Female Agency

The Chameleon Woman in ‘Dollhouse’ and ‘iZombie’: Personality Swapping and Agency

Dollhouse and iZombie

The problem presented by both ‘Dollhouse’ and ‘iZombie’ is that of the “Chameleon Woman.” Both Echo and Liv carry the metaphor of the expectation that women adapt based on the needs and desires of others. However, both TV series point to this societal issue with two very different takes.

Andrea Arnold’s ‘American Honey’: A Young Woman Reclaims Her Life’s Trajectory

American Honey

Andrea Arnold’s films largely focus on the female experience, predominantly that of young women transitioning into adulthood. … It is here then, that Arnold’s depiction of female desire and agency warrants praise. Star acts on her own wants and needs, and seeing Jake, acknowledges her longing. She consciously rejects the current trajectory of her life, and intentionally and purposefully seeks a new one.

‘Penny Dreadful’: Departure from Heroine

Penny Dreadful finale

We do not see the warrior that we have come to know and love, for her ability to not just fight battles, but to align others to fight against their darkest selves and moments for a better world. … Her death becomes a part of their story and creates an allegory of her character; she is not a woman anymore, but a figure to them, something they now own.

“You Have No Power Over Me”: Female Agency and Empowerment in ‘Labyrinth’


So what distinguishes ‘Labyrinth’ from the Hero’s Journey tropes it so closely follows? Its protagonist. Sarah is the hero of the story. She doesn’t need to be saved because she’s the rescuer, and she carries the plot forward with her resourcefulness, tenacity, and self-actualization. …She navigates a tricky tightrope between fantasy and reality, dreams and goals, past and future, and discovers the kind of woman she wants to be.

‘Pretty in Pink’: A Desire for Autonomy

Pretty in Pink

Re-watching the film recently, it seems apparent that rather than Andie allowing herself to submit to Blane and all that he represents, her narrative arc is really a search for a sense of autonomy rather than a desire to transition into a world of privilege. …Blane represents an opportunity to take control of her life, to become increasingly autonomous in her decisions.

‘Inside Out’: Does Riley Lack Agency?

Inside Out Riley

Does Riley make decisions of her own, or are her decisions made for her by Anger, Disgust, Fear, Joy, and Sadness? … If Riley were completely subject to the whim of her emotions, they would be able to control her in any way at any time. However, ‘Inside Out’ repeatedly conveys that there are limits to what they can do when they interact with Riley.

‘Daredevil’s Elektra and the Problem of Destiny

Daredevil Elektra

Ultimately, we are left to conclude that Elektra’s characterization is not based in specific motivations, but in a dangerous, unseemly destiny that shapes her will and revokes her agency. … This trope, in which women’s “destinies” obscure, erase, or negate their agency is one that can be found other places…

Directing One’s Own Life (and Sexuality) in ‘Appropriate Behavior’

Appropriate Behavior

‘Appropriate Behavior’ is thus a product and a triumph of female authorship and agency in the male-dominated film and entertainment industry. … Just as Desiree Akhavan went to lengths to ensure her agency and authorship as a filmmaker, Shirin engages with her bisexuality frankly and honestly…

Catherine Breillat’s Transfigurative Female Gaze

A Real Young Girl (Une vraie jeune fille)

Breillat’s complete oeuvre (which certainly demands our attention beyond these three films) delivers continually shocking treatment of female sexuality presented though the female gaze. She wants us to be uncomfortable and to be constantly questioning both representations of female desire and our responses to those representations, and how all of it is shaped by a religious, patriarchal culture.

“But I Do!”: Releasing Repressed Rage in ‘The Ring’


These abstract symbols not only frighten, but link events in the real world to Samara’s cursed tape: this particular creature recalls the “spiders, snails, and puppy-dog tails” that little girls are decidedly not supposed to be made of. When Rachel engages this videotape, notably created by the patriarchal forces that might be seen to repress Samara, she sees Samara in a sparse hospital room in fast motion, staring at the clock as its hands whirl around and around.

“We Stick Together”: Rebellion, Female Solidarity, and Girl Crushes in ‘Foxfire’

You don’t want to mess with these gals.

In the spirit of ‘Boys on the Side,’ along with a dose of teen angst, ‘Foxfire’ is perhaps the most bad ass chick flick ever. Many Angelina Jolie fans are not aware of this 1996 phenomenon, where Angie makes a name for herself as a rebellious free spirit who changes the lives of four young women in New York. Based on the Joyce Carol Oates novel by the same name, ‘Foxfire’ is the epitome of girl power and female friendship, a pleasant departure from the competition and spitefulness often portrayed between women characters on the big screen (see ‘Bride Wars’ and ‘Just Go with It’). However, it does seem that Hollywood is catching on as of late, and producing films that cater to a more progressive viewership (see ‘Bridesmaids’ and ‘The Other Woman’). When I first saw ‘Foxfire’ around 16 years old, I stole the VHS copy from the video store where I worked at the time.

Friendship, Fandom, and Female Agency in ‘Lost Girl’

Lost Girl logo.

Supernatural shows and crime shows are a dime a dozen, but something amazing can happen through the fusion of the two. Putting a no-nonsense Action Girl at the center is just icing on the cake for Lost Girl, which has consistently managed to capture lightning in a bottle for four seasons.