Let's Hear It For the Girls! - Toronto Film & Media Seminar

When and Where

Friday, November 15, 2019 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm
3rd Floor Learning Studios
TIFF Bell Lightbox
350 King Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 3X5


Desirée de Jesus, Concordia University
Jessica Bay, York & Ryerson
Tina Benigno, York University
Conveners: Natalie Coulter (York University) and Émilie von Garan (University of Toronto)


"'There's No Place Like Home:' Self-making, Homemaking, and Citizenship in Post-recessionary American Independent Girlhood Cinema.”
Desirée de Jesus, Concordia University

De Jesus’s paper will concentrate on the reimagining of the domestication trope of feminine development and the celebration of resilient girlish plasticity in three American independent films about economic and housing precarity: Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire (Lee Daniels, 2009), Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik, 2010), and Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin, 2012). The films’ neoliberal postfeminist sensibilities emerge more clearly, not through false promises of upward mobility or requirements to participate in consumer culture but by depicting structural disadvantages as the effects of poor decision-making and by celebrating the protagonists’ cultivation of resilience and their optimistic self-alignment with their dysfunctional homes’ symbolic value. 

Desirée de Jesus is a researcher, writer, and video essayist who is completing her Ph.D. in Film and Moving Image Studies at Concordia University. She has published in such places as Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media, Another Gaze, The Montreal Gazette, The Journal of Popular Culture, Synoptique: An Online Journal of Film and Moving Image Studies, The Journal of Religion and Film, and has won numerous awards. De Jesus is currently producing a series of video essays featuring work by filmmakers of color and analyzing films centered on girls and women.

The Power of the Fangirl: Marketing Practices and The Hunger Games
Jessica Bay, York & Ryerson

Jessica Bay is a PhD Candidate in Communication & Culture at York & Ryerson Universities. She has completed MAs on blockbuster film sequels and connecting fanfiction to the genre of urban fantasy. She has recently published in Flow. Her current research examines the marketing strategies of Hollywood franchises in relation to teen fangirls and their practices.

This talk will discuss the fangirl-focused marketing for The Hunger Games, various responses to this marketing the fangirls, and the ways in which those interactions directed the life of the franchise.

“Next level courageous, next level brave": Girl Audiences and the Cruel Optimism of Empowerment
Tina Benigno, York University

Using focus group with high school girls, this paper explores how the girls viewed clips from a popular speculative fiction texts. The ways the girls react to relationships on screen parallels their responses around activism, revealing the prominence of what Rottenberg (2018) refers to as a neoliberal feminist self: that is, a self that valorizes self-confidence and becoming better.

Tina Benigno is a PhD Candidate in Humanities at York University, where she researches young people’s media and cultures, focusing on girlhood and cinema/TV. She holds a MA in Film Studies from York University and a BA in Cinema Studies, English, and Italian Studies from the University of Toronto. 

Convened by Natalie H. Coulter (York University) & Émilie von Garan (University of Toronto)

Steering Committee for 2019-2020
Co-chairs: James Leo Cahill (UofT) and Claudia Sicondolfo (York) • Faculty members: Michael Baker (Sheridan); Liz Clarke (Brock); Natalie Coulter (York); Brian Jacobson (UofT); Carolyn Kane (Ryerson); Selmin Kara (OCAD); Mark Lipton (Guelph); Susan Lord (Queen’s); Katherine Spring (WLU); Janine Marchessault (York) • Grad student members: Lani Akande (York); Anjo-marí Guows (UofT); Tricia Herman (OCAD); Heather Lambert (WLU); Katie Russell (UofT); Cyrus Sundar Singh (Ryerson); Émilie von Garan (UofT) • Member at Large: Jesse Cumming (Independent Scholar/Curator); TIFF: Theresa Scandiffio, Jessica Lam, Keith Bennie.

The goals of the Toronto Film & Media Seminar are:
• Encouraging intellectual and collegial discussion among the Cinema and Media Studies scholars in the region.
• Encouraging in-depth scholarly discussion and critical debate.
• Showcasing diverse research methodologies and research fields that address a wide range of cinematic technologies (film, television, video, new media, and other forms of moving image and sound screens).
• Aiming to model collegial and professional academic discourse for graduate students entering the field.


350 King Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 3X5