Jodie: An Icon [1996]

 A film by Pratibha Parmar

Jodie is a fast paced, breezy look at the transatlantic phenomenon that has made Hollywood actress Jodie Foster an icon for lesbians who identify with, adore and celebrate the screen personas of her remarkable career. Fans and queer cultural critics share their favorite 'iconic' moments giving illuminating lesbian readings of Foster's key films which trace the charismatic actor's progression from early tomboy parts as a child star to mature performances depicting active, strong willed women with attitude. Die hard Foster fans like comedienne Lea de Laria's comment that "If I was Hannibal Lecter, it wouldn't be her liver I'd want to eat," express the desire and lust shared by Foster's lesbian fans around the world. The film captures the Jodie Foster look alike contest in San Francisco and a visually slick montage of views on Foster's butch femme indeterminacy all help to confirm Foster's status as a dyke icon.


Childhood is revisited in Pratibha Parmar's short, playful Jodie: An Icon (24 minutes). Here film critics and Jodie Foster fans attempt to describe Foster's appeal to lesbian spectators. In the absence of concrete information about Foster's sexuality, the subjects consider her tomboyish presentation as a child actor and speculate on how that "dyke-y" screen persona has enabled lesbian spectators to read the adult Foster as sexually ambiguous. As one critic points out, Foster's adult characters are not lesbian per se. Her Academy Award winning roles, however, are independent, unconventional heroines such as Clarice Starling (The Silence of the Lambs) who lack a male companion and are therefore open for lesbian interpretation and fantasy. Unlike the videos discussed above, Jodie: An Icon assumes a lesbian or lesbian-friendly viewer and does not try to justify or defend homosexual practices. Instead, it introduces two important theoretical tenets in the study of lesbian spectatorship: one, that lesbian viewers seek and construct alternate interpretations of mainstream films such that, as one critic notes, there are as many lesbian films as there are lesbian viewers; and two, that the exchange of looks or gazes between women in mainstream films are "iconic" moments that can be read as expressions of lesbian desire. With its high-energy, engaging style, Parmar's video is an entertaining look at how marginalized groups find pleasure in popular art forms that generally exclude or ignore them.

Jodie: An Icon 1996 1/2

Jodie: An Icon 1996 2/2

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