Deathbeds and destruction: Representation of female intimacy in western religion and film.

Title: Deathbeds and destruction: Representation of female intimacy in western religion and film.
Authors: Schmeiser, Peggy.
Date: 1999
Abstract: This thesis argues that popular films convey religious ideology about female gender and therefore warrant consideration within the field of women and religion. Feminist theory in religion examines how western religious texts reflect anxiety about female relationships between mothers and daughters, friends, and lovers. Drawing on current scholarship in the areas of religion, gender, popular culture, and film, I demonstrate that ancient correlations between female bonding and tragedy or danger are perpetuated in the present through two movie genres, "chickflicks" and lesbian thrillers. In Chapter One, I examine the representation of female intimacy in ancient religious texts to demonstrate the following: (1) intimate female relationships are seen as disruptive to male hegemony; (2) Relationships between mothers and daughters end in tragedy and are subsequently forgotten; (3) Women's friendships occur under dire circumstances that often leave at least one woman abused, dead, or forgotten; and (4) Female sexual intimacy is typically associated with ill or violent women. In Chapter Two I explore the importance of film for the study of religion in Canada. Challenging distinctions between so-called "sacred" and "profane" cultures, several theorists argue that popular culture produces and conveys religious ideology within contemporary society. In particular, I emphasize the importance of examining cinematic representations of gender and sexuality within a religious context. Chapter Three analyzes two recent film genres that present women's relationships as key narrative features. Although chickflicks depict seemingly empowered heroines who bond to combat exploitation and abuse, the victories are ultimately short-lived. The typical death and debilitation of female characters in films such as Terms of Endearment (1983), Steel Magnolias (1989), Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), Thelma and Louise (1991), and Boys on the Side (1995) reaffirm religious views of female intimacy as a personal and social hazard. In lesbian thrillers, female sexual intimacy is further associated with evil, murderous characters. In films such as Basic Instinct (1992), Diabolique (1996), and Bound (1996), "psychodykes" perpetuate religious anxieties about the supposed social dangers of women's sexual liaisons. In the concluding chapter, I integrate psychoanalytic and film theories to analyze the popularity of chickflicks and lesbian thrillers amongst female audiences.
CollectionTh├Ęses, 1910 - 2010 // Theses, 1910 - 2010
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