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Introduction: Little Women and Cine-filles

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Abstract

This chapter draws on Little Women (Gerwig 2019) to exemplify the approach to understanding genre in recent Hollywood films directed by women that the book adopts. Harrod argues that films address the mind and body at the same time, and inextricably, in popular postmodern cinema and shows how this is significant for understanding women’s cultural production in a feminist way as transcending a concern with the body alone. Acknowledging major ongoing challenges for women in Hollywood, this chapter also demonstrates the pronounced cultural need for critical valorisations of female-authored mainstream cinema.

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Fig. 1.1
Fig. 1.2

Notes

  1. 1.

    For a later expansion, see Grodal (2009).

  2. 2.

    I use the term affect interchangeably with emotion, broadly defined, albeit often with a focus on reactions elicited through external stimuli (here, the film’s style and resulting ‘mood’ [Sinnerbrink 2012]; see also Pye [2007] on tone).

  3. 3.

    See Bordwell (1991), Bukatman (2003), Plantinga (2009) and especially Ndalianis (2012); however, these focus heavily on films designed to disorient the viewer. More recently, Colling (2017) provides a useful study of affect in ‘girl teen film’.

  4. 4.

    On belatedness in (literary) creation see Bloom (1997 [1973]).

  5. 5.

    Eleftheria Thanouli (2009) describes postclassical cinema as reaching its defining culmination post-1990. The term postmodern is also apposite.

  6. 6.

    For an overview of the trend, see Herbert (2018).

  7. 7.

    See for instance Annette Hill and Joke Hermes (2020) on television as ‘a platform for cultural citizenship’ after COVID-19.

  8. 8.

    Twilight also participates in melodrama but in a highly overdetermined fashion that itself underlines the anti-realist aspects of the genre, as I show in Chap. 3.

  9. 9.

    Including those featured in Harrod and Paszkiewicz (2017), a book which forms part of a vanguard (see ibid.: 1–2) also beginning to include a more transnational aspect and that continues to expand, as illustrated recently by a call for contributions to a collection to be published in Edinburgh University Press’ ‘ReFocus’ series on the Indian filmmaker Zoya Akhtar.

  10. 10.

    For Berlant in particular, ‘self-confirmation by repeating the dynamics of an affective scene’ offers merely ‘juxtapolitical’, or distracting, conciliatory and unproductive pleasures (Berlant 2008: 14, 10).

  11. 11.

    The fact that in this context corporeality and feelings both gain major cultural significance and currency could be read, ironically, as women having a last (hollow) laugh. It is highly suggestive that several commentators have observed how female leaders have reacted more flexibly and sensitively, therefore effectively, to the global health crisis than have populist male ones. See for example Lewis (2020).

  12. 12.

    The situation appears somewhat better in television, where the number working in creative roles in US broadcast and cable networks and streaming programmes was estimated at 28% in 2016/2017, a rise of 2% from the previous year (Tally and Kaklamanidou 2018). In other national contexts, similar complaints are often made, for instance in the prominent #MásMujeres (MoreWomen) campaign linked to the 2018 Spanish Goya Awards.

  13. 13.

    Kasi Lemmon’s 1997 Gothic drama Eve’s Bayou might be seen as a forerunner of the trend.

  14. 14.

    On the ‘girling’ of postfeminist women, see for instance Negra (2009).

  15. 15.

    For instance, Modleski (1991: 17–18), Tuana (2008: 189).

  16. 16.

    Queen and Slim also engages only somewhat self-consciously with its fatalistic gangster road movie overlay, by contrast with earlier precedents including Badlands (Terrence Malick 1973) and True Romance (Tony Scott 1993).

  17. 17.

    Lane here in fact describes an intratextual moment that recurs in this film and The Loveless (Bigelow 1981), for me therefore functioning as a mise-en-abyme of the overall textual work. My choice to ignore Blue Steel nonetheless acknowledges Lane’s suggestion that ‘Bigelow refuses to suggest that a mere substitution of a woman in a man’s role […] ultimately reverses male power structures. Rather, she privileges the slippage between gender codes and modes of power’ (2000: 117).

  18. 18.

    Anna Backman Rogers (2019: ‘Introduction’) is meanwhile scathing in her critique of the celebration of the ‘asinine’ Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins 2017) as feminist merely because it features a female superhero.

  19. 19.

    Heightened genre’s relevance to television studies meanwhile emerges directly in discussions of the cross-media rendering of Clueless , and to media studies more generally both here and in relation to Twilight as a multimedia franchise, in Chap. 3.

  20. 20.

    For instance, by producer Mia Bays on The World at One on BBC Radio 4 on 7 January 2020 https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qptc. The 2020 Academy Awards bucked the trend, possibly in response.

  21. 21.

    Cf. Ahmed (2007).

  22. 22.

    Pace Citron et al. (1978).

  23. 23.

    Countries of production are only included for non-US (co-)productions.

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Harrod, M. (2021). Introduction: Little Women and Cine-filles. In: Heightened Genre and Women's Filmmaking in Hollywood. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-70994-5_1

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