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Hill, LC 2012, 'Television's adaptable women : postfeminist nostalgia and Hollywood film', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright LC Hill 2012


This thesis determines that nostalgia and postfeminism are linked by notions of the past and performativity, and recognises contemporary film adaptations of television shows as potential sites for these principles to converge. It identifies the new millennium films Bewitched and Charlie’s Angels, both adapted from 1960s and 1970s TV series, as pertinent examples of this coalescence and posits the concept of ‘postfeminist nostalgia’ to account for the desire to engage with past womanhoods and competing gender ideals.

From the late 1990s onwards, a string of popular US TV shows from the sixties and seventies have been re-imagined as Hollywood films. While this trend signals a collective nostalgia, the recurrence of characters, settings and themes also provides an opportunity to observe socio-cultural changes across the period; particularly variations in screen representations of women and femininity. Through primarily textual analysis, this thesis examines the chosen texts in tandem, by first situating the TV show in a socio-historical context and then considering the corresponding film in relation to the TV series, revealing what has changed and, just as significantly, what has stayed the same. In Bewitched, the gender performativity highlighted in the TV show reappears through a narrative construct in the film whereby the modern-day character calls on the idealised sixties housewife to gain insight into postfeminist womanhood. In contrast, the ‘girl power’ discourse that permeates the Charlie’s Angels film(s) reflects the negotiation of new (post)femininities, moving beyond the multiple and public characterisations introduced in the seventies’ TV series.

The significance of adaptations became apparent throughout this analysis as the most potent state in which postfeminism and nostalgia converge. Despite presenting diverse femininities, the Bewitched and Charlie’s Angels texts uncovered similar and complementary issues, as each engage with sisterhood, empowerment, performativity and the negotiation of multiple roles. An examination of the postfeminist series Sex and the City (1998-2004) and its recent film adaptation (and sequel) confirms these findings, demonstrating a broader application of postfeminist nostalgia and exposing postfeminism’s mediating potential. When examined through a contemporary lens, the more widely progressive representations of women were found in the original TV shows. Each of the film adaptations tap into these transgressive representations and, in doing so, foreground the active nature of postfeminism and nostalgia. This suggests that, further to connecting with a feminist genealogy and past ideals, the adapted texts work towards incorporating them into representations of contemporary women on screen.