“Devouring the Diva” explores the drives that push us to pursue, consume, and destroy the diva, arguing for a reading of the diva as a figure of feminine gendering and as a stand-in for the fetishized mother whom we ambivalently adore, mourn, and hate. Through an analysis of the 1979 film The Rose (dir. Mark Rydell, US), and in particular, through its spectacular reimagining of Janis Joplin's death, Bradshaw explores our cultural attachment to narratives of the diva's abjection and shame. By framing Joplin, that quintessential symbol of both 1960s rock-and-roll culture and 1960s feminist rebelliousness, through the diva narrative, with its formulaic destruction of the ambitious woman, The Rose gets to reimagine her as appropriately castrated and feminine, and as appropriately punished for her strength, her ambition, and her gender. But the film takes this aggression to another level, punishing not just one woman but, through her, all women for the excesses of a decade in which women demanded political, sexual, and artistic autonomy as their just due.
Melissa Bradshaw; Devouring the Diva: Martyrdom as Feminist Backlash in The Rose. Camera Obscura 1 May 2008; 23 (1 (67)): 69–87. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-2007-024
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