I have spent the past six years researching gender in media narratives, and how it intersects with sexuality, race, and ethnicity across a variety of genres and transnational contexts. My interdisciplinary research into new media, gender studies, and film theory has ranged from historical costume dramas to science fiction, teen television to art house darlings, shōjo manga to K-dramas, and telenovelas to YA fantasy novels.
Gender and Queer Studies
Media, Film, and Literary Theory
Fan and Audience Studies
Practice Based Research
Kuragehime by Akiko Higashimura
Ranma ½ by Akiko Higashimura
Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori
Performance, Perception, and Narratives of Subversion
(Forthcoming: Spring 2023)
MAI: FEMINISM & VISUAL CULTURE:
Gender-bending in storytelling isn’t a new phenomenon. Stories in which characters perform as or physically transform into another gender have existed worldwide since antiquity, appearing in everything from Greek and Hindu mythology and Russian and Egyptian folklore to Shakespearean and Thai theater and Italian and Chinese opera. Though a handful of stories with these themes appear in contemporary Western media, gender-bender narratives are significantly more prevalent in manga, reaching massive popularity with both Japanese and international audiences. Ranging from martial-arts fantasies (Ranma ½), to harem romances (Ouran High School Host Club), to slice-of-life comedies (Kuragehime), these works are often written and drawn by female mangaka and directly engage with, if not outright critique, the flimsy, restrictive, and ill-fitting construction of our modern gender binary.
In this paper, I explore how gender-bender manga uses a combination of embodied performance, physical space, external perception, and social positioning to deconstruct the essentialism of binary gender in relation to Judith Butler's Gender Trouble and Undoing Gender.
ART, DESIRE, AND THE FEMALE GAZE
Artemisia and Portrait of a Lady on Fire
MPhil Dissertation in Film and Screen Studies
University of Cambridge | Distinction
Though many film and feminist academics have explored various aspects of female spectatorship, scholars have not reached a consensus on a definition of the female gaze, other than as an oversimplified inversion to Mulvey’s male gaze that largely ignores the concept's psychoanalytic underpinnings. Nevertheless, the usage of the term female gaze is exponentially increasing in popular discourse, even as few can seem to agree on its implementations or implications. It is in this regard that film scholarship as a discipline and film spectatorship as a cultural practice have begun to drift apart, leaving this critical concept untethered in the void of theory.
In my dissertation, I address this disconnect and reconsider how we imagine and interpret the female gaze through two French films made by female artists about female artists. With narratives at the crux of art-making and desire, Artemisia and Portrait of a Lady on Fire are consciously engaging with questions of looking and being looked at, asking what it means to be the model of another’s gaze and the creator of one’s own. These two films, limited though they might be, are well positioned as a starting point to help us approach, investigate, and define the female gaze.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
Thelma & Louise (1991)
Female Friendship as Political Resistance
Thelma & Louise and 4 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days
Senior Honors Thesis in Global Studies
Carnegie Mellon University | University Honors
Through their gritty and realistic explorations of women's friendship in the 1980s, the Hollywood blockbuster Thelma & Louise (1991), and the Romanian New Wave darling 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (2007) challenged the view of women in their respective culture's media, while critically engaging with the significance of female representation in a broader context. With plots that unabashedly center the controversial subjects of rape and abortion, these films ask complex questions about society, complicity, and solidarity, examining how female friendship itself can be an act of resistance against oppressive sociopolitical systems.
4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (2007)
OTHER SELECTED ACADEMIC RESEARCH
Authorship, Dance, and the Visualization of Labor
Embodying Pina and the Gendered Auteur Divide
I analyze how the dance documentary Pina (2011) presents the relationship between the director and the film compared to that of the choreographer and the dance. In doing so, I explore the ways in which the abstraction of labour under the auteur theory is visualized in dance films, demonstrating how media scholarship could learn from contemporary dance studies.
SKAM: Radical Form and Representation
New Media’s Reinvention of the Teen Television Genre
Teen television walks the line between fantasy and authenticity. In this paper, I analyze how the Norwegian teen television drama SKAM's casting, costuming, production practices, and implementation of transmedia storytelling across multiple social networks allowed for a curation of authenticity that other teen television dramas strive for yet struggle to achieve.
Fujoshi, Feminism, and the Female Fan
Women’s Relationship with Japanese Male-Male Romance
I explore the phenomenon of fujoshi, the female fans of the queer male romance sub-genres in manga and anime, shonen-ain and yaoi. Through analyzing the history, development, and reactions to fujoshi, I interrogate the potential factors that contribute to the mass international consumption and fan-production of Japanese queer romance stories.
Shifting Historical Memory in Israeli Film
The Six Day War from Euphoria to Disillusion
In the decades since the war of 1967, years of near constant conflict have influenced the way that the country’s filmmakers represent their history. Though initially inspired by immediate post victory euphoria and nationalistic fervor, over time, films portraying the Six Day War shifted, offering an evolving lens of a country once fresh from victory to one exhausted from half a century of fighting.
In 2016, I founded a film research collective called Momoka Studios with the aim of improving on-screen representation by diversifying behind-the-scenes participation.
I recruited, trained, and directed teams of eight to fifteen women (and other minorities in the film industry); and together we shared our technical experience to help female and minority film students get hired on professional film sets and create material for portfolios, reels, and graduate school applications.
In four years, we produced two mini-documentaries, four short narrative films, and assisted on seven other shorts. These projects were funded through the generosity of research fellowships and independent grants.
Breathing Words was the culmination of a year-long senior honors project that explored the portrayal of female friendship in film.
In conjunction with my thesis regarding female friendship as political resistance, the team explored the other side of this coin, showing how friendship is often intimate, inspirational, and all-encompassing. Using the framework of untranslatable words, this film set out to explore a cross-cultural friendship and the way art and language can bring us together.
Ctrl_Alt_Delete was a six-week research project that examined the historic normalization of domestic abuse in science fiction.
From coercive heroes and programmed love interests, to explicitly non-consensual encounters and sexually subservient androids, our team researched the trends that permeate the science fiction genre, investigating how these stories can offer imaginative possibilities of the future, while also perpetuating the misogynistic injustices of the present.
Parfum was a semester-long research project into commodity fetishism in luxury advertisements.
Inspired by the praise a perfume's advertising campaign was receiving in the fall of 2016 for being gender expansive and groundbreaking, the team explored the aesthetics and labor practices of luxury advertisements. We looked at the underside of the perfume and modeling industries and the manner in which women and minorities are often portrayed in the selling of a desirable and unachievable lifestyle.
Psyche was a year-long research project that explored the trends in coming-of-age queer media.
Responding to the trends in queer media in the late 2010s, the team researched the ways LGBTQ+ people's coming-of-age stories are often inextricable from coming-out stories, and how the majority of queer media (at the time) was explicitly sexual or inevitably tragic.