Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Female Super Hero is Missing: Musings on Sheena, Wonder Woman, Xena, and the Academic Enterprise

Before there was Wonder Woman and Xena there was Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. Sheena, a kind of female Tarzan, appeared in comic book form in the United Kingdom in 1937, four years before Wonder Woman. She migrated to television in 1955 running in syndication for 26 episodes and to film in 1984. Another syndicated version of the Queen of the Jungle hit the airwaves in 2000 running for two seasons ending in 2002.

Though Wonder Woman (ABC and CBS, 1975-1979) and Xena: Warrior Princess (Syndication 1995-2001) have garnered a lot of critical attention in the Television Studies world Sheena seems to have garnered little attention from academics and one cannot help but wonder why. Like Wonder Woman and Xena, Sheena centred on a female hero. Like Wonder Woman and Xena, Sheena fought for what she cared about and often, like Wonder Woman and Xena, got the best of men. Like Wonder Woman and Xena, Sheena was smart. Unlike Wonder Woman and Xena, Sheena had an ethnically diverse cast that included Sheena's teacher, the shaman Kali. This, along with the fact that Sheena focused on a female hero, would, one would think, garner Sheena a least a bit of critical attention of academics obsessed with comic gooks, gender, and representation. You'd think there would be more than a passing reference to Sheena in the academic literature and at least a few academic papers on subjects like Sheena and the male and female Gaze, Sheena feminist or anti-feminist, and Sheena and the Shamanic Tradition in Africa.

The fact that there is so little of an academic nature on Sheena raises questions about the enterprise of Television Studies itself and leaves one wondering whether it is much beyond fan boy and fan girl stuff. And this leads us back once again into the labyrinthian world of the social and cultural construction of the academic mind.

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