Who is Salt? Disguise as discourse in the gendered narrative

Authors: Van Raalte, C.

Start date: 3 September 2015

Salt ( Philip Noyce 2010) is a spy thriller originally written for a male lead. The modifications made to the narrative in order to accommodate Angelina Jolie in the title role serve to illustrate the implicitly (and persistently) gendered nature of narrative within our culture, as discussed by Mulvey, De Lauretis and more recently Sue Thornham in What if I had been the Hero? (2012). In this paper, I will argue that these modifications - and the rationales for making them, offered by the film's producers - are significant in understanding the ideological limits imposed on the construction of the post- feminist heroine within the Hollywood film industry . I will also argue that the succession of disguises, both literal and metaphorical, adopted by Evelyn Salt in the course of the film can be read as a form of extra- diegetic discourse or meta-narrative as discussed by Stella Bruzzi in Undressing Cinema (1997). In effect they constitute a commentary on the unstable narrative status of the female lead, and the cultural tensions that accumulate around the figure of the female action hero. The problematic nature of these tensions threatens to destabilise the narrative altogether, opening up fault-lines in its coherence and logic that specifically reflect contradictions between the generic expectations of the spy thriller and the unexpected gender of its protagonist.

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