Date of Award
Digital Media Studies
Nadia Kaneva, Ph.D.
Female politicians, Having it all, Madam Secretary, Political television drama, Postfeminism, Secretary of state
A recent surge in political dramas on television has produced an opportunity for media scholars interested in gender, politics, and entertainment media. To date, most research involving the study of fictional politics has revolved around male characters, leaving a gap in the study of female political characters. This study looks at the representation of the character of the US Secretary of State, Elizabeth McCord, in the television drama Madam Secretary in order to evaluate whether the show challenges or reproduces the postfeminist notion that "women can have it all." Through a qualitative textual analysis of six episodes of Madam Secretary, the negotiation of Elizabeth's roles as politician, wife, and mother are examined. Findings reveal that, within a patriarchal White House climate, the character of Elizabeth is able to stand up for herself. However, she is always involved in making decisions about whether or not she can "have it all" as she juggles her political career and her family life. The study finds that the show Madam Secretary reaffirms the postfeminist view that "women can have it all," while also suggesting that this is a regular choice that women must make on a daily basis. Furthermore, the show presents an unrealistic portrayal of a woman in a high-ranking political office. Specifically, viewers are presented with a fictional Secretary of State who has no flaws and appears capable of solving any crisis, as long as her supportive husband and staff are by her side. This unattainable depiction of the position of Secretary of State sets unrealistic standards for actual women who aspire for political office.
Schwind, Katie Lynn, "Politics, Feminism, and Popular Television: Madam Secretary as a Politician, Wife, and Mother" (2017). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1307.
Received from ProQuest
Katie Lynn Schwind
Mass Communication, Women's Studies, Film Studies