Friday, February 17, 2012

Challenging Patriarchy?: Once Upon a Time

In John Fiske’s breakdown of gendered television he looks into soap operas specifically and their characteristics of “having a serial form which resists narrative closure” and “multiple characters and plots.” To Fiske, both of these are important aspects and affect the way in which femininity is read. Soap operas can challenge the patriarchal standard that much of television revolves around for while a, “a wife’s extra-marital sex is evaluated both patriarchally as unfaithfulness” it can also be seen as, “a woman’s independence and right to her own sexuality” (Fiske 181). Fiske discusses the appeal of “Man-ipulators” and “the villainess” in soap operas as women seeking power that goes against the patriarchal norm in both society and television. It is not only men that these strong women seek to control, but “feminine passivity” as well. Thus, while television such as Charlie’s Angels has patriarchal influence (in that the three powerful women are guided by this male voice), soap operas and their lack of narrative closure and multiple plots allow for this sense of patriarchy to be constantly put under interrogation (ibid 197), for they can offer both the obedient mother image as well as the villainess, satisfying all viewers while never giving the audience a definite conclusion.

In reading Fiske’s article and relating it contemporarily, I thought of ABC’s Once Upon a Time. While this show is not a soap opera and does not abide to the characteristics Fiske notes, it does fulfill the desires of all in having both a heroine who is moral with a hint of badassness and a villainess who controls the town and takes what she wants. This show, as Fiske mentioned, can be read as both challenging to the patriarchal norm and abide by it as well. There is the protagonist who did not know her parents and is independent, free of male influence, along with the villainess who wields her sexuality in getting what she wants and runs the town which nurtures the ideal of challenging patriarchal norms. Yet while that is so, similar to Charlie’s Angels, there is Rumplestilskin behind everything who seems to control all, reinforcing a sense of patriarchy. I think this is a clear example of texts being polysemic, with producers offering multiple dynamics to the audience so that they may find something which suits their desires.



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