A prominent critic assesses the impact feminism has had on popular culture.
In Framed a respected critic whose reach extends from film, literature, and feminism to the culture at large offers a sustained exploration of feminist approaches to film and mass culture. Focusing on the contradictory impulses that characterize feminism, these range from examinations of how the classical Hollywood cinema has objectified the female body-even while offering engaging dreams of female possibility-to inquiries into the surprising sexual politics that often characterize "alternative" films.
The essays are grouped in three sections, each of which probes a particular example of the centrality of contradiction in the feminist enterprise. "Cherchez la Femme Fatale" asks how the destructive, diabolical woman in film (from Marlene Dietrich to Simone Signoret) performs the very contradictions that are central to the cinema, especially where the presumed heterosexual codes of cinema are concerned. "In and Out: Feminist Mass Culture" starts from the assumption that feminism is not excluded from, but rather is very much a part of popular culture, with examples drawn from film (Clint Eastwood; the woman-in-prison film genre), television (L.A. Law), and sports (ice skating). And finally, "Lesbian Looks" considers the question of feminist alternatives by looking at how lesbianism, as both defined by dominant culture and separate from it, has inspired a number of contemporary film and video makers (Midi Onodera, Chantal Akerman, Julie Zando, and Su Friedrich) to think and rethink the contradictory possibilities of the cinema.
Throughout, Mayne shows how contradiction informs feminism in productive and challenging ways. Accessible and engaging, Framed will be of interest to anyone who enjoys mass culture and thinking about women's roles in its creation.
Judith Mayne is professor of French and women's studies at Ohio State University. She is the author of several books, including Directed by Dorothy Arzner (1994) and Cinema and Spectatorship (1993).
Translation Inquiries: University of Minnesota Press