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Thirteen Film Analysis. Female Sexuality In Thirteen, it is pathological and symptomatic of unhealthy and dangerous behaviours. Sex is seen in a continuum.

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Presentation on theme: "Thirteen Film Analysis. Female Sexuality In Thirteen, it is pathological and symptomatic of unhealthy and dangerous behaviours. Sex is seen in a continuum."— Presentation transcript:

1 thirteen Film Analysis

2 Female Sexuality In Thirteen, it is pathological and symptomatic of unhealthy and dangerous behaviours. Sex is seen in a continuum with other activities like self harm and drug abuse. For Tracey’s mother, her daughter having sex is a cause for concern and worry. For Tracey, it symbolises her status and rebellion. Suggestion that for teenage girls, talking about sex with your friends is just as important as the act itself. Sex is a symptom of deep unrest and instability for the girls. A symbol of destruction.

3 The female body Kathleen Rowe Karlyn - “the teen girl body is portrayed as the battleground for the most compelling dramas of [the teen’s] life.” It seems ironic that in a culture so saturated with the sexualized imagery of teenagers, there is a narrow range of acceptable representations of adolescent sexuality. The sexual bodies of girls on film need to conform not only in aesthetic demands in terms of shape and colour, but also to generic demands of various narratives. At worst, their bodies are decorative, but even when the adolescent female is a key figure in the narrative, her body and sexual agency typically provide a context for someone else’s story rather than a plot of her own.

4 Mother/Daughter relationship The final chapter of the film offers salvation in the form of maternal love. Once Mel recognizes the depth of Tracy’s self- destructive behaviour, she intervenes forcibly, literally surrounding Tracy in a maternal embrace that simultaneously supports her and restrains her. In an emotionally charged scene, Mel interposes her own body between her daughter’s and the unseen forces that have sought to destroy it. The scene occurs in the kitchen of their small home, significant not only because it has been the location for several conflicts throughout the film but also as a powerful domestic image, reinforcing the feminine role of both mother and daughter.

5 Girls in crisis Tracey is the archetypal ‘girl in crisis.’ Despite the film’s focus on Tracy (she appears in virtually every frame of the film), the narrative leaves little doubt that Tracy is not in control, that she is a victim of her circumstances and society. Although Tracy and Evie feel temporarily powerful as a result of their actions, they are understood to be on a self-destructive path. Without the support and intervention of adults, these girls will get into more serious situations. And the film, like the girls in crisis discourse, lays the responsibility for intervention first and foremost on parents.

6 Tracey Throughout the film, the narrative revolves around Tracy, and the director uses a variety of techniques to keep the viewer linked to her. When we are not looking at her, we are seeing the world through her eyes. As Tracy’s world becomes destabilized, the film reflects that disruption, using unsteady camera work and jarring framing. As Tracy loses the ability to see clearly, the film becomes similarly out-of-focus. The irony, of course, is that the narrative is not so much about what Tracy does as what others do to her. This distinction underscores the importance of Tracy’s body as a site of personal and cultural conflict. Tracy literally turns her body over to Evie, letting her have significant influence over her clothes, her piercings, and her actions.

7 Evie Although Evie is the most obvious agent of Tracy’s downward spiral, the film does not construct her as a one-dimensional bad- seed. Like Tracy, Evie has been set up for this fate. Both girls are being raised by single women in households that have been affected by drug and alcohol abuse.

8 Tracey v Evie In order to demonstrate Tracy’s fall, the film makes sure to show how normal, and how healthy, she is at the beginning. Tracy is coded as a good kid in a few key scenes. First, she elects to read one of her original poems to her mother, Mel. This disclosure of a personal piece of writing full of dark images reveals the closeness of the mother/daughter relationship. The audience also recognizes Tracy’s good girl status because her nerdy friends do not conform to traditional standards of beauty. They are dark-skinned and shaped like little girls, and, like Tracy, their clothing does little to accentuate their femininity.

9 Tracey v Evie These friends are also the visual opposites of Evie Zamora, the eighth grade vixen in low-slung jeans, a siren whose iconic status is confirmed by Tracy’s brother when he confirms her “hottest girl” title in an early expository conversation. (Evie’s ethnic status is problematic as well. Her surname suggests that she is Hispanic, but her outward appearance does not accentuate that identity. The actress portraying Evie is of Jewish and Italian ancestry. Evie’s ethnic coding allows her to be white enough to be perceived as traditionally attractive, but also vaguely ethnic enough to be perceived as a threat.) In Tracy’s quest to become popular, she sets her sights on becoming Evie’s friend, and she succeeds, leading to the drug- induced violence of the opening scene, and many more scenes of adolescent deviance.

10 Beauty/Fashion industry The film also draws an explicit connection between the girls and the cultural forces at work in their lives. Frame after frame implicates the beauty and fashion industry for promoting sexualized images. These images illustrate a pervasive theme from the girls in crisis discourse, presenting a culture that “encourages girls to consume products…to sedate their natural and understandable pain” (Pipher 1994, 202). With such diminished adult support at home, how can these girls be expected to withstand such pervasive messages about the maintenance and presentation of the female body?

11 Self Harm Tracy ultimately resorts to self-destructive activity such as cutting herself to deal with the stress of her life. Mary Pipher offers several metaphorical meanings of self-mutilation, what she refers to as; “a concrete interpretation of our culture’s injunction to young women to carve themselves into culturally acceptable pieces” (1994, 158). Ranging from submission to protest, from plea for help to assertion of power, all of these meanings can be seen in Tracy’s self-mutilation.

12 Authenticity Nikki Reed, who portrayed Evie in the film, wrote the film with director Catherine Hardwicke based in part on her own experiences. This involvement leant authenticity – and increased anxiety – to the story. This authenticity, of course, led to an R-rating for the film. As Annika Hymlo laments, the reality of girls’ lived experiences is largely deemed inappropriate to be shared with other girls; as a result, teens themselves often see only a “softened version of girls’ reality” What is ironic is a ratings system that refuses to acknowledge the disconnect between what teens are allowed to witness onscreen and actual teenage behavior off-screen. While society is quite comfortable looking at the adolescent female body, there are some things, apparently, we just can’t talk about.

13 Conclusion Thirteen suggests that parents can be the hero of the narrative. If even Mel, who is flawed, as a somewhat distracted recovering alcoholic, can provide this support, any parent can find a similar path. To emphasize Mel’s success in resolving her daughter’s crisis, the final image of the film shows Tracy, alone, independent of both Evie and Mel, whirling around dizzyingly on a playground, far away from the judgmental and provocative eyes of the billboards and magazines. Now, even as she spins “out of control,” Tracy is as safe; even though she is outside, her body is appropriately contained. As a result of Mel’s love and support, the drama is resolved and Tracy is safe, both emotionally and physically.


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