Agents of Chaos: The Monstrous Feminine in Killing Eve

Paul Hetherington, Cassandra Atherton, Alyson Miller

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Abstract

This paper explores how the central female characters of the tele- vision series Killing Eve gain power by accessing and enacting forms of violent “otherness”. By rejecting traditional conceptions of fem- ininity, including passivity, maternal nurturing or caregiving, and empathy, Villanelle, Eve, and Carolyn weaponise the cultural narra- tives used to relegate women to the margins. Their subversions are frequently located in bodily terms, relating to appetite, fashion, sex, and behavioural quirks, but are also intellectual and metaphorical, explicitly addressing gendered anxieties about women, authority, and performance. Indeed, the series turns on the possibilities of transformation, realised via the physical styling of self, for example, as well as the play upon literary and poetic devices such as adapta- tion and the villanelle. In focussing on various notions of metamor- phosis, we contend that Killing Eve offers an ambiguous vision of empowerment, arguing that while it resists the reduction of women to docile bodies forced into compliance, it also equates female power with abnormality, disorder, and abjection. In its mobilisation, subversion and parody of elements of the monstrous feminine, Killing Eve is only partly successful in empowering its female char- acters but, nonetheless, makes a significant contribution to a culture in which sophisticated feminist tropes are increasingly prevalent.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalFeminist Media Studies
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Nov 2021

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