Chapter

Action women

Lisa Purse

in Contemporary Action Cinema

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780748638178
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748670857 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748638178.003.0005
Action women

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The chapter introduces and historicises the key debates about the female action hero, before offering an extended investigation of the representation of the female action hero in contemporary action cinema. Identifying an action heroine who is physically and economically empowered while also sexualized, the chapter argues that this figure is defined by her proximity to postfeminist discourses of female power and sexual agency, while suggesting that the potentially unsettling prospect of a physically violent woman is minimised by traditional containment strategies that locate her in comic or overtly fantastical settings. Using Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and Kill Bill as illustrative case studies, the chapter shows how, in this dominant representational mode, images of physical stress and damage are suppressed for ideological reasons, but also argues that more ‘untidy’ forms of female physical agency are emerging in the margins of the mainstream.

Keywords: Female violence; Female representation; Female action hero; Postfeminism; Agency; Containment strategy

Chapter.  8540 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Film

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