Gender Stereotypes in My Brilliant Career and Jindabyne

Topics: Woman, Family, Female Pages: 9 (2585 words) Published: June 12, 2014
Discuss the similarities in and differences between the representation of women in My Brilliant Career (a post-1970 Australian film that places its narrative in an historical or period setting) and Jindabyne (a post-1970 Australian film that places its narrative in a contemporary setting) 2500 words.

Both protagonists in My Brilliant Career (1979) directed by Gillian Armstrong and Jindabyne (2006), directed by Ray Lawrence are portrayed as more robust and moral than the men around them and thus more compatible with the notions of what it is to be Australian. The first film places its heroine in a historical context and so, My Brilliant Career is driven by the personal development of the protagonist through her struggle against social and patriarchal repression. The second film is set in a contemporary context, driven by the personal development of a woman who is trying to ‘right the wrongs’ of being a ‘bad’ mother, after neglecting her child while persevering at ‘righting the wrong’ actions of her husband.

While both films can be defined in terms of the characteristics of ‘Women’s Film’, one cannot ignore the fact that the female protagonists’ stories also relate to ideas and images of national identity. While Sybylla and Claire do express a wide range of emotions, they are still stoic – true ‘Aussie Battlers’ – and thus, ‘Dinkum Aussie’ folklore complements the Women’s Film Genre of these two films. Traditional definitions of Women’s Film connote explorations into the emotional journeys of women as they encounter internal and/or external challenges. In this way, analysis of Women’s Film is sometimes aided by comparing the female characters to the men within the stories. The male characters in My Brilliant Career and Jindabyne are presented as failures and defeated heroes in many ways, when they are matched up against Sybylla and Claire who are “instinctively more sensitive/emotional”1 and far more determined and passionate about ‘righting the wrongs’ of the society that they live in.

My Brilliant Career presents an adolescent woman who is battling against male dominated repression, but Sybylla is by no means presented as a Victim. For most of the film, the audience is positioned in such a way that encourages them to view Sybylla in light of her success. Jindabyne also addresses the issue of repression of women in contemporary culture overtly through the image of the murdered Indigenous woman and more covertly through the character of Claire who is struggling to come to terms with her failures as a mother and the familial tension that occurs as a consequence. In this way, Claire is often presented as a victim against a backdrop of Aboriginal women who are also presented as duped Australian citizens. The opening scene in My Brilliant Career seems to foreshadow the protagonist’s success as she verbalizes her self fulfilling prophecy “I have always known that I belonged to the world of Art and the world of literature and music …”2 Mis-en-scéne is significant here as the following sequences of a dust storm and a humble family cramped into a tiny living room, where her family members carry out menial tasks like ironing and sewing, seems to contradict Sybylla’s confident declaration of her heroic potential. However, when the audience is left with the knowledge that her mother has arranged a position for Sybylla to become a general servant, any temptation to view Sybylla as a victim in is swiftly quashed by the sudden announcement that she is to go and live with her wealthy maternal grandmother Mrs. Bossier. While Claire is presented as ‘good and righteous’ a sense of her vulnerability as a mother pervades the film. Even during the film’s first glimpse into Claire’s household, which seems to establish a close affectionate family as she giggles while cuddling her young son Tom, has dark undertones. “Quite quickly it is clear … there is a lurking unhappiness and less-than-perfect trust at work among the...
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