Session Organizers

Example Abstract

Film I: Sexploitation
Session Coordinator: Jennifer Fay
Dept. of English, Michigan State University
201 Morrill Hall, East Lansing, MI 48824

"Transgressing Traditional Gender Roles in Fernando Trueba's Film Belle Époque"

Fernando Trueba's Oscar-winning film Belle Époque (1992) presents an upside-down, topsy-turvy world that utilizes sex and sexual behavior to intentionally destabilize family, class, religion and gender. All that we would expect to be business as usual in the movie's imaginary recreation of conservative 1931 Spain is stood on its head. And crucial to our understanding of how director Trueba weakens political, religious and social institutions is the carnival scene, a central and key moment in the movie when the entire cast "redresses" and takes on new identities for a town celebration. In simple terms, the costumes and masks customarily associated with carnival merely provide a means for participants to hide their true identities and become something they are not. In more complex terms, the very nature of carnival establishes a dislocated time in which hierarchies are undermined and the possible is juxtaposed with the improbable. I would suggest that carnival in Belle Époque also facilitates the exploitation of sex and sexual orientation in order to deconstruct traditionally held conceptions of men and women, a theme not uncommon in recent Spanish film. In short, carnival facilitates the blurring of gender roles and the transgression of sexual identities, and along with it, an inversion of conventional male-female power relations.

Chad M. Gasta
Iowa State University


"She's a stimulatin', fascinatin', assassinatin' chick!": Pam Grier as Star Text

The slew of press coverage that accompanied Pam Grier's comeback in the title role in Jackie Brown (1997) invariably highlighted Grier's fling with movie stardom in a series of action films produced in the mid-1970s by American International Pictures (e.g., Coffy, Foxy Brown, Sheba, Baby, and Friday Foster). This paper, in order to interrogate the complicated process of Pam Grier's star-making, borrows from Richard Dyer's theoretical model of stardom. While Dyer, like most movie stardom scholars, applies his model primarily to the stars of the classical era, his categories of the star construction process (promotion, publicity, films, criticism and commentary) are a useful point of entry in Grier's case as well. And yet, as I will demonstrate, Dyer's model fails to account for the more localized complicating factors particular to Grier. Specifically, the struggle for control over Grier's star image played a significant role in the construction and deconstruction of her stardom, and this control was inextricably bound up with her sex and her race.

Christopher Sieving
University of Notre Dame

Was Eltern nicht für möglich halten, or Confessions of a Sixth Form Girl: Schulmädchen Report and German Body Politic

Schulmädchen Report #1 (Hofbauer, 1971) and the dozens of sex report films that followed were anxious hybrids of reportage, sex education films and soft core pornography. The series, designed to titillate a assumed older male spectator, were clearly in dialogue with German student radicalism and the politicization of sexuality and nudity of the 1960s. The Schoolgirl Reports pointedly work against this discourse by locating sexual liberation and nudity in the middle class milieu with pubescent and teenage girls. It functions to re-privatize sex and nudity and to rediscover the erotic and unpolitical charge of the young female body. The fictional psychologist in the film who compiles the report from his research authorizes sexual experimentation as a natural process that schools and parents can and should monitor; sexual liberation as a political force is recuperated as a middle class coming of age story.

Jennifer Fay
Michigan State University