Cultural Citizenship, Popular Culture and Gender: Examining Audience Understandings of The Handmaid’s Tale in Hungary




cultural citizenship, feminism, television entertainment, audience studies, Hungary


This article examines how audiences engage with popular culture in ways that forge political awareness and civic engagement. Through exploring the various levels of engagement of Hungarian women with the 2017–2020 television adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, this study answers questions such as: How do Hungarian female audiences engage with topics raised in The Handmaid’s Tale? How does their engagement with the show encourage cultural citizenship? Based on in-depth interviews with twenty-two Hungarian women, this qualitative empirical research sheds light on the role of television drama series in facilitating the manifestation of cultural citizenship as an arena of identity-construction and community-formation.

Author Biography

Agnes Strickland-Pajtok, assistant professor, Eszterházy Károly University, Eger, Hungary

Agnes Strickland-Pajtok, PhD, is an assistant professor at the Department of Motion Picture Art and Communication at Eszterházy Károly University, Eger, Hungary. Her main fields of interest include the analysis of gender in popular culture; intercultural studies –with special emphasis on the representation of immigrants and minorities in various media and cultural products; and cultural elements of literary translation.


Ang, I. (1996). Living Room Wars. London: Routledge.

Ang, I. (1985). Watching Dallas: Soap opera and the melodramatic imagination. Translated by Della Couling. London: Routledge.

Askanius, T. (2017). Engaging with The Bridge: Cultural citizenship, cross-border identities and audiences as ‘regionauts’. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 22(3): 271–290.

Átlátszó (2016, January 7). CSOK-os otthonteremtés csak fehérgallérosoknak. Retrieved February 27, 2021 from

Balázs, P. (2018, October 16). A kormány hivatalosan is megszüntette a gender szakokat [The Government Has Officially Abolished Gender Courses]. Retrieved February 21, 2021 from

Balogh, E. S. (2018). Home savings accounts. Hungarian Spectrum. Retrieved February 21, 2021 from

Bence, H. (2018). Kapkodva vezették be a CSOK-ot, az egy és két gyerekes, fiatal házasoknak csak nehezebb lett tőle a lakáshoz jutás [CSOK was introduced in a hurry, making it harder for young couples with one of two children to get the apartment]. 444. Retrieved February 21, 2021 from

Bényei, J. (2001). Az Alkonyzónától a Simpson családig [From The Twilight Zone to the Simpson Family]. Médiakutató. Retrieved February 21, 2021 from

Donovan, J. (2012). Feminist Theory. Continuum.

Dahlgren, P. (2006). Doing citizenship. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 9(3): 267–286.

Duvall, S. (2012) Patriarchy In: Encyclopedia of Gender in Media, SAGE Publications.

Esteva, G., Prakash, M. S., & Shiva, V. (2014). Grassroots postmodernism remaking the soil of cultures. Zed Books.

Gender Equality Index 2019: Hungary. European Institute for Gender Equality. Retrieved April 9, 2020 from

George, K. (2012). Self-help as women’s popular culture in suburban New Jersey: An ethnographic perspective. Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, 9(2), Retrieved April 9, 2020 from

Hermes, J. (2005). Re-reading Popular Culture: Rethinking Gender, Television, and Popular Media Audiences. Blackwell Publishing.

Hermes, J., & Stello, C. (2000). Cultural citizenship and crime fiction. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 3(2): 215–232.

Hill, A. (2018) Saga’s story: Emotional engagement in the production and reception of Nordic crime drama The Bridge. In: Turnbull S., Peacock S. & Hansen KT (eds.) Crime Pays – Contemporary Television Crime Dramas, Palgrave Macmillan.

Hodkinson, P. (2017). Media, culture and society: An Introduction. Kindle Edition.

Hungarian Spectrum (2020, November 14). Anti-Gay-Lesbian Amendments to the Adoption Law. Retrieved February 21, 2021 from

Kaid, L. L., & Holtz-Bacha, C. (2008). In Encyclopedia of political communication. Sage Publications.

Kvale, S. (2007). Qualitative Research kit: Doing interviews. SAGE Publications.

Margit P. (2002). A nők reprezentációja [Representation of Women], Médiakutató. Retrieved April 9, 2020 from

Miklós, J. (2015, December 21). Összeszedtünk tíz fontos kérdést az ingyen 20 millióról [we’ve compiled ten important questions about 20 million]. Retrieved April 9, 2020 from

Munk, V. (2009). Sztárság, elméletben. Médiakutató. Retrieved April 9, 2020 from

Nærland, T. (2019). Fictional Entertainment and Public Connection: Audiences and the Everyday Use of TV-series. Television & New Media, Vol. 20 (7): 651–669.

hu (2015, December 13). Nem akarunk genderőrületet [We don’t want gender madness]. Retrieved April 9, 2020 from

Timar, B., & Republikon Institute (2017, August 7). A New Hungarian Political Force Sets Out to Complete the „Real Change of the Regime”. Retrieved April 9, 2020 from

Van Zoonen, L. (2005). Entertaining the Citizen. Rowman & Littlefield.




How to Cite

Strickland-Pajtok, A. (2021). Cultural Citizenship, Popular Culture and Gender: Examining Audience Understandings of The Handmaid’s Tale in Hungary. Central European Journal of Communication, 14(1(28), 100-118.



Scientific Papers