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Media Theory Revision Guide

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Stranger Things

Heteronormativity

Butler

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The transition of the asexual Eleven from rootless outsider in episode one to the feminised Elle at the end of season one of Stranger Things reinforces Butler’s work regarding gender performance.

 

The Eleven of episode 1 is born into the narrative without any identity, her lack of contact with mainstream society resulting in the creation of a genderless persona. It is only through performance - through learning the feminising rituals of the real world - that Elle's female persona is constructed. 

 

‘Pretty good ’ mouths Elle in response to her pink dress transformation in episode 4 before she is allowed to fall in love with Mike. Female identity is accordingly presented to the show’s audience as a performative struggle - a struggle in which  heteronormative ideals must be adopted if you are to be socially accepted or to gain romantic love.

Feminising rituals

Butler suggests that female identity is constructed through ritualised behaviours - by the daily application of makeup or the styling of hair in a way that signals a female identity.

Media terminology used

Performative struggle

Butler tells us that alternative gender identities are difficult to maintain . Performing a gay identity for example is hard given the widespread social expectation surrounding heteronormativity.

Gender performance

Gender is reinforced via the performance of everyday rituals. Wearing gendered clothing, for example, or styling our hair in socially acceptable ways nurtures a male or female identity.

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