Warrior Princess (Xena: Warrior Princess, 1995-2001) for challenging earlier representations of beautiful, feminine and heterosexually desirable heroines. However, although contemporary theorists seem happy to applaud such shows for their characters’ combination of intelligence and physical action, they seem reluctant to examine those protagonists who combine female strength and femininity. With this in mind then, if one considers that the long-running Charmed (1998- ) series has been dubbed “Charlie’s Angels with broomsticks” and “Charlie’s Witches,” respectively, it is interesting to consider the ways in which this contemporary text can be understood in a wider debate about female power, strength and surface appearance in the post-feminist period.

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Divisions: Bath School of Art, Film and Media
Date Deposited: 07 Jul 2015 16:54
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 19:40
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