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Broadcast television has been plagued by the misrepresentation and absence of progressive female protagonists. Contemporary television programs have begun to address issues of diversity and empowerment, but it is questionable whether substantial strides in the representation of women have truly been made. The science fiction and fantasy genres in particular are infamous for perpetuating rampant sexism and the objectification of female characters. I analyze aspects of the television shows Orphan Black and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, two broadcast television series which aired over ten years apart, to broadly evaluate whether the science fiction and fantasy genres have progressed or regressed in terms of feminist values in the past decade. The criteria by which the two series are evaluated include the presence of the postfeminist “Girl Power,” the appropriation of “masculine” heroic power in conjunction with femininity, the presence of empowered sexuality, and heteronormativity. The research reveals that, according to the above criteria, Orphan Black, which has not previously been studied academically and which is an ongoing television series, surpasses Buffy in terms of empowered sexuality and the presence of heteronormativity. However, while it is clear that the representation of female protagonists have attained a greater degree of diversity in Orphan Black, it is difficult to identity clear boundaries by which to assess the feminist value of these characters. The Girl Power motif is present in both shows, an element of its feminist potential realized with the series’ emphasis on collectivity.
Gender Stereotypes, Gender Roles, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Orphan Black, Sexuality, Sociology, Television, Heteronormativ*, Gender Binary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy Genre, Femini*
Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Current Academic Year
Mary C. Boyes
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