Julia Roberts played a prostitute, famously, in Pretty Woman. So did Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver, Jane Fonda in Klute, Anna Karina in Vivre sa vie, Greta Garbo in Anna Christie, and Charlize Theron, who won an Academy Award for Monster. This engaging and generously illustrated study explores the depiction of female prostitute characters and prostitution in world cinema, from the silent era to the present-day industry. From the woman with control over her own destiny to the woman who cannot get away from her pimp, Russell Campbell shows the diverse representations of prostitutes in film.
Marked Women classifies fifteen recurrent character types and three common narratives, many of them with their roots in male fantasy. The “Happy Hooker,” for example, is the liberated woman whose only goal is to give as much pleasure as she receives, while the “Avenger,” a nightmare of the male imagination, represents the threat of women taking retribution for all the oppression they have suffered at the hands of men. The “Love Story,” a common narrative, represents the prostitute as both heroine and anti-heroine, while “Condemned to Death” allows men to manifest, in imagination only, their hostility toward women by killing off the troubled prostitute in an act of cathartic violence.
The figure of the woman whose body is available at a price has fascinated and intrigued filmmakers and filmgoers since the very beginning of cinema, but the manner of representation has also been highly conflicted and fiercely contested. Campbell explores the cinematic prostitute as a figure shaped by both reactionary thought and feminist challenges to the norm, demonstrating how the film industry itself is split by fascinating contradictions.