II.  Narrative and Genre

English-Language Genre Influences

Several English language titles from the 1970s and 1980s are worthy of further mention since they have not only been the focus of feminist critiques, but were also among the first popular film texts to foreground female violence or action roles and exerted specific influences on the emergence of HK GWG films several years later.  Two controversial vengeance genre films, the 1978 title “I Spit On Your Grave” and the 1981 film “Ms. 45” are particularly noteworthy.  Each combined elements of horror, sexual violence and revenge that would feature prominently in many comparable HK titles, including “Girl With A Gun” – seemingly inspired by “Ms. 45” and the HK classic “Her Vengeance.”

Pauline Wong (Her Vengeance)
Although “I Spit On Your Grave” appears to have had influence on the narratives of subsequent vengeance titles, “Ms. 45” may have exerted more substantial stylistic sway.  Indeed, it is possible to identify correspondence in shots and point-of-view between this and a number of later GWG titles.  “Ms. 45’s” urban setting, point-of-view conventions, costuming, surplus gunfire, combat pistol stances, extreme close-ups, “paranoid” camera positioning and slow motion “bullet ballet” finale are staples of HK genre films.  Despite its vintage, “Ms. 45” resembles nothing so much as an HK GWG film of a decade later.
With respect to television influences, although the series “Charlie’s Angels” could scarcely be said to have questioned patriarchal ideology or challenged action conventions, another police procedural “Cagney & Lacey” both foregrounded and privileged action roles for women and did receive favorable reviews by liberal feminists as well as reaching a wide viewership that included women.  Initially aired as a 1981 made-for-television movie, this was the first cinematic or televisual portrayal of a female “buddy” partnership within an action context – hitherto an exclusive male-gendered genre.  “Cagney & Lacey” was deemed sufficiently subversive that the image of one of its leading characters was deliberately “feminized” in later seasons.  At about the same time in the U.K., the BBC produced a police procedural series “Juliet Bravo” which for the first time elevated a woman to the privileged authority role of police supervisor, with male subordinates.  “Widows,” another series produced in Britain, cast women in authentic roles as leaders of a criminal gang able to execute a violent and dangerous robbery while exercising sometimes brutal control over rivals or subordinates.  This series reportedly served as the direct inspiration for the HK film “Widow Warriors.”  Yet another potentially influential strand of television drama may be traced to the BBC’s 1981 – 1984 series “Tenko,” dealing with the lives of female internees during the Japanese occupation of Singapore.  Unlike the Hollywood films or American television police procedurals that influenced a number of GWG films, the three British television series clearly did raise a number of ideological challenges concerning authority, power, personal relationships and gender (Note 11), as well as tentatively exploring non-heterosexual relations or lifestyles – if only in a symbolic, subtextual manner.

Notes:  Narrative and Genre

11. Gillian Skirrow, “Women/acting/power.”  In Baehr & Dyer, op. cit., pp. 164 – 183, esp. p. 174 and pp. 177 –     178.  See also Jill Hyem, “Entering the arena:  Writing for television.”  In, Baehr & Dyer, op. cit., pp. 151 – 183, esp. p. 156.