‘Stuff it’: Respectability and the voice of resistance in letter to Brezhnev

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Dolan, J. (2012)

Exploring Letter to Brezhnev through concepts of respectability as feminine cultural capital this article suggests that the film’s affective impulse stems from its representation of a female, working class experience under Thatcherism. This experience is articulated through two structures of feeling derived from the intersecting conventions of social realism, and the consumerist and romantic tropes of the ‘woman’s film’. Through this intersection the daily abjection of women through degrading work or unemployment is traced, whilst being counterpointed to the escapist pleasures of a ‘night out’ constituted through the spatial and aesthetic shifts of the narrative, and the feminisation of the ‘jack the lad’ staple of British screen culture. In this way, Letter to Brezhnev exposes the centrality of respectability to women’s social mobility, or lack of it, thus offering a powerful critique of Thatcherite ideologies and women’s position as primary consumers within them. The article also offers a corrective to existing scholarship that has focussed on cinematic representations of a crisis of masculinity under Thatcherism to the neglect of its corrosive impact on feminine respectability.
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