In a much-welcomed break from all those damn Disney princess debates, Kelly Oliver, the W. Alton Jones Chair of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University, ponders recent fan favorites like Hanna, Winter's Bone and The Hunger Games, Hollywood flicks featuring teenage girls hunting -- even killing -- animals. Why are these teen heroines so tough?
In her lecture titled "Hunting Girls: Patriarchal Fantasy or Feminist Resistance?," set for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 9 in Room 270 of CU Boulder's Hale Science Building, Oliver will discuss her recent paper "Hunting Girls: Patriarchal Fantasy or Feminist Progress?" (published in Americana: The Journal of American Popular Culture). Oliver's theories on whether these new Hollywood trends represent feminist progress or misogynistic setback might just surprise you.
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Oliver grew up in a family of hunters -- though, back when she was a teenager, the sport was mostly reserved for men. "I was intrigued when I started seeing these tough teenage girls hunting," Oliver recalls. "I wondered if this was a sign of progress in terms of breaking down gender stereotypes."
Coloring Oliver's analysis is the fact that she's also done work on animals and animal ethics. "I was thinking about the relationship between girls and animals in these films," she explains. "It's also interesting that in these films, the girls are not only hunting animals but are being hunted, sometimes like animals."
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So are these films a sign of progress for today's modern woman? Not surprisingly, the answer is nuanced. "Hunting is a sign of strength, and these girls hunt to provide for themselves and their families," says Oliver. "In that regard, the fact that they hunt gives us a new image of strong womanhood. But at the same time, it also shows us a fairly traditional role of the female as providing food for her family."
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The lecture is sponsored by CU Boulder's Journalism & Mass Communication department. "We're lucky," says Andrew Calabrese, professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at CU. "Kelly Oliver happened to be planning a trip to Boulder, and we were able to get this talk scheduled."
Adds Calabrese, "It's so valuable for young people on a college campus to think about how gender is treated in popular media."
Oliver concurs" "These images are a barometer of sorts of cultural values and changing attitudes towards girls and towards hunting."
The hour-long talk will be followed by a brief Q&A. The event is free, but seating is limited; show up a few minutes early at the Hale Science Building, 1350 Pleasant Street in Boulder, to secure a seat.