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From Freaky Friday (1976) to Flightplan (2005), Jodie Foster has made a career of defying gender norms–a defiance predicated largely upon her characteristically tomboyish embodiment and a mode of being that combines activeness, visual agency, and a distinctively resistant demeanor that spans her body of work to the extent that one can hardly watch any one of her films without involuntary recourse to her earlier and later movies. This essay takes up David Fincher’s Panic Room (2002), which unites tomboy figures of two generations in Foster and Kristen Stewart and works, in light of the former’s corpus and its feminist bent, to refuse the trope that sees tomboyism capitulate to heteronormative strictures in adolescence. Instead, Panic Room reproduces that embodied resistance in an adult through interactions with her daughter. The essay then proceeds further into the films of an iconic tomboy actress to posit a mode of queer feminist reproductivity enacted through Foster’s star image and a recuperation of feminist “paranoia” through the consistent critique of heteronormativity that her aggregate body of work performs. Moreover, it addresses debates within queer theory about time, refuting antisocial currents—the push against “for-the-child” sentiments predominant in contemporary political rhetoric—and proposing an alternative, recursive temporality, and within the field of feminist film studies, demonstrating a subversive potential within commercial narrative film across the span of one Hollywood star’s career.

Source Citation

Stahl, L. (2016). Chronic Tomboys: Feminism, Survival, and Paranoia in Jodie Foster’s Body of Work. The Velvet Light Trap, 50–68.



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