Female identity and the British female ensemble drama 1995-1998
Ball, V. (2007) Female identity and the British female ensemble drama 1995-1998, no. 325.
This thesis focuses upon a distinctive form of 'feminine-gendered' fiction, that of the British female ensemble drama, that has proliferated across televisual schedules since the late 1970s and which has received little academic attention. Although not a discrete genre, the female ensemble drama is nevertheless identifiable as a distinctive form of 'feminine-gendered' fiction that is largely written and/or produced by women, which diegetically focuses on particular communities of female characters and which is predominantly aimed at female audiences. The purpose of this text-based analysis of the female ensemble drama is to engage with a central concern of feminist television criticism, that of the gendered identity of this particular media form and the constructions of gender within it given its association with women at these three sites of production, text and audience. While I provide a historical overview of the development of this form of drama in relation to its textual precedents I isolate a particular moment in the history of this form of drama, that of the late 1990s, for closer analysis. Firstly I isolate the late 1990s to provide knowledge and understanding of the way in which the 'feminine' identity of this form of drama has contributed to its academic neglect within this socio-cultural period. Secondly I provide a close textual analysis of the constructions of 'women' within three female ensemble dramas in order to engage with and explore the textual negotiations they embody surrounding discourses of feminism and post feminism, de- and re-traditionalization in this particular period. While these themes have begun to be addressed in feminist television criticism they have largely been explored in relation to constructions of femininity in American dramas. This analysis then, allows for an exploration of these discourses in relation to a regional form of British drama. It is through investigating the academic neglect of this form of drama; providing a historical, thematic and aesthetic overview of the female ensemble drama as well as a detailed analysis of three of the female ensemble dramas of the 1990s that I contribute knowledge and understanding of this particular regional form of 'feminine-gendered' fiction to the field of Feminist Television Studies.