Spectacular Girls

Media Fascination and Celebrity Culture

308 pages

18 halftones

February, 2014

ISBN: 9780814724811



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Sarah Projansky is Professor of Film and Media Arts and of Gender Studies at the University of Utah.  She is author of Watching Rape: Film and Television in Postfeminist Culture (also available from New York University Press) and co-editor of Enterprise Zones: Critical Positions on Star Trek.

All books by Sarah Projansky

Winner of the 2015 Bonnie Ritter Book Award from the National Communication Association 
As an omnipresent figure of the media landscape, girls are spectacles. They are ubiquitous visual objects on display at which we are incessantly invited to look. Investigating our cultural obsession with both everyday and high-profile celebrity girls, Sarah Projanskyuses a queer, anti-racist feminist approach to explore the diversity of girlhoods in contemporary popular culture.The book addresses two key themes: simultaneous adoration and disdain for girls and the pervasiveness of whiteness and heteronormativity. While acknowledging this context, Projansky pushes past the dichotomy of the “can-do” girl who has the world at her feet and the troubled girl who needs protection and regulation to focus on the variety of alternative figures who appear in media culture, including queer girls, girls of color, feminist girls, active girls, and sexual girls, all of whom are present if we choose to look for them.
Drawing on examples across film, television, mass-market magazines and newspapers, live sports TV, and the Internet, Projansky combines empirical analysis with careful, creative, feminist analysis intent on centering alternative girls. She undermines the pervasive “moral panic” argument that blames media itself for putting girls at risk by engaging multiple methodologies, including, for example, an ethnographic study of young girls who themselves critique media. Arguing that feminist media studies needs to understand the spectacularization of girlhood more fully, she places active, alternative girlhoods right in the heart of popular media culture.


  • "Spectacular Girls addresses both the insistent visibility of the contemporary girl in media culture and the elisions of race and class that make so many girls invisible. Providing an astute intervention into both girlhood studies and feminist media studies, Projansky explores multiple media manifestations of girlhood; from television and film to sports and activism, Spectacular Girls brings into critical view the mediation of the girl in postfeminist culture."

    —Yvonne Tasker, University of East Anglia

  • “Making her case with conviction and rigor, Projansky persuasively argues that popular culture’s treatment of girls has vacillated between spectacularization and protectionism. Compelling and original, Spectacular Girls is excellent—a forceful and nuanced critique of the gender and age politics of our media culture.”

    —Diane Negra, co-editor of Gendering the Recession: Media and Culture in an Age of Austerity

  • “Referring to her line of study as ‘Feminist girls media studies,’ Projansky focuses on the relationship between girls and the media. The book provides ample support for her chosen approaches, theories, and opinions. Indeed, the book is well-written and prolifically sourced....”

    Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly

  • "Projanksy's push to change the ways girls are perceived within media, by the public, and within scholarship, from an expectation of white heteronormativity to a more intersectional vision that includes race and sexuality, using 'what Ella Shohat calls a polycentric, multicultural feminism,' is laudable.  Projanksy wants 'to see beyond or around the 'mean girls' and the 'Taylor Swifts,'" as she puts it, to develop a mediascape that presents more complicated understandings of girlhood–one that the public might embrace even if it's hesitantly, like a teenage girl, balking a bit and looking in other directions."

    Women's Review of Books

  • “The book provides useful material to help girls understand their lives better and to broaden people’s horizons. It provides a critical approach to the dominant media that gives us only certain, selected images of girls.”

    Libri & Liberi