Feminist cinematic television: Authorship, aesthetics and gender in Pamela Adlon’s Better Things

Jessica Ford

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In the past decade there has been a sharp increase in woman-authored, woman-directed, and woman-centred scripted primetime television produced for the US market. This recent cycle includes series by feminist filmmakers, such as Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake (2013, 2017), Lena Dunham’s Girls (2012-2017), Lisa Cholodenko’s Olive Kitteridge (2014), Jill Soloway’s Transparent (2013-present), and Ava DuVernay’s Queen Sugar (2016-present). As well as television series by creative and authorial teams, such as Tig Notaro and Diablo Cody’s One Mississippi (2015-2017) and Issa Rae and Melina Matsoukas’ Insecure (2016-present). These series are created, written, and directed by women with a strong authorial vision and they are performing a kind of “cinematic television” that is in conversation with indie, art, and exploitation cinemas. This essay will map how current articulations and theorisations of “cinematic television” do not account for these women-centric feminist series. In this essay, I argue that the “cinematic-ness” of these recent series is indebted to their feminist sensibility and their women-centric authorship. This argument will be developed through a close textual analysis of Pamela Adlon’s dramedy Better Things (2016-present).


Feminism; Television; Authorship; Women; Cinema

To cite this article

Ford, Jessica. “Feminist cinematic television: Authorship, aesthetics and gender in Pamela Adlon’s Better Things.” Fusion Journal, no. 14, 2018, pp. 16-29. http://www.fusion-journal.com/feminist-cinematic-television-authorship-aesthetics-and-gender-in-pamela-adlons-better-things/

First published online: December 2018

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