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Title: Naughty noughties? : depictions of female sexuality and the body politic in contemporary British cinema
Author: Wilks, Louise Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 2734 1059
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2012
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The "naughty noughties" was a recurring phrase in the British press as the first decade of the new millennium concluded, often remarking on the sexual freedoms the period 2000-2009 apparently granted Western females. In twenty-first century Anglo- American popular culture, the female body's provocative display, objectification and commodification IS frequently aligned with dubious notions of women's "empowerment". This is characteristic of a prevalent "post-feminist" discourse, defined by an (uncorroborated) assumption that feminism has achieved its goals of gender equality, and an endorsement of women's apparent ensuing capacity to make choices associated with their personal betterment, accomplished, at least partly, via investment in consumer culture. Addressing the notable lack of research examining the extent to which post-feminist idioms are disseminated within contemporary female-centred British cinema, I interrogate a range of noughties films which have previously received little or no scholarly attention. I bring gender and sexuality to the forefront of my analysis, updating academic discourses on women and British cinema which have, until now, mainly focused on earlier texts. I suggest that, theoretically, the very nature of the UK's film industry, in which a significant proportion of its texts are made by independent companies and with minute budgets, sanctions its capacity for challenging prevailing post-feminist sentiments, which are based on an unrealistic perception of gender equality. My approach to interrogating the films' depictions of female sexuality, sexual behaviour and the body draws specifically on Dollimore and Sinfield's (1994) four categories of cultural materialism. I consider how the historical context of the noughties influences the sentiments the films endorse, including the period's mainstreaming of pornography and the subsequent prevalence of 'raunch culture' (Levy, 2006). My theoretical focus on the female body politic is framed by Judith Butler's poststructuralist assessments of gender. Supplementing this, my political commitment is a feminist critique, drawing on McRobbie's (2009) perception that the endorsement of self- surveillance and objectification in post-feminism's hegemonic femininity, or 'post- 5 feminist masquerade', represents a faux empowerment and a compromise, or 'double entanglement' for women. Moreover, I use textual analysis to undertake a close reading of the films. I address such issues within a sample of 101 female-centred British films, deconstructing texts to reveal their complicities with post-feminism, and the ways in which some complicate or subvert this. My broad sample includes diverse texts, and covers genres from heritage to comedy. I ultimately argue, however, that the overall depiction of female sexuality in British films of the period is normative, rather than naughty. Despite some fascinating attempts at subverting post-feminist idioms, most texts affirm the patriarchal gendered norms and re-stabilise the 'heterosexual matrix' (Butler, 1990) on which post-feminist discourses depend. Moreover, wherever depictions of female sexuality verge on what might be considered "naughty", such desire is frequently contained by characters representing narrow and limiting notions of acceptable female sexuality, consolidating post-feminist sentiments. This begs the question of whether the noughties was really a decade where females were allowed to be naughty after all?
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available