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The Undutiful Daughter On Fire: Régine Detambel's La Verrière Marie-Claire Barnet A mes filles, toutes jeunes nées en herbe et en puissance IN JULY 2002, THE BBC LAUNCHED a new television series promising to throw light on the enigmatic, absorbing, and self-absorbed world of teenagers. While the first installment of Teen Species,1 dedicated to young girls, presented a reasonable variety of portraits of the "trials of (female) puberty,"2 only "typical" and "predictable" in their depiction of teenagers' changing personality and their emotional and physical (un)balance, a rather curious statement concluded the program: "Girls at that age have a strong need for peer bonding, female bonding. They highly value friendship but they have no interest in sex." In a country known for its high rate of teenage pregnancy, we may wonder whether the writers of Teen Species had seriously adopted a censorial view on underage sex or ascribed to the 9 o'clock watershed. A recent film by Gurinder Chadha, Bend It Like Beckham,3 presented not so much the female football experience, but rather the theme of a strong, passionate "female bonding," which was also subject to a lot of misunderstanding and a great cause for worry (for the homophobic characters, especially mothers) or a source of hilarity (for the spectators, listening to the stereotypical lines delivered by the mothers of Jules and Jess, the "gendertroubled " names of the heroines).4 What does the unnamed, malleable "adolescente de verre filé" of La Verri ère by Régine Detambel have in common with such portrayals of a-typical or stereotypical teenaged girls?5 In keeping with the (trendy) thématique filée sur les filles, on the screen and on the page on both sides of the Channel,6 or with the apparently inexhaustible theme of adolescence and its stormy relationships to family, friendship, love, and sex (BBC girls excluded), Detambel 's novel offers a renewed perspective on the bad girl/good girl stock characters , as fragile and breakable—or as sharp and shattering—as the glass roof in La Verrière, when they refuse to conform to ready-made models. Detambel plays with all kinds of archetypes, and the familiar female figure of the rebel adolescent reappears in La Verrière, ready to confront society, her family's prejudices, as well as readers' expectations. The novel becomes even more intriguing as one learns that a second version of La Verrière (heterosexually re-oriented and framed to suit publishers' 16 Spring 2005 Barnet preferences) was written for an audience of teenagers in 1998, entitled Le Rêve de Tanger? By creating a highly ambiguous (double-faced) modern heroine, Detambel re-constructs the story of the "undutiful daughter," who cannot wait to burn down her parents' house and longs for unfulfilling, unrequited (lesbian) love scenarios to change her life. At one point in the novel, after the departure of Mina, the object of her affection/obsession, she even starts wearing her new boyfriend's leather motorbike boots and suit ("Ça ne te va pas du tout, les jupes" [117]).8 Thus, she is allowed to wear the ultimate 'bad' boy's boots and fancy dress to cross gender gaps and revamp dead-end stories of desire. We may think of Bourdieu's statement about the ambivalent fashion and gender status of the skirt in La Domination masculine (or David Beckham's (in)famous appearance in a sarong).9 In other words if every significant detail and symbol is carefully included in the narrative, everything and everyone are not what and who they seem to be. Detambel 'bends' and distorts the plot of generation gap and subverts heterosexual norms. In this remarkable (double) novel, deceitfully simple, the identity of well-known characters (the 'bad' mother, the 'bad' daughter) becomes all the more complicated when a new cast is introduced on the scene of trouble and trauma: the 'bad,' inadequate, surrogate or substitute mother figures (Mina, Clarisse), the feminized male characters (father and boyfriend/lover10), and the deeply confusing heroine herself, who ends up in a new limbo when she finally faces her demons and confronts all the racist and homophobic prejudices imposed upon...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 16-27
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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