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Objectification of Personhood: an analysis of Female heroes in american TV series
Ms. Neelum Almas
ABSTRACT Thesis Title: Objectification of Personhood: An Analysis of Female Heroes in American TV Series This dissertation examines the representation of the female hero in the American television drama series which at a cursory glance seems to be informed by the enlightened discourse of feminism. The study looks into the notion of the female hero through a feminist lens in order to determine what ways of objectification, or treating women as objects, are at work in the depiction of the female hero in American television drama series. The objectives of the study were to determine the extent to which the female hero is objectified in American television drama series and expose ideological biases in terms of instrumentality, autonomy, agency, violability and subjectivity that exists in the representation of the female heroes in television drama series. For the purpose of the study of objectification of the female hero three drama series were selected: Grey’s Anatomy, Castle and The Good Wife. Martha Nussbaum’s theory of objectification delineating seven notions of objectification, namely: instrumentality, denial of autonomy, violability, inertness, denial of subjectivity, fungibility and ownership formed the theoretical framework of the study. Horace Newcomb and Paul M. Hirsch’s textual critical approach was used to study and interpret the dominant messages embedded in the pleasant disguise of fictional entertainment. A detailed analysis of the three notions of objectification: instrumentality, denial of autonomy and ownership (Chapter IV) shows that despite being given the role of the hero around whom the action of the drama series revolves, the female heroes, Meredith, Beckett and Alicia are undermined in various ways through objectification. Members of their family, male or female co-workers objectify them and deny them autonomy and claim ownership of them. The needs, interests and experiences of these female heroes are subordinated to those of the powerful, who are authority figures predominantly men and in some instances women as well, either in the family or the workplace. The female hero’s treatment as violable and her lack of autonomy (Chapter V) shows that she is not granted powers expected in the figure of a hero. Authority figures and men who control the female heroes’ lives fail to acknowledge that these women are owners of their own lives and have the right to self-determination and action. There is little awareness and resistance on the part of the women heroes as they sacrifice their individuality and independence and submit to the authority of men considering it beneficial to them. The analysis of the female heroes reveals that despite being given the role of heroes their agency is limited. They are not fully autonomous and are inert as someone else manages the decisions about their life and career. This inertness mars their status as heroes who are not fully active agents. It is a subversive strategy used in patriarchal societies to control tough women which reveals that women are only allowed to show power within certain parameters which do not threaten male dominance.