Sarah Smyth

‘The Girl on the Train’: We Are Women Not Girls

A first look at Emily Blunt in 'The Girl on the Train'

Perhaps the depiction of “the girl” in ‘The Girl in the Train’ will reassure my fears by allowing the woman to literally “grow up” on-screen. Yet, the title makes me very pessimistic. Presenting women as “girls” continues to fetishize women’s powerlessness in cinema. By situating this girlhood in a similar way to the male fantasy construction of the Final Girl, and by enforcing an infantilizing return to post-feminism’s “girliness,” these films offer ultimately disempowering images of female subjectivity.

Death of the (Male) Author: Feminist Violence in Lynne Ramsay’s ‘Morvern Callar’


How significant it is, then, that Ramsay changes the ending from the novel where Morvern discovers she’s pregnant to instead give her a narrative of hopeful escape and adventure. Through the economic, cultural and narrative capitals gained from the violence enacted on the male author both inside and outside of the text, the female protagonist is offered a radical feminist alternative. Rather than by trapped by her class position, socio-economic position, job possibilities or pregnancy, Morvern is, instead, offered freedom, autonomy and authority.

Please Look Now: The Female Gaze in ‘Magic Mike XXL’

The poster for 'Magic Mike XXL'. It's hard not to look...

The trailer offers a kind of meta-advertisement, recognising the very marketing strategies that attracted people, including women, to the previous film. Cutting between clips of the men performing various routines, the trailer includes the line, “We didn’t want to show the best parts of the movie in this trailer but it was very very hard to resist,” before inviting the audience to #comeagain this summer.

‘We Need to Talk about Kevin’s Abject Mother

The poster for "We Need to Talk about Kevin"

The film relocates the fears surrounding motherhood away from the patriarchal fears of abjection to the female and feminist fears of fulfillment.

The Fat Stardom of James Gandolfini

James Gandolfini and his formidable body

What’s clear is that, in our contemporary society and culture, the male body is not invisible. Although the female body continues to be more heavily regulated and controlled, particularly in terms of weight and appearance, the male body is no longer removed from similar considerations. As we continue to look more intensely and critically at the male body, we can anticipate a time when new images of masculinity become not only realized but embodied.

Triumphing ‘Mad Men’s Peggy Olson

A charming example of the response towards Skyler...

What exactly, then, makes a character “unlikable”? How can we define this complex term? Broadly, a character is unlikable when they behave in an amoral or unethical way (which, of course, depends upon our individual morals and ethics), particularly when their motivations are unclear. However, when it comes to female characters, this term seems to diversify and pluralize.

‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’: Looking at Kim Kardashian’s Naked Body


Kardashian quite literally embodies the complex construction of the female body as something to be looked at. And with her body being so readily, excessively, and continually put on show, can we help but do anything but look?

‘Little Miss Sunshine’: Masculinity’s Losers

The poster for 'Little Miss Sunshine'

As each male character tackles a personal problem which has either implicit or explicit links to normative constructions of successful masculinity, ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ examines the burden of this masculine ideal. So difficult to maintain yet so embedded in the social, cultural, economic, and political conceptualization of “manliness,” men who fail to embody this ideal inevitably become marked out as “losers.”

Why ‘The Babadook’ is the Feminist Horror Film of the Year

The poster for 'The Babadook'

Firstly, ‘The Babadook’ complicates the depiction of women as primarily victims by presenting Amelia as a complex and multi-faceted figure. For one, she is a not a young big-breasted girl but a mother and fully grown woman. This is not necessarily groundbreaking in itself.

‘The Good Wife’: Being Bad

The Good Wife centralizes the conventionally marginalized wife figure

The premise of ‘The Good Wife’ brilliantly sets up and challenges particular gender roles and expectations. Julianna Margulies plays the lead character, Alicia Florrick. Given Margulies’ age – she was 43 when the show began – and popular culture’s continual privileging of youth, particularly with reference to women, this is an achievement in itself. Alicia’s married to Peter Florrick (Chris Noth, who’s no stranger to playing “bad boy” partners after his role of Mr Big on ‘Sex and the City’), who has just been jailed following a string of political and sexual scandals. The pilot sees Alicia dutifully standing by her husband, remaining silent as he apologises for his indiscretions, before the show cuts to several months later as Alicia returns to work as a defence attorney following 13 years as a stay-at-home mom.

The Queer Female Friendship of ‘Frances Ha’

Frances and Sophie are sitting at a table outside eating

For ‘Frances Ha’ is not a film where “boy-meets-girl,” and there is definitely no diamond ring. The love story of ‘Frances Ha’ is between the titular character, Frances (Greta Gerwig) and her best friend, Sophie (Mickey Sumner), and it is precisely this friendship between two women which questions, resists, and challenges the definition of love posed by the (primarily) heterosexual and (almost always) heteronormative romcom genre.