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Redesigning Women

Redesigning Women: Television after the Network Era

AMANDA D. LOTZ
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt1xcqg7
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  • Book Info
    Redesigning Women
    Book Description:

    In the 1990s, American televison audiences witnessed an unprecedented rise in programming devoted explicitly to women. Cable networks such as Oxygen Media, Women's Entertainment Network, and Lifetime targeted a female audience, and prime-time dramatic series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Judging Amy, Gilmore Girls, Sex and the City, and Ally McBeal empowered heroines, single career women, and professionals struggling with family commitments and occupational demands. After establishing this phenomenon's significance, Amanda D. Lotz explores the audience profile, the types of narrative and characters that recur, and changes to the industry landscape in the wake of media consolidation and a profusion of channels. _x000B_Employing a cultural studies framework, Lotz examines whether the multiplicity of female-centric networks and narratives renders certain gender stereotypes uninhabitable, and how new dramatic portrayals of women have redefined narrative conventions. Redesigning Women also reveals how these changes led to narrowcasting, or the targeting of a niche segment of the overall audience, and the ways in which the new, sophisticated portrayals of women inspire sympathetic identification while also commodifying viewers into a marketable demographic for advertisers.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09176-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-ix)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. x-xii)
  4. Introduction: Female-Centered Dramas after the Network Era
    (pp. 1-36)

    In the fall of 1997, the prime-time television season began much like every other year. September arrived, and audiences greeted a range of new series amidst hype and fanfare, although most of these programs disappeared from the screen in less than a year. One member of the 1997 class surpassed the competition in popular accounts of the new television offerings.Ally McBealinitially mesmerized critics. Its playful form, quirky lead character, and some quality that no one could quite pinpoint—was it the tone, the actress, the digital graphics?—earned it a place on many “must see” lists. But as...

  5. 1. Women’s Brands and Brands of Women: Segmenting Audiences and Network Identities
    (pp. 37-67)

    The development of more than sixteen female-centered dramatic series and at least three cable networks specifically targeting segments of the female audience did not transpire in the dark hours of the morning some time in the late 1990s. There was no revolution or “aha!” moment after which television programs and programming strategies were forever changed. As the introduction indicates, complex interconnections among a variety of institutional factors and adjustments developed over a period of ten to twenty years, and modifications continue with no indication of how a new merger or deregulatory decision may expand competition or signal the establishment of...

  6. 2. Fighting for Families and Femininity: The Hybrid Narratives of the Action Drama
    (pp. 68-87)

    Of the various dramatic types, action dramas have unquestionably attracted the most popular speculation about the significance of their stories of empowered heroines for contemporary femininity and feminism. The heroines of action dramas are commonly either physically, mentally, or mystically enhanced and extend the legacy of an assortment of previous characters that existed in eras that did not offer such ample variation in female characterizations. Predecessors inBewitched, I Dream of Jeanie, Wonder Woman,andThe Bionic Womanalso possessed “superpowers,” while other shows innovated by enabling female characters to do “men’s” jobs (Decoy, Honey West, Get Christie Love, Police...

  7. 3. Sex, Careers, and Mr. Right in Comedic Dramas: The “New” New Women of Ally McBeal and Sex and the City
    (pp. 88-117)

    Following the lineage Theroux describes, Ally McBeal and Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda ofSex and the Cityindicate the arrival of the most recent generation of single-woman characters who continue a genealogy that can be traced to Ann Marie ofThat Girland Mary Richards ofThe Mary Tyler Moore Show.“New woman” characters throughout television history primarily have been “single girls,” young women who seek jobs in the city prior to marriage.¹ Marlo Thomas recalls that her character was the result of her declaration to the network, “‘I don’t want to be the wife of somebody, I don’t...

  8. 4. Same Story, Different Channel? Returning Home and Starting Over in Protagonist-Centered Family Dramas
    (pp. 118-143)

    In this highly reflexive moment, in which Gless refers to her previous identity as Christine Cagney and her current identity as Rosie O’Neill, executive producer Barney Rosenzweig uses Gless’s character as a mouthpiece to express the challenges facing dramatic series centering upon female characters in the early 1990s. Rosie O’Neill was exactly the character Gless—as O’Neill—describes. And she was on television; but her stay was brief, with the show surviving with only thirty-four episodes. Rosenzweig’s efforts were not in vain; he was just a little ahead of his time.The Trials of Rosie O’Neill(CBS, 1990–92) and...

  9. 5. Of Female Cops and Docs: The Reformulation of Workplace Dramas and Other Trends in Mixed-Sex Ensembles
    (pp. 144-164)

    One of the first representational issues targeted by feminist criticism was television’s limited depiction of women as workers outside of the home. The single-woman character dates to television’s early years; however, depictions of women in the workforce after marriage or in lieu of homemaking and motherhood did not appear in a significant manner until the 1970s, and even then often enforced hegemonic American gender roles. Dramatic franchise series about male detectives, doctors, and lawyers have long told stories about the duties of work, but women rarely had a space in these worlds. Few stories about the work women do outside...

  10. Epilogue: The 2001–2 Season and Beyond
    (pp. 165-170)

    When I began this project at what seemed the height of the female-centered drama trend, I had no idea how long the trend would continue or what forms it would ultimately take. As the broadcast networks announced cancellations and new series in 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005, far more of the kinds of dramas I have considered appeared on the list of cancellations than the list of new shows. Many of the series that originally indicated the emergence of a programming trend came full circle with concluding episodes in 2002. Ally Mc-Beal, who caused such commotion five years earlier, left...

  11. Conclusion: U.S. Feminist Television Criticism in the Post-Network Era
    (pp. 171-180)

    Innovation only becomes possible when people are willing to contest “conventional wisdom” or hegemonic norms. The broadcast television industry is an insular community, and by the time executives achieve decision-making positions, they have been fully schooled in the conventional wisdom upon which the industry operates. It is likely that a network executive told Barney Rosenzweig the same thing aboutThe Trials of Rosie O’Neillin the early 1990s that executives advised Amy Brenneman ofJudging Amy;and in the previous case the conventional wisdom prevailed. Many fail in the process of discerning when a change occurs or when the time...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 181-202)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 203-214)
  14. Index
    (pp. 215-224)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 225-228)