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A new collection on women in American television in the 90s uncovers a cultural obsession with tough yet sexy heroines in mythical pasts, the "girl power" present, and utopic futures. Xena, Buffy, Sabrina, and a host of other characters have become household words, as well as icons of pop culture 'feminism.' Their popularity makes for successful programming, however, how m A new collection on women in American television in the 90s uncovers a cultural obsession with tough yet sexy heroines in mythical pasts, the "girl power" present, and utopic futures. Xena, Buffy, Sabrina, and a host of other characters have become household words, as well as icons of pop culture 'feminism.' Their popularity makes for successful programming, however, how much does this trend truly represent a contemporary feminist breakthrough? And what does it mean for feminism in the next few decades? Fantasy Girls: Navigating the New Universe of Science Fiction and Fantasy Television seeks to explore as well as challenge the power and the promises of this recent media phenomenon. Such TV programming offers the exciting opportunity to rethink established gender norms, but how far is it really pushing the limits of the status quo? Amidst the exuberant optimism of fanzines and doting fan websites, the contributors to this volume endeavor to provide us with a much needed critical analysis of this contemporary trend. These essays explore the contradictions and limitations inherent in the genre, forcing readers to take a fresh and critical look through a variety of lenses including girl power, postfeminism, cyborg feminism, disability politics, queer studies, and much more. Programs covered are Babylon 5, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Disney's Cinderella, Lois and Clark, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Star Trek: Voyager, The X-Files, Third Rock from the Sun, and Xena: Warrior Princess.


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A new collection on women in American television in the 90s uncovers a cultural obsession with tough yet sexy heroines in mythical pasts, the "girl power" present, and utopic futures. Xena, Buffy, Sabrina, and a host of other characters have become household words, as well as icons of pop culture 'feminism.' Their popularity makes for successful programming, however, how m A new collection on women in American television in the 90s uncovers a cultural obsession with tough yet sexy heroines in mythical pasts, the "girl power" present, and utopic futures. Xena, Buffy, Sabrina, and a host of other characters have become household words, as well as icons of pop culture 'feminism.' Their popularity makes for successful programming, however, how much does this trend truly represent a contemporary feminist breakthrough? And what does it mean for feminism in the next few decades? Fantasy Girls: Navigating the New Universe of Science Fiction and Fantasy Television seeks to explore as well as challenge the power and the promises of this recent media phenomenon. Such TV programming offers the exciting opportunity to rethink established gender norms, but how far is it really pushing the limits of the status quo? Amidst the exuberant optimism of fanzines and doting fan websites, the contributors to this volume endeavor to provide us with a much needed critical analysis of this contemporary trend. These essays explore the contradictions and limitations inherent in the genre, forcing readers to take a fresh and critical look through a variety of lenses including girl power, postfeminism, cyborg feminism, disability politics, queer studies, and much more. Programs covered are Babylon 5, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Disney's Cinderella, Lois and Clark, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Star Trek: Voyager, The X-Files, Third Rock from the Sun, and Xena: Warrior Princess.

30 review for Fantasy Girls: Gender in the New Universe of Science Fiction and Fantasy Television

  1. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    I originally picked this volume up to read the essay about MST3K (which was pretty interesting, if a bit less nuanced than I would have liked), but the other essays here are worth a read, too. The piece that really tips this collection into 4-star territory is Hanley Kamar's essay, "No Ramps in Space: The Inability to Envision Accessibility in Star Trek DS 9." Although I'm not an avid viewer of DS9 and have not seen the episode that Kamar discusses, her piece was a well-written and engaging look I originally picked this volume up to read the essay about MST3K (which was pretty interesting, if a bit less nuanced than I would have liked), but the other essays here are worth a read, too. The piece that really tips this collection into 4-star territory is Hanley Kamar's essay, "No Ramps in Space: The Inability to Envision Accessibility in Star Trek DS 9." Although I'm not an avid viewer of DS9 and have not seen the episode that Kamar discusses, her piece was a well-written and engaging look at femininity, disability, and stereotypes of disabled characters that seem to keep coming up even in a TV genre that specifically prides itself on imagining a better future (not for everyone, I guess)! Not surprisingly, Kamar argues that even PWDs in televised sci-fi tend to be characterized as supercrips, burdens, or tragic--and when the PWD in question is a woman, the gender politics add even more crap to the mix. This is an excellent, worthwhile read if you like science fiction TV and gender studies. Don't worry too much about being familiar with *all* of the shows covered here--each of the contributors do a fine job of recapping the episodes, characters, and series themes discussed in their respective essays.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lubnaa (Romance Library)

    Only read the portions I needed for my paper. The essay on Sabrina was insightful and provided me with a deeper understanding of the multi-layered depiction of femininity and feminism on the 90s television show.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    When my [used, because it's a whopping $40 new] copy of Fantasy Girls arrived, I initially dismissed it as one of those academic press collections of very unrelated essays. However, while written by different authors, the chapters form a coherent whole, are well-arranged, and are surprisingly even in quality. A review of the role of women in '90s sci-fi television shows with special attention to portrayals of race, disability, and sexuality, the chapters cover shows including Buffy, Third Rock f When my [used, because it's a whopping $40 new] copy of Fantasy Girls arrived, I initially dismissed it as one of those academic press collections of very unrelated essays. However, while written by different authors, the chapters form a coherent whole, are well-arranged, and are surprisingly even in quality. A review of the role of women in '90s sci-fi television shows with special attention to portrayals of race, disability, and sexuality, the chapters cover shows including Buffy, Third Rock from the Sun, assorted recent Star Treks, Babylon 5, Sabrina, the X Files, MST3K, Lois & Clark, Xena, and a live action Disney Cinderella film. Unfortunately for me, I didn't watch almost any of these regularly. Oops. In any case, we learn that nearly every '90s show presented a modern pop cultural feminist view of women, except when it didn't. The essays become more interesting when they turn to analyze topics like race and disability. The chapter on Buffy is a little muddled, since while the author does analyze the roles played by people of color within the series, she starts out by equating vampires with a racial category, confusing the issue. An analysis of Star Trek: Voyager shows us how '90s television dealt with the topic of mixed race (though in this case, the author more literally means mixed species), while a look at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine looks at how the series treats a visiting disabled officer (horrifyingly, as it turns out). All in all this is a good look at the treatment of gender in pop culture, and limiting the search to science fiction series of the '90s makes the project more manageable. Still, twelve years after it was written, the collection definitely seems dated, and I found myself supplying mental counterexamples and then checking these with "oh wait, that wasn't out yet." It's not fair to dime a book out for not magically updating itself, but I can't pretend I didn't want to see an analysis of Firefly, Game of Thrones, Dark Angel, Battlestar Galactica, Futurama, Lost, Dr. Who... I've even seen a couple of those! All in all, though, while dated, the collection provides the sort of analysis of pop culture that maybe we should all be making instead of more passively consuming it. I don't think I'd be able to watch any of the shows the same way again having read it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tortla

    I didn't read this particularly thoroughly, but there were insightful analyses of Sabrina, Third Rock from the Sun, and Xena which I skimmed because I'd seen all of those shows to some extent in my childhood. There was also a compelling article on race in Disney's 1997 live-action version of Cinderella, which I actually read. I particularly enjoyed its puns and its insistence on calling the character played by Whoopi Goldberg "Queen Whoopi." It brought up good points about race and age and Ameri I didn't read this particularly thoroughly, but there were insightful analyses of Sabrina, Third Rock from the Sun, and Xena which I skimmed because I'd seen all of those shows to some extent in my childhood. There was also a compelling article on race in Disney's 1997 live-action version of Cinderella, which I actually read. I particularly enjoyed its puns and its insistence on calling the character played by Whoopi Goldberg "Queen Whoopi." It brought up good points about race and age and American media/values, too.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Meghan Burshteyn

  6. 4 out of 5

    Liz

  7. 5 out of 5

    Danie

  8. 5 out of 5

    CHAOS

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

  10. 5 out of 5

    Abby

  11. 5 out of 5

    Maria

  12. 5 out of 5

    A.C.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sara

  14. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

  15. 4 out of 5

    Martha

  16. 5 out of 5

    Joy Watson Johnson

  17. 4 out of 5

    Laura Hubbard

  18. 4 out of 5

    Fanie Demeule

  19. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

  20. 5 out of 5

    Salome Wilde

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ricke Gritten

  22. 4 out of 5

    Vavia

  23. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bosanbo

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bin

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jacob

  28. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jen Eller

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jaki

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