In Bad Feminist, how does Roxane Gay tie feminism to popular culture?

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caroline-harrison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay explores many pop culture artifacts through the lens of feminism. One notable example is her essay about the “Prince Charming” figure, in which she examines how popular contemporary novels like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey adhere to fairy tale tropes. In the section titled “The Trouble with Prince Charming or He Who Trespassed Against Us,” Gay argues that most fairy tale narratives revolve around a young woman who must pay some kind of price to be with Prince Charming and live her happily ever after; Ariel must give up her voice to be with Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid, and Belle must learn to love a literal beast (who is also her captor) in Beauty and the Beast. Gay argues that the idea that the perfect man is worth a woman’s sacrifice is problematic and might lead women to internalize attitudes that make them okay with toxic or even abusive behavior. For an example of this, Gay looks to the best-selling Fifty Shades of Grey series. Though Gay recognizes that these books are, on one level, simplistic and amusing fantasies, she argues that, given their popularity, the problematic undertones of the series should not be dismissed. Gay argues that—steamy scenes aside—the series essentially chronicles the attempts of Ana, the main character, to change or “fix” her very damaged boyfriend, Christian. Christian is often jealous, overbearing, and emotionally manipulative, but Ana frequently forgives this unhealthy behavior in the hopes of making their relationship work. Gay worries that this narrative reinforces existing unhealthy beliefs about what kinds of toxic behavior women are expected to tolerate in order to find romantic happiness. 

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Bad Feminist

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