This article considers how The Ice Storm (dir. Ang Lee, US, 1997) reframes the politics of Rick Moody's novel of the same name and works via a network of symbols to align character Elena Hood (Joan Allen) with Hillary Clinton, suggesting an analogy between the scandals of the Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton presidencies. Simultaneously, the film mounts a sustained campaign to constrain female sexuality, chiefly through its sanitizing of male characters’ own sexuality and recasting of Wendy Hood (Christina Ricci) as a sexually predatory Riding Hood/witch figure. Through its constraining of social transgression more generally, punishing Mikey Carver (Elijah Wood) for the sins of his parents and wider community in a way that can be read fruitfully through Jacques Derrida's “Plato's Pharmacy,” the film produces a narrative of profound conservatism even as it courts progressive audiences. Notwithstanding its “independent” status, its distribution through Fox (then owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp), situates the film institutionally in ways that challenge our understanding of the category of “independent” as necessarily politically progressive. The film's double‐dealing, this article argues, demands that we attend to the phenomenon of a film that invites identification with progressive or transgressive characters only to punish them with reintegration into regimes of the normal or, failing such a maneuver, death. The lingering question this article identifies is how we hold to account films that are misunderstood as belonging to canons of progressive aesthetics while functioning as stealth engines of retrograde normativity.

You do not currently have access to this content.