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Switchblade Sisters Essay

1407 words - 6 pages

Switchblade Sisters: Gender Representation and Discourse Enter Jack Hill's sexploitation masterwork Switchblade Sisters, wherein a band of bad-ass, leather-clad hotties take on their high school's lame-o guy gang, bill collectors, a corrupt community activist, and--with the help of some black nationalists--even The Man. The Dagger Debs are a gang of knife wielding bad girls faced with teenage angst and repression by the male dominant culture. In the opening sequence Lace, the merciless leader of the Dagger Debs, is seen sharpening her switchblade by her nightstand as she checks her self out in the mirror, admiring her leather jacket and biker's cap. Faced with the apathetic and harsh attitude of the adult culture, the Dagger Debs find their own solution, by creating mayhem and striking fear wherever they go. Much like the male rebel films of the fifties, authority is misplaced and youth culture seems to have the upper hand. Like a typical teen film, most of its scenes take place in their high school, or at their hangout diner or warehouse, however, they have turned these public places into their own turf. The Dagger Debs serve as groupies to a gang of male rebels named the Silver Daggers. Throughout the film, women are presented as muses, or groupies, much like the films of the fifties, and serve as toys for the dominant male gang to toss around and play with. To be initiated into the gang, it is necessary to "go through" Dominic (leader of the Silver Daggers), this exercise of male dominance and power through the means of sex and repression can be said to be typical of the male rebel. Maggie, the new girl in town, is approached by the Dagger Debs and is forced to defend herself from Lace's hench-woman, the one-eyed Patch. Unlike typical films of the seventies, Maggie is able to take care of herself without the aide of a strong masculine man; instead, she wraps her glinting metal belt around Patch's legs and beats her to the ground, not without first spraying pepper on her eye to disable her. This automatically gets the attention of Lace, and is prompted to ask Maggie what gang she is in. "Everybody's gotta be in a gang" says Lace. The idea that every girl must belong to a gang, to have muscle behind them to protect them, presents women as helpless and dependant. At the same time, Dominic is drawn to Maggie's spunk, and so drops by her house where he rapes her as her mom shacks up with the landlord to pay the bill. By violating her, he destroys the whole institute of "family", through the exercise of power and rape. It is only in the beginning of the film that the women represent everything the rebel is not (passivity, inhibition) and everything that threatens to shackle him (domesticity, social norms) to an extent. Lace, underneath her tough girl kicking-ass persona, is a young teenager concerned with love and dependency on the male. When she finds out that she is pregnant, she mistakenly believes...

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