Found Footage: Feminism Lost in Time

Dana HellerOld Dominion University
Vol. 21, No. 1 (Spring 2002), 85-98

This essay reads the publicity surrounding The Blair Witch Project—the mock documentary or “found footage” of three student filmmakers trying to produce a film about the legendary witchcraft in the town Burkittsville—next to the HBO film If These Walls Could Talk 2 (1999), a narrative triptych about four generations of lesbians. Through analyzing the trope of discovery of documented images and voices of the feminist past, the essay shows how history is mobilized to play decisive roles in the intense current cultural struggle over how we remember feminist histories and over whether, indeed, we remember feminist history at all. Heller’s important discussion further discloses filmic metaphoric evidence of vanished possibilities, heroic gains heretofore unrecognized, and invitations to reconsider the consequences of feminism’s struggles to continue itself, to reproduce itself through time. The essay argues that at a time when feminism as a political movement is pronounced as nowhere and barren—save for exclusive and rarefied locations—feminism as a national myth shows up everywhere, its presence coded as memories that circulate throughout the current contests for national meaning that popular culture mediates.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]