Title of Project

It Takes True Grit to Challenge Gender Stereotypes

Researcher Information

Deborah Z. Greenbaum

Project Type


Start Date

7-4-2006 12:00 AM

End Date

7-4-2006 12:00 AM

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Apr 7th, 12:00 AM Apr 7th, 12:00 AM

It Takes True Grit to Challenge Gender Stereotypes

This paper evaluates the film True Grit as representative of Westerns that challenge traditional gender roles. The argument is made that Westerns have been unduly dismissed by gender theorists for being monolithic affirmations of traditional masculine hegemony.True Grit, a film from 1969, shows that unorthodox gender portrayals are not a new concept. Focus is placed on analyzing the female character, Mattie Ross. Mattie is revealed to debunk the traditional female role through her appearance, interests, personality traits and behavior. Mattie flouts Laura Mulvey’s assertion that women are in film to pander to the “male gaze” by exhibiting a quality she calls “to-be-looked-at-ness.” Setting, plot, and staging of scenes are also reviewed with an eye toward how they challenge traditional portrayals of women in film. The interplay between Mattie and the male characters serves to illustrate Michel Foucault’s model of power as something “fluid.” Ultimately, a little scrutiny of True Grit belies the dismissal of Westerns by gender theorists, and reveals their untenable and hypocritical position of gender role exclusion when perceived as traditional.