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In the Company of Women

Contemporary Female Friendship Films

1998
Author:

Karen Hollinger

In the Company of Women

The first book-length treatment of this popular genre.

From Desperately Seeking Susan, Steel Magnolias, and Thelma & Louise to Desert Hearts, Girl Friends, and Passion Fish, mainstream cinema has seen a wave of films focusing on friendships between women. In the Company of Women is the first critical work to investigate the recent resurgence of this variety of the “woman’s film.”

In the Company of Women is the first comprehensive study of the delights and sorrows of female friendships as represented in film. Hollinger offers a rich and thorough discussion of the many varieties of filmic friendships from classic women’s films to their sentimental modern avatars, from lesbian love stories to ugly backlash.

Linda Williams, University of California, Berkeley

From Desperately Seeking Susan, Steel Magnolias, and Thelma & Louise to Desert Hearts, Girl Friends, and Passion Fish, mainstream cinema has seen a wave of films focusing on friendships between women. In the Company of Women is the first critical work to investigate the recent resurgence of this variety of the “woman’s film.”

Examining the female friendship film since the 1970s and setting it against older films
of the 1930s and 1940s, such as Mildred Pierce and Stella Dallas, Karen Hollinger studies the character of the films themselves and how they speak to female viewers. She argues that while many of these films initially seem to affirm the power of female friendship and reject traditional images of women, most of them ultimately fall back on conventional feminine roles.

Hollinger argues that the female friendship film, by attempting to assimilate into the mainstream, uses ideas from the women’s movement, like female autonomy and sisterhood, that are particularly susceptible to compromise. This blend of empowering and conservative elements makes the female friendship film neither a true challenge to the status quo nor a mere confirmation of dominant ideology but rather a multifaceted cinematic form that reflects both of these strains.

Hollinger considers all of the major issues in feminist film criticism-from audience reception to the identification with characters, from sexuality to racial identity.
Engaging and provocative, In the Company of Women is an entertaining and enlightening account of one of contemporary cinema’s most vital genres.

Karen Hollinger is an associate professor in the Department of Languages, Literature, and Dramatic Arts at Armstrong Atlantic State University.

ISBN 0-8166-3177-8 Cloth $47.95xx
ISBN 0-8166-3178-6 Paper $18.95x
256 pages 28 black-and-white photos 5 7/8 x 9 August
Translation inquiries: University of Minnesota Press

In the Company of Women

Karen Hollinger is an associate professor in the Department of Languages, Literature, and Dramatic Arts at Armstrong Atlantic State University.

In the Company of Women

In the Company of Women is the first comprehensive study of the delights and sorrows of female friendships as represented in film. Hollinger offers a rich and thorough discussion of the many varieties of filmic friendships from classic women’s films to their sentimental modern avatars, from lesbian love stories to ugly backlash.

Linda Williams, University of California, Berkeley

A useful and accessible addition to a growing body of work dealing with women’s engagement with ostensibly feminist commercial ‘mainstream’ cinema as well as independent ‘alternative’ productions.

Film Quarterly

In the Company of Women

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Theoretical and Generic Contexts of Contemporary Female Friendship Films

1 ⏐ Women’s Film Precedents
2 ⏐ The Sentimental Female Friendship Film Julia, Girl Friends, The Turning Point, Rich and Famous, Beaches, Steel Magnolias
3 ⏐ The Female Friendship Film and Women’s Development Desperately Seeking Susan,Housekeeping, Mystic Pizza
4 ⏐ The Political Female Friendship Film Nine to Five, Outrageous Fortune, Thelma & Louise, Mortal Thoughts, Leaving Normal
5 ⏐ The Erotic Female Friendship Film: Lesbianism in the Mainstream Personal Best, Desert Hearts, Fried Green Tomatoes, Go Fish
6 ⏐ The Female Friendship Film and Women of Color The Color Purple, Mi Vida Loca, Passion Fish
7 ⏐ Backlash: The Anti-Female Friendship Film The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Single White Female, Poison Ivy

Conclusion: The Future of the Female Friendship Film
Notes
Index