Super(natural) women : female heroes, their friends, and their fans
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A rich history exists surrounding the representation of female friendships in films and television series in the United States--a history that merits renewed attention today, given the increasing profitability of media products aimed at female markets. In the 1990s in particular a concentrated effort on the part of both the film industry and the television industry has resulted in the creation of many media texts assumed to be of appeal to a female market. One distinctive trend that began in the 1990s was the circumscribing of texts featuring female friendships within narrative frameworks of the fantastic and the extraordinary. Many of these texts rely on a skillful blend of fantasy, melodrama, action, and comedy, blurring the boundaries of traditional categories of female friendship texts and suggesting a necessary rethinking of media scholars’ conceptions of how such texts appeal to their audiences. This dissertation focuses on two recent television series available in the United States that focus on female friendships forged through extraordinary circumstances as a critical part of their primary theme: Xena: Warrior Princess and Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. I consider unusual narrative situations that are responsible for the creation and maintenance of friendships among women and focus on the manner in which females are represented coming together as females. Using a long-form questionnaire about these series, I report audience reactions to these shows and their representations of female friendships, queer relationships, gender issues, and the structure of these shows. Together, these textual and reception-based analyses reveal often overlooked intricacies of viewership and representation relevant to queer studies, gender studies, and television studies.