Holding Out For A Female Hero: The Visual And Narrative Representation Of The Female FBI Agent In Hollywood Psychological Thrillers From 1991-2008

by Lafferty, Sarah

Abstract (Summary)
This thesis analyzes the visual and narrative representation of female FBI agents and male serial killers in the Hollywood films, 'Silence of the Lambs' (1991), 'Hannibal' (2001), 'Taking Lives' (2004), and 'Untraceable' (2008). It explores how character roles and narrative functions related to the hero character type change over time. The films are analyzed through a textual analysis using Proppian formalism, structural, narratology, genre, and gender theories. 'Silence of the Lambs' and 'Hannibal' offer the groundwork of the female FBI agent in the rookie figure of Clarice Starling. 'Taking Lives', the first example in a thriller genre post-Clarice Starling, offers an agent, Illeana Scott, who is depicted as the next step, the young career woman with more agency than Starling. Jennifer Marsh, in 'Untraceable', provides a character encompassing a combination of the more positive qualities, and is an established female hero. Beginning with 'Silence of the Lambs' and ending with 'Untraceable', narrative functions and positioning moves the female FBI agents into the role of the female hero. The definition of hero, as the author defined it, is based in narrative structure with a focus on the importance of the ultimate self-rescue. It is stripped of the character's moral standings and decisions, as the author looked at the function of the character type and not the overall personality and psychological makeup of the figure. Due to this definition, while there is a female hero figure, most prominently in Jennifer Marsh, there are also heroes found in places typically not associated with common conceptions of the term “hero.” Labeling the female FBI agent as the hero figure is significant because it is acceptable that women in the current time period and political climate realistically hold these positions and hold them well. Women are active in the FBI, as well as many other federal and state agencies and the military, unlike in decades before. Therefore it is only natural, as genre and film are social mirrors, that these women are represented within fictional narratives as powerful, independent heroes.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Bowling Green State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:silence of the lambs hannibal untraceable taking lives gaze film genre propp female hero narrative horror psychological thriller


Date of Publication:01/01/2009

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