The Bluebeard Fairy Tale and the Action Heroine

Sharma, Shweta (2021) The Bluebeard Fairy Tale and the Action Heroine. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis examines a set of films where the figure of the Hollywood action heroine is a mother. The action heroine films that this thesis examines are: Gloria (John Cassavetes, 1980), Aliens (James Cameron, 1986), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (James Cameron, 1991), The Long Kiss Goodnight (Renny Harlin, 1993), The River Wild (Curtis Hanson, 1994), The Cell (Tarsem Singh, 2000), Panic Room (David Fincher, 2002), Kill Bill: Volume 1 and Volume 2 (Quentin Tarantino, 2003 and 2004), Æon Flux (Karyn Kusama, 2005), Elektra (Rob Bowman, 2005), Flightplan (Robert Schwentke, 2005), and Maleficent (Robert Stromberg, 2014). The framework of the Bluebeard fairy tale and the gothic mode are used to read familial figurations and gender in these films. The thesis shows that the Bluebeard fairy tale continues to have a presence in Hollywood films and contemporary story-telling. Film genre theory, Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre (1847) and Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s (2000) feminist literary criticism are also used as reference points. Each of the chapters focus on a dimension of the familial figurations that recur in these films. Chapter 1 reads and explains the presence of the Bluebeard-husband figure in the films and his problematic relationship with the action heroine. Chapter 2 reads the symbolic husband as a bad father, who persecutes the figure of the gothic child in the films, and is thus the “killer” father. Chapter 3 examines the figure of the action heroine and understands that her gaslighting, trauma and mental instability are a consequence of her complicated relationship with the symbolic husband. Chapter 4 examines the ambiguous nature of the action heroine’s motherhood, and her emergence as the “final” mother in the climax of the films. It is concluded that child abuse and inter-generational trauma are central to the familial dysfunction in the films. It is argued that it is the action heroine’s feminism that leads to the formation of the alternative family unit in the films; simultaneously, the action heroine is also read as a politically conservative figure.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Kitty Laine
Date Deposited: 15 Dec 2022 14:50
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2022 14:50

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