A couple of weeks ago I was part of an all-female panel discussion of the treatment of older women in Hollywood. The discussion followed a screening of the recent Paul McGuigan biopic Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpoolwhich charts the relationship between ageing Hollywood star Gloria Grahame and younger British actor Peter Turner.
I enjoyed the film very much and was excited to be asked by marketing assistant and my PhD supervisee, Becky Jones, to be part of the discussion event at the wonderful Phoenix cinema in Leicester.
The film itself was very good, beautifully shot and both Benning and Bell’s performances were excellent. It also raised a number of issues around the idea of the ageing female star and the broader treatment of women in Hollywood which really seemed to chime with the recent Weinstein allegations and the public debate around the #MeToo campaign.
In this podcast I talk with PhD candidate Emma Purce about her research into the British seaside freak show in 20th century Britain. Whilst a lot has already been written on the freak show in the 19th century and particularly in America, Emma is really helping to shape our understanding of the 20th century freak show.
We discuss the notion of liminal, permissive working class spaces and the history, the legacy and the politics of the freak show and of the curious, scrutinising gaze employed when attending such an entertainment
Kiki onstage. Image courtesy of Joust Photography, taken at the Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival, 2017
In this episode of Here’s Looking at You I chat with burlesque emcee, singer, teacher and former contestant in BBC’s The Voice, Kiki Deville. Kiki is a charismatic and hugely talented performer who is renowned for her big voice, big personality and big boobs and this has led her to be considered an unruly woman.
Inspired by Anne Helen Peterson’s recent book ‘Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of The Unruly Woman,’ we got together to talk about Kiki’s experience of The Voice and subsequent attempts by the popular media at bullying and body shaming her, about being ‘fair game,’ picking your arguments, the pleasures and pitfalls of celebrity culture, appropriate online behaviour, and grief.
Following its success at the Emmy Awards, where it won best TV drama, best actress and best supporting actress, it is probably time to release my podcast about the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale.
In this podcast I talk with poet, teacher, writer, musician and community activist Josie Moon, about the Margaret Atwood source novel and its recent, television incarnation.
A strikingly prescient pair of texts, both prompt us to discuss all manner of contentious topics, from women’s reproductive rights, to the process of othering, to hierarchies, freedom of speech and star activism.
As you’ll hear, as is always the case when Josie and I get together, this conversation is quick fire and there are no holds barred. Josie is a very political creature and it’s one of the many Continue reading →
Whilst the issue of austerity and food banks might seem an odd subject to blog about on a website about the representation of gender and sexuality in the media, I’d argue it is an ideal subject.
I hadn’t really thought much about food banks until recently, having been lucky enough to have never had to use one. However, that changed when I saw Ken Loach’s extremely moving condemnation of the austerity agenda, I, Daniel Blake. I defy anyone to see the scene whereby Katie gorges on food in the food bank and then breaks down or the scene where she is forced to steal sanitary products, and not be moved. Imagine having a period and not being able to afford to keep yourself clean.
I have written a blog for the ‘Screening Sex’ website, an academic blog curated by Darren Kerr and Donna Peberdy.
The blog briefly examines the fetish films of Bettie Page and Irving and Paula Klaw. In particular it discusses Page’s performances, the repetitious nature of these films and how the original point of interest in these short films may have shifted over time and context.
I came across Jill Millard Shapiro first through her rather wonderful book Remembering Revudeville: A Souvenir of the Windmill Theatre, and then through social media. We got talking and she very kindly suggested I we have a face-to-face chat.
Jill was a performer at the Windmill theatre from 1959 to December of 1963 when she left to have her first child so she is a well-placed, as well as eloquent and engaging spokeswoman and expert-in-chief for the theatre that she called home for a short but clearly formative period of what turns out to have been a very eventful life.
The public engagement element of my job is one of my favourite bits of being an academic. So whenever I’m invited to talk I’ll always try and make it, work and life permitting. As a result last night I was very pleased to be guest speaker at the Lincoln WI.
I’ve visited and spoken to a number of Women’s Institute branches in the last few years and I’ve never had a bad experience, but Lincoln WI are certainly one of my favourites. I’d previously spoken at one of their meetings about two years ago, along with my friend and performer Storme Chaser. Our talk had been about the British burlesque community and its feminist roots. They were a really receptive, fun audience with lots of interesting questions and many of them wanted to have a go with the set of oversize, ostrich feather fans I’d taken with me. I’d even got some them to have a go at doing a glove removal routine to the David Rose Orchestra’s ‘The Stripper,’ much to the amusement of the other members.
I was recently interviewed by PhD candidate Becky Jones* for Phoenix Talks – her podcast in association with the Leicester’s independent cinema, the Phoenix.
Becky invited me to talk about the noir spy thriller Atomic Blonde which recently ran at the cinema. The film, based on the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City and set on the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, is a visceral experience and features a blistering performance by Charlize Theron as MI6 agent protagonist Lorraine Broughton.
The film is notable for its director, David Leitch, who is a renowned stunt man but what I really wanted to talk about was what our expectations around how action-packed this film would be were regarding Theron’s performance. I also wanted to talk about the discourse around Theron in relation to the film, her star persona and reputation as a skilled actress who really throws herself into her roles, about her as an ‘aging’ star, about Lorraine as an empowered character and Theron as a producer and the history of ‘action women’ roles in Hollywood.
I’ve spent the last couple of days in the company of my two nieces who are five and seven.
They are such funny, engaging and intelligent girls. Every time I am around them I am aware of how impressionable children are and the part we can play as role models young people’s lives.
Whilst hanging out with these two young girls, I couldn’t help but think about the recent BBC two-parter, No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free? I wanted to watch the programme because of my interest in gender but also because as the documentary itself mentions, research undertaken at Stamford University suggests that seven is a key developmental age, because apparently this is when children develop fixed ideas on what constitutes men and women and that even this early in their life, children have already been conditioned to ‘think that boys and girls are fundamentally different.’ As I mentioned previously, my nieces are five and seven. Continue reading →