Gender, sex, and power in the postfeminist romantic comedy

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Copyright: Angyal, Chloe
This thesis argues that the Hollywood romantic comedies released between 2005 and 2011 constitute a new cycle in the genre, the postfeminist cycle, in which feminism is “‘taken into account’ but only to be shown to be no longer necessary” (McRobbie 2004, p. 255). Drawing on accounts and analyses of postfeminism by McRobbie (2004, 2009) and Gill (2007), and on applications of these analyses to popular culture by Negra (2004, 2008, 2009) and Tasker and Negra (2007), I argue that the romantic comedies released during this period represent gender, sex, and power in a manner consistent with – and informed by – postfeminist approaches to these themes. I do this by conducting close readings (case studies) of three films, selected from a representative sample of thirty, and examining how these three films screen postfeminist ideas about gender (Forgetting Sarah Marshall [Stoller 2008]), sex (Friends With Benefits [Gluck 2011]), and power (The Ugly Truth [Luketic 2009]). Following analyses of the Hollywood romantic comedy by Jeffers McDonald (2007) and Grindon (2011), I demonstrate how these movies form a new and heretofore minimally examined cycle which is shaped not only by what Gill (2007) terms the “postfeminist sensibility” in the United States, but by the history of the genre, that is, in response to previous cycles. In each of the three case studies in this thesis, I place the films in question in generic context, and in extra-cinematic context, demonstrating how the films are informed by – and in turn contribute to – larger cultural discourses about: the effect of feminism on masculinity (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), “hook up culture” (Friends With Benefits), and women’s professional authority and economic independence (The Ugly Truth). Taken together, I conclude, these three films demonstrate that the Hollywood romantic comedy has become yet another popular culture site in which postfeminist ideas are represented, and I consider the political and cultural ramifications of the entrenchment of these ideas in the sole movie genre that is made primarily for and about women.
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Angyal, Chloe
Mills, Jane
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PhD Doctorate
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