Cover image for Unlikely couples : movie romance as social criticism
Unlikely couples : movie romance as social criticism
Wartenberg, Thomas E.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xxi, 254 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Reading Level:
1450 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN1995.9.L6 W37 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In Unlikely Couples, Thomas E. Wartenberg directly challenges the view that narrative cinema inherently supports the dominant social interests by examining the way popular films about "unlikely couples" (a mismatched romantic union viewed as inappropriate due to its class, racial, or gender composition) explore, expose, and criticize societal attitudes, boundaries, and prejudices. The films under consideration--including King Kong , Pygmalion, It Happened One Night, Pretty Woman, White Palace, Some Like it Hot, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Mississippi Masala, Jungle Fever, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, Desert Hearts, and The Crying Game-- are examined both individually and as a whole to illustrate how the genre uses the figure of a transgressive couple to explore tensions in genre's use of the figure of a transgressive couple to condemn social hierarchy as well as to raise a range of significant philosophical topics.

Author Notes

Thomas E. Wartenberg is professor of philosophy at Mount Holyoke College and was chair of the film program there from 1991-1999.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This book represents a positive development in film criticism, which is traditionally an established, technical, theoretical discipline, determined to keep out all "interlopers" drawn to the enticing topic of film from neighboring fields. Scholars of cultural studies, philosophy, and the humanities in general now write about film, using it as a medium through which to think about contemporary issues. Wartenberg (philosophy and film, Mount Holyoke College) uses a Hollywood staple, the "movie romance," to think about "the subversive potential of the unlikely couple film." He explores what movies have to say about class stratification in the US (It Happened One Night, Pretty Woman), about race (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Mississippi Masala), about sexual orientation and the legitimacy of specific forms of sexual and social hierarchy (The Crying Game). Though weak on race issues, the book is exemplary in balancing the pleasures of mass art and the more rigorous pleasures of scholarly analysis. Unlikely Couples joins cinema studies like Stanley Cavell's Pursuits of Happiness (1981), Elizabeth Traube's Dreaming Identities (1992), and Yvonne Tasker's Working Girls (CH, Mar'99) in opening an interdisciplinary space for the discussion of film and society--a discussion that is becoming ever more important to undergraduate teaching in the humanities and arts. Essential for all undergraduate collections. K. T"ol"olyan; Wesleyan University

Table of Contents

Filmographyp. xiii
Prefacep. xv
Acknowledgmentsp. xix
1 The Subversive Potential of the Unlikely Couple Filmp. 1
Notesp. 16
Part 1 Classp. 19
2 Pygmalion: The Flower Girl and the Bachelorp. 21
Notesp. 43
3 It Happened One Night: An Education in Humilityp. 47
Notesp. 66
4 Pretty Woman a Fairy Tale of Oedipalized Capitalismp. 67
Notesp. 86
5 White Palace Dustbuster Epiphaniesp. 89
Notesp. 105
Part 2 Racep. 109
6 Guess Who's Coming to Dinner: Does Father Really Know Best?p. 111
Notesp. 128
7 Jungle Fever: Souring on Forbidden Fruitp. 131
Notesp. 151
8 Mississippi Masala: Love in a Postcolonial Worldp. 153
Notesp. 170
9 Ali: Fear Eats the Soul: The Privileges of """"Race""""p. 173
Notesp. 188
Part 3 Sexual Orientationp. 191
10 Desert Hearts: Betting on Lesbian Lovep. 193
Notesp. 205
11 the Crying Game: Loving in Ignorancep. 209
Notesp. 226
12 Movie Romance and the Critique of Hierarchyp. 231
Notesp. 241
Bibliographyp. 243
Indexp. 249