Finally, A Final Girl for the Twenty-First Century

Vicki Madden | 3 April 2017.

Anyone who knows me knows I love a good Final Girl. As a long-time horror film devotee, this unique figure has fascinated me ever since I first encountered her in the form of Alien’s Ellen Ripley. As Ripley shows us, the Final Girl is a bad-ass – she’s the last woman standing who’s left to defeat the monster through sheer wit and ingenuity (though occasionally, she still requires a man to rescue her – a trait inherited from the classic gothic stories of yore, no doubt). The Final Girl, as Carol Clover first described her in her seminal essay “Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film” (1987), is “intelligent, watchful, level-headed; the first character to sense something amiss and the only one to deduce from the accumulating evidence the patterns and extent of the threat [1].” In other words, the Final Girl is the audience’s point of identification – we root for her because, unlike almost everyone else in a horror film, she knows what’s up and she’s prepared to do something about it.

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A Host of Questions: Artificial Agency in Westworld

Maria Torres-Quevedo | 20th February 2016.

Trigger Warning: Rape, Violence.

Westworld (2016) depicts a sci-fi not-too-distant future in which humans have mastered the art of artificial intelligence, and have used this to create a Western-style theme park in which real humans (almost exclusively white men) from the real world can live out their fantasies consequence-free with “non-human” robots.

The park ostensibly serves to allow its human patrons to “find themselves,” revealing their real desires in an environment designed to cater specifically to them. More interesting to me, however, is the self-discovery exemplified by the two female robots (hosts) around which much of the narrative centres.

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Rooms of One’s Own: Teenage Bedrooms in Film  

Katie Goh | 6 February 2017

Juno’s hamburger phone. Cher’s computerized wardrobe. Ferris Bueller’s Union Jack. Regina George’s PRINCESS four poster bed. As memorable as the characters, the teen movie bedroom set has become iconic in pop culture. Spaces of rebellion, creativity, and conflict, the bedroom functions as a visual indicator of a teenager’s personality as it is the only space wholly their own.

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See No Evil: The Legitimisation of Violence Against Women in Hollywood

Harry Leonard | 23 January 2017.

{Warning: discussions of domestic and sexual assault}

On 28 May 2016, Amber Heard was granted a temporary restraining order against husband Johnny Depp amidst allegations of domestic assault. Seventeen years earlier, Nate Parker was acquitted of raping a woman when it emerged that, prior to the time in question, he had had consensual sex with his accuser. The ramifications of these charges re-emerged in 2016 for Parker when he was promoting his directorial debut Birth of a Nation. It is not my intention to equate the two cases but to compare them; to question the nature of the systems of privilege that explain Depp’s continued success and Parker’s condemnation.

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Taylor Swift and the ‘Rules of Feminism’

Kitty Ruskin | 9th January 2017.

Many will remember Gretchen Weiner’s often quoted phrase from Mean Girls that dating friends’ ex-boyfriends is ‘off limits’, as per ‘the rules of feminism’. A few months ago, in the midst of the backlash against Taylor Swift, this line came back to me. I took a moment to consider exactly why Gretchen’s line stands out to me in this context, particularly as a feminist in 2016.

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American Beauty: Mastering the Art of Body Acceptance Post-Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show

12 December 2016 | Maygan Eugenie Forbes

Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show: the models advertised as “Sexy Little Things”, the underwear advertised for “The Perfect Body”, and their yearly revenue estimated to gross up to $7.6 billion. Introduced to mainstream media in 1995, the Show is a mass-marketing extraordinaire. From the beautiful models wearing wings and diamonds to the pop star heavyweights who perform, there’s no denying that this blockbuster extravaganza (the “Super Bowl of fashion,” according to CBS) has an astronomical amount of pulling power — so much so that influential publications all over the Internet are lambasting the Show’s “largely unattainable image of perfection.” However, is the question of attainability really the problem here? Or, is it rather a problem that, whether attainable for some or not, the Show directly reflects and reinforces a wider pool of homogenized, and ultimately oppressive, standards of beauty that are elevated so far as to become an “ideal”?

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To Unmask is to Silence: the Case of Elena Ferrante

31 October 2016 ¦ Paulina Drėgvaitė

In A Room of One’s Own, first published in 1929, Virginia Woolf wrote about the importance of space – both physical and metaphysical – to the undertaking of writing. This lack of space often prompts female writers to use a nom de plume or opt for anonymity in order to avoid scrutiny, or, in the past, to be published at all. The reasons for this are numerous. In many cases, the reception of literary work produced by women is locked within the framework of their gender and assuming a male persona allows it to transgress that boundary: think Mary Ann Evans choosing the comfort of naming herself George Eliot, think Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin opting for George Sand and the Brontë sisters publishing under masculine pseudonyms.

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Scandalous Women: The Gendered Discourse of Celebrity Divorce

31 October ¦ Harriet MacMillan

Whilst many may not recognise her name, women living in Britain today owe Caroline Norton (1808-77) a great debt. Her zealous pursuit of reform led to landmark changes in the recognition of women in the law. Her campaigning directly propelled the passing of the Custody of Infants Act of 1839, which gave women the right to custody of their children. She also influenced the Married Women’s Property Act of 1870, which gave women the legal right to their own money. Although Norton certainly influenced the past, does her life still have resonance with contemporary feminist struggles? Can looking back on her story help us understand some of the challenges facing women, particularly famous women, today?

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‘I made lemonade’: The Female Confessional in the Twenty-First Century

31 October 2016 ¦ Katie Goh

Confession: I love Sylvia Plath. The honesty of her poetic expression, the seeds of wisdom in her journals, the technical skill of her story stories, and the fundamental relatability of Esther Greenwood. As a teenager, I was seduced.

But then I went to university. From the lecturer who dismissed Plath as ‘privileged, confessional neediness,’ to boys at parties who scorned her while worshipping Bukowski, to Woody Allen’s patronising ‘interesting poetess’ dismissal in Annie Hall. It was embarrassing to like Sylvia Plath.

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Imagined Trauma: Ideology and Motherhood in Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train

17 October 2016 | Chantal Bertalanffy

It was not the crime story which kept me awake until late at night and had me turning page after page; I was under the spell of the women in Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train (2015). I urgently needed to know if Rachel, Meagan and Anna would redeem themselves at the end of the novel, or if Hawkins herself was just as lost as her characters in a narrative which was not her own, this narrative being patriarchy. Without spoiling the ending, Hawkins did not disappoint me.

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