SNL’s Use of the Medusan Narrative

Kathleen Rowe tells us in “The unruly woman: gender and the genres of laughter” that “women must be willing to offend and to be offensive, to look beyond the doomed suffering women of melodrama and the evil ones of film noir” (Rowe, pg 8). This is to say that women in film and comedy more broadly ought to subvert the traditional gaze brought on them, rather than play into it. This allowing for a brand of comedy that can have an air of revolution to it through it’s placed and just anger at the limiting actions of hierarchies that restrict a comedy unshackled by gender roles and expectations. Rowe tell us that a great arena for this comedy is that of the “Medusan film” which deals with sexuality and humour. Through this she sees a means for woman to force the masculine gaze to be subverted and corrupted through a ownership of sexuality or the freedom to do away with it.

An example of how this brand of comedy is the Saturday Night Live skit “Dirty Talk”. Within it, we have a couple trying to spice up their love life but are unsuccessful as the woman in the scene keeps misinterpreting what the man means by ‘dirty talk’. This scene can be considered ‘mudusan’ by the way in which it sets up the sexuality of the narrative, only for the woman to break it down with her uncomfortable and distinctly offensive attempts at the ‘dirty talk’. From this, we can see the the female is becoming the dominant character that holds the power to facilitate the needs of the male, making him submissive. This creates a “leveling of hierarchies” (Rowe, pg 9) that breaks the female character from the traditional gaze put upon woman by men by a direct and deliberate supervision of that gaze.


  1. Great example of an unruly woman who actively disrupts the man’s attempts to impose his fantasies on her. He asks her to be mean to him, not imagining that she would be unwilling to play along with his idea of only accepting the ‘dangerous’ elements of a woman when it is in a sexual role play where he assumes the dominant role.

  2. This is a good example of what Rowe was talking about as you stated. It subverts preconceived notions about how society expects a woman to react in this situation. I would, however, say that this video is not necessarily the kind of offensive comedy that Rowe was discussing.

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