"I don't know why but I'm really good at a lot of things": Ja'mie King as a public pedagogy of young femininity

Year: 2008

Author: Charles, Claire

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this paper I explore the popular Australian television character of Ja'mie King - a teenage private school girl created and performed by comedian Chris Lilley. I conceptualise King's character as a public pedagogy of young femininity. My reading of King as pedagogy is situated within global feminist scholarship around young femininities and 'girl power'. Today's young women are imagined to 'have it all'. Feminist scholars have noted that confining, binary notions of femininity in which girls are positioned as either 'sexy or brainy' (Albury, 2002), or a 'slag or drag' (Gilbert & Taylor, 1991), have apparently been 'kickboxed out of the picture' (Gill, 2007) by girl icons in popular culture like the Spice Girls and Charlies' Angels. Not only are young women thought to be free from restrictions, they are frequently presented as ideal subjects of a society that demands reflexivity, responsibility and self-determination (Gonick, 2006). These images of successful, feisty young women are thought to apply in particular to middle class and elite young women (Walkerdine & Ringrose, 2006), who are represented by the character of Ja'mie King. Drawing on the television mockumentaries We can be heroes and Summer Heights High I examine the relationships, fashioned through the character of King, between 'sexiness' and intelligence, political awareness and active citizenship. I consider the extent to which King's character teaches that young women can indeed 'have it all'. I explore the extent to which her character teaches that they can be 'beautiful' and 'brainy', 'self-determined' and 'sexy' at the same time.