Expression of Femininity through The Rusalka (Mermaid) Figure in Russian Cinema of the Twenty First Century: Patriarchal Norms and Feminist Responses
AuthorPotapova, Irina Alexandrovna
AdvisorLucey, Colleen M.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Abstract“I don’t believe in the betrothed one!” says Polina, one of the characters in Sviatoslav Podgaevskii’s horror film The Mermaid: Lake of the Dead (2018). The phrase may be shocking and troubling to the majority of Russian women, who grew up reading the tales about Ivanushka Tsarevich (Ivan the Prince). Fairy tales, according to some feminists, educate women to be passive, submissive and wait for their princes to rescue them from misery. However, some folkloric female personages disrupt patriarchal norms. One such character is the Slavic rusalka (mermaid). A charming culprit, she is notorious for her ability to seduce as well as to kill. Within sexualized, misogynistic frameworks, the alluring and unrestrained rusalka becomes a demon. Nevertheless, in the twenty-first century, the rusalka figure garners an alternative reading. From the perspective of Russian women directors, she is a secure, creative, independent woman and a subject of her definition, rather than an object of male conditioning. The current thesis analyzes the multiplex rusalka character through an interdisciplinary lens, and then examines the purpose of the rusalka figure in three contemporary Russian films. The analysis shows the connection between the rusalka and the mermaid, which supports the theory of the rusalka as a hypersexualized object for male satisfaction. Secondly, folkloric studies reveal the rusalka's uniqueness, which adds to the purposes of the character. The study of the three movies shows that the horror movie, filmed by a male director, invariably presents the rusalka as a vamp figure, or as a socially constructed other, while the films by the female directors attempt to show alternative femininities through the rusalka figure.
Degree ProgramGraduate College