Nurse Jackie, Heroism and the Experiential

Authors: pullen, C.

Start date: 16 June 2016

This paper explores the television series Nurse Jackie (Showtime 2009-2015) that depicted its central lead character as a heroic public hospital nurse, who is addicted to prescription drugs. As part of this the series challenged the norms of female character representation within TV drama, offering ambivalence with regards to morality in the construction of heroism, framing an experiential prospect, rather than reason and order. Originally conceived, scripted and produced by Liz Brixius and Linda Wallem (with Evan Dunsky), and starring Edie Falco (previously of The Sopranos) the series foregrounds this experiential context, evident in the scriptwriters’ public discussion of their own prescription drug addiction, and Falco’s own reflections on historical alcohol addiction.

This paper consequently explores the feminist experiential potential of the series, framing aspects of self-reflexivity relative to screenwriting and star identity, offering a textual analysis of the narratives, with a particular focus on female heroism. As part of this the narrative iconography of New York is related to earlier female representations within situation comedy such as Maude (1972-1978) and Rhoda (1974-1978), where the notion of the strong female character is foregrounded relative to the notion of social justice, challenging masculine hierarchies, and moral certitudes, within the discursive context of the city. As part of this, I argue that Nurse Jackie critiques traditional notions of male centric heroism connected to morality and stoicism, framing an experiential female-centric context, that foregrounds the benefits of imperfection, reflection and resolve.

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