Nora E. Derrington holds degrees from Boston University and the University of New Mexico. She currently teaches English, and does a lot of thinking and talking about popular culture, at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. Her stories and essays have appeared in North Dakota Quarterly, The Future Fire, the anthology Poems for the Queer Revolution, and elsewhere, and she reviews fantasy, horror, romance, and science fiction titles for Publishers Weekly.
“You don’t think of them as human”: Strippers in (Somewhat) Recent Film
As has been noted elsewhere on Whores of Yore (e.g. http://www.thewhoresofyore.com/history-of-burlesque.html), stripping—in various forms—has been around for centuries. Understandably, then, strippers and strip clubs have been featured in film in a variety of ways, from featured roles to bit parts, almost since the medium was formed. Unfortunately, while there are certainly exceptions, depictions of strippers and strip clubs in film often serve primarily negative purposes: they might establish the seediness of a town, perhaps, or the depths to which a character has sunk or from which they’ll need to rise. Strippers are treated as disposable in films like 1998’s Very Bad Things, in which a stripper is accidentally killed at a bachelor party, and—based on the film’s trailers—in the forthcoming Rough Night, in which a stripper is accidentally killed at a bachelorette party. Like all too many depictions of sex workers in popular culture, those depictions serve more often than not to reinforce the status quo that sex workers are pitiable at best, and often simply less than human.