Screening women’s trauma: constructing trauma for television in Westworld and The Handmaid’s Tale

Publication Name

Feminist Media Studies


This article examines the recent popularity of women-centric narratives of trauma for television, in order to explore the politics of screening women’s trauma. The first part of the article locates the shift towards women’s “trauma TV” at the intersections of “quality” and “complex” television, “popular trauma culture” and “popular feminism.” Following arguments that female trauma has become a mode of program differentiation in the post-network era, I demonstrate that the uptake of women’s trauma is just as much a function of aesthetic and narrative trends as it is politics. The second part of the article looks to HBO’s Westworld (2016-present) and Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-present) to examine how women’s trauma is represented for television, as well as the effects and implications of its representation and consumption. Through these series, I explore some of the issues and concerns of packaging women’s trauma as television entertainment.

Open Access Status

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Link to publisher version (DOI)