The New Female Antihero
The Disruptive Women of Twenty-First-Century US Television
Sarah Hagelin, Gillian Silverman
The New Female Antihero examines the hard-edged spies, ruthless queens, and entitled slackers of twenty-first-century television.
The last ten years have seen a shift in television storytelling toward increasingly complex storylines and characters. In this study, Sarah Hagelin and Gillian Silverman zoom in on a key figure in this transformation: the archetype of the female antihero. Far from the sunny, sincere, plucky persona once demanded of female characters, the new female antihero is often selfish and deeply unlikeable.
In this entertaining and insightful study, Hagelin and Silverman explore the meanings of this profound change in the role of women characters. In the dramas of the new millennium, they show, the female antihero is ambitious, conniving, even murderous; in comedies, she is self-centered, self-sabotaging, and anti-aspirational. Across genres, these female protagonists eschew the part of good girl or role model. In their rejection of social responsibility, female antiheroes thus represent a more profound threat to the status quo than do their male counterparts. From the devious schemers of Game of Thrones, The Americans, Scandal, and Homeland, to the joyful failures of Girls, Broad City, Insecure, and SMILF, female antiheroes register a deep ambivalence about the promises of liberal feminism. They push back against the myth of the modern-day super-woman—she who “has it all”—and in so doing, they give us new ways of imagining women’s lives in contemporary America.