Gender Meets Genre in Postwar Cinemas

Gender Meets Genre in Postwar Cinemas

EDITED BY CHRISTINE GLEDHILL
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt1x74qb
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    Gender Meets Genre in Postwar Cinemas
    Book Description:

    This remarkable collection challenges traditional ways of thinking about the relationship between gender and genre, understanding their meeting as a mutually transformative encounter. Responding to postmodernist conceptions of genre and postfeminist theories of gender and sexuality, these essays move beyond the limits of representation. Testing new thinking about genre, gender, and sexuality against closely analyzed films, they explore generic convention as putting into play what our culture makes of us, while finding in genre's repetitions infinite possibilities of cross-generic, cross-gender, cross-sex permutation. At the same time the aesthetic and emotional dimensions of gender and sexuality emerge as elements fueling the dramatic worlds of film genres, producing in the encounter new gendered perceptions, affects, and effects. _x000B__x000B_Recognizing the intensifying transnational context of film production and responding to postcolonial perspectives, this volume includes essays that explore the transformational transactions between gender and genre in the meeting between world-circulating Hollywood generic practices and American independent, European, Indian, and Hong Kong cinemas. Such revised concepts of genre and gender question taken-for-granted relationships between authorship and genre, between center and periphery, and between feminism and generic filmmaking. They consequently rethink the gendering of genres, filmmakers, and their audiences. _x000B__x000B_Contributors are Ira Bhaskar, Steven Cohan, Luke Collins, Pam Cook, Lucy Fischer, Jane Gaines, Christine Gledhill, Derek Kane-Meddock, E. Ann Kaplan, Samiha Matin, Katie Model, E. Deidre Pribram, Vicente Rodriguez Ortega, Adam Segal, Chris Straayer, Yvonne Tasker, Deborah Thomas, and Xiangyang Chen.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09366-1
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-12)
    CHRISTINE GLEDHILL

    Genre and gender representation, two key areas of Film Studies, have generated challenging theories and debate. However, bar some notable exceptions (Williams 2000; Clover 1992), these concepts rarely intersect. Studies of gender representation and sexed spectatorship largely subsume genre into narrative and visual organization. Studies of genre too often assume gender as a relatively unproblematic component of specific generic worlds. This anthology of largely commissioned critical essays asks what happens if genre and gender are run through each other. Does thinking about the constructedness and performativity of gender and sexual identity enable us to approach the production of film genres...

  5. PART ONE REFIGURING GENRE AND GENDER
    • CHAPTER 1 THE GENIUS OF GENRE AND THE INGENUITY OF WOMEN
      (pp. 15-28)
      JANE M. GAINES

      Every reference to the cinema director as author carries the weight of several centuries of literary and art historical criticism. This very weight makes it difficult to argue against authorship in motion-picture industry history. Nevertheless, it is my contention that authorship has been taken up too uncritically. One cannot hope to completely discredit the authorial approach, but the critical ascendance of the author has been successfully challenged in a number of ways, for example, for its eclipse of the audience’s contributions to meaning. In this essay, however, I begin by picking up a thread from my earlier argument about the...

    • CHAPTER 2 NO FIXED ADDRESS: THE WOMEN’S PICTURE FROM OUTRAGE TO BLUE STEEL
      (pp. 29-40)
      PAM COOK

      The women’s picture has played a major role in the development of feminist film criticism, partly in response to a certain tendency in 1970s feminist film theory to prioritize the “male spectator,” and partly as a strategic move to reassess a critically devalued and neglected genre. This debate, which has centered on questions of female spectatorial pleasure and address, has produced some remarkable textual analyses and trenchant critiques of the ways in which classical Hollywood cinema both represents and positions women, opening up issues such as narrative structure, masochism, and consumerism. Despite the revisionist impulse motivating much of this work,...

    • CHAPTER 3 CIRCULATING EMOTION: RACE, GENDER, AND GENRE IN CRASH
      (pp. 41-53)
      E. DEIDRE PRIBRAM

      Crash(Paul Haggis, 2005) follows a range of diverse but intersecting characters who, in their entirety, are meant to represent a social landscape: modern American urban existence. Through an ensemble cast and a multi-story structure, the film depicts a circuitous society in which one part affects other parts that, in turn, affect all parts.

      The film is structured by means of three entangled, sometimes complementary, sometimes competing, cultural discourses. The first discourse is race. In a deeply troubling way, race is most overtly what the film is “about.” In the world of the film, virtually every character is at some...

    • CHAPTER 4 100% PURE ADRENALINE: GENDER AND GENERIC SURFACE IN POINT BREAK
      (pp. 54-68)
      LUKE COLLINS

      The platform for this chapter is the contention that we experiencePoint Break(1991) as generic surface. Despite critical efforts to construct the film as a creative play with masculinity or with the action genre, the film remains culturally and politically ambivalent. As is often noted,Point Breakrepeats the “vessel” of the action genre without rupture, spillage, or slippage. In this sense Point Break expresses an awareness of its cultural/commercial form by filling out the homosocial trope latent in the action genre’s intense male relationships and fetishization of the male body. But, I argue, at no point does it...

  6. PART TWO POSTFEMINISM AND GENERIC REINVENTIONS
    • CHAPTER 5 TROUBLING GENRE/RECONSTRUCTING GENDER
      (pp. 71-83)
      E. ANN KAPLAN

      InFilm/Genre,Rick Altman notes the irony of “producers . . . actively destroying genres by creating new cycles,” while film scholars “are regularly trying to fold the cyclical differences back into genre, thus authorizing continued use of a familiar, broad-based, sanctioned and therefore powerful term” (1999, 71). Meanwhile, Christine Gledhill notes postmodern practices of “picking and mixing” that enable “film-makers to take inspiration from critical as well as studio categories” (2000, 223). In a situation, then, when many Hollywood studios regularly collapse traditional genres into each other, and filmmakers do not confine their work within a specific genre, into...

    • CHAPTER 6 BODIES AND GENRES IN TRANSITION: GIRLFIGHT AND REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES
      (pp. 84-95)
      YVONNE TASKER

      Genre cinema depends on an articulation of gendered types and a presentation of bodies defined by gender. The richness and pleasure of genre films has much to do with their iteration and occasional modification of these gendered types. But most genre fictions also assume a central male subject, requiring considerable effort to position female characters as meaningful protagonists. Bearing these limits and possibilities in mind, this essay explores how women filmmakers working within independent cinema have used genre to tell women’s stories. Of course, independent cinema is a contested category; there are complex connections between independent production and major corporations...

    • CHAPTER 7 PRIVATE FEMININITY, PUBLIC FEMININITY: TACTICAL AESTHETICS IN THE COSTUME FILM
      (pp. 96-110)
      SAMIHA MATIN

      As early as the 1930s, critics categorized the costume film as “feminine,” because it focused on the emotional subject of love in contrast to historical bio-pics that were deemed “masculine” by tending to political topics (Robe 2009, 71). While the distinctions between types of historical films are neither absolute nor exclusive, costume films give primacy not just to romance but also to female protagonists while highlighting the visual drama of private life through costume and interiors. Though a prevalent genre in the 1930s and 1940s, costume films declined in the postwar years until the late 1980s and 1990s, when a...

    • CHAPTER 8 GENERIC GLEANING: AGNÈS VARDA, DOCUMENTARY, AND THE ART OF SALVAGE
      (pp. 111-122)
      LUCY FISCHER

      In several of her films, Agnès Varda is concerned with the homeless. InVagabond(Sans toit ne loi,1985), for instance, she depicts a few weeks in the life of a young female vagrant as she wanders through the French countryside in winter—camping out, scavenging food, doing odd jobs, joining and leaving packs of drifters, and, ultimately, freezing to death in a ditch. While, clearly, Varda is far from homeless in this sense (having lived for decades in the same Paris apartment), she is, perhaps, somewhat “rootless” in her aesthetic and generic affiliations.

      On the one hand, some Varda...

  7. PART THREE GENDER AESTHETICS IN “MALE” GENRES
    • CHAPTER 9 IT’S A MANN’S WORLD?
      (pp. 125-134)
      ADAM SEGAL

      The director Michael Mann generally works within the genre of the crime film. Within this genre, there is typically a focus placed on the relations among men, with very little emphasis on female characters. Susan White (2001), referring to a 1947 Anthony Mann police procedural,T-Men,writes that “with few exceptions, women cannot and must not traverse the boundary surrounding the criminal milieu the agents are investigating, for their investigation into the underworld is emphatically . . . an exploration of what it means to be a man among men” (98). Michael Mann’sHeat(1995) explores this same kind of...

    • CHAPTER 10 UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: FACES AND NAMES IN CASUALTIES OF WAR
      (pp. 135-145)
      DEBORAH THOMAS

      For obvious reasons, war films—especially those centered on the battlefield—are likely to be unbalanced in terms of their treatments of gender. The absence of a significant female presence in American films about wars fought overseas is due in part to the fact that their far-flung battlefields and home front are geographically split apart to a much greater extent than in certain British examples, say, where a female presence may be more strongly foregrounded in male characters’ more frequent movements between battlefield and home, and where home itself comes under fire. However, rather than this implying that American war...

    • CHAPTER 11 GENDER HYPERBOLE AND THE UNCANNY IN THE HORROR FILM: THE SHINING
      (pp. 146-158)
      KATIE MODEL

      At its simplest, genre is a play of the familiar and the different. Gender poses similarities and differences between men and women. The uncanny, in all its renditions, flickers between familiarity and strangeness. Gender, genre, and the uncanny in various ways all engage, resist, and toy with similarity and difference. The horror film is an ideal site to explore the interrelations of gender, genre, and the uncanny, and their chiasmic exchange. Horror’s grappling with gender and the uncanny has been extensively discussed (see Wood 1978). The pioneering work of Linda Williams and Carol Clover has identified gender slippage as a...

  8. PART FOUR Genre and Gender transnational
    • CHAPTER 12 EMOTION, SUBJECTIVITY, AND THE LIMITS OF DESIRE: MELODRAMA AND MODERNITY IN BOMBAY CINEMA, 1940s–’50s
      (pp. 161-176)
      IRA BHASKAR

      Let us begin with three scenarios of extremity, depictions of limit situations that concern ultimate questions of life, love, death, and meaning:

      A woman is seated on the floor, with her head on her arm on the bed against which she leans, staring out into space, while a blind singer outside sings of separation and deep anguish, ironically evokingrāga malhār—therāgaof union and joy.

      In deep space composition, in the foreground, a woman in black lies on a bed on a terrace under a flowering tree, and in profile looks off and away at the festive terrace...

    • CHAPTER 13 WOMAN, GENERIC AESTHETICS, AND THE VERNACULAR: HUANGMEI OPERA FILMS FROM CHINA TO HONG KONG
      (pp. 177-190)
      XIANGYANG CHEN

      In 1963, an article entitled “The Wondrous Tale ofThe Love Eterne& the Miracle of a Film Industry” inSouthern Screen,the trade journal of Hong Kong-based Shaw Brothers, captured the phenomenal reception of the studio’s Huangmei opera film,The Love Eterne. Published in both Chinese and English, the English version runs like this:

      Throughout May and June the hottest thing in Taiwan was not the weather, but Shaw brothers costume musical “Love Eterne” [sic]. Never in China’s history has a picture—Chinese or foreign been welcomed with such fervor and adoration. Everyone, native born or mainlander, has seen...

    • CHAPTER 14 HOMOEROTICISM CONTAINED: GENDER AND SEXUAL TRANSLATION IN JOHN WOO’S MIGRATION TO HOLLYWOOD
      (pp. 191-202)
      VICENTE RODRIGUEZ ORTEGA

      This essay compares John Woo’s Hong Kong and Hollywood outputs in order to scrutinize the differing representations of gender they offer in relation to the different generic configurations at work in each production context. I aim to pinpoint which aspects of these representations have passed the test of cultural translatability and which have not. More specifically, given the diverse roles of several “generic contact zones”—action and melodrama, melodrama and comedy, comedy and action—in each of these two different cinematic traditions, I explore how the dynamic between genre and gender varies between Woo’s Hong Kong and Hollywood films. I...

  9. PART FIVE GENERIC “TRANS-INGS”:: BETWEEN GENRES, GENDERS, AND SEXUALITIES
    • CHAPTER 15 TRASH COMES HOME: GENDER/GENRE SUBVERSION IN THE FILMS OF JOHN WATERS
      (pp. 205-218)
      DEREK KANE-MEDDOCK

      John Waters’s career trajectory is commonly described as a process of assimilation. His early films earned him prominence as a nonconformist, and he seemed to revel in being perceived as a social misfit. When the controversial director published two books in the early 1980s,Shock ValueandCrackpot,their titles drew on the image of Waters as outsider that he had cultivated from the beginning of his career. Yet, for many critics, Waters’s transgressive reputation has been undermined by his transformation into an eccentric but essentially mainstream filmmaker in the 1980s. The seemingly obvious differences between Waters’s first few movies,...

    • CHAPTER 16 FEMME FATALE OR LESBIAN FEMME: BOUND IN SEXUAL DIFFÉRANCE
      (pp. 219-232)
      CHRIS STRAAYER

      In its black-and-white opening title sequence with stark lights and deep shadows, foreboding music, and a moving camera that waves from extreme close-up obscurity to distanced readability (of the title),Bound(Wachowski Brothers, 1996) immediately stirs memories and expectations of film noir. The film’s first scene, however, poses a neo-noir twist. Trapped inside a clothes closet, the camera slowly descends from the ceiling, pointing downwards, alongside what appears to be the ceiling light’s fixture, enlarging and distorting it to vulgar proportions and thus creating for the viewer a bulbous projection that suggests a sex toy as much as a ceiling...

    • CHAPTER 17 “THE GAY COWBOY MOVIE”: QUEER MASCULINITY ON BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
      (pp. 233-242)
      STEVEN COHAN

      BeforeBrokeback Mountainopened theatrically in December 2005, commercial prospects were uncertain for “this ostensible gay Western,” as Todd McCarthy (2005) called it when reviewing the film at the Telluride film festival forDaily Variety.The gay male demographic was assured, of course, but the film’s potential to attract a crossover audience remained an open question. “With critical support,” McCarthy observed, “Focus [Films] should have little trouble stirring interest among older, sophisticated viewers in urban markets, but trying to cross this risky venture over into wider release reps a marketing challenge for the ages; paradoxically, young women may well constitute...

  10. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 243-256)
  11. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 257-260)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 261-275)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 276-276)