Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Media, Film, and Journalism Studies

First Advisor

Nadia Kaneva, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Diane Waldman

Third Advisor

Taylor Nygaard

Fourth Advisor

Andrea Stanton


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.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Katie Lynn Schwind


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

116 p.


Mass Communication, Women's Studies, Film Studies