Sign up for the Film Comment Letter today to get original film writing delivered to your inbox every week! >>

Site Specifics: Teen Screen Feminism

Not Guilty

Much of the criticism that appears on Teen Screen Feminism delves into films and TV shows that might be considered guilty pleasures. But Athena Bellas’s modest-looking site is defined by the desire to banish “guilt” and instead experience pleasure without apology. Bellas, whose University of Melbourne doctoral dissertation examined “oppositional and resistant girls in popular film and television,” unpretentiously discusses media made for women and teenage girls—Fifty Shades of Grey, Reign, Pretty Little Liars—while also pointing out the sexism that usually condemns them to the cultural garbage heap.

In a world of online writing rife with contrarian clickbait and unnecessary reclamations of films that everyone already knows, the virtue of her praxis comes into sharp focus in posts like “The Politics of Fangirling: On Watching Outlander” and “Fifty Shades of Grey and the Policing of Women’s Erotic Imagination.” Honing in on the ambivalence induced by popular texts that cater to female spectators yet still suffer from a patriarchal hangover—in both cases, the intended object of desire enjoys beating women—Bellas reflects on how best to respond: boycott them, or take our pleasure wherever we can find it?

Bellas continues to consider the problem in a 50-minute podcast with feminist scholar Jodi McAlister that addresses the act of mentally “re-editing” problematic texts, the question of how genre is discussed, and the female gaze. Even if you weren’t raised on Xena: Warrior Princess, their conversation and the website generally prove engrossing and accessible.