Netflix Feminism: Binge-watching Rape Culture in 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' and 'Unbelievable'
Female-centred serial programming that combines aesthetic exceptionalism and a rhetoric of progressive gender politics is a popular trend of Anglo-American television in the 2010s, tapping into a Zeitgeist of popular feminism as described by Sarah Banet-Weiser (2018). In some incarnations of the trend – and doubtlessly reflecting on the Trump and MeToo era – sexual violence, rape culture, and the psychological aftermaths of sexual abuse become focalised in ways that highlight the systemic nature of sexual violence and its key role in the makeup of the patriarchal social order; see, for example, the series Orange is the New Black, Jessica Jones, Alias Grace, Big Little Lies, The Handmaid’s Tale, 13 Reasons Why, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The Fall, Unbelievable or Top of the Lake. As this list indicates, a large portion of this programming originates in “binge-able” Internet television, and is prominently featured on Netflix. Following from Susan Berridge’s (2017) observation, such prominence may speak to the allowances of the immersive binge-watching practice that Netflix encourages for its programming’s consumption, with the capacity to offer the viewer a sustained exploration of rape culture’s systemic nature, rather than treating sexual violence as a series of individualised and isolated incidents. This book chapter explores to what extent Netflix’s binge-able programming strategy and its effect on serialised narrative structures open up new avenues for interrogating rape culture in popular storytelling. Taking two Netflix original series (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Unbelievable) as case studies to analyse the binge-able serial format’s engagement with rape narratives, it also considers how this thematisation is shaped by factors such as the company’s branding logic, critical discourses around the cultural value of binge-watching, and the current political mainstreaming of feminist concerns around women’s bodily autonomy.
Citation : HAVAS, J. and HORECK, T. (2020) Netflix Feminism: Binge-watching Rape Culture in 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' and 'Unbelievable'. In: JENNER, M. (ed.) Binge-Watching and Contemporary Television Research, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Research Institute : Media and Communication Research Centre (MCRC)
Peer Reviewed : Yes
- Leicester Media School