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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Men in Women-in-Prison movies

" ... In a scene right at the beginning of the film, socialite Terry Rich (Anitra Ford) walks into a nightclub in which Blossom (Pam Grier) is performing. Terry pauses in front of the stage with her (apparently wealthy and/or influential) boyfriend beside her. Blossom grins at the boyfriend (who stands there looking awkward) and then more emphatically at Terry, who, after a second, gives a half-amused, half-appreciative smile in return, and sways two or three times to the beat. ...

"The Big Bird Cage" (1972) Opening Scene
From: iwasateenageshutdown

... In other words, the power and the sexual charge in the scene comes from two women connecting with each other. This isn't all that unusual in male-oriented entertainment; there's lots of lesbian porn for guys, obviously. What is less familiar, though, is the insistence with which the scene deliberately excludes men — whether it be the boyfriend or, by extension, the male sexploitation viewer. Terry doesn't want to be Blossom; rather she is enjoying being with Blossom. In contrast, my investment in the scene is not just a lust for the protagonists, but a lust to be them; to gain access to a power and knowledge specifically inscribed in female relationships, which is unavailable to men, and thus all the more desired.
This dynamic — of eroticized male exclusion from, and investment in, female relationships — was the defining feature of a handful of women-in-prison films from the 1970s. In these movies, female sisterhood, generally in the face of oppression, is itself fetishized — feminism is turned into a kind of masochistic male wet dream. How this unlikely cathexis occurred, and how it functioned, is the subject of this essay. ..."

Noah Berlatsky, for Bright Lights Film Journal, is having a look at Men in Women-in-Prison.