“Who Do You Want Answering the Phone?” Women, leadership, and trauma in some post-2001 TV series

  • Donatella Izzo University of Napoli “L’Orientale”
Keywords: Women, leasership, TV series, Crime, 9/11


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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Author Biography

Donatella Izzo, University of Napoli “L’Orientale”

Donatella Izzo is professor of American Literature at Università “L’Orientale,” Napoli. She is a co-director of the Futures of American Studies Institute directed by Donald E. Pease. In 2012, with Giorgio Mariani, she launched OASIS—Orientale American Studies International School. A co-editor of the American Studies journal Ácoma, she has published widely on 19th- and 20th-century US writers, especially H. Melville, F.S. Fitzgerald, and H. James (Portraying the Lady: Technologies of Gender in the Short Stories of Henry James, 2001), American studies, Asian American studies, literary theory, and TV series. Her current work is on the political theology of detective narratives, and attempts to create a dialogue between the 19th-century rise of the genre and post-9/11 TV series, in light of their shared concern for questions of sovereignty and justice, and of their shared cultural function of responding to legitimization crises in the relationship between citizens and the state.


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How to Cite
Izzo, D. (2016). “Who Do You Want Answering the Phone?” Women, leadership, and trauma in some post-2001 TV series. Between, 6(11). https://doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/2124