High Contrast

Race and Gender in Contemporary Hollywood Films

High Contrast

Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: Published: November 1997

Author: Sharon Willis

Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Media Studies > Film

In High Contrast, Sharon Willis examines the dynamic relationships between racial and sexual difference in Hollywood film from the 1980s and 1990s. Seizing on the way these differences are accentuated, sensationalized, and eroticized on screen—most often with little apparent regard for the political context in which they operate—Willis restores that context through close readings of a range of movies from cinematic blockbusters to the work of the new auteurs, Spike Lee, David Lynch, and Quentin Tarantino.
Capturing the political complexity of these films, Willis argues that race, gender, and sexuality, as they are figured in the fantasy of popular film, do not function separately, but rather inform and determine each other’s meaning. She demonstrates how collective anxieties regarding social difference are mapped onto big budget movies like the Die Hard and Lethal Weapon series, Basic Instinct, Fatal Attraction, Thelma and Louise, Terminator 2, and others. Analyzing the artistic styles of directors Lynch, Tarantino, and Lee, in such films as Wild at Heart, Pulp Fiction, and Do the Right Thing, she investigates how these interactions of difference are linked to the production of specific authorial styles, and how race functions for each of these directors, particularly in relation to gender identity, erotics, and fantasy.


High Contrast is one of the most informed critical examinations published to date of the intersection of gender and race with respect to contemporary cinema. . . . For those working in cinema--whether contemporary or historical--Willis’s work is a must read.” — , Charlene Regester Film Quarterly

"High Contrast is one of the most illuminating and convincing discussions yet written on the intersection of race and gender in contemporary American popular culture. This is film criticism at its best." — Corey K. Creekmur, University of Iowa

"Willis carefully captures the political complexity of popular film and shows that there are no easy answers to the meanings of popular culture in everyday American life. This book will be a central force in the dialogue about the ways film is inscribed into our everyday lives." — Dana Polan, University of Southern California


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Price: $26.95

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