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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Hot girls kicking : violent women and genre hybridity in postmodern action cinema Steenberg, Lindsay Joan


The spectacle of sexuality and violence embodied on screen by the character of the deadly woman has caused simultaneous and alternating fascination and alarm in spectators. While violent women have been represented in a large number of films since the 1 970s, in recent years there has been a significant shift in their characterizations. Rather than the vixens of sexploitation cinema or the muscular heroines of 1990s blockbusters, the contemporary action heroine is informed by the global popular imaginary and by postmodern genre hybridization. This thesis examines the transnational and hybrid nature of these texts by grouping together similar films based on the character of the professional female fighter - which I have titled, Hot Girl Kicking, in order to sum up her distinct combination of violence and the erotic. Over the course of the thesis, patterns of structure, functionality and spectacle emerge in Hot Girl Kicking films due to their postmodern emphasis on surface, fracture, and cross cultural genre hybridization, and their ultimate function: rupturing the systems which hold them. This thesis first examines the onscreen construction of the aggressive female body in contemporary U.S. action films, followed by the addition of stylized fighting inspired by Asian genres in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Lee 2000), and finally the exaggerated self reflexive uses of genre and violence in Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2 (Tarantino 2003/4). Widening the site of rupture from a preoccupation with the body of the heroine to the global stage highlights the emancipatory potential of cross cultural and genre hybridization. The proposed hybrid sub-genre of the Hot Girl Kicking represents news ways of blurring boundaries and challenging the ordering systems of classical Hollywood film form, U.S. cultural imperialism, and patriarchy.

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