Nicole Kidman. PamCook. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

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  • lars of that experience. Beth OConnor argues thatYo Mama Magazine, a zine addressed to teen

    mothers, provides these mothers a space to share andcritique dominant representations of motherhood.

    Although all the essays in this collection wrestlewith the presence of the mother within popular cul-

    ture, the third section, Pregnant and PostpartumBodies, centers on the taboos and fantasies of the

    pregnant body and the new mother. These essays arguethat motherhood is both a pre and postpartum experi-ence and that the pregnant body is one that is discur-

    sively constructed as full of risk. The topics range froman analysis of the public discourse surrounding breast

    feeding to the spectacle of starving and sufferingAfrican mothers in first-world media.

    The fourth and final section, Medical Interven-tions and Reproductive Technologies, includes five

    essays. As Podnieks explains in her introduction, themost contentious maternal issues today deal with fer-

    tility and reproduction (23). Sally Mennill begins thesection by exploring the rhetoric of passivity in mater-nity literature. Other chapters address the confluence

    of celebrity culture and ideologies regarding post-partum depression and representations of motherhood

    in the television series Greys Anatomy. Although theessays collected here primarily focus on representa-

    tions of motherhood in the Unites States, Canada, andthe United Kingdom,Mediating Moms fails in a signif-

    icant way to consider the relationship between popularmotherhood discourse and women of color. Only twoessays explicitly address motherhood and mothering

    for women of color, H. Louise Daviss Watch ThemSuffer, Watch Them Die and Hosu Kims S/Kin of

    Virtual Mothers: Loss and Mourning on a KoreanBirthmothers Website.

    The rest of the collection primarily focuses on pop-ular representations of motherhood that convey domi-

    nant hegemonic ideologies. Given the long history ofblack mothers in film and television, this is an unfortu-

    nate oversight in an otherwise excellent addition tomotherhood studies.

    -Kristi Branham

    Western Kentucky University

    Nicole KidmanPam Cook. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

    Pam Cooks Nicole Kidman is the second book inthe British Film Institutes series on star profiles. In

    this short volume, Cook emphasizes Nicole Kidman asa brand. The author comments that stars no longer per-

    form simply in film or on the stage, but also in othermedia such as online publications, magazine spreads,

    and music videos. Although popular belief holds thatsuch commercial images belong to the realm of com-

    mercial exploitation and film performances are a prod-uct of art, Cook questions this privileging of one media

    form over the other. As such, she convincingly arguesthat analysis, particularly the analysis of a stars brand,should extend beyond the boundaries of the film text.

    Cooks analysis is divided into three chapters.Chapter One, Stardom, traces Kidmans career from

    its beginnings in Australia to international celebritystardom. Cook notes that, whereas Kidmans life

    narrative is used to construct her stardom, it alsofragments her image. Here, Cook traces the decon-

    struction, and Kidmans attempt at the reconstructionof her persona. For example, Kidmans move to Holly-

    wood transformed her image from Australian tomboyinto glamor icon, a mask that has become character-ized by pastiche, especially in magazine spreads where

    she is clothed and positioned as stars from the past.In this chapter, Cook also draws from Richard

    Dyers Heavenly Bodies (2004), where he argues thatfascination with the real person behind the image is

    what attracts us to stars. Consumers search for atruth of a star, even though a star can only present

    an image. The inability to access the real personmotivates fans to collect memorabilia, and critics topore over media artifacts to decipher meaning. Fans

    fabricate a character or persona for the star from bitsand pieces. Cook points out that the scattering of

    information about stars across so many different siteshas made coherence and authenticity less achievable.

    So, although Kidmans image is present in a variety ofmedia texts, her image both on and off screen is contra-

    dictory and unknowable. The division between anactors onscreen roles and her wider public persona is

    not a solid one, as both rely on performance and theadoption of a character.

    In Chapter Two, Performance, Cook uses recent

    scholarship on screen performance to consider Kid-mans approach to acting, as well as the ways in which

    such performances have been received. In this chapter,Cook explores Kidmans style as an actress through

    case studies of key films including Dead Calm (1989),To Die For (1995), Eyes Wide Shut (1999), The Hours

    (2002), and Australia (2008). Cook outlines the distinc-tion between Stanislavskian naturalism, where the

    Book reviews 147

  • actor aspires to authenticity by drawing on her innerself, and Brechtian didactic modernism, where the

    actor emphasizes the artificiality of performance tofoster critical awareness. Cook argues that in these

    films Kidman emphasizes pretense and technique,which reflects an emphasis on the artifice of perfor-

    mance. Her self-reflexive acting style makes visible theconstruction of film itself.

    Chapter Three, Persona, explores the construc-tion of Kidmans persona outside of cinema in televi-sion talk shows, magazine fashion shoots, celebrity

    tabloid gossip, fan websites, commercials, and philan-thropy to demonstrate the expansion of star discourse

    across different sites and to argue that Kidmanspersona encompasses much more than cinematic

    performance. Onscreen and off, Kidman is alwaysengaged in the performance of character types.

    Although the public persona is the linchpin that holdstogether aspects of star diversity and activity spanning

    diverse locations and forms, it too is a fiction (73).Cook looks at Kidmans attempts to provide a coher-ent identity by recourse to her Australian roots, and

    the ways in which core elements of Kidmans persona,such as national identity, beauty, whiteness, and femi-

    nism, are mobilized to create a heroic character.Although she operates between film and extra-cine-

    matic appearances to become that personal brand, suchattempts at authenticity ultimately fail.

    Overall, Nicole Kidman offers an accessible andcompelling case study into the construction of a starnarrative. The book is short, and as such it leaves the

    readers wanting Cook to delve deeper into some ofher arguments. In particular, this reviewer would have

    liked more discussion on postcolonialism, race, and thecontradictory nature of Kidmans feminist persona.

    Nevertheless, Nicole Kidman, coupled with the otherbooks in BFIs star series, could be a useful resource

    for those interested in star studies.

    -Molly Swiger

    Baldwin Wallace University

    Observation Points: The Visual Poetics of

    National ParksThomas Patin, Editor. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota

    Press, 2012.

    Observation Points: The Visual Poetics of

    National Parks deconstructs the quintessentially

    American landscapes of western national parks. Theconspicuous representation of the ideals of Manifest

    Destiny, freedom, democracy, and the spirit of inde-pendence in the lofty vistas of Zion, Yellowstone,

    the Grand Canyon, and Mount Rushmore is revealedas fabrication. Drawing heavily upon the work of W.

    J. T. Mitchell, this collection asserts that landscapes,being far from unmediated nature, are in fact instru-

    ments of social power, employed to naturalize cul-tural constructs and stabilize contingent politicalpositions. Observation Points functions as an expose,

    affirming the iconographical, theatrical, and regula-tory qualities of the landscapes of national parks,

    revealing them as highly orchestrated phenomena.The disparate essays in this volume uncover the nat-

    uralized conventions for visualizing, viewing, con-ceptualizing, and experiencing the landscape and for

    exploring various grammars, architectures, and tech-nologies, including landscape painting, orientation

    films, documentary, monuments and memorials, visi-tor center displays, viewing instruments, and thebuilt environment. The range of examples convinc-

    ingly demonstrate that the strategic conventions ofvisual signifying materials and practices in or about

    national parks form predominantly conservative atti-tudes, build a consensual national identity, determine

    acts of decorum, and negotiate policies regardingland use and ownership and the environment. The

    collection emphasizes the importance of studyingvisual rhetoric in order to better understand thedeliberate material techniques that condition bodies

    and meaning and maintain the nations prevailingpolitical and cultural mythologies.

    The contributors in Observation Points formulate acohesive claim that visual rhetoric, particularly filmic

    representations, photography, and architectural fea-tures, construct collective prosthetic memories and

    legitimize shared values. Visual rhetoric hails ahomogenous visitor or national subject. According to

    the authors in this volume, the visual rhetoric ofnational parks validates Americas domestic imperial-ism, promotes expansion as inevitable, articulates the

    concept of religious refuge, and buttresses a capitalistethos by promoting nature as a spectacle to be con-

    sumed. The collective gaze is aligned with an imperi-ous and omniscient persona, surveying an

    anachronistically virgin landscape, which invitesdomestication. The drama of American civilization

    waiting to unfold is consistently made visible, whereasthe historical presence of Native American inhabitants

    148 Book reviews


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