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Dangerous Curves - Action Heroines, Gender, Fetishism, and Popular Culture

Dangerous Curves

Action Heroines, Gender, Fetishism, and Popular Culture

By Jeffrey A. Brown
Paperback : 9781617039409, 278 pages, 13 b&w illustrations, September 2013
Hardcover : 9781604737141, 288 pages, 13 b&w illustrations, January 2011

A consideration of the many manifestations of the action heroine in film, television, contemporary popular literature, comic books, cartoons, and video games


Dangerous Curves: Action Heroines, Gender, Fetishism, and Popular Culture addresses the conflicted meanings associated with the figure of the action heroine as she has evolved in various media forms since the late 1980s. Jeffrey A. Brown discusses this immensely popular character type, the action heroine, as an example of, and challenge to, existing theories about gender as a performance identity. Her assumption of heroic masculine traits combined with her sexualized physical depiction demonstrates the ambiguous nature of traditional gender expectations and indicates a growing awareness of more aggressive and violent roles for women.

The excessive sexual fetishization of action heroines is a central theme throughout. The topic is analyzed as an insight into the transgressive image of the dominatrix, as a reflection of the shift in popular feminism from second-wave politics to third-wave and postfeminist pleasures, and as a form of patriarchal backlash that facilitates a masculine fantasy of controlling strong female characters. Brown interprets the action heroine as a representation of changing gender dynamics that balances the sexual objectification of women with progressive models of female strength. While the primary focus of this study is the action heroine as represented in Hollywood film and television, the book also includes the action heroine's emergence in contemporary popular literature, comic books, cartoons, and video games.


"Masterfully sets out the empirical complexities and wide-ranging theoretical debates that arise from the study of action heroines in popular culture, and as such is sure to be a rewarding reference for any scholars engaged in debating the representation of women and gender in popular culture. "

- Mehita Iqani, Feminist Media Studies

"Brown offers a detailed analysis of the action heroine, how she is viewed, portrayed, and used as a commodity with as much detail and insight as Carol Clover has brought to the Final Girl and the role of women in horror films. "

- Karra Shimabukuro, Studies in Popular Culture

"Brown writes in a clear style that is easy to understand and enjoyable to read, making his work suitable for any level of film enthusiast, student, or scholar. His arguments are well supported by both references to previous scholarship and his own analyses of a plethora of textual examples. Action heroines provide a fruitful area of study, and Dangerous Curves fills an unfortunate lack of scholarship in this area. "

- Chelsea McCracken, The Velvet Light Trap