Features and Columns · Movies

How the Female Gaze of ‘American Honey’ Unsettles the Road Movie

Anyone else feel like going for a little drive?
American Honey Sasha Lane
By  · Published on April 21st, 2021

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay about how American Honey redefines the road movie by way of the female gaze.

The “road movie” genre is not necessarily a male-dominated space. Rebellion, desperation, and self-discovery are certainly within a feminine wheelhouse (pun intended). But the road movie has, by and large, served as a platform for male stories of cultural revolt and self-examination.

To be clear, feminine road movies do exist. I would venture a guess that 1991’s Thelma and Louise has already popped into your head as a boisterous counterexample. But, as the video essay below argues, American Honey (2016), directed by Andrea Arnold, goes one step further. Rather than merely center women as subjects, the film actively subverts its predecessors by implementing the elusive, but unmistakable, cinematic perspective known as the “female gaze.”

American Honey follows a teenage girl named Star (Sasha Lane), who elects to leave her working-class life behind to join a traveling band of miscreants, finding love, defiance, and personal reclamation as she crisscrosses the midwest. The video essay unpacks how the film embodies three central avenues of the female gaze, as identified by director Joey Soloway: (1) the feeling/seeing camera; (2) the presentation of how it feels to be the object of the gaze, and (3) the return and taking control of that gaze.

If you’ve ever struggled to wrap your head around the female gaze, this video essay is a marvelous breakdown of how it can appear in practice. In this way, American Honey lays the groundwork and clarifies the visual language of how cinema can tell stories about the desires, dissent, and dreams of women on the road.

Watch “American Honey: Redefining the Road Movie Through the Female Gaze – Edie Straight“:

Who made this?

This video on how American Honey redefines the road movie was made by Edie Straight as part of the “Practice of Film Criticism” module at the University of Warwick Film & TV Department. You can check out the UoW Film & TV Department’s other content on Vimeo here.

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Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.