CFP : Exploiting Exploitation Cinema

Exploiting Exploitation Cinema

This issue of Transatlantica ( will focus on the margins of the Hollywood film industry : exploitation cinema. Though it is often associated with the 1960s and 1970s, the period of grindhouse double features, it has existed in the U.S. since the late silent era. Critics have argued that the implementation of the Hays Code in 1934 made it possible for independent producers to market films dealing with taboo material (namely sex and violence). From the beginning, then, exploitation cinema exploited scandalous material in order to exploit specific niche audiences. Not surprisingly, it has specialized in unsavory genre pictures often targeted at young audiences : various subgenres of the horror movie (the gore movies of Herschell Gordon Lewis, rape-revenge films, the slashers of the late 1970s-early 1980s), scifi, softcore porn (the films of Russ Meyer), car and biker movies, fight films (wrestling, martial arts), women in prison films, and the blaxploitation cycle of the 1970s. Yet by displaying transgressive material, exploitation cinema also played a highly controversial political role in showing what Hollywood films repressed : the unseen of culture.

This issue proposes to examine the various forms of exploitation that exploitation cinema is implicated in and the way they interact :

(1) the economics of exploitation cinema and the exploitation of a specific audience group in terms of gender, race or fan base ;

(2) the exploitation of a genre in terms of narrative, figures and motifs (many of these films started as a title and sometimes a poster) ;

(3) the exploitation of (racial, gendered, sexual, ethnic, social) stereotypes within the films ;

(4) the contemporary recycling or exploitation of exploitation cinema by the Hollywood film industry, for instance, in blockbuster remakes of exploitation films or in the films of African American filmmakers or directors like Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino.

Articles should aim at foregrounding the contradictions and conflicts of interests inherent in these forms of exploitation, namely :

(1) the discrepancy or reconciliation between the conservative terms of the films as products and the politically transgressive content they offer, e.g. cautionary films of the 1930s ;

(2) the ambiguous relationship between exploitation and independent cinema, and thus what would appear to be a reactionary form of cinema and a more progressive form, and also between exploitation cinema and contemporary mainstream cinema which simultaneously legitimizes and normalizes exploitation cinema by remaking it ;

(3) the ambivalent representation of women and minority characters in terms of identity politics, e.g. the Final Girl, the Black Macho, etc. ;

(4) the dilemmas involved in recycling motifs and figures of exploitation cinema : are they merely being exploited ? how do contemporary films deal with the ambivalent politics of these films ? are the radical politics lost in the mainstreaming of exploitation cinema ? or are the incoherencies of the subtexts of exploitation films made more coherent ?

Contributions are encouraged to combine, to various degrees, approaches based on film history, economics, audience and reception studies, genre studies, and feminist, gender, queer and race studies.

Proposals in English or French (300-500 words), including a bibliography, should be sent to David Roche ( by January 31, 2014.