Women in the “Prison Movie” Genre and Carceral Masculinities

  • Gwenola RicordeauEmail author


The “Prison movies” genre can be loosely defined as movies that are set in prison. Both film studies and criminology have analyzed this genre and they have underlined how it has echoed the rise of the “culture of punishment” in Western countries since the 1970s. The chapter draws upon a corpus of around 70 prison movies. The chapter revisits the analysis previously made on prison movies genre: It goes beyond the mere assessment of its androcentrisme and questions how prison masculinities are represented. First, the chapter describes the few and stereotyped roles played by women in prison movies (mostly as wives and mothers of prisoners and nurses). It also demonstrates that, while being secondary, women’s roles are often pivotal in the narrative (men may be in prison because of a woman, they want to escape from prison for a woman, etc.). The chapter then elaborates on men’s and women’s bodies and sexuality in prison movies. It describes how bodies are either desexualized or sexualized. Since confinement and homoeroticism often goes together, heteronormativity of the movies mostly relies on women that are yet rarely on screen.



I am grateful to Michael Ennis for his reviewing of an earlier version of this chapter.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.California State UniversityChicoUSA

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