Date of Degree

2-2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Women's and Gender Studies

Advisor

Sherry L. Deckman

Subject Categories

Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Film and Media Studies | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies

Keywords

Folklore, werewolves, zines, literature review, pop culture, queer studies

Abstract

This thesis analyzes 13 disparate portrayals of werewolfism in film and television as they relate to uncontrolled and uncontrollable femininity. A necessary component of this project is the visual assemblage: my findings are displayed in the format of a zine, in an attempt to capture the bright, furious, aggressive sensory experience of witnessing women becoming werewolves onscreen. Research questions include: How are conventionally masculine werewolf markers feminized in werewolf narratives? How are the women in these pieces of media ultimately punished for embodying creatures that aren’t feminine enough, or are too feminine in exactly the wrong ways? Many she-wolf centered narratives utilize the coming-of-age storytelling format, featuring young women experiencing puberty, burgeoning independence, or a quest for liberation from oppressive pack/family structures. Thus, my research determines that the aesthetic of the she-wolf, the depiction of her transformation, and the scope of her agency regarding her condition are all informed by contemporary cultural attitudes towards women and femininity. With a majority of the featured media taking place in 2000-2018, anxieties mapped onto young women of the early 2000s include increasing sexual agency, teenage disillusionment, and rejection of conventional American nuclear family life in favor of professional aspirations. Women of color werewolves are even more underrepresented within the genre, an unsurprising extension of the overwhelming white femininity of coming-of-age tales. The Black and Indigenous women werewolves included in this project are essentially relegated to plot devices, serving as hypersexual henchmen for white leaders, tragic surprise villains, or jilted ex-lovers. I conclude that, though the handling of women werewolves varies widely, uniform motifs do emerge: danger and duplicity. She-wolves are rarely allowed to survive their own narratives, as their existence is so destabilizing to social concepts of race, gender, and sexuality. And yet, there is a dark, unconventional liberation made possible by their fierce mangling of feminine constructs in the process.

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