What do We Need from Our Feminist Media?

Since the premiere of this season of The Handmaid’s Tale, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of feminist TV and feminist media generally. To be fair, I don’t really ever stop thinking about the concept of feminist media, but as there has been a clear influx over the past few years, the conversations surrounding it are becoming more and more pointed.

The Handmaid’s Tale is a clear example of what is widely considered feminist media, but it’s not the only example. Its tone and sense of hopelessness have led me to think a lot about what is useful to feminists about feminist media. Many people think of The Handmaid’s Tale as a story that can open the eyes of those who don’t themselves suffer at the hands of heteropatriarchy to our plight. But as feminists whose eyes are already opened, what do we need from our media?

Teal Christensen
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On Loving Mozart in the Jungle and Finding Relatable Characters

If I’m recommending a TV show—or any piece of media for that matter—nine times out of ten I’m talking about a story that’s distinctly women-centric. Stories about women and other underrepresented groups are so incredibly overshadowed in the mainstream that it feels wrong to spend my time and energy celebrating anything else.

However, our media landscape being what it is, I sometimes find myself drawn to books, movies, and shows that aren’t as overtly feminist as I would like. In these cases, I like to think about why, despite its less-than-ideal representation overall, a story still resonates with me. It’s this process of (hopefully legitimate) rationalization that I’ve been going through for the past few years with Mozart in the Jungle.

Teal Christensen
“Rock On!”

Big Little Lies and the Representation of Women’s Relationships

A few weeks ago, I binge-watched Big Little Lies over the course of one (bad-feeling for unrelated reasons) day. At the end of the day, I was feeling weirder than before, but for an entirely new set of reasons. As far as I can tell, this is the experience many of us have had with the show. We think we may have liked it, but we also definitely feel that there was something off about it.

Big Little Lies is based on a book written by a woman, starring an allstar (if very white) cast of women, and produced by a company founded ostensibly to uplift women-centric stories. Yet, more than anything else, Big Little Lies tells the story of women who, despite being overwhelming rich in access to resources, are still barely surviving the emotional barrage of patriarchal social structures.

Teal Christensen
“Rock On!”

Strong Female Character: Wendy of South Park

Written by AJ Dent, GeekGirlCon Staff Copy Writer 

When most people think of South Park, I doubt that feminism comes to mind. For years, the satirical show has been best known for its crude humor and irreverent catchphrases. To me, though, one of the most impressive elements of its ongoing eighteen-year run is the development of Wendy Testaburger’s character.

AJ Dent
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This is what a Princess Looks Like: Fictional Edition

The other day, I heard a story about a little girl who didn’t understand how Leia from Star Wars could be a princess if she wasn’t wearing a pink dress. This got me thinking about princesses and how we look at them in our society. When I searched “princess” in Google images, almost every single picture was of princesses from Disney films. I challenged myself to think of what other princesses look like in TV, movies, and comics. Many of them fit the classic fairy tale aesthetic, but others are portrayed quite differently.

As the documentary Miss Representation revealed, telling girls how they should look and behave can have devastating effects. I’ve discussed this concept with others, in particular how destructive it can be to make girls desire to be the Fairest of Them All like the princesses they see on TV. For example, the princesses that girls dress up as for Halloween tend to be ones focused on superficial things like beauty and out-dated etiquette (Except maybe for this little Batman Princess or these Darth Vader Princesses).

However, there are some fictional princesses who aren’t vain or weak—who are portrayed as intelligent and compassionate leaders, leaders who might become a queen someday. The list below is a few of the fictional ladies I believe break the typical princess mold in some way. I admit that some of these princesses are still not perfect examples for young girls, but they do exhibit characteristics that should be encouraged.

Leia (portrayed by Carrie Fisher) on the forest moon of Endor in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Princess Leia Organa (Star Wars Episodes IV, V, & VI and various novels.)
Since Leia was the inspiration for this post, I felt it was prudent to make her the first on the list. Although some might remember her just for the “slavekini” she was forced to wear in Return of the Jedi, she does wear a variety of clothing throughout the trilogy. We see her in a white dress on the Death Star, white snow appropriate clothing on Hoth, camouflage gear on the forest moon of Endor, and many more. All of these outfits, besides the bikini, cover her modestly and are efficient for the task at hand.

Moving past her appearance, we find that Leia is not only a princess, but also a member of the Imperial Senate. She is comfortable taking command in both diplomatic and military conditions. Not only can she shoot a blaster with precision, she becomes a Jedi Knight in the novels.

Adrienne with her sword and Bedelia with her hammer ready to defend themselves on the cover of Princeless #4

Princess Adrienne (Princeless)
If you haven’t picked up a copy of Princeless yet, you are really missing out. Princess Adrienne is locked in a tower by her parents so that a knight can come rescue her. Adrienne finds a sword under her bed and instead of waiting for a prince, she teams up with her dragon guardian, Sparky, and flies off to save her sisters. She initially wears armor that she finds around her tower and is later disgusted to see what options were available for female warriors (including an obvious parody of Xena’s armor). Her newfound friend, Bedelia, makes her some real armor after receiving input from Adrienne.

You may notice that Adrienne is the only princess of color on this list (unless you count the color green). Besides the few Disney princesses, I found it difficult to think of fictional women of color with the title, “princess”. I know there must be more out there, but I find it depressing that no other examples came to my mind right away.

Princess Fiona in her ogre form.

Fiona (Shrek film series)
When we first meet Fiona she looks, behaves, and speaks like the classic princess locked in a tower. As she corrects Shrek on his rescue, it becomes obvious that she is following a script from a storybook. It is not until the second day of traveling that she reveals that she is highly trained in hand-to-hand combat and perfectly okay with letting out a belch in mixed company. Later, when she finds out about her ogre form, she is ashamed of it. Ultimately she realizes it is her true form and accepts herself. In the second movie, she even becomes upset with Shrek for wishing for them to be human.

Xena (on the right, portrayed by Lucy Lawless) standing with Gabrielle (portrayed by Renée O'Connor)

Xena (Xena: Warrior Princess)
Though she is not a princess in the traditional sense, she still holds the title of Warrior Princess and that is good enough for me. I remember watching Xena when I was younger and admiring her fighting skills, especially with the chakram. Not only was she a great fighter, she was also a good friend to Gabrielle. It seems that strong female fighters are often placed among men to prove themselves. In Xena: Warrior Princess, we get to see two women work together as friends and partners.

The costume Lucy Lawless wore as Xena and the weapons she carried are iconic. The leather and metal armor do not provide the full coverage one would want on a battlefield, but they do provide her with a wide range of movement. Even Lucy Lawless said that she found the costume to be functional once she got over the shortness of the skirt. I’m not saying that it is perfect, especially since her thighs, part of her arms, and her chest are exposed, but it gives a better illusion of protection than the spandex of other female fighters.

These are only a few of the princesses that I considered for this list. Honorable mentions include The Paper Bag Princess, Wonder Woman, Princess Mononoke/San, Princess Bubblegum, and Princess Adora/She-Ra.

Join us next week for “This is What a Princess Looks Like: Nonfiction Edition”

What princesses would you add to this list? Why?

Anna Daniell
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