Smart Chicks on Screen

Representing Women's Intellect in Film and Television

Edited by Laura Mattoon D'Amore

Publication date:

08 September 2014

Length of book:

256 pages


Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

ISBN-13: 9781442237476

While women have long been featured in leading roles in film and television, the intellectual depictions of female characters in these mediums are out of line with reality. Women continue to be marginalized for their choices, overshadowed by men, and judged by their bodies. In fact, the intelligence of women is rarely the focus of television or film narratives, and on the rare occasion when smart women are showcased, their portrayals are undermined by socially awkward behavior or their intimate relationships are doomed to perpetual failure. While Hollywood claims to offer a different, more evolved look at women, these movies and shows often just repackage old character types that still downplay the intelligence and savvy of women.

In Smart Chicks on Screen: Representing Women’s Intellect in Film and Television, Laura Mattoon D’Amore brings together an impressive array of scholarship that interrogates the portrayal of females on television and in movies. Among the questions that the volume seeks to answer are: In what ways are women in film and television limited, or ostracized, by their intelligence? How do female roles reinforce standards of beauty, submissiveness, and silence over intellect, problem solving, and leadership? Are there women in film and television who are intelligent without also being objectified?

The thirteen essays by international, interdisciplinary scholars offer a wide range of perspectives, examining the connections—and disconnections—between beauty and brains in film and television. Smart Chicks on Screen will be of interest to scholars not only of film and television but of women’s studies, reception studies, and cultural history, as well.
D'Amore has put together a smart book on an important subject: the ways in which women of depth and intelligence are presented on the screen, or in short, the ways in which all women should be presented on the screen—i.e., with respect and understanding. Hollywood’s insulting list of shorthand tropes for supposed stupidity, a list 'dumb blonde' surely tops, gets a thorough going over in this collection of detailed, sharply observed essays by such scholars as Sheri Chinen Biesen (on women in film noir), Stefania Marghitu (on the character of Peggy Olson in the television series Mad Men), Stephen Duncan (on Judy Holliday’s participation in the film Born Yesterday), and Amanda Stone (on the female characters in the television sitcom Big Bang Theory), to name just a few of the 13 superb essays collected in this volume. D’Amore has done an excellent job with this volume, which bids fair to become a required resource for any course on women in film and television. In essays that are both insightful and delightful, the various contributors offer an entirely new approach to women as they are portrayed on the big and small screen. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers.