MTSU professor, editor of ‘The Woman Fantastic in American Media Culture’ says book was a collaborative effort

Photo by Tiffany Brady / MTSU Sidelines

Elyce Helford, an MTSU professor of English and women’s and gender studies, was influential in the production of the multi-author book, “The Woman Fantastic in Contemporary American Media Culture,” which discusses how women are represented in modern popular culture.

Helford was a senior editor for the 2016 book, overseeing three MTSU graduate students who also contributed to the book; Shiloh Carroll, Sarah Gray and Michael R. Howard II edited the book and coordinated the conference, “Catwoman to Katniss: Villainesses and Heroines in Science Fiction.”

The conference rallied writers and eventually would lead to the publication of “The Woman Fantastic” by the University Press of Mississippi.

“I was happy to use my experience in writing and women and gender studies to help teach my students,” Helford said.

In her independently published book, “Fantasy Girls: Gender in the New Universe of Science Fiction and Fantasy Television,” Helford writes about “TV series of the turning century.” Helford discusses subjects like “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Within those television series, Helford discusses matters on how the series deal with race and gender. More specifically, Helford discusses how race determines the character’s status of good or evil.

In turn, Helford contributed many insights of feminism and gender perceptions to “The Woman Fantastic as she did in her book, “Fantasy Girls,” published in 2000. “The Woman Fantastic in Contemporary American Media Culture” displays these insights through multiple media outlets, including “TV series, young adult novels, films and graphic novel/comics,” according to Helford.

“I like looking into popular culture as richly as possible and to see how young people see the world based on these shows and comics,” Helford said.

Helford’s specialization in gender and feminist studies made her a prime candidate in the process of the book’s analysis of  “feminist negotiation of today’s economic and social realities,” according to the University Press of Mississippi.  These “economic and social realities” are displayed through characters such as She Hulk and Wonder Woman. According to the Washington Post, “only 12 percent of protagonist in the top 100 highest-grossing domestic films of 2014 were female.”

“This particular book started in 2011 in a conference as papers, and then started working with graduate students,” Helford said.

Many graduate students became first-time published authors from their contributions in “The Woman Fantastic.” Other contributions came from the help of various sources from active and retired authors, to professors, to anyone who was credible to write on the topic objectively.

Helford said only the hard copy of the book is currently out, but the paper copy version will be released soon.

To contact News Editor Andrew Wigdor, email

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