22nd Oct 2015 6:30pm
M2 Grand Parade
Dr Anthony Leaker, College of Arts and Humanities, University of Brighton
The last decade has seen increasing amounts of television dramas featuring strong female leads, often in roles that seem to have moved beyond the postfeminist representation characteristic of earlier female dominated shows such as Ally McBeal, Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives. Unlike these shows, programs such as Borgen, The Killing, The Bridge, The Good Wife, Damages, Spiral, Newsroom are less concerned with sex, love, relationships and other staples of gendered drama than with success at work, with over-achieving. They feature committed, driven, hardworking women, who sacrifice their family, friends and mental and physical well-being in the tireless pursuit of their goals
Building on Nina Power’s claim that “the pragmatic, enthusiastic professional woman is the symbol for the world of work as a whole”, this paper will argue that these lawyers, politicians, journalists and detectives, with their hyperactive networking, infinite flexibility, and insistence on being always switched on, are not exceptional, but represent the model neoliberal worker; that these TV shows fetishize and normalize theextreme demands of professional labour in the twenty-first century; and in doing so belong to a broader set of discourses of success that privilege a neoliberal conception of the subject and society, and obscure the deep and pernicious race, class and gender inequalities that exist in both the national and global economy. And thus need to be viewed as part of the specious but powerful “strivers and skivers” dialectic that dehumanizes the apparently less hardworking.