... Doyle’s powerful work does more than celebrate female rage. Instead, it charts the history of how women have been depicted by American culture as victims, sluts, witches, femme fatales, shrew-like wives, and bad mothers. Doyle offers a cultural road map for the way that patriarchal forces have turned women into monsters in our cultural imagination...In doing so, Doyle creates a powerful argument that the only way for women to take back their power is to shatter the monstrous versions of themselves created to constrain women at every life stage, as daughters and wives and mothers ... By highlighting the dichotomy between our cultural fantasies of fear and the actual violence wrought upon women in retaliation, Doyle shows that an awareness of these origins can help women understand the dangers they face when operating outside of patriarchal norms ... Through an impeccably researched analysis of both the film and its cultural impact worldwide, Doyle shows us how a single movie depicting the monstrosity of an adolescent girl actually produced a notable rise in Catholic exorcisms ... In her section on motherhood, Doyle also employs a powerful mix of historical research, literary analysis, and gender criticism ... Ultimately, I felt that Doyle succeeded at creating a fine balance in her writing, walking the tightrope of female outrage, calling out the patriarchy at every turn, and exposing the mechanisms that have created monsters from women throughout the history of Western civilization. And yet, the tone of Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers is upbeat: by understanding the creation of these structures in art, cinema, literature, and cultural norms, the book argues, perhaps we can rise above them, change them, or at the very least, know what we are dealing with ... a triumphant book, one worthy of sitting on the shelf next to—and informing—the many empowering books championing women this year.
From Circe and Cleopatra to the women of the TV series The Craft...her prose moves seamlessly from feminist theory and pop culture analysis to damning real-life examples of the dangers women face because of the perceived threat of their sexuality. This much-needed work is as suitable for university courses on feminism, gender, and new media studies as it is for readers looking for an accessible analysis of the perils women encounter when society transforms them into monsters who need to be destroyed rather than seeing them as individuals whose power takes on important agency ... A vital read on femininity and sexuality that speaks to our past, present, and future.
...takes an unsparing—even Lilith House- esque—look at representations of women and female power in literature, movies, and myth ... Doyle hammers the messages that the fear of women— their sexual power and life force—is the most important part of misogyny, and cultural stories teach women what will happen if we break out of our cage ... Doyle has a love for media minutia, and she leaves no stone unturned when she is digging into urban legends, horror movies, true crime, Gothic novels, and ghost stories ... Both of my sons (ages five and ten) claim to have nightmares several times a week. Reading Doyle, this suddenly made sense. 'Yes, dear. There is something under the bed—my unfulfilled ambitions!' What’s a woman to do with these crappy choices—evil mothers, massacred blondes, pubescent demons, and carnivorous beasts? Doyle’s answer...is to embrace the woman living outside of society, the one outside the bounds of patriarchal rule—the witch.
Doyle...plucks hideous stories, real and fictional, from different eras and tries to connect them to the condition of modern women, with varying levels of success ... Doyle pulls from literature, film, history, current events and poetry (entirely too often), writing with such flair you almost don’t notice how tenuous these connections are ... her analysis of real-life exorcisms...misses the mark ... I don’t know why Doyle spends significant time mining irrelevant history and literature when so much present-day fodder gets glancing treatment ... Doyle is much stronger when she gets contemporary, especially about film ... She’s also particularly sharp when discussing the current fascination with true crime as depicted in film and podcasts, a phenomenon that has come under some criticism for glamorizing killers or erasing victims, many of whom are women ... But throughout the book, when I wasn’t nodding along in agreement, I was often raising my eyebrows at her assertions ... It feels almost mean-spirited to quibble too much with Doyle’s book, which is more cri de coeur than rigorous study. But Doyle displays too much sharp thinking and wit elsewhere in Dead Blondes to let her off the hook for the weaker parts.
Kudos to Doyle for her consistency throughout the text in reminding readers that that other word we are called, 'woman' is definitionally complex. Heteronormativity is sliding around under the entire conversation, and intersectional differences between women mean that not all oppressions are created equal. And yet, at the root, this is a book that can pin down an image of us that all women can probably affirm exists as an essential quality when properly interrogated as a reversal: anything that is monstrous is a woman ... [Doyle] moves easily back and forth between scary movies and real-life events upon which these literary images are based, artfully tracing their infinite feedback loop ... Her choice of examples is not obscure ... The theory is not complicated, especially as it will dovetail so clearly with the lived experiences of the women who will read it, and the entire book is jargon-free ... Again, the chief delight of this book is not that it presents any new information, but that it aggregates a pile of information we already know into a package that is pleasing. It's pleasing because Doyle has an amusing voice. By 'has an amusing voice' I mean 'is possessed of a rage she has skillfully channeled into witty articulation' ... you'll feel less alone to hear our story told in this way. By 'you' I mean 'women'—and students of gender studies, and listeners of true-crime podcasts, and parents who sometimes feels guilty, and so on.
[Doyle's] no less cutting and composed in her second book ... she exposes both the self-sustaining cycle in which women, limited by patriarchy, are also held responsible for the misdeeds of men, as well as the possibility of harnessing the fear of female power as power itself. Doyle sometimes tempers the heaviness with well-placed humor ... Her extensive, annotated source notes are a valuable resource for readers wanting to dive deeper into the powerfully monstrous, ever-female dark.
The second book by feminist commentator Doyle...is wide-ranging but operates from a simple premise ... Doyle recognizes how much of our misogynistic, transphobic cultural id is revealed in our trashiest cultural products, and she never loses sight of how the social norms they promote have led to feelings of fear and entrapment at best and countless deaths at worst. The author’s accounting of the death of Anneliese Michel, the inspiration for The Exorcist, is especially chilling ... Unflinching, hard-charging feminist criticism.