Thrift, Imperfection and Popular Feminist Apartment Plot on Television
Keywords:Thrift, adulting, imperfection, apartment plot, Insecure, Girls, neoliberalism
This paper will explore the ways in which thrift operates as a signifier of a specific type of lprecarity and imperfection in young women’s lives in several popular series associated with the current ‘golden age’ of women’s television production. The twenty-something women of series including Girls, Insecure, Broad City, Fleabag, Can’t Cope Won’t Cope and Search Party, have all been raised in comfortable middle-class homes and are now living independently in major global, expensive cities. The precarity of the ways in which they dwell, at both a practical and figurative level, is a symptom of what has come to be understood as ‘adulting’—where relatively privileged millennials struggle with the rituals and realities of adult life in a starkly neoliberal society. Through a focus on the narrative device of the apartment plot, this paper will examine how the concept of thrift, with its central spectrum of necessity and choice, can illuminate both the everyday practices and the overarching logic of the adulting phenomenon as represented in this wave of television production. By attending to a variety of contemporary series by, for and about women, it will also argue for the ways in which both thrift and adulting can be understood as specifically gendered behaviours.
Arnett, Jeffrey Jansen (2006): ‘Emerging Adulthood: Understanding the New Way of Coming of Age,’ Jeffrey Jansen Arnett and Jennifer Lynn Tanner (eds): Emerging Adults in America: Coming of Age in the 21st Century, Washington DC: American Psychological Association, 3-19. https://doi.org/10.1037/11381-001
Banet-Weiser, Sarah. 2018. Empowered: Popular Feminism and Popular Misogyny. Durham: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9781478002772
Beck, Julie (2016): ‘When are you really an adult?’ The Atlantic, January 5, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/01/when-are-you-really-anadult/422487/ Accessed August 2, 2017.
DeCarvalho, Lauren J. (2013): ‘Hannah and her Entitled Sisters: (Post)feminism, (post)recession and Girls,’ Feminist Media Studies, Volume 13 (2), 367-370. https://doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2013.771889
Green, Penelope (2016): ‘Tiny Home Test Drive,’ The New York Times, June 10, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/12/realestate/testing-the-first-micro-apartmentsin-new-york-city.html Accessed September 11, 2018
Hunter, James Davison & Joshua J Yates (2011): Thrift in America: Capitalism and Moral Order from the Puritans to the Present, New York: Oxford University Press.
Jacobs, Jason & Steven Peacock (2013): Television Aesthetics and Style, London: Bloomsbury.
Johnson, Sophie Lucido (2015): ‘How do you know you’ve really become an adult? An illustrated essay,’ The Guardian, October 3, https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/oct/03/adulthood-adulting-millennials-growing-up Accessed August 2, 2017.
Kaysen, Ronda (2016): ‘Fictional New York City Apartments Get Real,’ The New York Times, September 16, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/18/realestate/fictional-new-york-city-apartments-get-real.html Accessed February 18, 2019
McRobbie, Angela (2015): ‘Notes on the Perfect: Competitive Femininity in Neoliberal Times,’ Australian Feminist Studies, Volume 30 (83), 3-20. https://doi.org/10.1080/08164649.2015.1011485
Negra, Diane & Yvonne Tasker (2014): Gendering the Recession: Media and Culture in an Age of Austerity, Durham: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822376538
Nussbaum, Emily (2019): I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution, New York: Random House.
Petersen, Anne Helen (2019): ‘How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation,’ BuzzFeed News, January 5, https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/annehelenpetersen/millennials-burnout-generation-debt-work> Accessed January 5, 2019
Podkalicka, Aneta & Jason Potts (2014): ‘Towards a general theory of thrift,’ International Journal of Cultural Studies, Volume 17 (3), 227-241. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367877913496198
Press, Joy (2018). Stealing the Show: How Woman Are Revolutionizing Television, New York: Atria Books.
Syed, Moin (2015): ‘Emerging Adulthood: Developmental Stage, Theory, or Nonsense?’ Jeffrey Jensen Arnett (ed): The Oxford Handbook of Emerging Adulthood, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 11-25. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199795574.013.9
Wanzo, Rebecca (2016): ‘Precarious-girl comedy: Issa Rae, Lena Dunham, and Abjection Aesthetics,’ Camera Obscura, Volume 31 (2), 26-59. https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-3592565
Wojcik, Pamela Robertson (2010): The Apartment Plot: Urban Living in American Film and Popular Culture, 1945-1975, Durham NC: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822392989
Wojcik, Pamela Robertson (ed.) (2014): The Apartment Complex: Urban Living and Global Screen Cultures, Durham: Duke University Press.
Copyright (c) 2020 Claire Perkins
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Copyright for all manuscripts rests with the author(s). The editors reserve the right to edit manuscripts. Contributors are responsible for acquiring all permissions from the copyright owners for the use of quotations, illustrations, tables, etc. Each author must, before final publication fill, in a publishing agreement provided by LiU E-Press.
Since 2021 Culture Unbound uses a Creative Commons: Attribution license for new articles, which allows users to distribute the work and to reform or build upon it without the author's permission. Full reference to the author must be given. For older articles please see each article landing page.