Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/39879
This thesis focuses on gender discourse in contemporary Hollywood adaptations of renowned novels. Adaptations of older texts often attempt to reconcile contemporary ideas of gender roles and identities with the ideologies of the past. Such adaptations involve themselves in a dialogue with the older narratives and try to address issues that were previously silenced or ignored. Through analysis of the novels Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and Catch-22 by Joseph Heller and their notable cinematic adaptations, this essay seeks to explore how gender politics was changed throughout the time since the originating of the entertainment industry and what messages regarding gender roles the media sends to the audiences through such adaptations. It may be difficult to find texts more dissimilar in their essence than these two novels. Published more than 150 years ago as a story for girls, the novel Little Women represents women’s world and deals with the themes of domesticity and the coming-of-age of the four adolescent girls. It also deals with themes of sacrificing one’s artistic aspirations for the so called “true womanhood”. The novel was highly inspirational for many women around the globe and had a notable impact on many female intellectuals, such as writers and filmmakers. In comparison, the satirical novel Catch-22 was published in the second half of the 20th century and represents the harsh world of war which used to be considered an exclusively male domain. Among the themes this novel deals with are courage or lack of thereof, sacrifice, criticism of authorities and ideologies. Although the two novels seem to be “unrelated” at a first glance, there are some interesting aspects they both have in common. For instance, a closer examination of the novels reveals that they both deal with the construction and subversion of femininity and masculinity, while at the same time conforming to the patriarchal structure of the society. Undoubtedly, screen adaptations of these novels address gender issues and portray males and females from the standpoint of their own contemporary values, hence it can be argued that gender politics is often used by adapters to bring novelty to the adapted texts. Furthermore, each adaptation can also be seen as a subject to the technological and ideological changes in the film industry itself. Thus, the most recent adaptations released in the wake of the #MeToo movement through the representation of gender on and off the screen can both be seen as a reflection of the socio-cultural environment in the United States as well as the reflection of the entertainment industry on itself. The framework for this paper draws from the various approaches proposed by adaptation theorists such a Robert Stam, Deborah Cartmell, Linda Hutcheon, and Simone Murray. As suggested by some of the scholars it is important to analyze adaptations from a sociological perspective and at the same time placing them in the historical context, as well as valuing them against the historical development of adaptation theory itself. Since the focus of the essay is on gender ideology it also provides a brief overview of the main development towards gender roles and gender expectations since they are important turning points that affected the film industry. Thus, adaptations which have been released in various periods can be seen as reflections of the changing ideologies in society, and also as reflections of the main critical theories in academia. However, as is demonstrated in the part of the essay regarding gender representation on and off the screen in the film industry itself, general changes in attitudes and behavior do not always get an immediate reflection on screen since the industry is pressured by its own conventions, ethic codes, and economic pressures.
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