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Television and the “honest” woman: mediating the labor of believability

Banet-Weiser, Sarah and Higgins, Kathryn Claire (2022) Television and the “honest” woman: mediating the labor of believability. Television and New Media, 23 (2). pp. 127-147. ISSN 1527-4764

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Identification Number: 10.1177/15274764211045742


Between 2019 and 2020, three streaming series premiered on Netflix, Apple+, and BBC One/HBO: Unbelievable, The Morning Show, and I May Destroy You. All three narratively centered sexual violence against women, foregrounding the experiences of the women characters, and were produced within the context of the global movement #MeToo. We offer a conjunctural analysis of these programs within what we call the economy of believability, arguing that these shows should be read as fictionalized real-world phenomena, distilled for television but nonetheless reflective of deeply sedimented assumptions about women, sexual violence, and believability. We argue that the programs examine the struggle for belief as it manifests in three key forms of labor: (1) the affective performance of believability; (2) payment of the costs of believability; (3) entrepreneurially attaching value to believability. Our analysis positions the discourses and narratives of these shows—and of the real-world contexts they speak to—within the broader frame of a mediated, intersectional economy of believability, where contestations about how and when women may be believed play out in and through struggles over visibility, authenticity, and recognition.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: 2022, © SAGE Publications
Divisions: Media and Communications
Date Deposited: 23 Jun 2022 08:42
Last Modified: 07 Apr 2024 18:39

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