Screening Diversity: Women & Work in Twenty-First-Century Popular Culture
Bolles, A. Lynn
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Screening Diversity: Women and Work in Twenty-first Century Popular Culture explores contemporary representations of diverse professional women on screen. Audiences are offered successful women with limited concerns for feminism, anti-racism, or economic justice. I introduce the term viewsers to describe a group of movie and television viewers in the context of the online review platform Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and the social media platforms Twitter and Facebook. Screening Diversity follows their engagement in a representative sample of professional women on film and television produced between 2007 and 2015. The sample includes the television shows, Scandal, Homeland, VEEP, Parks and Recreation, and The Good Wife, as well as the movies, Zero Dark Thirty, The Proposal, The Heat, The Other Woman, I Don’t Know How She Does It, and Temptation. Viewsers appreciated female characters like Olivia (Scandal), and Maya (Zero Dark Thiry) who treated their work as a quasi-religious moral imperative. Producers and viewsers shared the belief that unlimited time commitment and personal identification were vital components of professionalism. However, powerful women, like The Proposal’s Margaret and VEEP’s Selina, were often called bitches. Some viewsers embraced bitch-positive politics in recognition of the struggles of women in power. Women’s disproportionate responsibility for reproductive labor, often compromises their ability to live up to moral standards of work. Unlike producers, viewsers celebrated and valued that labor. However, texts that included serious consideration of women as workers were frequently labelled chick flicks or soap operas. The label suggested that women’s labor issues were not important enough that they could be a topic of quality television or prestigious film, which bolstered the idea that workplace equality for women is not a problem in which the general public is implicated. Emerging discussions of racial injustice on television offered hope that these formations are beginning to shift.