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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The woman's film, the new women's cinema, and the women's buddy film Nash, Melanie Leigh


This thesis examines the way in which the representation of women’s friendship in Hollywood cinema is ideologically constructed: first in the classical era of the woman’s film; second, in the 1970s renaissance of the woman’s film as a genre, known as the “new women’s cinema”; and third, in a very recent group of films of the late 1980s and early 1990s that can be thought of as a generic hybrid of the woman’s film and the male buddy film of the 1970s. Each of these three periods is marked by unique characteristics relating to the way in which female friendship is figured; and certainly there has been an advance in the variety of women’s roles generally, and of depictions of female friendship specifically, in Hollywood over this sixty year period. And yet there has not been a great deal of change in the degree to which patriarchal discourses--in relation to concepts such as marriage, family, home and career-- delineate the scope and meaning of these representations of women’s friendships in accordance with dominant ideology. This thesis traces an increased ideological openness or ambiguity across time; but a coherent feminist discourse does not emerge in Hollywood’s depiction of women friends either in tandem with the women’s movement of the 1970s, or in our contemporary cinema’s female buddy films. What has changed is the socio political climate in which such films are received, rather than simply the films themselves. The first chapter outlines the depiction of friendship between women in the two historical eras in question, pointing to the degree of change in the woman’s film from the 1930s and 1940s to the 1970s. In the second chapter, I examine Robin Wood’s schemata of the male buddy film of the early 1970s, and evaluate his notion of this generic cycle’s ideological progressiveness. The third chapter applies Wood’s model of male buddy films to three female buddy films of the 1990s: Thelma and Louise, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Leaving NormaL The fourth chapter proposes the concept of a “backlash” buddy film through a sustained textual analysis of Single White Female. And in the fifth and final chapter, I return to theoretical problems of establishing textual meaning in popular film that have been raised by each of the preceding chapters.

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