How to Survive the Postfeminist Impasse

Grace Helbig’s Affective Aesthetics

in Girlhood Studies

An emerging genre across literature, screen, and digital media is beginning to articulate profound dissatisfaction with postfeminist social norms and scripts. In this article, I explore how American comedian Grace Helbig exploits and reworks classic postfeminist self-improvement genres through her parodying of the YouTube how-to video. Using Helbig’s video as an illustrative case study, my analysis demonstrates that affect theory has the capacity to make a vital contribution to current postfeminist debates. Recent research finds postfeminist analysis lacks the facility to fully comprehend the complexity of contemporary femininities, suggesting that postfeminist media studies as a genre of scholarship has reached a critical impasse. Drawing on Lauren Berlant’s (2008, 2011, 2015) work, I examine how Helbig affectively deflates popular postfeminist fantasies of fun-loving confident girlhood. More widely, I argue that affective approaches offer feminist scholars a dynamic framework to make sense of the continuing impact and legacies of postfeminist media culture.