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Girl Meets Girl: Lesbian Romantic Comedies

McWilliam, Kelly (2006) Girl Meets Girl: Lesbian Romantic Comedies. University of Queensland.

Abstract

Six decades after the romantic comedy emerged as a Hollywood genre in 1934, the first romantic comedies with a central lesbian couple, including Marita Giovanni’s Bar Girls and Rose Troche’s Go Fish, were released in 1994. This study argues that Bar Girls and Go Fish represent the first in a group of films whose numbers and similarities enable their consideration as a romantic comedy sub-genre, namely the ‘lesbian romantic comedy’. This study identifies and analyses this sub-genre. It contends that these films have emerged as the predominant (and perhaps only) form of mainstream lesbian feature film in the United States of America in the mid to late 1990s and early 2000s. Yet, despite their relative prominence for more than a decade, they remain vastly under-examined areas in scholarship on both film genre and lesbian culture. This project aims to contribute to these areas by producing the first full-length survey of the sub-genre and the first study of any length to focus exclusively on it.

This study concentrates on ten lesbian romantic comedies: Bar Girls (1994), Go Fish (1994), Maria Maggenti’s The Incredibly True Adventure of 2 Girls in Love (1995), Kelli Herd’s It’s in the Water (1996), Julia Dyer’s Late Bloomers (1996), Emma-Kate Croghan’s Love and Other Catastrophes (1996), Heidi Arnesen’s Some Prefer Cake (1997), Anne Wheeler’s Better than Chocolate (1999), Jamie Babbit’s But I’m a Cheerleader (1999), and Helen Lesnick’s A Family Affair (2001). While this project employs textual analysis as its primary methodology to examine these films, these analyses take place more broadly within a public sphere framework. Consistent with a wider shift in analyses of lesbian and gay cultural products, this framework allows a consideration of the larger public stakes of lesbian romantic comedies and, in particular, their introduction of lesbian content into a heterocentric genre. Specifically, this project argues that the introduction of lesbian content—or the replacement of ‘boy meets girl’ with ‘girl meets girl’—destabilises the genre in significant ways, but that the genre itself equally restricts the representation of lesbianism possible within it. Ultimately, this project proposes a reading of lesbian romantic comedies as conservative and progressive, conventional and subversive, but as nonetheless complex texts that offer a range of pleasures and readings to their audiences and a range of challenges to the genre itself. Such a reading reveals the complexity and negotiation inherent in these films’ position as independent films presenting culturally and politically marginal content in a mainstream genre.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 12503
Item Type: Thesis
Additional URLs:
Keywords: film genre, romantic comedy, public sphere, lesbian studies, queer theory
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > CULTURAL STUDIES (200200) > Culture Gender Sexuality (200205)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > CULTURAL STUDIES (200200) > Screen and Media Culture (200212)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING (190000) > FILM TELEVISION AND DIGITAL MEDIA (190200) > Cinema Studies (190201)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Department: School of English, Media Studies, and Art History
Institution: University of Queensland
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2006 Kelly McWilliam
Deposited On: 19 Feb 2008
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2010 22:55

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