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Heaving cleavages and fantastic frock coats: Gender fluidity, celebrity and tactile transmediality in contemporary costume cinema

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As contemporary cinema intersects with both celebrity (Church Gibson 2011) and convergence culture (Jenkins 2006a), it is vital that the academic analysis of screen costuming moves beyond the film text to consider the wider institutional processes and consumption practices connected to fashion and spectators. In examining the role of costume and fashion as a source of meaning and pleasure this article forms part of my wider research project, which includes a forthcoming monograph and adopts both textually centred and interdisciplinary cross-media methodological approaches. This methodological shift is reflected in this article - the examination of Shakespeare in Love (Madden, 1998) adopts a predominantly textually centred approach focusing on the cinematic representation of Viola/Thomas (Gwyneth Paltrow), in which I argue that costume functions as both a spectacular intervention and a visual narrative of gender transformation and sexual fluidity. In then shifting to a cross-media approach, I will discuss both Gwyneth Paltrow and Keira Knightley in relation to issues of fashion, femininity and celebrity culture. As contemporary popular cinema shifts from character centred narratives to the formation of transmedia worlds existing over multiple media platforms, the text-spectator relationship is one grounded in a participatory convergence culture (Jenkins 2006a). In the final section of this article I argue that the meanings and pleasures of cinematic costume are increasingly characterised by what I term 'tactile transmediality'. Through moving my analysis beyond the film text to explore gaming, cosplay and fashion in relation to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (Verbinski, 2003; 2006; 2007; Marshall, 2011), I will argue that clothing creates a tactile platform in which the spatial distance between the text and the spectator can be bridged via adornment and touch and thus the processes of identity transformation and performativity can be played out in our everyday lives.

Keywords: Celebrity; Costume drama; Fashion; Gender; Pirates; Transmedia

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Hartlepool College

Publication date: 2011-01-01

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  • Film, Fashion & Consumption is a peer-reviewed journal designed to provide an arena for the discussion of research, methods and practice within and between the fields of film, fashion, design, history, art history and heritage. The journal seeks to stimulate ongoing research on these topics and to attract contributions not only from scholars researching in these areas but also from practitioners, who are traditionally excluded from academic debate. The journal thus aims to unite and enlarge a community of researchers and practitioners in film, fashion, consumption and related fields, whilst also introducing a wider audience to new work, particularly to interdisciplinary research which looks at the intersections between film, fashion and consumption.
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