FQ columnist Rebecca Wanzo never expected to see Hollywood produce a film like The Woman King (Gina Prince-Bythewood, 2022), an action film led by a dark-skinned Black woman in her fifties, starring other Black women, and focused on the intimacy between them. In this column, Wanzo explores The Woman King’s radical depiction of real Black women’s bodies experiencing the erotic as power—an idea borrowed from the Black feminist lesbian poet Audre Lorde—in a Hollywood action film. In its difference, The Woman King highlights the ironic lack of embodiment and limited sensory palate offered by so many action films and reimagines the genre’s possibilities for cinematic pleasure.
Viola’s Body: On the Erotic as Power in the Action Film
Rebecca A. Wanzo is professor and chair of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. Her research interests include African American literature and culture, critical race theory, feminist theory, cultural studies, theories of affect, and graphic storytelling. She is the author of The Content of Our Caricature: African American Comic Art and Political Belonging (NYU Press, 2020) and The Suffering Will Not Be Televised: African American Women and Sentimental Political Storytelling (SUNY Press, 2009).
Rebecca Wanzo; Viola’s Body: On the Erotic as Power in the Action Film. Film Quarterly 1 March 2023; 76 (3): 92–96. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2023.76.3.92
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