Department of Writing and Communication Theses

Date of Award

2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Writing and Communication

Advisor

Juliette C. Kitchens

Committee Member

Janine Morris

Abstract

Despite being considered a female-driven discipline, previous scholarship and personal testimonies indicate that composition remains solidly a “boys’ club.” Popular media is male-dominated as well, resulting in on-screen representations of women that, written from the male perspective, tend toward one-dimensionality. Recently, more women are permeating Hollywood writers’ rooms and producing multi-layered stories that offset the aforementioned portrayals.

This thesis examines how showrunners Marti Noxon, Jenji Kohan, and Shonda Rhimes have redefined female representation on-screen—and subsequently, perceptions of women in real life—by crafting nuanced, female-driven narratives. Elements analyzed include: themes present in Noxon’s Sharp Objects (2018) and Dietland (2018), Kohan’s Weeds (2004-2012) and Orange Is the New Black (2013-2019), and Rhimes’s Grey’s Anatomy (2005- ) and Scandal (2012-2018); critical reviews of said shows; interviews given by each showrunner; applicable social media posts; and variations in circulation and creative leniency of each televisual work. Existing literature on composition studies, public-facing work, rhetorical feminism, and gender in popular media is also explored. An apparent correlation exists between feminist archivists’ “uncovering” of women’s historical and rhetorical contributions, feminist rhetoricians’ “disruption” of academic and professional spheres, and female showrunners’ insistence on the legitimization of women’s lived experiences. Thus, Noxon’s, Kohan’s, and Rhimes’s contributions further “publicize” counterpublic, female concerns by disseminating these stories to large audiences via the accessible medium of television.

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