Viewing as if in a female network: towards a reparative reading of post-crash female-centred US TV series

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Laugalyte, Marija
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University College Cork
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This thesis explores and advocates for an imaginative and creative way of viewing screen texts where the purpose is to come up with alternatives for the images and narratives onscreen. This approach involves a deliberate focalisation at the level of viewing that solicits the liberation of characters from the images and narratives onscreen by way of considering what could be onscreen instead of what is onscreen. Focusing on my own viewing activity as the object of study, and my feminist commitments, I direct this strategy to post-crash US female-centred television series of the 2010s. I do so to experiment with this viewing strategy more generally but also to consider what alternatives I can come up with, and how I can come up with them, to resist the images and narratives of the individualistic white working-woman who is so often placed as the symbol of feminism in popular culture. Using Parks and Recreation (2009-2015), Girls (2013-2017), Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (2016), Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2015-2019) and The Bold Type (2017- ) as the series on which I experiment with this strategy of imagining alternatives, I do so in relation to my feminist commitments whereby I hope to bring new awareness to the relationship between viewer and the text. Because of my particular use of this strategy (to imagine feminist alternatives to the screen) and because of where I find the most relevant examples of it (the work of Ned Schantz), I have named this strategy ‘viewing as if in a female network’, an adaptation of what Schantz calls ‘reading as if in a female network’ (2008). I use Schantz’s proposed way of reading as a jumping off-point to articulate and develop my own, I argue, more radical way of viewing texts. This reading is also proposed as an antidote and alternative to forms of feminist academic analysis focused on critiquing gender representation; this mode of viewing proposes instead imagining what is lacking. Like the reparative reading style of Eve Sedgwick which introduces hope and joy into a text, this speculative reading focuses on constructing and producing nourishing alternatives to the screen where, as a feminist viewer, I am unsatisfied with what is on the screen. Thus, this thesis asks and illustrates what an imaginative viewing practice looks like that 1) addresses the pre-domination of whiteness and capitalist ideologies and 2) on the level of reception, repairs the damage through imaginative departure from the screen by way of considering alternatives to the screen, i. e. what might be onscreen instead. The results of this experimental study includes 1) a ‘toolbox’ of different ways that this strategy can be implemented that I offer to other viewers to take up and use; 2) the alternative images, narratives and meanings I conceive of by using this strategy that I call “viewing as if in a female network”; and 3) the address of the ethical questions and issues that arise when this viewing strategy is employed. I argue that this practice is a politicised strategy of viewing, especially when aligned with one’s political commitments and when our offscreen alternatives are conceived in line with our preferred visions of the world.
Interpretation , Reception studies , Television studies , Feminism , Reparative reading , Representation of working women
Laugalyte, M. 2020. Viewing as if in a female network: towards a reparative reading of post-crash female-centred US TV series. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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