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A R T I C L E S* &* S P E E C H E S
MEDIA & REVIEWS
Genres Equal Dialects
By Sheila M. Fram-Kulik

Speak of where you come from.....or visualize what I want to see. This is the general idea behind different views of the world. In our own world, dialects within languages are what distinguishes us. In Film, the genre is what distinguishes those in this world. I have heard from a distance the voices of the many genres that weave film as a collective. I want to touch upon some genres that women filmmakers have stepped into and have made new worlds for the feminine as well as other ideologies. Two of the genres that women filmmakers have worked in are "magic realism" and science fiction.

Multiple worlds with multiple languages fill the celluloid. These kinds of films make each person’s journey for the search of new inclusive worlds more hopeful. In the end, each one of these films left me with a strength that motivated me to write and discover new worlds constantly regenerating inside my mind and towrite new languages that correlate with these new worlds of mine. The formulation of a language eventually constitutes branching out like a rhizome of dialects that perpetuate the ever-underlying feeling of a jouissance that represents a mindset of your "self-discovery" of a new world. But, these worlds should never stay within as if contradicting the natural growth of a rhizome. They should push outward into the existing world causing ruptures that become entrances and exits.

Here is a list of some of those films in these genres.
1.Tank Girl
2.Strange Days
3.The Velvet Vampire(horror)
4.Antonia's Line
5.Born in Flames
6.The Handmaid's Tale
7.The Lathe of Heaven
8.Like Water For Chocolate
9.Multiple Futures and Other
Paranoid Fantasies

Sheila Fram-Kulik
E-MAIL[email protected]


Notorious~Alfred Hitchcock
By Kerri Albertson

Female icons in our myths and folktales are frequently found in repose, in coma-like, near-death sleeps, waiting to be re-animated by the kiss of the ambulatory prince or knight. This, according to French Feminist Helene Cixous, reflects society's preferences for women who are passive and the male's fantasy wish to play with dolls. The half-dead female is an irresistible fantasy, with no purpose, no life, until the hero’s arrival. A woman who is "mobile" can only mean trouble. Cixous quotes Joyce in his assertion that woman progress from bed to bed as they marry, give birth, and finally die. Bed is where women are kept, tractable and without the will to leave it.

Alfred Hitchcock's 1946 film "Notorious" draws on the Sleeping Beauty icon and other familiar scenarios. Alicia Huberman (Bergman) is weighted with the stigma of her father’s unspecified treasonous acts as a "German worker" as well as her reputation as a drinker who "makes friends with gentlemen quite easily."

Alicia is drowning her sorrows at a party following her father's conviction when she meets an American agent so virile that he has no first name. Although they have just met, she does not think it odd that he should still be in her home, splitting the dregs of the last bottle with her long after her other guests have gone. She is quite drunk, while Devlin (Grant) remains nimbly able to deliver sarcastic jibes and refill her glass. The romance progresses quickly: Alicia takes Devlin for a drunken drive through Miami; Devlin lashes his mysterious credentials at the motorcycle cop who pulls them over; Alicia wrestles Devlin to see who will drive home; Devlin, in typical Hitchcock style, delivers a blow we hear but do not actually see and wins the match; Alicia declares her love for Devlin a few frames later. Devlin accepts Alicia's attention, but does not ever quite acknowledge his own feelings for her. "I'll tell you when I don't love you": is his philosophy. Of course, his dealings with Alicia are merely part of his work. Alicia is needed by the Agency, and Devlin's assignment is to persuade her to fly to Brazil to infiltrate a conclave of wealthy Germans. She protests at first but finally agrees after Devlin plays a recording of a conversation between Alicia and her father.

Later Devlin finds out that his agent friends want Alicia to become friendly with Alexander Sebastian (Rains), an old friend of the family who was in love with her years before. Devlin is required to arrange a meeting between Sebastian and Alicia and watches wistfully as they renew their acquaintance.

Alicia suggests that this assignment shouldn't change things between them, that she can separate her "work" from their relationship. Devlin does not agree and makes snide remarks about her past and her case with men, presumably to hide his pain.

Within a short time, Alicia informs Devlin that she has added Sebastian to her "list of playmates," and that he has proposed. She asks the agents several times if marrying Sebastian is appropriate, hoping Devlin will protest. He says nothing. Later he says it was up to Alicia to refuse and prove her devotion to him, "Ah, a love test?" Alicia asks. Devlin smolders appropriately and tosses off a few more barbed comments.

Sebastian and Alicia are married, and she continues to keep the agency informed through Devlin. In each of their meetings, she pleads for him to acknowledge his feelings for her while he remains aloof.

The film is classic Hitchcock in its slow buildup of tension in the climactic scenes and its assumptions about the characters' base motives. All violence is implied ominously or handled discreetly off-camera, making the facile murder of one of Sebastian's associates for a small slip-up all the more troubling.

Once Sebastian discovers clues about Alicia's alliances, he enlists his mother's help. She suggests, through a smoke ring or two, that Alicia should become ill in a slow, lingering sort of way.

The film makes use of many familiar elements as the story develops: shades of Bluebeard with forbidden rooms and stolen keys; a wheeze of "Camille" as the dying heroine grows weaker and yet more beautiful; and a taste of "Arsenic and Old Lace" as Mme. Sebastian solicitously offers, "More coffee, Alicia?"

Of course, Alicia is finally confined to bed, weak and drugged, unable to stand. Of Course Devlin throws aside his cavalier attitude and declares his passionas he rescues her. This, at least, is a woman he can find lovable.

As the credits roll, one is left to wonder why a beautiful, independent woman would give up her freedom and alliances to work for a mysterious agency that had no threat to hold over her and made no promise of any great reward for her cooperation. The conversation between Alicia and her father recorded by the alliterative bugging of her bungalow revealed nothing more incriminating than her American citizenship and claim to love her country. For this, she traveled to Rio to endure tainted coffee, Claude Rains' pained gazes, and Cary Grant's cadenced insults.

Did "Notorious" refer to Alicia's bad girl reputation or the film's reliance on the woman-in-bed icon to resolve the plot?

Kerri Albertson
E-MAIL[email protected]


Like Water For Chocolate~screenplay-Laura Esquival
By Stephanie Leftwich

We live in a state of socially constructed oppositional binaries (based upon "differences" between men and women) that privilege the masculine: culture/nature, logic/emotion, active/passive, father/mother, dominant/submissive, etc. Resisting these binaries is a daunting task; a task that has created a considerable rift among contemporary feminism. There are those who argue that it is time to flip the binary; reverse theroles and give women the power long denied them. Others urge equality. But equal to what? There are those who believe that equality simply keeps the same, negative system in place: women break down the borders just enough to create room for themselves and then they stop. French feminists call for an absolute explosion of the binary system. They advocate a third position, completely outside gender, that lets everything in and transgresses all boundaries and distinctions.

And then there are those of us stuck somewhere in the middle. French feminism is the ideal, but that can only get us so far for now. We are tired of being taken less than seriously in the classroom and paid less fordoing the same work as men. We are tired of being sexually harassed - individually by co-workers and collectively by the media. We struggle for some compromise between the theoretical and the practical.

With resignation, we acknowledge that in order to effect change we must still speak with our fathers' tongue. As Catherine Clement states in The Newly Born Woman: "Granted it is a phallocentric cultural system but trying to make another advance is unfounded; perhaps we can think that, hypothetically, one day there might be another system but to will that it suddenly be there - at any minute - is utopian" (137). So we ask: how do we achieve a genderless position and what do we do in the meantime?

"Like Water for Chocolate", based surprisingly well upon Laura Esquivel's novel, can be seen as a metaphoric answer to the current feminist situation. With the Mexican revolution serving as a backdrop, the film challenges traditional masculine and feminine roles, critiques alternatives and ultimately proposes that there is some hope on the middle ground.

The film revolves around the forbidden love of Tita and Pedro. They have desired one another from first sight, but Tita can not marry. As the youngest daughter, she is destined to care for her mother until death. So that he can be close to Tita, Pedro marries her eldest sister, Rosaura. His introduction into the family upsets the precarious balance of an inverted, traditional family structure.

Widowed since just after Tita's birth, Mama Elena boasts that she does not need a man for protection against revolutionaries. A mouthpiece for the patriarchy, she controls her daughters with tradition, restraint and scare tactics. She does not flip the binary, she jumps to the other side. In essence, she becomes a domineering man who abhors all that she considers feminine, particularly desire. Like Tita, she knows forbidden love. She has loved a man and born his child - her middle daughter Gertrudis - outside of marriage. In guilt and anger, she attempts to repress her daughters' desires and deny them the love she could not have.

Mama Elena's masquerade as a man is futile, though. Patriarchal control fails. Gertrudis escapes and becomes a general in the rebel army and Mama Elena can not destroy Tita's want. She can merely contain it for a while. Eventually, Tita's desire dominates the entire household. Ironically, she asserts her power from a traditional place of feminine subservience - the kitchen. Magical concoctions channel her feelings to those eating her food. Wedding guests feel her sorrow in Rosaura and Pedro's tear-laden wedding cake. Passions rage when she serves her chiles in walnut sauce "made with love." Tita subverts her role by exploiting it. She learns to speak through her oppression.

There is potential danger in Tita's desire. As Dr. Brown tells her (in a quote taken from the novel - the film cuts it too short): My grandmother had a very interesting theory; she said that each of us is born with a box of matches inside us we can't strike all by ourselves; . . . the candle could be any kind of food, music, caress, word, or sound that engenders the explosion that lights one of the matches. For a moment we are dazzled by an intense emotion. A pleasant warmth grows within us, fading slowly as time goes by, until a new explosion comes along to revive it. Each person has to discover what will set off those explosions in order to live, since the combustion that occurs when one of them is lighted is what nourishes the soul. If one doesn't find out in time what will set off these explosions, the box of matches dampens, and not a single match will ever be lighted. . . . it's important to keep your distance from people who have frigid breath. Just their presence can put out the most intense fire, with results we're familiar with. If we stay a good distance away from those people, it's easier to protect ourselves from being extinguished. . . . You must of course take care to light the matches one at a time. If a powerful emotion should ignite them all at once they would produce a splendor so dazzling that it would illuminate far beyond what we can normally see; and then a brilliant tunnel would appear before our eyes, revealing the path we forgot the moment we were born, and summoning us to regain the divine origin we had lost. The soul ever longs to return to the place from which it came, leaving the body lifeless. . .

The physical release of her repressed passion kills Tita's body. She burns all of her matches at once. But she does not die. She goes back to the place where we began, the place before now. A third, genderless position? It is highly likely. We all have our matches. We must learn to burn, like Tita, out of patriarchal suppression and into the third position. Until then, we must wait patiently, burning candles one by one, avoiding the cold breath of phallocentrism and practicing subversion.

Stephanie Leftwich
E-MAIL[email protected]


Presenting a Feminist Ideal-Star Wars
By Pamela Green

The representation of women in films and the media should be analyzed in the context of the social and political climate in which they are made in order to truly understand the motives behind the particular presentation. The presentation of feminism or anti-feminism can be explained in context of the era. In this article I will examine "Star Wars" (first released in 1977) and argue that the film depicts Princess Leia, the rebel leader, as a feminist role model because she embodies the struggles and accomplishments of real women during the 1970s.

In 1977, Star Wars was released to a generation of men and women inundated by discussions of the ERA, Mary Tyler Moore, and Wonder Woman. The concept of an independent woman was familiar and almost expected. She was the potential ideal to be reached by women. She was erotic yet independent. This was the era following the 1950s ideal of the good mother and preceding the power-suit wearing severe woman of the "me" years of the 1980s. Feminists (and all women)were reclaiming their eroticism. Women could have sex without worry of pregnancy, thanks to the Supreme Court decision in 1972 that made the Pill available to all women, regardless of marital status. Women could openly flirt or ask out a man. They had come a long way, baby, according to advertisers as far back as 1968. Women, and the society of the 1970s , were more accepting of themselves as sexual creatures. However, this independent woman was not yet the norm. The age of "The Andy Griffith Show," "Bonanza," "Rawhide," or "Gilligan's Island" was still too near to have been ignored. And despite the Democratic presidency, conservatives had enough power to still push their ideals of traditional gender roles. Although there was already this backlash toward the new independent woman, Americans could not get far from this new woman.

This leads us to the female ideal depicted in "Star Wars" through the character of Princess Leia. She is introduced as the rebel leader of a good, almost socialist, nation. Although she has gained power through a traditional manner (through her bloodline) she is still the power-figure for an all male group. Although the role of a feminist with power was gaining acceptance in society and politics of the 1970s, it was not yet a completely palatable idea for much of mainstream society. Leia is the only woman in the rebel force, and in the entire movie actually. Having an independent woman depicted without her feminist comrades, her threat is minimized. The era could tolerate a lone feminist, but was not quite ready for a group that could join forces and gain power. This is after the era that proved organized efforts for change (i.e. the civil rights rallies and anti-war protests of Vietnam) really could work. To have an group of women organizing for their own rights can be seen as a threatening body that could accomplish true power. But having only one feminist, one woman, no chance for even any other potential feminists, ÅStar WarsÛ shows the ideal of the 1970s without being threatening.

When the audience first sees Leia she has been captured by the Empire but is desperately fighting to save her people. She lies, manipulates, and risks her life out of duty. However brave and "masculine" her actions must be, she ultimately turns to men for help. In the political scene of the 70s, authority still belonged to the male realm. Women were progressing, but the patriarchal system was still as prevalent as ever. So Leia, like the women in the 70s, is caught in a paradigm. She has power, but yet must ultimately rely on men. She pleads to Obi-Wan , a graying sage, for help. Like the other female role models of the 1970s, Leia has power but yet must seek advise and help from men to accomplish her goal. She does not have complete autonomy and power. This is like Mary Tyler Moore's dependency on Lou Grant for guidance in each episode, and like Diana Price's (a.k.a. Wonder Woman's) dependency on the army commanders. These female characters reflect the political reality, and slap feminist activism of the 1970s in the face. The women of the time were faced with the idea of independence, but forced to see the obvious limits to their freedom (i.e. male politicians having the power, men earning more money for the same job). Feminists were organizing against these double standards and conflicting expectations without the help of men, and without a desire for help from men.

After pleading to Obi-Wan for help to save her people, she is "rescued" by Luke Skywalker (a pilot and would-be rebel knight) and Han Solo (a smuggler and mercenary involved in the rescue for purely capitalistic reasons). But this rescue attempt is blundered by the men, and it is Leia who rescues not only herself, but Luke and Han as well. This is the ultimate act of autonomy and power as Leia takes control of the situation and shouts orders to the two men. Although Luke is willing to follow Leia's lead, Han is a traditionalist who has difficulty relinquishing power. This was a common struggle with men during the 1970s. On television, the 1970s presented Lou Grant giving a woman a power position yet worrying about her performance and fretting about having a woman in the position. In the political realm, the struggle for the ERA pitted women against male politicians who supported equal rights in theory, but not in practice (fifteen states failed to ratify the amendment and numerous male politicians opposed the amendment).

Han's response to Leia's power is to sexualize her in an attempt to put her back in her place: "Either I'm going to kill her, or I'm beginning to like her." Is her objectification a method of minimizing her strength? Although this is one valid argument, I choose to argue her sexualization is not an attempt at objectification but can also be seen as a sign of women's growing power gained by the accomplishments of the second wave of feminism. Women had fought and won the fight for sexual freedom. Leia, too, has this freedom if she desires it. Her representation proves that women can be strong and sexual. Leia does not need to deny one aspect of her self to fulfill the other. Mary Tyler Moore and Wonder Woman maintain their strength and independence while at the same time being sexual beings. Mary's dating life is discussed, without necessary dialogue of marriage. In one episode the men of WJM-TV think about what their futures would be like if they had dated Mary. Yet throughout the episode, Mary remains the career girl she is famous for. And Wonder Woman frequently escapes to her Sapphic world of young, erotic women, where they lived to escape male domination. This portrayal of Leia is a huge leap for women and feminists in main stream media. No longer must a woman be a whore or be an angel. It is no longer the age of Mary Ann and Ginger, "Gilligan's Island", or Aunt Bee of "The Andy Griffith Show".

In the remaining movies of the trilogy Leia is overly sexualized (i.e. her kiss with Luke in "Empire Strikes Back" and her sex-slave role in "Return of the Jedi"), a backlash response to the growing autonomy of women in the 1980s. However, in "Star Wars," the film that entertained audiences in the era of growing political and sexual freedom, Leia embodies a feminist. She is tough and powerful. She is erotic and sexual, not whorish or cold and frigid like her earlier counterparts. She is the ideal feminist of the second wave. Despite all the other problems in the movie; an all-white cast, all characters from a certain class, "Star Wars" presented one of the first strong female characters in a mainstream, high grossing movie.

Pamela Green
E-MAIL [email protected]


Some writers have E-mail addresses for you to send any comments on their articles. Other comments for writers can be E-mailed to the Editor. Sheila M. Fram-Kulik [email protected]
Stephanie Leftwich [email protected]
Kerri Albertson [email protected]
Pamela Green [email protected]

 

 

 

 

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