Between a Rock and Hard Place: Space, Gender and Hierarchy in British Gangland Film
Williams, Sally Tatham Robertson
A principal aim of this research has been to establish the capacity of British Gangland film to articulate its era of production through the cinematic interpretation of contemporary concerns and anxieties in narratives relating to the criminal underworld. In order to do so, the study has concentrated on the analysis of space, gender and hierarchy within representative generic texts produced between 1945 and the present. The thesis is divided into three sections: the first offers a general overview of British Gangland film from the 65 years under discussion with the aim of identifying recurring generic patterns and motifs. The second and third sections are more specifically focused, their chapters examining the narrative significance and development of the male and the female protagonist respectively. Within the films under discussion, the relationship between these protagonists and their environment represents a fundamental generic component, resulting in an emphasis on space and place. Space within these narratives is inherently territorial, and thus irrevocably bound up with hierarchies of power. The predominantly urban locations in which the narratives are set represent a twilight world, a demi-monde, which is rarely neutral but dominated by the patriarchal order structuring the notion of ‘Gangland’. Such spaces are therefore inextricably linked with gender, hierarchy, and dynamic power relations. Whilst it would have been possible to explore each of these areas in isolation through specifically relevant theoretical perspectives, their interdependence is central to this study. Consequently, a holistic theoretical approach has facilitated analysis of the symbiotic relationship between the three key elements of space, gender and hierarchy and the processes involved in the generation of meaning: this has resulted in a reading of British Gangland film as cultural artefact, reflecting its circumstances of production.