John Hill has described the ways in which male-centered narratives of British “working-class films” of the 1980s and 1990s mobilize the idea of the working-class community as “a metaphor for the state of the nation.” Writing on films of the same era by women directors, Charlotte Brunsdon deems it more difficult to see these films as “representations of the nation.” There are, she writes, “real equivocations in the fit between being a woman and representing Britishness.” This article explores this issue, arguing that the history of British cinema to which Hill's chapter contributes is not only bound up with a particular sense of British national identity, but founded on a particular conception, and use, of space and place. Taking Andrea Arnold's Red Road (2006) as its case study, it asks what it is about this sense of space and place that excludes women as subjects, rendering their stories outside of and even disruptive of the tradition Hill describes. Finally, drawing on feminist philosophy and cultural geography, it suggests ways in which answering these questions might also help us think about the difficult questions raised by Jane Gaines, in a number of articles, around how we might think together feminist film theory and film history.
Space, Place, and Realism: Red Road and the Gendering of a Cinematic History
Sue Thornham is a professor of media and film at the University of Sussex. She has published widely on feminism, film, and media and cultural theory. She is the author of Passionate Detachments: An Introduction to Feminist Film (Bloomsbury, 1997), Feminist Theory and Cultural Studies: Stories of Unsettled Relations (Bloomsbury, 2001), Television Drama: Theories and Identities (with Tony Purvis, Palgrave MacMillan, 2004), and Women, Feminism and Media (Edinburgh University Press, 2007). Her most recent book is What if I Had Been the Hero? Investigating Women's Cinema (British Film Institute, 2012). She is also the editor of two key collections, Feminist Film Theory: A Reader (NYU Press, 1999) and, with Paul Marris and Caroline Bassett, Media Studies: A Reader (NYU Press, third edition 2009).
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Sue Thornham; Space, Place, and Realism: Red Road and the Gendering of a Cinematic History. Feminist Media Histories 1 April 2016; 2 (2): 133–154. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2016.2.2.133
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