Asking for it : girls' sexual subjectivity in contemporary U.S. cinema

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Blue, Morgan Genevieve

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How might American narrative cinema shift from oppressive objectification to positive, healthy female sexual subjectivities in films addressing and depicting adolescent girls? As more women make films both within the Hollywood system and independently, the potential increases for greater creative energy to be devoted to re-imagining and legitimizing girls’ sexuality on film. Fighting Hollywood censors is a significant battle for women filmmakers, but making films independently is also a viable, even powerful, option. It is beneficial to fight both within patriarchal systems and outside them to effect change, and now, more than ever, women and girls have access to the technologies, skills, and understanding to alter public discourse about girls’ sexuality and take control of their own representations. This project aims to point out just a few examples from commercial Hollywood, independent and DIY cinemas in which women have worked to position girl characters as active and desiring rather than as passive and desirable. Through ideological and narrative analyses of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Smooth Talk, Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore, and Coming Soon, coupled with discussions of their female directors’ struggles with Hollywood patriarchy and American society’s gendered double standard when it comes to youth sexualities, I hope to shed light on the need for women to make films that offer positive representations of girls’ sexual subjectivities.


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