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Transcendence through Violence: Women and the Martial Arts Motif in Recent American Fiction and Film

Published inLiterature and the Visual Media, Editors Seed, D.
PublisherCambridge : Brewer
  • Essays and Studies; 2005
Publication date2005

In Maxine Hong Kingston's writing and in recent Hollywood movies such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Kill Bill: Volume One (2003), and the two Charlie's Angels movies (Charlie's Angels 2000, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle 2003), the “shoot-em-up” has become the “kick-em-up” and notable agents of this violence are women, specifically Asian women. In these texts, the martial arts theme functions as spectacle, as a choreography of violence that displays the female body and the Asian female body as strong, aesthetically pleasing yet violent. The motif of flying, which is used in The Woman Warrior, the Charlie's Angels movies and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, hints at the possibility of transgression through the image of violent women, who transgress the law of the fathers, of patriarchy, literally or physically transgressing the law of gravity. But the possibility of liberation from the confinement of patriarchally defined gender roles is not realized. The image of the violent female in recent filmic and literary texts can then be seen as American patriarchy's attempt to express and to contain male anxieties about the restructuring of gender roles in a post-feminist age. The objectification of the feminine body in combination with the spectacle of physical power is reassuring to audiences who possess the privilege of the objectifying gaze. Contemporary images of the Oriental warrior woman then are far from subversive of patriarchal hegemony, working instead to reassert conventional positionings of feminine sexuality.

  • Asian women
  • Femininity
  • Feminism
  • Gender
  • Objectification
  • Martial arts
  • Kung fu
  • Violence
Citation (ISO format)
MADSEN, Deborah Lea. Transcendence through Violence: Women and the Martial Arts Motif in Recent American Fiction and Film. In: Literature and the Visual Media. Cambridge : Brewer, 2005. (Essays and Studies)
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Book chapter (Accepted version)
  • PID : unige:88191

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