In this podcast, Rachel Berryman and I discuss the representation of girlhood and teenagehood in the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why (2017). In particular, we discuss issues related to representations of girls’ relationships with social media and technology; how Hannah’s point of view is focalised through the prism of Clay’s emotions and perspective; and the critical response to the series – plus much more! We hope you enjoy it x
In the latest Teen Screen Feminism podcast, I spoke with PhD candidate Emily Chandler about the representation of queer girls in popular media. We discussed some of the central tropes used to represent queer girls; queer subtext; resistant and transformative spectatorship practices; and some of the developments in representing queer girls in the media over the last few decades. Many thanks to wonderful Emily for her expertise and incredible insight into the topic!
Download via iTunes for free: https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/queer-girls-onscreen-conversation/id1011011620?i=1000371373128&mt=2
Or stream here on the WordPress site:
Facebook: Girls Represent
Tumblr: Girls Represent!
In this podcast, Dr Jodi McAlister and I discuss teen television series The 100. Some of the topics we discuss include: Lexa’s death and queer erasure; fandom protests; the show’s diverse and refreshing representations of girlhood, as well as representations that may undermine or complicate a reading of the text as ‘progressive’; representations of girls in positions of power; and the decentralisation of romance narratives.
Download via iTunes for free: https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/100-representations-teen-girlhood/id1011011620?i=365134883&mt=2
Or listen right here on the blog:
I am so pleased to share this podcast interview that I recorded with Megan Falley and Olivia Gatwood about their interactive feminist spoken word poetry show, Speak Like a Girl. Megan and Olivia also performed two of their incredible poems on the podcast, which was so cool! We discussed poetics and politics; their amazing work speaking out about rape culture; reclaiming ‘girl’ as a powerful subject position from which to speak and act, and so much more. Thanks to Megan and Olivia for their insight, wisdom, and wonderful words. It was a pleasure to speak with you! x
Download/Listen on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/speak-like-girl-podcast-megan/id1011011620?i=356386452&mt=2
Or listen right here on the site:
Find out more about Speak Like a Girl:
This week’s podcast discusses the trope of virginity loss in girls’ coming-of-age narratives. We discuss the history of virginity loss narratives, and how they have become so entwined in how our culture thinks about girls’ worth, value, and sexuality. Jodi McAlister and I discussed: what “counts” as virginity loss within a culture organised according to adult patriarchal agendas and desires? Where does girls’ pleasure figure into this paradigm? And are there any shifts occurring in narratives about girls and virginity, particularly in film and television towards another way of thinking about female bodies, sex, and pleasure?
You can now access the podcast via iTunes for free here: https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/virginity-loss-narratives/id1011011620?i=346334467&mt=2
Valerie Walkerdine writes that in girl’s narratives the prince’s arrival is ‘attractive precisely because it is the getting and keeping of the man which in a very basic and crucial way establishes that the girl is “good enough”…It is because getting a man is identified as a central resolution to problems of female desire that it acts so powerfully.’
Source: Walkerdine, Valerie. 1990. Schoolgirl Fictions. London and New York: Verso, p.99.
In this podcast, Jodi McAlister and I talk about fantasy and fantasising as a site for resistance and possibility for women viewers and readers. Some of the ideas we explore include: can fantasy open up a space for transgressive desire and imagining alternatives to the status quo? How do narratives like heterosexual romances, which may initially appear conservative, become the grounds for this kind of imagining? How do texts about girls open up new ways of ‘doing girlhood’? And how can we explore fantasy through a feminist lens, and for a feminist agenda?
Texts we discuss in this podcast include: Reign, The 100, Veronica Mars, The Vampire Diaries, Outlander, Fifty Shades of Grey, Obernewtyn, and Buffy. Tune in and let us know your thoughts!
Download this podcast for free on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/fantasy-as-site-resistance/id1011011620?i=345426736&mt=2
TW: this podcast discusses the representation of rape and violence against women in Reign and Outlander
Dominant cultural constructions of girlhood require girls to fall into line with adult regulations and authority, and closely monitor girls for any deviations from this conformity. Therefore, narratives like The 100 that provide a counter discourse to this are important for a feminist reading of the teen screen, and its potential to articulate an oppositional politics of girlhood. Representations of violent, brutal girls often pathologise the adolescent as a dangerous deviant who has strayed too far from the path of her ‘proper’ place. If we examine adult, patriarchal discourses of girlhood, we find that girls are constructed as ideal objects, passive, non-confrontational, agreeable, gentle, and kind. So it makes sense that representations that deviate from this stiflingly sexist norm often pathologise this deviation as an abnormality, a failure of the girl to fulfil her role within the carefully demarcated boundaries of feminine acculturation. This character is often either a) destroyed at the conclusion of the narrative to restore ‘proper’ order or b) restored to her original position within the patriarchal order.
The 100 provides an exciting alternative to this narrative. Heroines Clarke and Lexa are represented as strong and fearless leaders, and their authority is never truly questioned or undermined by adult male characters. When they give orders, they are simply followed. When they are violent, or brutal, or make decisions that are unemotional and strategic, it is a given that they will continue to be respected. Other heroines of The 100, particularly Octavia and Raven, are also figures of non-compliance, extraordinary power, intelligence, and bravery. The fact that these violent, fierce, defiant girls are not condemned or shamed but celebrated as worthy heroines is truly incredible to me. Their decisions are complicated, and they don’t make excuses for the often-brutal effects of their actions. Non-apologetic girls, girls who do not repent for their lack of conformity to adult male rule, dominate this teen show. This is key to the show’s feminist politics, because it ruptures the dominant discourse of girlhood outlined above. Within this space of rupture, the field of girlhood and what it is able to represent expands. This is central to a feminist reading of the teen screen because, for me, our role as feminist critics and theorists is to locate points within culture where girlhood can be thought about, experienced, and done in new and potentially empowering ways. Instead of following the rules of feminine adolescence enforced by adult, patriarchal governance, the imaginative space of The 100 represents girls leading the way into new territories of girlhood, carving out a space for potential alternatives to the dominant system.
17 year old Lorde’s album “Pure Heroine” is full of references to queendom. In her most well-known track, Royals, she sings “Let me be your Ruler…you can call me Queen Bee” and “I’m in love with being queen”. In other tracks, she sings of empresses in robes, ladies in finery, and beauty queens. But Lorde’s evocation of the identity of Queen is not necessarily based in a desire for the money and commodity immersion associated with that status – indeed, she indicts economic inequality and unequal distribution of privilege in the world. The Teen Queen identity is about something else, I think.
I’ve recently become obsessed with the CW’s new teen girl series called Reign. It’s a costume drama about Mary Queen of Scots (played by Aussie actress Adelaide Kane) and her time in France. Naturally a love triangle between Mary, the future King of France and his half-brother, the King’s bastard son Sebastian, ensues (very CW: see for example, The Vampire Diaries).
I describe the show as kinda Gossip Girl but in period costumes. Gossip Girl was similarly interested in Queen bee identities, especially through the character of Blair. Blair was consistently and explicitly aligned with a Queen identity as she ruled the world of Manhattan’s elite teens, donning diamond-encrusted velvet headbands and even having a portrait of Marie Antoinette painted on her bedroom wall. Gossip Girl was really about power, and how girls could exercise that power in narrative.
On Reign, this Queen identity is even more literally rendered. I find it fascinating that we have this teen drama with a girl ruler, a girl governing countries and making important political decisions that effect entire nations. This is why I’m ok with the love triangle aspect of Reign, which could have easily taken over the whole story and suppressed opportunities for other representations of girlhood that fall outside of the domain of “fulfillment through heterosexual romance”. But it doesn’t make that mistake. While I love me a love triangle, and have fangirled over many on this very site, I am also excited to see something a bit different in regards to the representation of girls. And yes, Reign has a schlock factor and a lot of people have been quick to shout OH THE HISTORICAL INACCURACIES! but I feel like those sorts of critiques actively obscure more important questions of cultural ideas about girls, power, agency, and the possibility of a non romantic quest for girl heroines to take form in contemporary media.
Why is this kind of representation so important? From my perspective, there are (at least) a couple of fundamental reasons. I think the appeal partly lies in the idea that as a girl, you could access great power that is not in the grip of patriarchal governance. That you could have a say in the public discourse. That you could, essentially do or say what you want and that the world would fall into step with your desires and needs. Our culture tends to see girlhood and treat girls as somehow inherently vulnerable, powerless, and duped. This kind of imaginative appeal of Reign is important in this way, precisely because in our contemporary patriarchal culture, girls are frequently not included in the public discourse, or allowed to have their say, or allowed to exercise agency and power without being labelled troublesome or difficult or bad. Girls are so often talked about as a “problem” group, as vulnerable, as out of control, filtered through medical, pedagogical and psychological discourses, and in being so categorised and spoken for, restrictions are actively placed on girls, their access to power, and public space. This is not to say that girls don’t do amazing things in the world, because power is never simply top-down, it’s everywhere; and girls are accessing it all the time and making things happen. What Reign and other Teen Queen texts do, I think, is carve out an imaginative space where this emergent girl identity is powerfully asserting itself, allowing this power to gain traction and momentum, becoming more visible and therefore even more powerful. When Queen Mary is handing down decrees and, I’m paraphrasing here, telling men to stop whining that a girl is giving them orders and do as they’re told, I get a little gleeful. I like seeing teen queens rule.
Join Athena Bellas, Catherine Jones and Jodi McAlister as they discuss all things Pretty Little Liars! We talk relationships, desire, teen girl detectives, fashion, mysteries, the upcoming season, Ravenswood, and so much more. We’d love to hear your feedback so please write to us in the comments section, tweet at us or write to us on Facebook! We hope you enjoy it.