Split skins: Female agency and bodily mutilation in the little mermaid

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


During the last two decades much has been written about what constitutes a “woman’s story.” The initial postulation was that the main narrative structures of Western film and literature are utterly dominated by and act to support the premises of patriarchy. I In recent years, however, feminist critics have nuanced this argument, recognizing that most stories have more than one tale to tell. Many now claim that women’s discourses about their own sexuality and their wills to shape the world permeate both maleand female-authored texts, even if they are are at least partially organized by patriarchal structures. 2 The dominant or hegemonic (ruling) forces of Western society (to which this essay’s discussion is limited) work subtly, even microscopically to form women’s attitudes about themselves. But non-hegemonic forces (representing minority or counter-cultural views) also work to fashion women’s self-perceptions, and can be the source of critiques of hegemony. So even in apparently sexist or racist narratives, some of the real concerns of women and minorities get expressed in subtle, “subtextual” ways. To praise or to condemn any particular narrative as “pro-" or “anti-“woman, whether its author is male or female, becomes problematic. Often, as is the case with the film under analysis in this essay, the best we can do is to pull apart and follow the threads of the work’s contradictory ideologies. How, then, do we discern or even conceptualize an “authentic” woman’s story? Perhaps we can’t: feminist critics are instead coming to see most cultural products as a complex weave of oppression, rebellion, play with existing structures, recuperation, and transformation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFilm Theory Goes to the Movies
Subtitle of host publicationCultural Analysis of Contemporary Film
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781135216467
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Split skins: Female agency and bodily mutilation in the little mermaid'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this