Tough angels: A rhetorical analysis of "Charlie's Angels" as contemporary action heroines

Jean Louise Schlitzkus, University of Texas at El Paso


This exploration contributes to the body of research concerned with better understanding contemporary media images of tough women. In particular, this analysis addresses two research questions---"Do contemporary mediated action heroines fit the model of the archetypal hero?" And, "In what ways do contemporary mediated action heroines evoke gender roles?" Two popular and representative films, Charlie's Angels (2000) and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003), serve as the rhetorical artifacts for this study. To address the first research question, this rhetorical analysis draws from Joseph Campbell's work on the archetypal hero and the mythic journey. The second question is explored via Burke's theories on casuistic stretching and perspective by incongruity. The analysis suggests that the Angels encompass and expand the heroic archetypal tradition. Moreover, messages about gender in the two films are complex, often incongruous, and open to multiple interpretations. By incorporating traditional heroic qualities and simultaneously personifying traits not attributed to the archetypal hero, the Angels exemplify an original archetype. This study describes an innovative archetype, the contemporary mediated action heroine; an archetype that synthesizes older heroic definitions with a strategic use of gender traits as part of interpretive casuistic stretching. ^

Subject Area

Women's Studies|Mass Communications

Recommended Citation

Schlitzkus, Jean Louise, "Tough angels: A rhetorical analysis of "Charlie's Angels" as contemporary action heroines" (2007). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1444137.