‘Seeing the female body differently’: gender issues in The Silence of the Lambs

Dubois, Diane (2001) ‘Seeing the female body differently’: gender issues in The Silence of the Lambs. Journal of Gender Studies, 10 (3). pp. 297-310. ISSN 0958-9236

Full content URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0958923...

‘Seeing the Female Body Differently’: gender issues in The Silence of the Lambs
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ABSTRACT In this paper it is argued that the habitual representation of women in �film has played
a considerable part in constructing ideas of femininity, which contemporary �filmmaking can deconstruct.
The Silence of the Lambs deconstructs femininity as it has been constructed in four classic genres:
the serial killer movie, the horror or monster movie, the ‘pupil and mentor’ movie and the ‘psychiatrist
and patient’ movie. The Silence of the Lambs can be shown to deconstruct the generic amalgam of
voyeurism, the ‘male gaze’ of the camera, castration anxiety and the confused and reinstated gender
identities typical of the serial killer movie. The empathy between Doctor Hannibal ‘the cannibal’ Lecter
and young FBI agent Clarice Starling criticises the encoding strategies of the classic monster movie wherein
both woman and monster are feared objects within patriarchal orders of seeing. Starling’s appetite for
success coincides with Lecter’s more obviously worrying appetite; the �film deconstructs those �films wherein
the ambition of the female pupil is personi�ed by a demonic mentor. Starling, unlike most female pupils,
is not punished for her ambition and strength, qualities partially created through the iconographic
meanings of actor Jodie Foster. In psychiatrist and patient �films, the heroine’s behaviour is explainable
when located within the patriarchal metanarrative of psychoanalysis, towards which The Silence of the
Lambs is deeply ambivalent.

Keywords:Gender, American Films, Silence of the Lambs
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P300 Media studies
P Mass Communications and Documentation > P303 Film studies
L Social studies > L216 Feminism
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Performing Arts)
ID Code:5788
Deposited On:07 Jun 2012 11:10

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