Gender and Genre in Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette
comedy; gendered violence; sexual violence and trauma; survivor testimony
Television & New Media
This article argues that Hannah Gadsby’s 2018 Netflix stand-up special Nanette bundles a critique of the comedy industry and of gendered violence through genre transformations that expand the public sphere for survivor testimony. Though Gadsby was not the first to broach these topics in a public forum, she did so at a moment when audiences were primed to be newly receptive. While there was predictably some backlash from audience members who maintained that the special should not be considered comedy, there was also a fierce outpouring of enthusiasm. Nanette became a text with which one could publicly identify (or dis-identify), particularly around the framing of sexual violence and trauma, reminding us that we need popular cultural touchstones through which to shift the conversation. It may also be symptomatic of a widening of the range of perspectives and subject positions with which mainstream audiences are willing to sympathize.