The Bionic Woman and Feminist Ethics

An Analysis of the 1970s Television Series

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About the Book

The ABC TV series The Bionic Woman, created by Kenneth Johnson, was a 1970s pop culture phenomenon. Starring Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Sommers, the groundbreaking series follows Jaime’s evolution from a young woman vulnerable to an exploitative social order, to a fierce individualist defying a government that sees her as property. Beneath the action-packed surface of Jaime’s battles with Fembots, themes such as the chosen family, technophobia, class passing, the cyborg, artificial beings, and a growing racial consciousness receive a sophisticated treatment.
This book links the series to precedents such as classical mythology, first-wave feminist literature, and the Hollywood woman’s film, to place The Bionic Woman in a tradition of feminist ethics deeply concerned with female autonomy, community, and the rights of nonhuman animals. Seen through the lens of feminist philosophy and gender studies, Jaime’s constantly changing disguises, attempts to pass as human, and struggles to accept her new bionic abilities offer provocative engagement with issues of identity. Jaime Sommers is a feminist icon who continues to speak to women and queer audiences, and her struggles and triumphs resonate with a worldwide fanbase that still remains enthralled and represented by The Bionic Woman.

About the Author(s)

David Greven is Professor of English at the University of South Carolina. His books include Representations of Femininity in American Genre CinemaThe Bionic Woman and Feminist Ethics, and Gender and Sexuality in Star Trek.

Bibliographic Details

David Greven
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 188
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7407-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3948-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction: Why The Bionic Woman Matters 1
Chapter 1: Mrs. Steve Austin 15
Chapter 2: Feminist Ethics 32
Chapter 3: In the Shadow of Sasquatch 62
Chapter 4: Bionic Vertigo 71
Chapter 5: Fembot Theory 101
Chapter 6: Mechaphobia and ­Self-Shattering 131
Chapter 7: Dogs and Sympathy 148
Epilogue: Awakenings 157
Notes 159
Bibliography 167
Index 171

Book Reviews & Awards

• “This is definitely a book for fans…unique, but all the better for looking at a 40+ year old show with a modern eye. It works, and I defy you not to have new opinions and thoughts on the show after reading it, and after all, isn’t that what any good book should do?”—CYBORG Lee Majors Online

• “Just to prove he takes his bionics very seriously, University of South Carolina English professor David Greven has gone in deep with his latest book…fun and invigorating read”—The Advocate

• “Greven analyzes in his latest book the cult television show and its heroine, Jaime Sommers, as a radical piece of pop culture, for both feminism and queer public.”—The Nation

• “One thing becomes clear on reading The Bionic Woman and Feminist Ethics: author David Greven takes popular culture very seriously…an in-depth, theoretical analysis…fans will appreciate the book’s attention to detail…[Greven] knows his bionics inside and out…a reader-friendly approach… Fans of The Bionic Woman will wax nostalgic on reading this book, while new converts may be waiting in the wings”—The Gay & Lesbian Review/Worldwide

• “Greven looks beyond the kitsch of collectibles and the nostalgia of millions of American children running and jumping in slow motion in a quest to be ‘bet­ter, faster, stronger,’ to posit theThe Bionic Woman as ‘a feminist critique of dominant culture and a male-centered text.’ …an informative and enlightening read…Greven notes that a central goal in this study is to take an apparently ‘lowbrow’ popular text and treat it seriously in an attempt to reveal the multi­valent meanings embedded in the series. In that effort, this book consistently fulfills its ambition.”—Journal of Popular Film and Television