Esther’s Space- journey through my life

October 8, 2007

Cindy Sherman- this is woman (?)–warning, graphic

Filed under: p()5t^^()d3,~]\[ — estherspace @ 11:12 pm

sherman_untitled255_325.jpg sherman_untitled257_360.jpg

(Untitled #255, 1992) (Untitled #257, 1992)

With her beginning project, Untitled Film Stills, Cindy Sherman works to portray a number of stereotypes of women, using the aura of the 50s-era B-Movie female as the model for female stereotypes such as ‘the luscious librarian’ and the ‘domesticated sex kitten’. She reported finished this project in 1980 because she had ‘run out of cliches’ (

In her later work, and especially in these two pieces, Sherman seems much more concerned not with the numerous stereotypes of what a woman can or should be, but instead with the current way that women are defined within and/or by society.

These two pieces seem to tie in nicely with the idea of the fragmentation that is part of postmodernism, and very well with the three texts we have worked with, Fight Club, Written on the Body, and “Lost In the Funhouse.”

Before I continue, I feel like I must make clear how I am reading each of these pieces. In the first, with the mannequin, I see a doll-like representation of a woman whose primary purpose is to fulfill the animalistic instinct of sexual activity. In the second, I see the image at the top as a woman’s vagina, and the figure on the bottom as an unwilling or frightened male recipient of that drop.

These two images look at female sexuality in a rather paradoxical way, with the first portraying woman as object, and as more dominant in the second (though the fact that the man’s reaction is the visible one does help to avoid a complete shift in the subject).

While the relationship between these two pieces is uneasy when they are juxtaposed like this, it is very similar to the relationship the narrators have with female sexuality within the texts we have read as well.

In “Lost in the Funhouse” Ambrose sees Magda and wants to converse with her, because “she was remarkably well developed for her age” (228), fulfilling the image of women that is present in the first picture, but at the same time, he is never able to fulfill this desire or make true this image, because even when he tries to touch Magda, he always “moved clear “in the nick of time”” (225), thereby avoiding being trapped by the ‘gaping maw’ that is female sexuality.

In Written on the Body, there is a continued struggle between the act of sex with a female and the dangerous power of female sexuality. The narrator is constantly seeking a new relationship, but soon feels as if he or she has been disenfranchised by the power that the women’s sexuality provides for them.

For the narrator in Fight Club,  the prospect of being sucked into the vortex of female sexuality is so frightening that he cannot be intimately involved with Marla without creating a separate personality specially designed to be so ‘manly’ that he will not be affected by the power of the female.


historicity of the “inverted odysseys”

‘femininity’ of the female changing over time

absence of men

solo shots- definitions are created through comparisons in society


1 Comment »

  1. Damn-

    Nice linkage. I am thoroughly impressed with the connections you’ve made between the texts and Sherman. You’re connections help me with another research paper I’m doing in a different class about white masculinity and postmodernism. I have to refine my concentration of study and you’ve given me some ideas. Gracias. I don’t think I quite understand the term fragmentation. Do you mean fragmentation within for instance an ideology itself? You specifically laid out sexuality and power in this post. So is it the fragmentation of sexuality and power between men and women? I mean do you mean to say that sexuality is not what it seems it is? It’s not what it’s percieved to be? The end result would be to question where does the power lie. That is very definitive and therefore fragmented and in these texts made aware/known.

    Hopefully my questions make sense. I use questioning to help myself work through an understanding- mostly rhetorical- I’m not sure why that works b/c I don’t have a diffinitive answer for any of them.

    Comment by bastianm — October 12, 2007 @ 12:36 pm

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