Cinema, new media, labor-power, and performativity

Authored by: Erica Levin

The Routledge Companion to Cinema and Gender

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138924956
eBook ISBN: 9781315684062
Adobe ISBN: 9781317408055


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The study of social class as it intersects with gender in film studies has tended to focus either on issues of representation or reception. In the first case, scholars have analyzed how the depiction of class and gender in specific genres, contexts, or periods operates as ideology. Scholars such as Biskind and Ehrenreich (1987) and Nystrom (2009) argue that shifts in the gendered representation of one class point to social and political uncertainties faced by another; arguing for example, that the depiction of working class masculinity in the 1970s indexes the anxieties of a shrinking middle class. Other scholars have drawn attention to the way shifting gender norms are inflected by class concerns. For example, Tasker (2002) analyzes how depictions of working women in New Hollywood cinema reflect shifts in the industry while betraying ambivalence about the broad cultural impact of feminist discourse. Focus on representational codes of class and gender in film studies is not without its critics. Concerns about the tendency to presume a neutral viewer whose own class perspective is either entirely determined by the text or otherwise deemed irrelevant have driven increased scholarly attention to the conditions of classed and gendered reception in specific viewing contexts. Often drawing upon ethnographic and archival sources, a reception approach takes up the question of how gender and class inflect new modes of mass spectatorship. The work of Hansen (1994) is exemplary in this regard. Her groundbreaking study, Babel and Babylon, looks at the film industry’s promotion of a modern culture of mass consumption through appeals to viewers characterized by social and sexual difference, which in turn conditioned, she argues, the emergence of new contexts for intersubjective experience otherwise absent from the bourgeois public sphere.

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