The Horror of Transgressive Femininity in The Bletchley Circle

  • Cat Mahoney


This chapter will examine The Bletchley Circle’s depictions of femininity in crisis that manifest as a result of deviation from the postfeminist script. In Bletchley, these crises can only be resolved through an acceptance of and adherence to postfeminist gender norms. In its representation of its characters’ attempts to reject or move outside the normative boundaries of postfeminism, Bletchley demonstrates the futility of the attempted alternatives. With reference to aspects of horror scholarship, this chapter will discuss the series’ depiction of gender as a whole and particularly the depiction of Susan, the series’ ostensible main character. In this way, it will seek to demonstrate the ways in which the space outside of postfeminism and those who willingly occupy it are constructed as dangerous, deviant and destructive.


Bletchley Park Detective Interrogative gaze Postfeminism Gothic horror Final girl 


  1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Directed by W. Craven [Film]. Burbank: New Line Cinema.Google Scholar
  2. Agatha Christie’s Marple (2004–2013). Produced by Agatha Christie Ltd [DVD]. UK: ITV.Google Scholar
  3. Ball, V. (2013). ‘Forgotten Sisters: The British Female Ensemble Drama’. Screen, 54(2), 244–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Berger, J. (2008). Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  5. The Bletchley Circle, ITV (2012a). ‘Cracking a Killer’s Code: Part One’. Directed by Andy De Emmony. Written by Guy Burt. UK: ITV, September 6. Available at: (accessed 8 May 2017).
  6. The Bletchley Circle, ITV (2012b). ‘Cracking a Killer’s Code: Part Two’. Directed by Andy De Emmony. Written by Guy Burt. UK: ITV, September 13. Available at: (accessed 8 May 2017).
  7. The Bletchley Circle, ITV (2012c). ‘Cracking a Killer’s Code: Part Three’. Directed Jamie Payne. Written by Guy Burt. UK: ITV, January 6. Available at: (accessed 9 May 2017).
  8. The Bletchley Circle, ITV (2014a). ‘Blood on Their Hands: Part One’. Directed by Andy De Emmony. Written by Guy Burt. UK: ITV, September 6. Available at: (accessed 10 May 2017).
  9. The Bletchley Circle, ITV (2014b). ‘Blood on Their Hands: Part Two’. Directed by Sarah Harding. Written by Guy Burt. UK: ITV, January 13. Available at: (accessed 10 May 2017).
  10. The Bletchley Circle, ITV (2014c). ‘Uncustomed Goods: Part One’. Directed by Sarah Harding. Written by Guy Burt. UK: ITV, January 20. Available at: (accessed 11 May 2017).
  11. Brontë, C. (1847). Jane Eyre. London: Smith Elder & Co.Google Scholar
  12. The Cabin in the Woods (2012). Directed by D Goddard [Film]. Santa Monica: Lionsgate.Google Scholar
  13. Carroll, R. (2016). ‘Stanford Swimmer Convicted of Sexually Assaulting Woman After Fraternity Party’. The Guardian. Available at: (accessed 12 June 2019)
  14. Clover, C. J. (1987). ‘Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film’. Representations, 20, 187–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Derose, M. (2005). ‘Redefining Women’s Power Through Feminist Science Fiction’. Extrapolation, 46(1), 66–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dika, V. (1987). ‘The Stalker Film, 1978–81’. In: G. Waller (ed.), American Horrors: Essays on the Modern American Horror Film. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 86–101.Google Scholar
  17. Dowell, B. (2014). ‘Julie Graham on The Bletchley Circle, All-female Casts… and Spice Girls Nicknames on Set’. RadioTimes. Available at:–01–06/julie-graham-on-the-bletchley-circle-all-female-casts-and-spice-girls-nicknames-on-set (accessed 27 July 2017).
  18. Dyer, R. (1982). ‘Don’t Look Now: The Male Pin-up’. Screen, 23(3–4), 61–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. The Forrest (2016). Directed by J. Zada [Film ]. California: Gramercy Pictures.Google Scholar
  20. Foyle’s War (2002–2015). Written by A. Horowitz [DVD]. UK: ITV.Google Scholar
  21. Gerhard, J. (2005). ‘Sex and the City’. Feminist Media Studies, 5(1), 37–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Halloween (1978). Directed by J. Carpenter [Film]. California: Universal Pictures.Google Scholar
  23. ITV Press Centre (2014). ‘The Bletchley Circle (S2)’. Available at: (accessed 27 July 2017).
  24. Jowett, L. and Abbott, S. (2013). TV Horror. London: I. B. Tauris.Google Scholar
  25. Lewis, K. (2014). ‘Bletchley Park, No Longer the World’s Best Kept Secret’. BBC News. Available at: (accessed 13 February 2019).
  26. Lizardi, R. (2010). ‘“Re-imagining” Hegemony and Misogyny in the Contemporary Slasher Remake’. Journal of Popular Film and Television, 38(3), 113–121. Available at: (accessed 2 August 2017).
  27. Lockyer, D. (2014). ‘Rachael Stirling: “I Should Have Asked my Ma’s Advice”’. Telegraph. Available at: (accessed 16 August 2017).
  28. Luckett, M. (2017). ‘Women’s History and Women’s Work: Popular Television as Feminine Historiography’. In: R. Moseley, H. Wheatley and H. Wood (eds), Television For Women: New Directions. London: Routledge, 15–33.Google Scholar
  29. Mahoney, C. (2015). ‘“Not Bad for a Few Ordinary Girls in a Tin Hut!” ̶ Re-imagining Women’s Social Experience of the Second World War Through Female Ensemble Drama’. Frames Cinema Journal, [online] (7), no pagination. Available at: (accessed 14 January 2019).
  30. Mainar, L. (1997). ‘Mulvey’s Alleged Avoidance of Essentialism in Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’. Atlantis, 19(2), 113–123.Google Scholar
  31. Manlove, C. T. (2007). ‘Visual “Drive” and Cinematic Narrative: Reading Gaze Theory in Lacan, Hitchcock, and Mulvey’. Cinema Journal 46(3), 83–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mizejewski, L. (2004). Hardboiled & High Heeled. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Moseley, R. (2002). Growing Up With Audrey Hepburn: Text, Audience, Resonance. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Mulvey, L. (1975). ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’. Screen, 16(3), 6–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Nowell, R. (2011) ‘“There’s More Than One Way to Lose Your Heart”: The American Film Industry, Early Teen Slasher Films, and Female Youth’. Cinema Journal, 51(1), 115–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Ripper Street (2012–2016). Created by R. Warlow [DVD]. UK: BBC One and Amazon Prime Video.Google Scholar
  37. Scott & Bailey (2011–present). Created by S. Wainwright and D. Taylor [DVD]. UK: ITV.Google Scholar
  38. Scream: The TV Series (2015–present). Developed by J. Blotevogel, D. Dworkin and J. Beattie [Series]. USA: MTV.Google Scholar
  39. Scream Queens (2015–2016). Created by J. Ackerman [Series]. USA: VH1.Google Scholar
  40. Sex and the City (1998–2004). Created by D. Star [DVD]. New York: HBO.Google Scholar
  41. The Silence of the Lambs (1991). Directed by J. Demme [Film]. Los Angeles: Orion Pictures.Google Scholar
  42. Slasher (2016). Created by A. Martin [Series]. USA: Super Channel.Google Scholar
  43. Stacey, J. (1987). ‘Desperately Seeking Difference’. Screen, 28(1), 48–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Directed by T. Hooper [Film]. USA: Bryanston Distributing Company.Google Scholar
  45. Vera (2011–present). Created by A. Cleeves [DVD]. UK: ITV.Google Scholar
  46. Weaver, A. et al. (2015) ‘Embodying the Moral Code? Thirty Years of Final Girls in Slasher Films’. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 4(1), 31–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wheatley, H. (2006). Gothic Television. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Winch, A. (2011). ‘“Your New Smart-Mouthed Girlfriends”: Postfeminist Conduct Books’. Journal of Gender Studies, 20(4), 359–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cat Mahoney
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK

Personalised recommendations