Digital Places, Feminine Spaces: Scotland Re-gendered in Twenty-first Century Film

By Emily Torricelli

In the cinema, Scotland has often been used as a space of transformation. According to Duncan Petrie:

Viewed from the centre, Scotland is a distant periphery far removed from the modern, urban and cosmopolitan social world inhabited by the kind of people involved in the creation of such images. Consequently, Scotland tends to be represented as a picturesque, wild and often empty landscape, a topography that in turn suggests certain themes, narrative situations and character trajectories. Central to this is idea of remoteness—physical, social, moral—from metropolitan rules, conventions and certainties. Scotland is consequently a space in which a range of fantasies, desires and anxieties can be explored and expressed; alternatively an exotic backdrop for adventure and romance, or a sinister oppressive locale beyond the pale of civilization. (2000, 32)

While sometimes these spaces are coded as feminine, as Petrie notes of films set in the Jacobite past (2000, 67), Scottish national identity has traditionally been constructed as masculine. As David McCrone argues:

(…) those identities diagnosed as archetypically Scottish by friend and foe alike—the Kailyard, Tartanry and Clydesidism—have little place for women. There is no analogous ‘lass o’pairts’; the image of Tartanry is a male-military image (and kilts were not a female form of dress); and the Clydeside icon was a skilled, male worker who was man enough to care for his womenfolk. Even the opponents of these identities took them over as their own images of social life. (2001, 142)

Likewise, representations of Scotland in cinema have generally constructed Scottish identity as masculine. Films from the early-to-mid twentieth century, such as Brigadoon (Vincente Minnelli 1954), Whisky Galore! (Alexander Mackendrick 1949), or Floodtide (Frederick Wilson 1949), made use of the stereotypical tropes of tartanry, Kailyard, and Clydesidism. Productions from the 1980s onward that played with “Scotch myths” and constructions of Scottishness, such as Local Hero (Bill Forsyth 1983) or Orphans (Peter Mullan 1998), often still assumed an underlying masculinity or male dominance. Moreover, those films from the new century in which ethnic and racial identities were considered also fell into line with traditionally gendered genre expectations: male leads for the “masculine” gangster films such as Strictly Sinatra (Peter Capaldi 2001) or American Cousins (Don Coutts 2003) and female ones for the “feminine” romances such as Ae Fond Kiss … (Ken Loach 2004) or Nina’s Heavenly Delights (Pratibha Parmar 2006).

With very few exceptions such as Stella Does Tricks (Coky Giedroyc 1996), The Winter Guest (Alan Rickman 1996), and experimental filmmaker Margaret Tait’s Blue Black Permanent (1992), Scottish films of the 1990s like Trainspotting (Danny Boyle 1995) or Rob Roy (Michael Caton-Jones 1995) may have explored the question of gender, but only in terms of questioning traditional and alternative Scottish masculinities. According to Jane Sillars and Myra Macdonald, the crisis of masculinity that marked the decade served as a metaphor for Scotland as a stateless nation, in that both were “haunted by anxieties about identity and a secure ‘place’ in the world” (2008, 187). In the 2000s, however, there would be a shift away from this emphasis on masculine Scottish identities to questions of how race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality complicate our understanding of a Scottish national identity. A politically devolved Scotland could no longer be considered a completely stateless nation, and so the link that Sillars and Macdonald described between masculinity in crisis and questions of Scottish nationhood arguably began to break down. Furthermore, changes in funding opportunities increasingly led Scottish filmmakers into co-production deals with European, particularly Scandinavian, partners, which often resulted in films that were less overtly concerned with themes of nation and national identity (Murray 2012, 405), such as Morvern Callar (Lynne Ramsay, 2002), The Last Great Wilderness (David Mackenzie, 2002) and Aberdeen (Han Peter Moland, 2000).

As much as films were indicative of a change in the way Scottish identity was understood, elements of traditional ‘Scotch myths’ representations were still present, especially in mainstream commercial cinema. The most prominent example of this from the early part of the twenty-first century is the Disney/Pixar film Brave (Brenda Chapman and Mark Andrews 2012), a computer animated fairy tale set in an ancient Highland kingdom. However, a closer examination of Brave will suggest that stereotypical representations of Scotland were no longer being taken at face value, and even Hollywood was beginning to provide space for a wide range of alternative Scottish identities.

In this article I will consider how Brave and Andrea Arnold’s debut feature Red Road (2006), foreground and explore Scottish female identities and experiences. Both films have female protagonists, are directed or co-directed by women, and were shot using digital technology. But in other ways they also have some significant differences. Red Road is an independent film that can be classified as “art cinema” whereas Brave is a Hollywood film. While Red Road was shot entirely on location in Glasgow, Brave’s Scotland is entirely a CGI-generated fantasy space. Bringing together two films of extremely different styles, genres and production contexts can show that the re-evaluation of Scottish identities and spaces is occurring across cinemas and cultures. Furthermore, despite their differences, what these two films have in common is that they reimagine Scottish identity as female, whether by troubling commonly held assumptions about national identity or by constructing Scotland—both its urban centres and its rural peripheries—as female spaces. For Sillars and Macdonald, such re-imaginings can draw “attention to the porousness of both place and identity in the new globalised economy” (2008, 194). In this way, the films considered here facilitate a more open and fluid approach to the construction of (Scottish) identity that is inclusive of female experiences.


Red Road, the Gaze and Urban Spaces

            Red Road is the first feature for director Andrea Arnold, whose previous film Wasp had won the Academy Award for Best Live-Action Short in 2004. The film can be understood in the context of European cinema or transnational filmmaking given that it was a Scottish-Danish co-production. It was the first production made under the Advance Party scheme, a three-film co-production agreement between the Glasgow-based Sigma Films and the Danish Zentropa Entertainments[i]. Along with having to be shot on digital video in six weeks on a fixed budget, Advance Party films would all be made in Scotland by first-time feature directors and had to feature the same set of characters created by the Danish filmmakers Lone Scherfig and Anders Thomas Jensen.

Given the film’s Scandinavian ties, some film scholars have argued that Red Road downplays any sense of national identity. According to Jonathan Murray, Red Road privileges the interior and the personal over the national and political. He argues that:

[…] the location that most interests Red Road is not the ‘real place’, but rather, an alternative location intensely private and psychological in nature. It is certainly true that local socio-cultural specificity—most notably, the endemic deprivation that blights many of Glasgow’s dilapidated public housing schemes—plays an important role within Arnold’s movie. But that milieu is not depicted as a self-sufficient end in itself. Instead, it functions as a means to make visible—and thus, understandable—the complex and unspoken individual trauma that lies at Red Road’s (broken) heart. (Murray 2015, 98-99)

It follows that Glasgow and its Red Road estate could be any tower block in any city in the world.

For David Martin-Jones, Red Road’s deliberate avoidance of engagement with the national is what made it successful in an international art cinema market: “In this new, global arena of world cinema (…) it is not self-othering that is needed so much as a greater eradication of the self/nation, a process which creates films that literally anyone can engage with” (2009, 229). Universal appeal has become of greater importance than national concerns. Given this, as well as the Danish involvement in the project, academics have understood Red Road as fitting more into the traditions of European cinema than of Scottish or British. Murray explains its Europeanness:

it [Red Road] attempts to find a visual language capable of representing the most extreme aspects of grief, not to mention the (self-)destructive actions the experience of such pain propels individuals towards. Both in its decision to subjugate narrative coherence and variety of incident to a psychological exploration of female interiority and sexuality and in its determination to inhabit rather than explain an especially intolerable individual experience of loss, Red Road accords generally with the aims of the European art cinema tradition as conventionally defined. (2007, 86)

Because it seems to fit so well into the aesthetic and thematic preoccupations of European art cinema, Red Road can be perceived as a more international than a nationally specific film.

However, in its production context and press reception, Red Road still bears a strong Scottish identity. In addition to the involvement of Sigma Films, it uses Scottish actors and was filmed entirely on location in Glasgow and features some of the city’s most iconic buildings[ii].

In print reviews, the film’s Glasgow setting and locations are the ways in which Red Road is most consistently identified as Scottish[iii]. For a film that could be set anywhere, critics seem keen to remind their readers of the actual place Red Road portrays. The perceived authenticity of its setting firmly associates it with Scotland. Film critics also connect Red Road to trends and traditions in Scottish filmmaking, chiefly miserablism[iv], which portrays Scotland as an inescapably bleak place[v], and Clydesidism[vi]. There is a tendency to liken the film to other Scottish filmmakers like Bill Douglas[vii] and Bill Forsyth[viii]. These examples all serve to illustrate how Red Road can be understood in a Scottish context, one that, as we will see, allows us to explore the lives of Scottish women.

Red Road focuses on the character of Jackie (Kate Dickie), a CCTV operator who seems disconnected from the world around her. Nothing—not even a family wedding or an affair with a co-worker—gives her pleasure and her only positive engagement with the world seems to be watching her fellow Glaswegians, who regularly appear on her monitors going about their daily business. One evening, while watching a couple fornicating behind a garage, Jackie is shocked to recognise the man’s face. We learn few details: his name is Clyde and he has recently served time in prison for an unnamed offence. Jackie begins stalking Clyde (Tony Curran), first on CCTV, and then by following him in person. She sneaks into a party at his flat in the notorious Red Road tower blocks, and later turns up at the pub when he is there, going back to his place for sex, after which Jackie accuses Clyde of rape. We then learn that Jackie has framed him because, while he was on drugs, Clyde had killed Jackie’s husband and daughter in a car accident. But Jackie subsequently withdraws her accusation; she meets with Clyde and they talk about their guilt. Jackie is finally able to let go—she agrees with her in-laws to have her family’s ashes spread—and engage with life again.

With its grimy depiction of Glasgow housing estates and their undertones of seedy criminality, Red Road seems to echo other films such as Ratcatcher (Lynne Ramsay 1999) and Sweet Sixteen (Ken Loach 2002) or the long-running television crime series Taggart (STV 1983-2010) that represent Glasgow as a tough, impoverished urban space. One of the key ways in which Red Road diverges from such films, however, is in having a female protagonist, particularly one who actively holds the power of the gaze. Jackie’s life revolves around the act of looking. In the very first scene, Arnold cuts from a bank of monitors to an extreme close-up of Jackie, and then back to a montage of close-ups of the individual monitors. This is a frequently recurring visual pattern throughout the film. Even away from work, Jackie continues to watch the world around her. At her sister-in-law’s wedding, there is a similar shot pattern when the couple comes out of the church. The bride and groom are presented in a shaky, hand-held style whereas the shots of Jackie are more static. This makes it seem as if she is watching a wedding video, detached rather than being actively part of the event. Jackie cannot connect to people in the real world, though she gets pleasure from observing them on her monitors. Jackie smiles when watching the man and his sick dog on CCTV, yet when she runs into him on the street she clearly wants to say something to him, but cannot bring herself to do so. In addition, Jackie seems equally detached from the affair she and a co-worker are having. During their tryst, she stares blankly out the car window; when he asks her if she climaxed, she unconvincingly tells him she did. By contrast, when Jackie watches Clyde and the girl’s outdoor coupling (before she recognises him), she becomes aroused, breathing heavier and suggestively caressing her joystick. Jackie takes vicarious pleasure in those she watches.

The cinematic gaze, too, is a vicarious pleasure, but one reserved for men. Women in the cinema are rendered as objects on display for both the men in the films who look at them, and by the patriarchal cinematic apparatus that watches them watching. According to Laura Mulvey, “Traditionally, the woman displayed has functioned on two levels: as erotic object for the characters within the screen story, and as erotic object for the spectator within the auditorium, with a shifting tension between the looks on either side of the screen” (1975, 11-12). While there has been much debate in the decades that have followed the publication of Mulvey’s seminal work of feminist film theory as to just how totalising the gaze is[ix], Red Road subverts the gaze by making it female. Arnold constructs Glasgow as a space in which women do the looking—and possess scopic power.

According to Jessica Lake, Red Road provides an example of sub-veillance: as opposed to sousveillance, in which the surveilled look back at the surveillers, sub-veillance is when the watching is done by the subaltern (2010, 235). For Lake, “Red Road presents ‘sub-veillance’ as a way of inhabiting spaces, rather than merely a practice of looking. It re-presents the practice of sub-veillance as a process of traversing multiple screens and creating new geographies and lines of motion” (2010, 238). It is not just about watching, then, it is about inhabiting and interacting with the observed space.

Thus Jackie goes from being a passive viewer to an active participant. When she first sees Clyde on her monitor, he also figuratively arouses her into taking action against him. But her initial attempts to stalk him with CCTV cameras prove ineffective; she cannot get her revenge from where she watches above, and so she must come down and enter his world. Overall, leaving her perch has a positive effect on Jackie in that she ultimately derives pleasure or benefit from the experience. For one thing, whereas she took no joy in her co-worker, her sexual encounter with Clyde brings her to enthusiastic climax, despite the fact that this was initiated as an act of revenge. For another thing, confronting and then forgiving Clyde brings Jackie closure and allows her to move on from the deaths of her husband and child. Jackie is finally ready to be a part of the world again, and when she meets the man with the (now new) dog on the street once more, she is able to talk to him.

More importantly, however, becoming an active participant causes Jackie to rethink her act of looking. For one thing, it causes her to change her mind about some things she assumed before. When she sees Clyde talking to a teenage girl outside a school, Jackie assumes the worst, but later she learns that this is Clyde’s daughter. When Jackie observes the girl, over CCTV, going to the Red Road flats to talk to her father, she decides to drop the charges against him. Here Jackie sees Clyde as another parent and realises, as someone who did not get to experience her own daughter growing up, how cruel it would be to send him back to prison. For another, it causes her to look at herself. After Clyde’s roommate relates the comments Clyde made about her attractiveness, Jackie looks at her own body. At first, we see her reflection as she looks at her naked body in the bathroom mirror—she is still shown in the act of looking—but then she is framed in the doorway as she twists around to look at her backside. She is simultaneously looking and being looked at—both by herself and by the viewer. She looks at herself literally and metaphorically, why she is doing what she is, but also as a spectator or object.

In the end, as Jackie talks to the man with the dog, the camera zooms out to show the whole street from above, as if on surveillance camera. Jackie here becomes part of the scene on view for a nameless spectator—another possible CCTV operator, but also the film’s viewer. In moving from a passive to an active viewer, Jackie becomes both the watcher and the watched. In doing so, she inhabits this particular space, Glasgow. Jackie’s act of sub-veillance, then, transforms Glasgow into a site of female spectatorship and pleasure.


Brave: Reclaiming the Periphery

Far from Red Road’s gritty urban milieu, Brave, with its princess and fairy tales, seems to fit more in the realm of Disney. It is computer animator Pixar’s thirteenth feature film[x] and has a different feel to Pixar’s previous features, most of which feature talking creatures or inanimate objects. It was their first feature with a historical setting, and, more importantly, the first with a female protagonist. It was also Brenda Chapman’s first time directing a feature film for Pixar[xi]. Chapman developed the film, which had been inspired by some of the problems she had encountered raising her own daughter (Diu 2012, 26-29, 31). Midway through production, however, Chapman was fired over creative differences (Braund 2012, 80-84) and replaced by Mark Andrews who had been on Brave’s creative team and had previously directed shorts for Pixar.

The film is set in a Highland kingdom in the distant past[xii]. Tomboyish Princess Merida (voiced by Kelly MacDonald) would rather spend her time outdoors riding her horse or shooting the bow and arrows her father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), gave her than suffering the lady-like lessons given by her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). Merida learns that she must marry a son of one of the three Clan Lords (Robbie Coltrane, Craig Ferguson, and Kevin McKidd) to be determined by a contest of strength. Merida balks—she does not want to give up her freedom for dull courtly duties—but Elinor insists that this is a tradition that must be carried out for the good of the kingdom, so Merida chooses archery for the competition and enters herself. As the lords’ sons are unappealing and ineffectual, Merida wins, angering the lords, who brawl with Fergus. After a row with Elinor in which she slashes the family tapestry and her mother throws her bow on the fire, Merida rides out into the woods, where blue will-o-the-wisps lead her to a witch’s cottage. Merida gets the witch (Julie Walters) to sell her a spell that will change her mother’s mind. But the spell has an entirely different effect; Elinor is transformed into a bear, the animal Fergus despises after having lost his leg in a fight with the monstrous Mordu. After escaping the castle with the help of her rambunctious triplet brothers, Merida and bear-Elinor go looking for the witch, but only find the cryptic message she left that they must repair what had been broken. While in the wilderness, Elinor and Merida bond as Merida teaches her how to fish, but it is clear the longer Elinor remains a bear, the less likely she is to return to human form. They discover that Mordu was under the same spell as Elinor, and hurry back to the castle, where Merida makes a speech that convinces the lords to let their children choose who they marry. Before they can repair the tapestry, Elinor is discovered and pursued out into the woods. Merida, sewing the tapestry as she rides, rushes to save her mother from Fergus; Mordu attacks Merida, Fergus, and the lords, but Elinor defeats him. Merida uses the tapestry to save her mother, and order is finally restored to both the kingdom and the family.

Brave clearly draws on familiar representational tropes in its construction of Scotland. The two female identities offered in the film—dour Elinor and feisty Merida draw on familiar stereotypes of Scottish women found in Tartanry and Kailyard representations[xiii]. Furthermore, the vague historical setting, the castles and landscapes rendered in fine detail, kilted warriors, Celtic carvings and designs, and even Merida’s fiery hair (and matching personality) are all reminiscent of Tartanry. So too the folk tale-like structure of the narrative; it suggests Scotland is a magical place, one that is back in the mists of time. As Cairns Craig has suggested of many examples in Scottish culture, it constructs Scotland out of the forward movement of History:

By the very power of the model of history which they purveyed to the rest of Europe, the Enlightenment philosophers and Scott reduced Scottish history to a series of isolated narratives which could not be integrated into the fundamental dynamic of history: in Scotland, therefore, narrative became part of the world that was framed by art, while the order of progress could only be narrated from somewhere else—it would be ungraspable in a Scottish environment (1996, 39).

The production team’s perception of Scotland reinforces this: according to Mark Andrews, “Scotland is one of my favourite places in the world. The rich history, the weathered stones and trees, the landscapes carved by time—for me, it’s a place unlike any other, one that exudes story and legend and myth and magic” (Chapman and Andrews 2012, 9).

In this respect, the film has much in common with other films such as Highlander and Rob Roy that construct Scotland as a fantasy or historical space, but arguably the film to which Brave can be most directly compared is Brigadoon (1954). As the story goes, the real Scottish locations scouted for the Brigadoon were not “Scottish” enough for Arthur Freed, the producer, so Scotland was recreated on a Hollywood soundstage. For Colin McArthur, this re-creation revealed the constructed nature of Scotch myths (2003:115). Brigadoon can be understood as “the working through of the personal obsession of its director (…) with the question of illusion and reality—this representation is revealed as the dream par excellence” (McArthur 1982, 47). The studio set and dream-like nature of the mise-en-scène shows that the Scotland here represented is deeply rooted in the Scottish Discursive Unconscious, a pervasive ideology which constructs Scotland and the Scots as a people and place as “others” onto which desires, fears, etc. can be projected (McArthur 2003, 12).

Brave goes beyond Brigadoon through its use of computer animation: not only is the Scotland we see in this film not an actual Scottish location, but it has also never existed in any physical space. Pixar took great pains to make aspects of the CGI imagery seem real. New software was created to animate hair and cloth realistically (McIver 2012, 47), and the film was released in 3-D, giving it greater illusion of depth. Chapman, Andrews, and the rest of the creative team also took extensive research trips to Scotland, where detailed sketches were made of landscape, flora, and fauna[xiv]. In addition, the voice cast, most of whom were Scottish actors and comedians, were encouraged to use their native accents and to introduce appropriate idioms into the dialogue (Pendreigh 2012, 7). On the one hand, we could read this pursuit of authenticity cynically, as a way to efface or distract from the constructed nature of the film’s “Scotland”. On the other hand, the publicising of these technical achievements and the lengths that were gone to in order to achieve authenticity suggests that the production is openly acknowledging that their representation of Scotland is merely a construct.

The conflict between Merida and Elinor, as a mother-daughter conflict, is ‘universal’, designed to appeal to global audiences, but we can see it as having other metaphorical meanings. For example, there is also a conflict of generations at play here. Elinor is the older generation and insists on maintaining tradition. As the younger generation, Merida bucks tradition; her attitude toward gender roles seems more contemporary.

It is also tempting to read politics into this conflict, especially as 2012 also saw the announcement of the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum. Voiced by an English actress[xv], Elinor, with her belief that breaking tradition could be dangerous, could be seen to express a Unionist point of view. By contrast, Merida’s desire for freedom, as well as her insistence that young people should be able to choose their destinies, seems to support both the need for a referendum and independence itself. Of course, it is highly unlikely that Chapman and Andrews intended any political readings of Brave. They are a coincidence of the film’s release date, a coincidence that the Scottish Nationalist Party nevertheless willingly embraced: former First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond even reviewed the film for The Sun and declared Merida ‘a Scottish heroine who does her country proud’ (2012, 30).

Brave constructs Scotland as a place in which these differing opinions can coexist. The point of the story is about resolving the conflict between mother and daughter. Even as a bear, Elinor is still prim and proper, with no idea how to live in the wilderness. Merida has to teach her which berries are safe to eat and how to fish. In doing so, Elinor lightens up; eventually she stops walking upright and leaves her crown behind, and even changes her mind about letting princesses have weapons when Merida uses her arrows to catch fish. Furthermore, she comes to better understand her daughter. When Merida delivers a speech to the quarrelling clan lords, Elinor, hiding at the back of the great hall, mimes to her daughter to tell them that they must break tradition. In doing so, Elinor shows that she has come to accept her daughter’s belief that it is not fair to force her into marriage.

Merida, too, comes to learn from her mother. She has to be diplomatic to prevent fighting between all the lords. In addition, to break the spell, the family tapestry must be sewn—one of the domestic chores Merida despises—back together. In sewing together the torn halves of the tapestry, Merida brings the different sides together. Brave suggests that Scotland is a place composed of both the old and the new. In the end, Merida and Elinor work on a new tapestry together, one that depicts their adventures. With the kingdom changed, they are creating new legends for a new era. For Craig, this form of myth could have a positive use in that it functions to differentiate people (1996, 220). These new myths are:

in the sense of new totalizations, new constructions of our history. (…) The struggle has been to reconstruct a mythic identity that is particular to Scotland and so to redeem us from the banality of a universal economism that would make us indistinguishable from everyone who lives in a modern industrial state (….) the other restores our identity by re-establishing the real bases of our difference (…) the other puts our history back into the universe by claiming for it a particular value and significance (….) we have tried to give ourselves back our own history. (Craig 1996, 220)

In this way, Merida and Elinor are not only creating legends, they are also defining what the kingdom is.

Brave also repurposes Scotch myths to fit a changing perception of Scottishness. According to Duncan Petrie, Scotland’s location in cinema as a marginal space made it “a space in which a range of fantasies, desires and anxieties can be explored and expressed” (2000, 32). In films such as I Know Where I’m Going! (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger 1945) and Local Hero, outsiders from the metropole travel to Scotland and are transformed by the experience. However, in these films Scots are generally excluded from the transformative powers the nation holds for outsiders. In Brave, however, the characters undergoing transformation, Merida and Elinor, are not outsiders. In this case, both the protagonist and the transformation come from within. The constructed “Scotland” has the same effect on Scottish women as it does for outsiders, male or female. By feminising masculine “Scotch myths”, Brave reclaims this transformative space for Scots.

This reclamation has an effect on the representation of Scottish women. If we compare Merida with Mary MacGregor in the 1995 version of Rob Roy (Michael Caton-Jones), both women with personalities as fiery as their curly locks, we can see how female Scottish identity has changed. Mary may be a strong female character with an almost contemporary attitude toward marriage, but she is ultimately defined by the parameters of her marital relationship. Merida, on the other hand, will not be defined by anyone but herself. She refuses to conform to tradition, but instead works to change it. Brave, therefore, transforms the role of women in “Scotch myths” at the same time it reclaims them.

In conclusion, both Red Road and Brave reimagine Scotland as a female space by subverting patriarchal “Scotch myths”, the former by co-opting the male dominated cinematic gaze, and the latter by making “traditional” forms of Scottish representation more inclusive. Red Road is part of a trend in indigenous Scottish film production that has developed since the 1980s which proposes plural, hybrid, and fluid Scottish identities. That Brave, a Hollywood film, has applied these new identities to the way it represents a mythic Scotland shows how the greater availability of Scottish film has made these new representations more widely recognisable. The way these two films feminise traditionally masculine representations of Scotland speaks to the continued importance of cultural myth in shaping national identity. For Craig, the function of cultural myth is to assert our difference among increasingly homogenising global identities and to reclaim our own particular history (1996:220). Red Road and Brave write Scottish women back into Scottish history and national identity.



[i] Only two Advance Party films have been released, Red Road and Donkeys (2010).

[ii] The Red Road estate has since been demolished.

[iii] See “TARTAN SPECIALS; RED ROAD***** 18 DIRECTOR ARNOLD’S FILM DEBUT JOINS A LONG LINE OF SCOTTISH SUCCESS STORIES AT THE BOX OFFICE.” Daily Record, October 21, 2006, 54; Cameron-Wilson, James. “Red Road; Big Sister is watching…” Film Review 676 (2006): 103; “CARL FOREMAN AWARD NOMINEES – BEST NEWCOMER.” Variety, 5-11 February 5-11, 2007, B7.

[iv] See Rowat, Alison. (2006) “A tall order rises above the grimfest; Cinema This week’s new releases by Alison Rowat.” The Herald, October 26, 2006, 2; Christopher, James. “Debut director’s icy thriller could take top prize at Cannes.” The Times, May 22, 2006, 11.

[v] For more on miserablism, see Manderson, D. and Yule, E. The Glass Half Full: Moving Beyond Scottish Miserablism. Edinburgh: Luath Press, 2014.

[vi] See Fuller, Graham. “Screenings: ‘Red Road.’” Film Comment 4, no. 2 (2007): 71.

[vii] See French, Philip. “Review: The Critics: FILM OF THE WEEK: Down and out it gritty Glasgow: A CCTV operator stalks her prey through streets that have never looked so mean in a complex Scottish thriller which won the Cannes jury prize.” Observer, October 29, 2006, 14.

[viii] See Gilbey, Ryan. “Film: Fear and loathing in Glasgow.” New Statesman, October 30, 2006.

[ix] For example, B. Ruby Rich criticises Mulvey’s conception of the gaze for ignoring the actual experiences of women as cinema spectators (Rich 1990, 278). Mary Ann Doane addresses female spectatorship by conceptualising it as a masquerade which gives female film goers the distance necessary to identify with both male and female gazes present onscreen (Doane 1990, 48-49).

[x] According to Pixar’s own history, they were founded in 1979 as the digital division of Lucasfilm. In 1983 former Pixar Chief Creative Officer John Lassiter was brought on board to start making animated shorts. Three years later, this division was bought by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and renamed Pixar. That same year, “Luxo Jr.”, the first 3-D computer animated short to win an Academy Award, was released. In 1991, Pixar signed its first production agreement with The Walt Disney Company, and in 1995 the first feature length computer animated feature film, Toy Story, was released. Disney subsequently bought Pixar in 2006 (

[xi]  Chapman had previously been one of the directors on Dreamworks’s The Prince of Egypt (Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner and Simon Wells, 1998) (

[xii] The production design has elements suggesting that the film could be set anywhere from the Pictish to the early medieval period. References are also made to Romans and Vikings.

[xiii] Mrs Campbell (Jean Cadell), George Campbell’s (Gordon Jackson) overbearing, strict teetotal mother who disapproves of whisky-stealing in Whisky Galore!, is a classic example of Kailyard’s dour Scottish women. Flame-haired, opinionated, temperamental and a bit lusty, Mary MacGregor (Jessica Lange) in the 1995 version of Rob Roy is a more recent example of the feisty Highland lass.

[xiv] For examples of these sketches see Lerew, J. The Art of Brave. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2012.

[xv] Emma Thompson has had other Scottish roles in film and television work like Tutti Frutti (1987), for example, and her mother, actress Phyllida Law, is Scottish. However, she has also starred as English characters in several high-profile heritage films such as The Remains of the Day (1993) and Howards End (1992). Thompson plays Elinor Dashwood in her own adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (1995); the spelling of the name is the same as used in Brave.


Notes on Contributor

Emily Torricelli is a researcher in trans/national identities and Scottish film. She received a Ph.D. from The University of York in Theatre, Film and Television in 2017 and also holds an M.A. in Film Studies from The University of Iowa and an M.F.A. in Screenwriting from Boston University.



Braund, Simon. “The Princess Diaries.” Empire 277 (2012): 80-84.

Cameron-Wilson, James. “Red Road; Big Sister is watching…” Film Review 676 (2006): 103.

“CARL FOREMAN AWARD NOMINEES – BEST NEWCOMER.” Variety, 5-11 February 5-11, 2007.

Chapman, Brenda, and Mark Andrews. “Foreword.” pp. 8-9 In The Art of Brave by Jenny Lerew, 8-9. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2012.

Christopher, James. “Debut director’s icy thriller could take top prize at Cannes.” The Times, May 22, 2006.

Craig, Cairns. Out of History: Narrative Paradigms in Scottish and British Culture. Edinburgh: Polygon, 1996.

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Aberdeen, 2002. Han Peter Moland.

Ae Fond Kiss …, 2004. Ken Loach.

American Cousins, 2003. Don Coutts.

Blue Black Permanent, 1992. Margaret Tait.

Brave, 2012. Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews, and Steve Purcell.

Brigadoon, 1954. Vincente Minnelli.

Floodtide, 1949. Frederick Wilson.

Howards End, 1992. James Ivory.

I Know Where I’m Going!, 1945. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

Last Great Wilderness, The, 2002. David Mackenzie.

Local Hero, 1983. Bill Forsyth.

“Luxo Jr.”, 1986. John Lasseter.

Morvern Callar, 2002. Lynne Ramsay.

Nina’s Heavenly Delights, 2006. Pratibha Parmar.

Orphans, 1998. Peter Mullan.

Prince of Egypt, The, 1998. Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner and Simon Wells.

Ratcatcher, 1999. Lynne Ramsay.

Red Road, 2006. Andrea Arnold.

Remains of the Day, The, 1993. James Ivory.

Rob Roy, 1995. Michael Caton-Jones.

Sense and Sensibility, 1995. Ang Lee.

Stella Does Tricks, 1996. Coky Giedroyc.

Strictly Sinatra, 2001. Peter Capaldi.

Sweet Sixteen, 2002. Ken Loach.

Taggart, 1983-2010. STV.

Toy Story, 1995. John Lasseter.

Trainspotting. 1995. Danny Boyle.

Tutti Frutti, 1987. Tony Smith. BBC Scotland.

Whisky Galore!, 1949. Alexander Mackendrick.

Winter Guest, The, 1996. Alan Rickman.