...[a] raucous and smart new book ... Because these criticisms are, writ large, the same ones flung daily at nonceleb women, the book is a timely and essential read ... Petersen's analytical skills are as vigorous as her prose and reporting are entertaining, and her engagement with writing by fellow critics and thinkers opens up a dialogue about what we talk about when we talk about disruptive women.
Petersen herself can't be called an unruly writer per se. In its cautious accessibility, this collection is less exuberant, less spiky and less strange — less unruly, in short — than it could be. She leaves much of the boundary pushing to her subjects. Petersen's cutting, still-by-still analysis of TV shows and music videos is wrapped in glosses, potted histories and pleasantly readable, if not radical, prose. But if Petersen is dancing on the same line of accessibility and acceptability as her subjects, can we blame her — if she'll reach more people, change more minds? ... Petersen is responsible in the best sense: She doesn't just cite her sources but elevates them. She is deeply but quietly unelitist, incorporating academic theory when necessary but with lucidity and care. She acknowledges her debts and her advantages. And once Petersen has introduced her subjects, her analysis is deeply thoughtful. Sections on Minaj (too slutty) and her unrelenting experimentation with norms are particularly brilliant.
Petersen, fortunately, is supremely thoughtful, both about celebrity culture and about her own work on that subject, and she manages to make the book’s essays snappy and compelling. While each woman is singular, each is included in Petersen’s collection because she also works as a metaphor: Each woman represents a set of regressive expectations, ignored ... While the tone of the appreciations is celebratory—these women are some of the heroines, Petersen suggests, of this moment of contradiction and flux—it is not elegiac. Rather, it is hopeful. Progress, after all, tends to come from the iconoclasts.