Violent femmes: women as spies in popular culture

Rosie White

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


During the last 100 years women’s roles in public changed radically: this book proposes the female spy in all her forms as a suggestive account of the effects of, and resistances to, such transformations. Following an increase in positive representations of violent women in popular culture through the eighties and nineties, academics have provided invaluable overviews of active female characters in film, television and other popular media. This project builds upon such work, but takes a new approach in employing the central trope of the female spy as a means of investigating cultural shifts in debates about gender, power, sexuality and national identity. The book examines the early mythologies surrounding Mata Hari and Edith Cavell, through cinematic accounts of Violette Szabo and Odette Churchill after World War Two, and the more playful sixties spies such as Emma Peel and Modesty Blaise. By the 1970s women spies had become part of debates about women in the professions, so that television spies like Jaime Sommers and Purdey offer ambivalent accounts of active femininity. By the 1990s that debate explicitly entered the white-collar workplace, as Nikita, La Femme Nikita and Alias represent a hyper-real vision of professional practice.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages166
ISBN (Print)0415370787
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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