PhD, Women’s and Gender Studies, University of British Columbia (2007)
I received my PhD in Women’s and Gender Studies from UBC in 2007. I have taught at the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice since 2004 and in the Coordinated Arts Program since 2010. My research interests include fairy tales, folk tales, and fairy tale films, feminist and gender studies, film studies, and cultural studies. I teach courses on gender and sexuality, and race in fairy tales, contemporary fairy tales and popular culture, and vampire literature and films. I am currently working on a book manuscript that traces the evolution of fairy tales and attempts to explain the current popularity of fairy tales in film and television and the use of fairy tale motifs in other television and film genres, particularly those dealing with the supernatural and vampires. The book explores fairy tales such as “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Beauty and the Beast” alongside texts such asTrue Blood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer , and The Vampire Diaries with a focus on representations of gender, sexuality, and monstrosity.
Anne Billson recently suggested in The Guardian that the current popularity of fairy tale films is due, in part, to the Twilight effect; a desire for films catering to the sexual and romantic fantasies of teenage girls with heroines who might not be “Angela Carteresque revisionist” but are “ spunkier than your traditional Disney princess-passive.” This same effect could explain recent television series dedicated to fairy tales, and the use of fairy tale motifs in other television and film genres, particularly those dealing with the supernatural and vampires. In these works, the fairy tale motifs of romance, happily ever after, female rites of passage, and to some degree the passive, Disney-fied heroine, are both reproduced and challenged. This project explores fairy tales such as “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Beauty and the Beast” alongside texts such as True Blood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer , and The Vampire Diaries with a focus on representations of gender, sexuality, and monstrosity.
The project engages multiple, intersecting theories and scholarship including feminist theories of monstrosity, fairy tale scholarship, media studies, and intersectional feminist theories. I argue that the evolution of fairy tales from oral storytelling and traditional tales, to what Jack Zipes calls the “Disneyfication” of fairy tales, to the current popular reproduction, can be read alongside a similar evolution of vampire literature and film, and also feminism and feminist media studies. The recent representations of fairy tales in popular culture often present the fairy tale heroines as empowered, strong, and fearless. I argue that these faux feminist – or post femini st – heroines masquerade as empowered role models while reininforcing a misogynist message th at can further be read as heterosexist and racist.
In this framework, I explore how attention to the monstrous and grotesque challenges conventional constructions of female sexuality as monstrous and female power as threatening and punishable. For example, in True Blood , Jessica, who loses her virginity after becoming a vampire, dresses as Little Red Riding Hood to take control of her sexual desires and her sexual agency, refusing conventions of fidelity and marriage that are framed as an attempt to tame the (sexual) monster within. In The Vampire Diaries , the heroine Elena refuses the damsel-in- distress archetype that others impose on her, indicated by her frequently being mistaken for, or switching places with, her monstrous vampire doppelganger, Katherine. Likewise, during the seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer , Joss Whedon used many fairy tale motifs and wrote many fairy tale-themed episodes. In “Hush,” an episode where fairy tale monsters take over Sunnydale and steal the residents’ voices, Buffy must fight to regain her voice in order to become the princess whose screams will save the town. Whedon often employs the blonde, princess archetype as a paradox for Buffy, representing the push and pull between more traditional rites of passage and the power of the slayer legacy. It is these moments of paradox and the use of specific fairy tale motifs in relation to female characters that reveal the complexities of female experience, sexuality, and power for the contemporary charactersand the fairy tale heroines. These texts challenge (though not always successfully) perceived constructions of femininity as passive and women’s sexuality as monstrous through their use of fairy tale motifs, and counter the normative constructions of femininity that are a negative consequence of the Twilight effect.
Rev. of H & G (Dir. Danishka Esterhazy) Marvels and Tales: Journal of Fairy Tale Studies Vol. 28, No. 2 (2014)
Rev of Beyond Adaptation: Radical Transformations of Original Works edited by Phyllis Frus and Christy Williams. Marvels and Tales: Journal of Fairy Tale Studies Vol 25, No 2 (2011).
“ Fairy Tale Film in the Classroom: Creating Feminist Cultural Pedagogy.” In Fairy Tale Films: Visions of Ambiguity . Edited by Pauline Greenhill and Sidney Eve Matrix. Utah State UP, 2010.
“ Gendered Multiplicities: Women Write Diaspora.” Canadian Literature 96 (Spring 2008)
“ (Un)satisfying Hunger.” Rev of The Hungry Mirror by Lisa de Nikolits and Porny Stories by Eva Moran. Canadian Literature 208 (Spring 2011).
Numerous editorials, reviews and short essays for thirdspace: a journal of feminist theory and culture , 2001 – 2008.