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Action Heroines in the Twenty-First Century: Sisters in Arms

Friday 10 June 2022

Action Heroines in the Twenty-First Century: Sisters in Arms

Keynote: Professor Yvonne Tasker, Leeds University

Bournemouth University (BU) in collaboration with Wolverhampton University presents 'Action Heroines in the Twenty-First Century: Sisters in Arms', hosted by the Narrative, Culture and Community Research Centre.

  • Date and time: Pre-symposium (Online) Wednesday 8 June, 4:45pm - 6:30pm
    Symposium (Talbot Campus) Friday 10 June 2022, 9.30am - 7.30pm
  • Venue: Fusion Building, Talbot Campus, Bournemouth University, BH12 5BB. Directions and maps
  • Campus parking: Visitor and Events car park (free - follow the signposts as you drive in)
  • Delegate fees: £50 (£30 for students/concessions) to include lunch, refreshments, and evening wine reception. For delegates who prefer to present online, there is a £20 fee
  • Conference dinner: Thursday 9 June 2022. Koh Thai, Poole Hill, Bournemouth BH2 5PS. £25

Join the Pre-symposium  Book Symposium now via Eventbrite  Download programme and abstracts (pdf 426kb)  Talbot campus map

It is 30 years since Thelma and Louise hit our screens, grossing a cool $45mil at the US box office and carving out a special place in movie history. A deliberately feminist project for screenwriter Callie Khouri, it was hailed and derided in more or less equal measure by critics for its portrayal of two ordinary Arkansas women turned gun-toting outlaws.

The film busted the Hollywood myth that a female-led action movie could not be a critical and commercial success. It also broke the mould by presenting us with not one but two action heroines, this being perhaps the most revolutionary thing about it. As a result, many anticipated an upsurge in female action heroines, but this was not to be.

The genre continued to be almost exclusively dominated by men, and where a female action hero did appear (Geena Davis being one significant action star, Angelina Jolie, of course, another), they were almost always positioned as a single woman surrounded by a cast of men, as though to reinforce their exceptionality and their distance from ordinary women and from socially acceptable constructions of femininity.

In the new millennium, however, we have seen an increasing number of women star in and lead action films emanating from Hollywood and beyond. And perhaps more interestingly we have seen the emergence of films that feature more than one female action figure, effectively removing that stultifying burden of representation otherwise shouldered by the lone ‘woman’.

The symposium will focus on film and television texts featuring multiple women, including buddy films, ensemble films, films featuring female protagonists and antagonists, female mentors and mentees, and other variations on the theme of ‘sisters in arms’. Papers will address films from all national and international cinema traditions and from a range of action-led genres from Westerns to heist movies, and from martial arts to science fiction.

Keynote speaker

Yvonne Tasker, Professor of Media and Communication at the University of Leeds

Yvonne Tasker

Yvonne is Professor of Media and Communication at the University of Leeds. She has written extensively about both gender and action cinema with publications including Spectacular Bodies (1993), Working Girls (1998), Action and Adventure Cinema (ed. 2004) and The Hollywood Action and Adventure Film (2015).

Yvonne is currently co-editing (with Chris Holmlund and Lisa Purse) Action Cinema Since 2000 for Bloomsbury and co-writing (with Sadie Wearing) a book, Jill Craigie: Film and Feminism in Post-war Britain for Illinois University Press.