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Feminist Cringe Comedy: Dear Dick, The Joke Is on You

  • Lori Marso (a1)

Feminist cringe comedies eschew the conventions of romance and sentimentality in favor of comedy that discomforts. Cringe comedies are one example of what I call feminism's visual realisms, so named for doing feminist political work by evoking laughter and the cringe. The cringe pulls us inward in our posture, while laughter opens us to others. This bodily response to cringe comedies interrupts the fantasies of the male gaze and makes space for spectators to acknowledge the excessive, complicated, and seemingly shameful realities of female desire. My primary example is Jill Soloway's television adaptation of Chris Kraus's I Love Dick, a series that builds on the feminist legacy of avant-garde director Catherine Breillat. Departing from politically correct narratives and comforting or sentimental affect, I Love Dick achieves feminist community through the appeal, the cringe, and the irruption of laughter.

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I presented an earlier version of this article at the American Political Science Association Meeting in 2017 and at the Johns Hopkins Political Theory workshop in early 2018. I have several people to thank for helpful comments on these two occasions and that I solicited separately: Bonnie Honig, Jane Bennett, Sam Chambers, Perry Moskowitz, Davide Panagia, Jennifer Culbert, William Connolly, Luci Lobe, George Shulman, Lida Maxwell, Laurie Naranch, Torrey Shanks, and Tom Lobe. I especially thank Mary Caputi and three anonymous reviewers for Politics & Gender.

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