Linda Mizejewski is a Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the Ohio State University. She has published five books on women in popular culture, including a book about the romantic comedy It Happened One Night. In her 2002 book Hardboiled and High Heeled: the Woman Detective in Popular Culture,she analyzes the female investigator character in cinema, television, and best-selling novels. Her most recent book, Pretty/Funny: Women Comedians and Body Politics (2014) is about contemporary stars such as Tina Fey, Ellen DeGeneres, and Wanda Sykes, who have transformed the world of comedy. Linda has been a Fulbright Lecturer in Slovakia and Romania, and her research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies. In 2004 she was a winner of Ohio State University’s Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award.
The Woman Detective in Popular Culture
Generations of readers have enjoyed Nancy Drew, Miss Marple, and legions of spunky amateur female sleuths who picked up a flashlight to creep through the attic. But the 1980s brought a new heroine to the best seller list: the professional woman detective who gets her man with an arrest warrant or a bullet to the heart. This talk explores this new woman detective character and her bumpy transition to the box office and network television, where grit has often been traded for glamour. Topics include best selling writers Sue Grafton and Patricia Cornwell, television series from Charlie’s Angels to Cold Case, and films such as The Silence of the Lambs.
Pretty/Funny: Women Comedians and Body Politics
Women’s comedy has long been a prime spot for women to talk back and break taboos in mainstream popular culture. But women in comedy have traditionally been pegged as either “pretty” or “funny.” Attractive actresses with good comic timing such as Katherine Hepburn and Lucille Ball have always gotten plum roles in romantic comedies and television sitcoms. In contrast, women who write and perform their own comedy have been far fewer as stars, and most often, they’ve been successful because they were willing to be funny-looking–Fanny Brice, Phyllis Diller, Carol Burnett—or have made femininity itself the butt of the laughter, as in the case of Mae West. This talk is an overview of women’s comedy beginning with West and ending with the new generation of women comedians such as Tina Fey, Wanda Sykes, and Ellen DeGeneres who flout the pretty-versus-funny dynamic, targeting glamour and in some cases making it clear that in popular culture, “pretty” almost always means “white.”
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