The University of Wisconsin Press

Film / Women's Studies / Cultural Studies


Marked Women
Prostitutes and Prostitution in the Cinema
Russell Campbell

Wisconsin Film Studies

Patrick McGilligan, Series Editor

"Definitive. Marked Women will be the basic reference point for anyone doing any further work in the subject of representations of female prostitution in world cinema."—Chuck Kleinhans, coeditor of Jump Cut

Julia Roberts played a prostitute, famously, in Pretty Woman. So did Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver, Jane Fonda in Klute, Anna Karina in Vivre sa vie, Greta Garbo in Anna Christie, as did Charlize Theron, who won an Academy Award for Monster. This engaging and generously illustrated study explores the depiction of female prostitute characters and prostitution in world cinema, from the silent era to the present-day industry. From the woman with control over her own destiny to the woman who cannot get away from her pimp, Russell Campbell shows the diverse representations of prostitutes in film.

Marked Women classifies fifteen recurrent character types and three common narratives, many of them with their roots in male fantasy. The "Happy Hooker," for example, is the liberated woman whose only goal is to give as much pleasure as she receives, while the "Avenger," a nightmare of the male imagination, represents the threat of women taking retribution for all the oppression they have suffered at the hands of men. The "Love Story," a common narrative, represents the prostitute as both heroine and anti-heroine, while "Condemned to Death" allows men to manifest, in imagination only, their hostility toward women by killing off the troubled prostitute in an act of cathartic violence.

The figure of the woman whose body is available at a price has fascinated and intrigued filmmakers and filmgoers since the very beginning of cinema, but the manner of representation has also been highly conflicted and fiercely contested. Campbell explores the cinematic prostitute as a figure shaped by both reactionary thought and feminist challenges to the norm, demonstrating how the film industry itself is split by fascinating contradictions.

"Marked Women offers a comprehensive comparative study of the image of the female prostitute across international film history." Maureen Turim, author of Films of Oshima Nagisa

Russell Campbell is senior lecturer in the Film Programme at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. He is the author of numerous articles and several books, including Cinema Strikes Back: Radical Filmmaking in the United States, 1930–1942. Campbell was the founding editor of The Velvet Light Trap and is also a professional script consultant and documentary filmmaker.

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the cover of Campbell's book is a photo illustration of a woman in a low-cut dress and a half-open coat, standing by a dark door

December 2005
LC: 2005008259 PN
472 pp.   6 x 9
76 b/w film stills

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Paper $24.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-21254-4
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