The Power of Pretty: Re-Appropriating the Gaze and Feminine Agency in “Spring Breakers”


When Mulvey (1975) posited the marginalization of female characters in film as passive, powerless figures that advance the narrative only in the sense that they drive male characters to act, she became one of the key figures of second-wave feminist film theory. Her analysis of scopophilic pleasure and the male gaze has long been a cornerstone of feminist film criticism. But what can be made of a film that self-reflexively investigates the relationship between the male gaze and a third-wave feminist viewpoint of female sexuality as a possible form of agency? This analysis will focus on writer/director Harmony Korine�s 2013 film �Spring Breakers,� which has been called both the �perviest movie ever made� (Edelstein, 2013, 69) and �a collaboration of genius directing, stellar acting and a riveting plot line� (Riley, 2013, 1). Using a feminist perspective, this study will investigate the re-appropriation of the gaze by the film�s female characters as a means of discovering and asserting their own personal power. The fact the characters are depicted by young Disney starlets who have themselves been marketed as commodities for much of their young adult lives adds a layer of self-reflexivity to the narrative. The overly sexualized, yet infantilized depictions of the young female actresses offers a critique of our modern mediated culture. This analysis will attempt to make sense of the contradictory images and meanings embedded in the controversial film.

Author Information
Patricia Williamson, Central Michigan University, USA

Paper Information
Conference: NACMFCS2014
Stream: Film Studies - Film Criticism and Theory

This paper is part of the NACMFCS2014 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon