Elevate Difference

The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture

Lauren Berlant is the George M. Pullman Professor of English and Chair of the Lesbian and Gay Studies Project at the University of Chicago. She is the author of several books, including The Queen of America Goes to Washington City, and The Anatomy of National Fantasy. Her newest spectacular work, The Female Complaint, reflects the role women have played in movies and books through the twentieth century. Her poignant reviews of work depict the subservient role women have subjugated themselves to through media, movies and published works. Her open and honest perspective shows the methods and means women have used when placed in patriarchal society.

In "Poor Eliza," she looks at the role of the sexual slave girl, Tuptum in "The King of Siam" and how the play staged to perform Uncle Tom’s Cabin turns out to be Tuptum’s way of speaking out against the king, rather than portraying the cultural knowledge the little drama was set up to depict. The king’s fury about the performance is contrasted by the slave girl’s desire to be with the man she loves, rather than in the palace, subject to the king’s carnal desires. As the book moves on, Berlant continues to point out the roles women have been cast into to remain seated in the one-down culture of Western thinking. The Female Complaint is a brilliant book that brings to point how culture creates the stereotypical woman and how the marketing of this role continues to be exploited through book and film.

Written by: Mary O'Hara, June 9th 2008

Hurray! Another book by the brilliant Berlant! Her Queen of America book is well worth a read too -- you will never be able to think about the film Forrest Gump without thinking of her analysis after you read it.Thanks for the heads up about this book -- sounds like a badly needed update to another feminist classic - Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female With the Mass Media by Susan J. Douglas (who also wrote the great The Mommy Myth.)