‘No such thing as unending sunshine’: The deflation of postfeminism in Emma Cline’s ‘Los Angeles’

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In neoliberal societies, our personal lives are increasingly subject to market logics. Feminism has become less a social force for critiquing sexism and violence against women and girls; rather, a consumer force in which feminist vocabulary is commodified, and the ability to extract profit from one’s own bodily femininity is situated as a signifier of empowerment. In this context, women’s feelings are also being commodified. Women are exhorted to perform upbeat feelings, such as confidence and resilience to help them survive in an increasingly precarious and unequal society. The transformation of negative feelings into positive ones has become a crucial way in which women can accrue social and affective value. In this article, I explore the economics of confidence in the short story ‘Los Angeles’ by Emma Cline, by interrogating the relationship between the protagonist’s feeling performances and her fluctuating value. I trace transactions of confidence throughout the story, paying attention to how confidence changes hands, how it confers value and what happens when performances of confidence are not converted into the rewards promised by neoliberal postfeminist value systems. Confidence becomes a sticking point for other feelings, such as disappointment and shame, which highlights the fact that certain neoliberal and postfeminist promises of the ‘good life’ are being slowly drained of their affective potential in contemporary American culture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-78
Number of pages17
JournalComparative American Studies
Issue number1
Early online date22 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023

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