“Who Do You Want Answering the Phone?” Women, leadership, and trauma in some post-2001 TV series
Building on an analysis of a well known video from Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign for the democratic nomination, this essay focuses on the representation of women’s leadership in a number of TV series—mainly police procedurals and crime dramas—produced after September 11, 2001. The essay analyzes the women protagonists’ characterization and cultural functions within the context of a widespread resistance against women’s leadership in US politics and culture, emphasizing the limits and ambiguities of the feminism ostensibly displayed in these series. Exploring the recurring presence in these TV series of women protagonists who are wounded, vulnerable, or traumatized, the essay reads their cultural function as metaphorically mirroring the historical trauma of September 11, 2001, as well as containing the anxiety of a freshly wounded nation, reluctant to acknowledge its own vulnerability. In their selfless dedication, they operate as emblems of motherly protection, but also as instruments of a symbolic retribution more or less overtly mandate by a patriarchal authority. Finally, the essay examines the protagonist of How to Get Away with Murder, reading her as proof of a backlash in terms of both gender and race.
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