Women, Film, and Law convincingly argues that popular fictional depictions of women’s imprisonment can illuminate the multiple forms of marginalization, social exclusion, and oppression experienced by criminalized women. While entertainment and profit constitute the driving force behind popular representations of women in correctional facilities, the creative influence of film and television also generates legal meaning. The women-in-prison (WIP) genre can leave viewers feeling both empathetic toward the women portrayed in these films and troubled about the crimes for which they find themselves incarcerated.
Focusing on five exemplary WIP films and a television series – Ann Vickers, Caged, Caged Heat, Stranger Inside, Civil Brand, and Orange Is the New Black – Women, Film, and Law asks how fictional representations explore, shape, and refine beliefs about women who are incarcerated. WIP films grapple with women’s liberation and subjugation, sexuality and sexual identities, forbidden desires, and physical and emotional imprisonment. They are also rich material for critical legal readings of the construction of the “female criminal” and the offences for which stock characters are convicted. From melodrama to exploitation, and from theatre screenings to on-demand film, television programs, and music videos, these media bring into view the legal, economic, and political structures that criminalize women differently from men, and that target those women who are already at the margins of society.
This work will start new conversations among film and cultural studies scholars, and students and scholars of law and legal studies, particularly those working in law and film. Readers interested in questions of governance, the regulation of women, and social exclusion will also find it engaging.
Tracing filmic and television portrayals of women in prison, Suzanne Bouclin situates these representations within the current discourse of how women inmates are treated in real life. This is a very important conversation that is overlooked at times.
Suzanne Bouclin is an associate professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa. She has published in both French and English in a wide array of periodicals, including the Canadian Journal of Women in the Law, Public Law, the Canadian Journal of Law and Society, and the e-journal Literature, History of Ideas, Images and Societies of the English-Speaking World.
1 A Genre of One’s Own
2 Reforming Prisons, Transforming Women: Ann Vickers
3 The Unattainability of Reform: Caged!
4 Recuperating Exploitation: Caged Heat
5 Representing Incarcerated Black Women: Stranger Inside and Civil Brand
6 Representation and Recalibrating the WIP Genre: Orange Is the New Black
Notes; Selected Filmography; Index
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