Dangerous Curves: Action Heroines, Gender, Fetishism, and Popular Culture
Jeffrey A. Brown
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Dangerous Curves: Action Heroines, Gender, Fetishism, and Popular Culture addresses the conflicted meanings associated with the figure of the action heroine as she has evolved in various media forms since the late 1980s. Jeffrey A. Brown discusses this immensely popular character type, the action heroine, as an example of, and challenge to, existing theories about gender as a performance identity. Her assumption of heroic masculine traits combined with her sexualized physical depiction demonstrates the ambiguous nature of traditional gender expectations and indicates a growing awareness of more aggressive and violent roles for women.
The excessive sexual fetishization of action heroines is a central theme throughout. The topic is analyzed as an insight into the transgressive image of the dominatrix, as a reflection of the shift in popular feminism from second-wave politics to third-wave and postfeminist pleasures, and as a form of patriarchal backlash that facilitates a masculine fantasy of controlling strong female characters. Brown interprets the action heroine as a representation of changing gender dynamics that balances the sexual objectification of women with progressive models of female strength. While the primary focus of this study is the action heroine as represented in Hollywood film and television, the book also includes the action heroine’s emergence in contemporary popular literature, comic books, cartoons, and video games.
here is that the tough action heroine is a transgressive character not because she operates outside of gender restrictions but because she straddles both sides of the psychoanalytic gender divide. She is both subject and object, looker and looked at, ass-kicker and sex object. Like Hills, my concern stems from the now habitual interpretation of action heroines as men in drag that limits the acceptability of toughness as a legitimately feminine characteristic. But I do want to stress that this
male control over strong but beautiful women that is raised with the sexy cyborg and realized with the game babe reveals an important facet of the appeal of action heroines in general. For all the dangers that she poses, the action heroine is also reassuringly under male control and is available to men as their imaginary plaything. 5 IF LOOKS COULD KILL Power, Revenge, and Stripper Movies K here is an ancient legend of the infamous “Dance of Desire” performed by Ishtar, the Sumerian goddess
as costumes designed to reveal “nakedness as a natural vesture of woman” (Barthes 1957: 92). The explicit erotic performance of striptease personiﬁes Mulvey’s description of the fetishistic pleasure of the male gaze. Mulvey’s supposition is ﬁrmly grounded in Freudian theory that posits that the erotic display of women is inﬂuenced by the male viewer’s horriﬁc boyhood discovery of his mother’s lack of a penis. Seeking to disavow that lack, that diﬀerence, the boy/man projects onto the erotic image
famous “Scooby gang” includes her Wiccan best friend Willow, her sister Dawn, and her social rival-turned-friend Cordelia. In fact, as Patricia Pender (2006) has argued, the ﬁnal season of Buﬀy can be read as a prolonged call for young women to unite in the face of misogyny as Buﬀy assembles an army of girls to defeat the ultimate villain simply known as The First Evil. On a structural level, the narrative device of multiple heroines on programs like these (also Charmed, She Spies, V.I.P., Birds
always incorporated skin colors without directly addressing the issue of racial inequality. In the world of superhero fantasy characters have never been limited to the racially identiﬁed skin tones found in reality. The presence of purple-, orange, and green-skinned characters allowed the comics industry to delude itself for decades that superheroes were beyond the real-world concerns about skin color. The absurdity of this situation was the basis for the now famous scene in Green Lantern/Green