Abusing Angela Shelton
"It is time to liberate the New woman from the Old by coming to know her - by loving her for getting by, for getting beyond the Old without delay, by going out ahead of what the New Woman will be, as an arrow quits the bow with a movement that gathers and separates the vibrations musically, in order to be more than her self" (Cixous, The Laugh of Medusa, 878). This quotation, to me, exemplifies what Angela Shelton wanted her movie to be about: a story about the emergence of the new, strong, unsilenced front of united women from the old repressed and singular victim. She set out on a journey to discover herself as well as the women who share her name, but the name doesn't matter. What this journey created was a look at the silence women force themselves to undergo, the strength women have in the face of tragic, abusive events, and the underlying bond of femaleness that connects all women. The road in this film creates a physical connection for these women. Throughout the film, Angela travels in her RV, talking to various Angela Sheltons across the country, and as these women give their testimonies, the camera focuses on the road: the highways, the scenery, the RV passing through each place on its poignant journey. The road becomes a vessel for the new woman, and unites all those who have been silenced, or those who live in fear. Unity is an important theme is this film. One Angela Shelton, during her testimony, drives this home: "He couldn't get anything because my friend did not leave me...all of us females should stick together. Unity. That's what we don't have."
When giving testimonies, the camera is completely on the Angela Shelton, showing the importance of every woman's story, that no woman is "lower than a fucking dog" as the anonymous Angela Shelton constantly said. The way in which the camera kept an intimate distance with each Angela illustrated that this movie was supposed to be about every woman's story, a theme that seemed to change in the second half of the film.
The story in this film is split between recognizing women and dealing with sexual abuse and molestation, as well as Angela's personal crusade to find who she is and rid herself of some demons. Because she focused so much on herself, I don't feel that Angela was terribly responsible in her use of the camera. She came into peoples lives, had them open up about their nightmarish pasts, and left them where they stood. For the stronger women, I'm sure this was vindicating, but how did it impact those who had been fearful or silenced? They had now publicly shared their deepest, darkest moments without any promise of help or therapy or what they might need. The way she dealt with some women was a selfish act to me. The movie, which was supposed to be about women (notice the plural) soon became a film about one Angela Shelton. There's nothing wrong with wanting to face her past, but when the film is supposed to be a vessel for the good of womankind, it seems self-indulgent to make her story seem to be a much bigger problem than the stories of all those other women. Using her story to make other women open up was not so much of the problem, but when the women being interviewed were asked about how they felt about Angela's situation, I felt that a huge shift had been made from what the film was supposed to embody, to a showcase of Angela Shelton's personal journey. I would definitely say that Angela abused her camera power here and shifted the focus of the film to herself. Her story was powerful and important, but was in any more important than those of the other Angela Sheltons? What was lost here, is what the New woman is: she is strength, bravery, and most of all unified with her fellow women in not only gender, but experience, pain, and joy. Because of her camera abuse, Angela left out THE crucial concept, unity, and made this piece individualistic and vain.