Women in Prison Movies as Feminist Jurisprudence
Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, Vol. 21, 2009
9 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2011
Date Written: 2010
In comparison to the significant body of research around audience reception and generic conventions of, as well as the progressive or regressive assumptions behind and the legal meaning-making potentialities within, prison movies, women in prison movies (WIPs) have received far less theoretical or critical attention. This is noteworthy from a feminist law and society perspective that aims to link questions of popular culture to broader issues of gendered social stratification and social conflict. On one level, WIPs can be read as an overt critique of the masculinism of the prison genre. In the traditional prison movies, women appear in flashback sequences as supportive wives, girlfriends, mothers, and/or deceitful vixens that coerce, frame, or seduce men into lives of crime. In WIPs, female characters move from the margins of the story to its centre. On another level, WIPs problematize broader legal, economic, and political apparatuses that operate to criminalize women without the well-rehearsed and recognizable markers of social power. They invite viewers to look beyond abstracted statistics about female “criminality” through believable – though not exactly realistic – accounts of the manner in which the law operates to criminalize particular women.
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