Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Aga Skrodzka

Committee Member

Dr. Gabriel Hankins

Committee Member

Dr. Kimberly Manganelli


Baise-moi (dir. Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi, 2000), Irréversible (dir. Gaspar Noé, 2002), and Promising Young Woman (dir. Emerald Fennell, 2020) embody characteristics of the extreme. Working from James Quandt’s formative writing in 2004, I define extremism as the purposeful inclusion of transgressive themes and situations. However, each of the selected films portrays the extreme under different production styles, aesthetics, and modes of storytelling. My connections to early exploitation film (a precursor to extremist cinema) demonstrate the genre’s important history of teaching and educating. Similar to the original intent of classical exploitation films, which taught spectators about taboo topics or addressed social ills, the films selected for analysis teach viewers about a central concept: sexual violence. Specifically, I argue that the films engage in a form of feminist pedagogy. Each film text produces key feminist lessons about 1) the complexity of traumatic experiences and complex responses to that trauma and 2) our cultural understandings of revenge, retribution, and justice. Baise-moi, Irréversible, and Promising Young Woman’s formal elements never allow spectators to dissolve into moments of pure spectacle. Instead, the formal elements that flesh-out female protagonists (who experience vastly different conflicts, social circumstances, and economic positions) linger over the spectator. Because of what spectators view before and after extremist moments, those extremist images become feminist pedagogical tools. As a result, when spectators finally witness extreme violence it becomes less empty/gratuitous; its purpose changes. Looking at the films in order of release, I investigate how each project responds to its particular moment in history by portraying the spirit of feminist movements during each time of production and distribution. Just as scholarship on extremist cinema has accomplished, my project strives to illuminate the social and political value of extremist cinema. As extremist cinema evolves and the feminist political stance changes, so will cinema's methods for representing and teaching about sexual violence, trauma, and justice.



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