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Third Wave Feminism and Television: Jane Puts It in a Box

Third Wave Feminism and Television: Jane Puts It in a Box - Merri Lisa Johnson Merri Lisa Johnson's collection, Third Wave Feminism and Television uses contemporary television as a lens through which to view a variety of issues ranging from S/M practices to prisoner rape within a third wave framework. The essay most emblematic of this approach is the final one, Leslie Heywood's incredibly insightful "'The Room' as 'Heterosexual Closet': The Life and Death of Alternative Relationships on Six Feet Under." In it, Heywood uses Six Feet Under's Nate as an example of "queer heterosexuality" and through him discusses twentieth century constructions of masculinity and the relationship those ideals and the way heteronormativity has failed some straight people.

This conceit of examining focus points of feminist discussion through television isn't quite as effective in every essay, however. Carol Siegel's "Female Heterosexual Sadism: The Feminist Taboo in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Series" is based on the premise that Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer judges the main character unfairly for her forays into an S/M relationship with Spike, a vampire, while the Anita Blake series looks more kindly on these types of encounters. Unfortunately, Siegel's take on Buffy the Vampire Slayer ignores the incredibly complicated texture of the relationship between Buffy and her vampire lover by completely decontextualizing just three episodes from the series' seven season run.

The rest of the essays find interesting ways to connect the cultural work of television to feminist reflections on the world. Katherine Frank uses The Bachelor to question ideas of romance and monogamy, Bobby Noble finds moments of female masculinity through a trans-ed reading of Queer as Folk, Lara Stemple breaks open the depiction of prison rape on Oz, Candace Moore continues Laura Mulvey's work in an examination of perspective on The L Word and Johnson herself looks at the intersection of class and gender on The Sopranos.

While Third Wave Feminism and Television is too academic make it a must-have for every casual TV viewer, for anyone interested in a close reading of contemporary television from a feminist standpoint, this collection of essays is a perfect addition to your bookshelf.