Since the 1990s, when Reviving Ophelia became a best seller and “Girl Power” a familiar anthem, girls have assumed new visibility in the culture. Yet in asserting their new power, young women have redefined femininity in ways that have often mystified their mothers. They have also largely disavowed feminism, even though their new influence is a likely legacy of feminism’s Second Wave. At the same time, popular culture has persisted in idealizing, demonizing, or simply erasing mothers, rarely depicting them in strong and loving relationships with their daughters. Unruly Girls, Unrepentent Mothers, a companion to Kathleen Rowe Karlyn’s groundbreaking work, The Unruly Woman, studies the ways popular culture and current debates within and about feminism inform each other. Surveying a range of films and television shows that have defined girls in the postfeminist era—from Titanic and My So-Called Life to Scream and The Devil Wears Prada, and from Love and Basketball to Ugly Betty—Karlyn explores the ways class, race, and generational conflicts have shaped both Girl Culture and feminism’s Third Wave. Tying feminism’s internal conflicts to negative attitudes toward mothers in the social world, she asks whether today’s seemingly materialistic and apolitical girls, inspired by such real and fictional figures as the Spice Girls and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, have turned their backs on the feminism of their mothers or are redefining unruliness for a new age.
Kathleen Rowe Karlyn is Professor of English and Director of the Cinema Studies Program at the University of Oregon. Her publications include the award-winning The Unruly Woman: Gender and the Genres of Laughter and articles in Screen, Cinema Journal, Genders, Feminist Media Studies, and other journals and anthologies. She has been interviewed by major media outlets, and her work, especially on comedy and the unruly woman, has been reprinted, cited, and taught worldwide.
This is a remarkable and deeply trenchant book, absolutely immersed in the cultural phenomenon it seeks to examine. Karlyn is a superb writer, and this lavishly illustrated, deeply thoughtful volume is a significant contribution to the existing literature on the subject.
Introduction: Bad Mothers, Angry Girls
1. Postfeminism and the Third Wave: Titanic
2. Trouble in Paradise: American Beauty and the Incest Motif
3. Girl World: Clueless, Mean Girls, and The Devil Wears Prada
4. Final Girls and Epic Fantasies: Remaking the World
5. How Reese Witherspoon Walks the Line
6. Teen-Girl Melodramas: My So-Called Life and Thirteen
7. Girls of Color: Beyond Girl World
8. The Motherline and a Wicked Powerful Feminism: Antonia's Line
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