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Unformatted text preview: Whats a Mean Woman Like You Doing in a Movie Like This? by Neal King and Martha McCaughey from Reel Knockouts: Violent Women in the Movies Officer Rita Rizolli stops a pimp from beating a prostitute. They scuffle; he calls her a bitch, circles around her, and fires his weapon. Rita dodges, admires his agility (Nice move, asshole), and shoots him when he tries to fire again. As he bleeds his last she quips, and dont call me bitch. In the middle of a robbery designed to bankroll their move from their dead-end lives, Cleo, Tisean, and Stony face down the local police with weapons drawn. An unwise bank guard shoots one, and the other two women blow him away with a hail of gunfire. Stony, the only survivor of the ensuing battles, drives off with the cash. Mad at her philandering boyfriend, Mallory starts to make out with a man in an auto garage. At her command he goes down on her, but too soon commences intercourse. She whips a handgun from her purse and blows his brains out. That was the worst fucking head I ever got in my life. Next time dont be so fucking eager! She stalks off in disgust. Why Mean Women? Violent women draw strong responses, on screen and off, whether theyre agents of the law like Fatal Beauty s Rizolli, novice bank robbers like the heroes of Set it Off , or mass murderers like Natural Born Killer s Mallory. Violent women appear in a variety of genres, from classic horror and film noir to 1970s blaxploitation and 1990s road movies. Sometimes violent female characters are malicious villains; other times they save the world from destruction or just uphold the law. In almost all cases, however, somebody will imply that such action, because done by a woman, falls below standards of human decency. This is why we call them all mean women. Depictions of womens violence seem more horrific to many people, perhaps because we find far fewer of them than we find scenes of male violence. Moreover, cultural standards still equate womanhood with kindness and nonviolence, manhood with strength and aggression. Controversies abound over the potential for imitative violence (e.g., Natural Born Killers , Thelma and Louise ), the use of women as agents of sexist or racist oppression (Aliens , The Silence of the Lambs ), and the deviant status of sexually assertive women (Basic Instinct , Eve of Destruction , Fatal Attraction ). A feminist literature examines such movies as The Silence of the Lambs , Blue Steel , Basic Instinct , Thelma and Louise , and Terminator 2 , as well as such genres as detective films and slasher movies. Most feminists oppose violence, define it as patriarchal and oppressive, yet often enjoy scenes in which female characters defend themselves, save the day, seek revenge, and get away with it in the end. Many feminists insist that we can and should do better than patriarchs; hence, they celebrate images that define womens 1 heroic power in female terms giving birth, forming community, and remaining nonviolent even in the...
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This note was uploaded on 02/27/2012 for the course WOST 280 taught by Professor Stephanieallen during the Spring '12 term at Purdue University-West Lafayette.
- Spring '12