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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Opinion | Pamela Anderson, Amber Heard and the Limits of the Feminist Redemption Plot

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Since then, I’ve utilized an identical strategy to the lives of different vilified girls: Katie Hill, a former consultant who resigned in a revenge porn scandal; Paula Broadwell, the onetime mistress (a phrase that has no male equal) of Gen. David Petraeus; Amanda Knox, who a decade in the past was cleared of the sensational homicide of her roommate however has struggled to seek out her footing since. These girls had been at instances sympathetic characters and different instances not, however loads of nuance was overlooked of all their tales.

So I’m not proof against the enchantment of this redemption arc. And but …

There’s a time period I realized not too long ago: “scopophilia.” It means “the love of wanting.” It may check with pornography or perhaps a automobile crash, however it’s usually utilized in movie to explain the best way we take a look at girls who’re portrayed onscreen. It’s no secret that people love consuming spectacle — and we doubly love a spectacle when it entails girls and intercourse. However at what level does the fictional depiction of that spectacle, and our viewing of it, grow to be simply as unhealthy as watching it within the first place?

Ursula Macfarlane, the director of an upcoming Netflix documentary about Anna Nicole Smith, the troubled actress and mannequin who died of an unintended drug overdose at 39, mentioned when the mission was introduced, “Now appears like the proper time to re-examine the lifetime of one more lovely younger girl whose life has been picked over and in the end destroyed by our tradition.”

Maybe — however at what level do such re-examinations merely perpetuate the tropes that made them worthy of making use of hindsight within the first place? Who will get to inform such tales, who ought to revenue from them, and when does all that discuss reframing and about upending the male gaze grow to be extra in regards to the efficiency of redemption than in regards to the girl on the middle?

The author Kathryn VanArendonk has referred to as this latest style “empathy tourism”: an try and take viewers on a voyage to a previous that’s latest sufficient to be recognizable however distant sufficient to really feel weird. In consequence, some efforts — and, maybe much more so, the best way that individuals discuss them — can tip right into a type of smugness.

We are able to nonetheless eat these tales, however by the lens of enlightenment. We get to be ok with the place Ms. Lewinsky is in the present day (she’s a producer!) however we nonetheless get to gawk at her flashing her thong to the president of america — a scene that, as she instructed me, she reluctantly signed on to.

We are able to nod alongside to heavy-handed dialogue — for instance, “Sluts,” Ms. Anderson’s character declares after a disappointing courtroom ruling, “don’t get to determine what occurs to footage of their physique.” However we additionally get to take action whereas her.

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