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JENNIFER DEVERE BRODY Moving Violations Performing Globalization and Feminism in Set It Off No Parking, Baby, No Parking on the Dance Floor! Well a moving violation is easy to ‹x, just tell the DJ to ‹x it in the mix. —Midnight Star Keep on moving, Don’t Stop, Don’t stop the hands of time —Soul II Soul Shadowed in my title, “Moving Violations,” is the movie violence portrayed in the ‹lm Set It Off (1996). Each of the terms in my subtitle may be read as moving violations, as acts subject to policing policies because they are mobile. They may also be cited as “enabling violations”—to borrow Gayatri Spivak’s term—for the violence that is constitutive of identity. The terms under which we/I labor—globalization and feminism—drive my desire to analyze Set It Off. These namings occlude as much as they reveal; it is the obscuring oscillations that I map and track in the following essay. More speci‹cally, I read this ‹lm because it is an antiromantic idyll that shifts the terms and subjectivities represented in more conventional “black nationalist” neoblaxploitation ‹lms. Having paid the proverbial “price of the ticket” to view all but one of the ‹lm’s provisionally victorious black female victims come to a vicious end, I wondered about the events relayed in and by the ‹lm. I believe that the ‹lm merits the attention of black cultural critics for its ability to revoke and revitalize performance scripts that continue to govern representations of black women in ‹lmic discourse. Indeed, Set It Off “complicates the portrait of black women as merely objecti‹ed—as completely under the power of the gaze—by detailing the lure and function of underground tactics of power like crime.”1 In thinking about how to contextualize the ‹lm, 363 I was reminded of a discussion of Chicana gang members’ bodies performing on the “bronze” screen written by Rosa Linda Fregosa.2 Fregosa argues that the Chicana gang members’ “comportment registers the outer boundaries of Chicana femininity; her body marks the limit of la familia; her masquerade accentuates her deviance from the culture’s normative domestic place for women. And perhaps the production of pachucachola -homegirl subjectivities has not been celebrated by many of us [feminists ] precisely because her body [real and discursive] de‹es, provokes challenges as it interrogates the traditional familial basis of our constructions of the Chicano nation.”3 In many ways, Set It Off ’s four black female protagonists (who are also from Los Angeles) can code as “pachuca-cholahomegirlz .” They too use various strategies of masquerade to accentuate their deviance (as well as their spatiotemporal differences) from a “cultural normative domestic place.” I wish to take liberties with Fregosa’s phrasing, shifting slightly her understanding of the domestic to include national rather than merely familial space. Thus, if we think of the four women in the ‹lm as a family, the one who deviates from its own cultural norm is the “escaped” ‹gure, Stony. The following essay reads the performances of these “typed” products packaged for screen productions—the single mother/welfare queen, the butch lesbian, sapphire, and jezebel—with an eye toward elucidating how they perform their own fractured feminist praxis in the course of their work. Moreover, I take the “performativity of space seriously . . . meaning that I understand that categories such as gender, race, and sexuality are not only discursively constructed but spatially enacted and created. . . . While these categories are often considered to be mobile, spatially independent , or even merely discursive, they emerge in part through the production and sedimentation of space.”4 Acting intersubjectively within the spaces they inhabit (which simultaneously inhibit and empower them), the women exercise agency, as well as affect and effect change. The ‹lm’s foregrounding of the “setting” sets off the characters literally and ‹guratively . In other words, the ‹lm engages with “the spatial turn” in cultural studies requiring us to think critically about the subjectivity of space and the space of subjectivity.5 For space, no less than subjectivity, is a ‹gure of, and in, perpetual motion. Finally, I hope to think about what Francesca Royster highlights as the ‹lm’s “diversi‹cation of black women’s desire” (8, emphasis added) in the context of capital’s ability to manage/market such diversity. BLACK CULTURAL TRAFFIC 364 The Midlife Crisis of the 1990s The year of Set It Off ’s national and then international release was 1996, a propitious year for changes to...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780472025459
Related ISBN
9780472068401
MARC Record
OCLC
588869387
Pages
416
Launched on MUSE
2012-02-08
Language
English
Open Access
No
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