I couple of days ago I was thrilled to be asked to be part of a panel discussion along with a film screening of the film adaptation of the biographical Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.

I love my job but these sorts of events are real highlights. I never turn down the opportunity to talk enthusiastically about glamorous, talented stars of Hollywood’s golden age. Gloria Grahame was certainly all of these things.

A skilled stage actress as well as screen star and Oscar winner, Grahame specialised in playing morally ambiguous women and experienced enough drama in her personal life to inspire a number of films.

As a star, a constructed combination of both her roles and her persona outside of those roles, Grahame has fascinated me for years.


Bad and Beautiful: Reflections on Gloria Grahame and the treatment of women in Hollywood.

815CE927-16D7-43EA-93C2-A58261FAF7A8A 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 Liverpool which 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.

Continue reading

Charlize Theron: Fighting like a Girl

ABI 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.

Here is a link to the podcast:

*Becky Jones’ PhD is on cyborgs and gender in film. Continue reading

Here’s Looking At You Podcast #4 Wondering about Wonder Woman


WW no.25, December 2008

A film depiction of  Wonder Woman acting as a role model for young girls.

Welcome to the fourth Here’s Looking at You podcast.  In this podcast I talk about Wonder Woman with Dr Rayna Denison, senior lecturer in Film at University of East Anglia and editor of the Eisner award-nominated Super Heroes on World Screens  and Melanie Adams, pin-up artist at Madams Pin-Ups and Wonder Woman expert.

We discuss Wonder Woman’s various iterations over the years, her feminist roots, the politics of her costuming, how she’s marketed in different national contexts and what we liked and disliked about the recently released origin story, directed by Patty Jenkins.


Now the world is ready for you… ?

First we discussed Wonder Woman as a recuring, and changing, cultural figure and how she reflects and reacts to the times.   While there are many  Continue reading

Watch the Birdie: Celebrity, Group Selfies and Twitter

My article ‘Watch the Birdie: The Star Economy, Social Media and the Celebrity Group Selfie’ is published this month in the Meccsa online journal Networking Knowledge, who have produced a special edition on Identity, Aesthetics and Power in Digital Self-representation entitled Be Your Selfie.

My essay explores some of the broader implications of celebrity group selfies, through the example of Ellen DeGeneres’ star-studded group shot, taken during the 2014 Academy Awards ceremony, Joan Collins’ 2014 Prince’s Trust Award selfie, just days after, and Collins’ subsequent ‘view from the other side’ tweet; exploring notions of authenticity, performance, intimacy, self-promotion, public visibility, identification, imitation, vicarious consumption and audience participation.

Engaging with existing work upon celebrity tweeters, Twitter and other online fandom, photographic theory, star studies and, in particular, Bourdieu’s theories surrounding cultural capital, taste formation, and cultural distinctions, this work not only explores some of the reasons behind the frequently negative judgements of celebrity group selfies, but also seeks to identify some of the very real social functions and more personal gratifications, both for celebrity and fan, that the celebrity group selfie, as a communication and a self-promotional tool, may actually satisfy.

More specifically, it is this paper’s contention that selfies offer an ostensibly unmediated, accessible and virtually instantaneous means of articulating and disseminating a coherent, identifiable, aspirational (yet bizarrely, also, seemingly ‘ordinary’) and eminently marketable star image, via a popular and up-to-date medium. With celebrity group selfies this is also the case, but here the photographer subject presents an image of themselves to the world, in relation to a specific group of peers (who themselves also function as signifiers and commodities); perpetuating the notion of a pantheon of star ‘gods’ and the myth of a coherent celebrity community; reinforcing the divide between ‘famouses’ and ‘normals’ and participants and observers; prompting an exponential rise in fan/public interest as more stars enter the equation and allowing the celebrity participants within the image to either borrow some of the greater ‘worth’, ‘status’ or cultural capital of other, more eminent, celebrity subjects also pictured or alternatively, lend their superior cultural capital to less successful celebrities within the image.

As such, in this this essay I seek to move beyond a hasty dismissal of such images, their subjects, and their audiences and instead, hypothesise a coherent set of reasons why the most-photographed individuals on the planet (not just film stars, but heads of state and religious leaders) might feasibly choose to create, appear in and/or disseminate such images (or, indeed, decline to participate as did Prince Charles in Joan Collins’ group shot) and why the public may find these images of such interest.

Watch the Birdie: The Cultural Politics of Twitter and the Celebrity Group Selfie

Networking Knowledge

Volume 8 Issue 6

(December 2015)

Special Edition – Be Your Selfie: Identity, Aesthetics and Power in Digital Self-representation

Guest editors Laura Busetta and Valerio Coladonato