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Title: Women, comedy and liberation: an analysis of representations of second-wave feminism in the American sitcom genre, 1970-2000
Authors: Kypker, Nicole S.
Advisors: Lockyer, S
Weaver, S
Keywords: Critical discourse analysis;Norman Lear;Maude;The Golden Girls;Cybill
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Brunel University London
Abstract: This thesis explores the ways in which the values of the second feminist wave were reflected in the American sitcom genre over a thirty-year timespan, from the nineteen-seventies to the nineteen-nineties. The sitcoms Maude (CBS 1972-1978), The Golden Girls (NBC 1985-1992) and Cybill (CBS 1995-1998) were selected by means of purposive sampling to represent their respective decades of production; Norman Fairclough’s (2010) model of critical discourse analysis is utilised to deconstruct these texts into their distinct discursive components. Three episodes of each sitcom are analysed with varying emphases: the sitcom’s relation to a decade’s dominant ideological currents, its representation of feminist discourses, and its unique contribution to humorous and wider societal discourses. It emerges that there exists a negative correlation between the sitcoms’ representations of humanist-feminist versus patriarchal and conservative discourses: as the former gain prominence, the latter’s hegemony proportionally declines. Relatedly, the depiction of male characters changes, from equal partners in the seventies to quasi-redundant, insignificant others in the nineties. These developments are reinforced by the sitcoms’ set-ups, in which the nuclear family is replaced by chosen family arrangements and fictive kin relationships. Notably, over the course of the three decades, feminist humorous discourses, as articulated by a sitcom’s lead character, change in tone (from primarily confrontational to playful), but not in their vernacular or forthrightness; feminist sitcom protagonists have consistently been active makers of jokes. Moreover, despite the predominance of conservative and postmodern ideologies in the eighties and nineties respectively, the march of progress of nineteen-seventies feminist discourses, as manifested within the sitcom genre, continued. This thesis’s original contributions to existing knowledge include identifying the distinct discursive strategies which enabled two of the three sitcoms, The Golden Girls and Cybill, to overcome and effectively subvert extensive, mainstream ideological resistance.
Description: This thesis was submitted for the award of Doctor of Philosophy and was awarded by Brunel University London
Appears in Collections:Sociology
Dept of Social Sciences Media and Communications Theses

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