Call for articles for the 17th issue of the journal Genre en séries : cinéma, télévision, médias
Ages of life, ages on screen:
Passages, thresholds, transitions and gendered evolutions.
How are the thresholds and transitions linked to the major “stages of life” tackled, in particular through the prism of gender, in films and series? This question, which lies at the heart of narratives and representations, also constitutes a major stake in acting careers. It concerns both biological – the reality of growth or aging – and cultural issues – the presence of constructs and norms which works can reflect, amplify or deconstruct (Foucart 2003, Sermon 2014). Beyond the single double standard of ageing (Sontag 1972) which puts women at a disadvantage, gender matters considerably at all stages of life. Each age is marked by gender norms and relations, revived and intensified at each transition from one age to another (whether biological age or social age, Rennes 2019). Socio-demographers focus on the “transition to adulthood” (Bidart 2006, Billari and Liefbroer 2010), which is highly gendered, but other periods of life are also affected by the transition from one age to another. This collection, which intends to be multidisciplinary, will focus on periods of transition – whether abrupt or gradual – and the way in which gender relations are intertwined with age.
In the theater, from Ancient comedy to French classicism, the distribution of roles according to a codified system based in particular on the age of the characters, has led to a system of typing based on stereotypes, whose traces can still be found today in audiovisual representations (Martinez 2015; Candiard 2015; Vialleton 2015): young leads struggling to find mature male roles, child stars whose careers come to a halt when the first signs of puberty appear, female actors reduced to supporting roles past the age of fifty – a harsh reality humorously evoked in 2015 in an “Inside Amy Schumer”’s sketch entitled “Last F**kable Day,” bringing together North American actresses Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Patricia Arquette at the moment when they are being dismissed from the economy of desire. This upcoming issue of the journal Genre en series aims to examine the disruptions and transitions from one age – and one “type” – to another, as well as the ways in which works and performances may challenge internalized norms.
The collection will address the junction, and possible clash, between the audiovisual narrations, which build their own temporality, and the evolution of the bodies of the actors, subjected to the passage of time. A well-known theoretical commonplace associates film, the art of the movement, with the representation of changes and metamorphoses. In reality, however, these two temporalities – real and fictional – may sometimes clash – from the “impossible aging” of iconic stars (Courcoux, Le Gras, Moine 2017), regularly dealt with by North American age studies, to the problem of the unpredictable physical evolutions of the youngest cast in productions like the Harry Potter adaptations, and other tales of teenage coming-of-age, whose puberty has forced producers to make numerous script adjustments. Films and series abound in representations of transitions from one age to another, and actual metamorphosis of the actors’ bodies can take various forms. First of all, fiction can capture characters at pivotal moments, and depict bodies in transition, exploring, for example, the first steps in female puberty (Water Lilies, Céline Sciamma, 2007), the fears aroused by the entry into the adult world of fatherhood (Knocked Up, Judd Apatow, 2007) or the impact of aging on female identity (Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Robert Aldrich, 1962). Audiovisual narratives then relay traditional cultural “rites of passage” marking the change from one state, or status, to another – and they also sometimes document the disappearance of these thresholds, or the disruption of the usual stages caused by the logic of “age confusion” within contemporary Western societies (Deschavanne and Tavoillot 2007). How do the notions of youth and old age evolve if death has been eradicated (Ad vitam, Thomas Cailley and Sébastien Mounier, 2018)? What does the arrival of menopause (Better Things, Pamela Adlon and Louis C.K., 2016) or its implausible reversal (Nona et ses filles, Valérie Donzelli, 2021) entail? How should one analyze the interruption, or imaginary acceleration, of aging dynamics in fantasy or science fiction plots (Time Out, Andrew Niccol, 2011; Old, Night Shyamalan, 2021)? In what ways do these fictional reinventions constitute manifestations of the “denial” of aging identified by Marc Augé (2014)?
Some works choose to exploit within the fiction the evolution of the actors’ bodies, by superimposing images of their performers at different stages in their lives, either sporadically – through flashback in which archival images show the younger performer (The Limey, Steven Soderbergh, 1999) – or structurally, exploiting the slow maturation of characters and actors throughout years or decades. Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014) or Anna 6-18 (Nikita Mikhalkov, 1994), made use of the slow maturation of their subjects’ bodies. The serial form, with its “long-term narratives” stretched over years or decades, has further amplified the encounter between the changing bodies of the performers and the evolution of the characters – thus the slow maturation of young adults (F.R.I.E.N.D. S, created by David Crane and Martha Kauffman, 1994-2004), the evolution of parent-child relationships over the seasons (Gilmore Girls, created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, 2000-2006; Fais-pas ci, fais pas ça, created by Anne Giafferi and Thierry Bizo, 2007-2017) or even sagas or series in which part of the cast remains for more than 20 years (Julie Lescaut’s daughters, who were teenagers in season 1, have become adults in the final season, 22 years later). And if some teen films or series have challenged viewers’ gullibility by forcing them to accept a patent gap between the age of the characters and that of the actors (in the United States, teen movies have often been performed by actors who were well past their teens), more recent teenage series tend to replace their performers as soon as they reach a critical age. The ageing process can also lead to a profound change in representations within a film franchise spread over several years or become the springboard for a career rebound, as is the case, for example, with the figure of the “aging cowboy” embodied by John Wayne (Bonamy, 2014) or the refusal to accept the decline of manly strength in the film series Expendables: Special Unit, (scripted by Sylvester Stallone, whose various installments were released between 2010 and 2023) marked by a strong intertextuality with the works released during the lead actors youth or prime.
This collection aims to consider the transformations and the thresholds in fiction, either represented through familiar tropes, or as contradictory creative constraints threatening the coherence of the fictional narratives. Proposals should take into account the complexity of the “stages of life” (subjective, chronological…), the evolutionary processes linked to age and its different dimensions, whether in the narratives (representation of a life or a long period) or at their margins (study of a career) as well as the periods of transition (first menstruation, entry into sexuality, end of adolescence, first signs of old age…), in a gendered and intersectional perspective. The volume will be coordinated by researchers in cinema and sociology, and is therefore open to a plurality of approaches and disciplines.
The following axes are proposed:
- Thresholds, transitions and turning points in audiovisual narratives, intertwined with narrative temporality. Identification of typical patterns (rites of passage, coming-of- age, initiation, declines, regressions, intergenerational disruptions) or the transgression/deconstruction of these patterns and the norms that underlie them, especially gendered ones.
- Use of age-related alterations by narratives. Physical changes in characters and/or performers whether concealed or exploited within the fictional universes, or fictional reconstruction of these alterations (make-up, performances, etc.), gender-related variations.
- Contradictions or tensions between the cultural norms defining appropriate behaviors associated with a certain age and the screen representations of this age: reproduction or questioning of normative mechanisms linked, for example, to the articulation between age and sexualities. Conflicts or tensions between a character “type” and a behavioral model or the choice of an interpret to perform this age.
- Acting in the context of narratives involving age-related changes.
- Thresholds, turning points and transitions in acting careers, whether exploited within the fictions or not.
- More broadly, evolution of the relationship to gender with age and/or articulation between age, class and generational identity, gender and sexuality.
Modalities for the Papers submission:
Papers should not have been published in any other journal or conference proceedings. Proposals should present and justify their disciplinary and/or methodology, as well as their position in the existing literature on gender and explain how age-related issues are addressed. We welcome proposals for papers in French or English, approximately 500-800 words in length, as well as key bibliographical references and a short biographical notice.
- Abstract Submission Deadline: December 15th, 2022.
- Notification of Acceptance/Rejection : January 15th, 2023.
- Final Paper Submission Deadline: April 30th, 2023.
Submissions will be subjected to double blind peer review by members of the scientific committee for a publication in the fall of 2023.
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Mathieu Arbogast, « Plus de leur âge ? La sexualité des femmes de 50 ans dans les séries TV au début du XXIe siècle », Clio. Femmes, Genre, Histoire, n°42, 2015, p. 165-179. Marc Augé, Une ethnologie de soi, le temps sans âge, Paris : Seuil, 2014.
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