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Languages: English
Types: Doctoral thesis
Subjects: N1, HM, HQ
This thesis explores the intersection of age, gender and sexuality in representations of older lesbian characters in contemporary narrative film. Taking the 1990s as a benchmark of lesbian visibility, I explore the turn of the century representability by focusing on British and American film (1995 to 2009). I identify a hypervisibility paradox during this period of cinematic production where the presence of a multitude of young lesbian and bisexual characters can be seen to be in complete contrast with the invisibility of the older lesbian. Mainstream postfeminist culture censors the ageing female body, except in its ‘successfully aged’, youthful, heterosexualised form. Older lesbian characters are excluded from this frame of visibility and, instead, are represented through paradigms associated with the concept of ‘ageing as decline.’\ud There is little in existing age studies or lesbian film studies to articulate an understanding of the intersection of age, gender and sexuality in cinematic representation. I adopt an interdisciplinary cultural studies approach to make my contribution in what is an under-researched area and present a multifaceted approach to a complex cultural image.\ud I investigate the continuity of the concept of the lesbian as ghostly (Castle, 1993) through narratives of illness, death and mourning. I argue that the narrative of ‘ageing as decline’ stands in for the process of ‘killing off’ lesbian characters (identified in 1960s and 1970s cinema). The intersection of the identity old with lesbian thus results in a double ghosting and ‘disappearance’ of the older lesbian character. Regarding Notes on a Scandal (Eyre, 2006), I pursue two particular readings. One emphasises the return of the lesbian as monstrous based on the construction of ageing and lesbian desire as abject (Kristeva, 1982). A second reading moves beyond the monstrous lesbian as a ‘negative’ stereotype and identifies the protagonist as a queer character who subverts heteronormativity.\ud Finally, I turn to oppositional reading practices in order to optimise the possibilities of identifications across mainstream film texts. Based on Judi Dench’s various transgressive film roles, her role as M in the Bond franchise in particular, I explore this actress’ subversive potential to represent the older lesbian.\ud I conclude that despite mainstream cinema’s hypervisibility paradox, characters who transgress age, gender and sexuality norms can provide opportunities for lesbian identification.
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