Love and the Fighting Female: A Critical Study of Onscreen Depictions
Allison P. Palumbo
The fighting female archetype—a self-reliant woman of great physical prowess—has become increasingly common in action films and on television. However, the progressive female identities of these narratives cannot always resist the persistent and problematic framing of male-female relationships as a battle of the sexes or other source of antagonism.
Combining cultural analysis with close readings of key popular American film and television texts since the 1980s, this study argues that certain fighting female themes question regressive conventions in male-female relationships. Those themes reveal potentially progressive ideologies regarding female agency in mass culture that reassure audiences of the desirability of empowered women while also imagining egalitarian intimacies that further empower women. Overall, the fighting female narratives addressed here afford contradictory viewing pleasures that reveal both new expectations for and remaining anxieties about the “strong, independent woman” ideal that emerged in American popular culture post-feminism.