'Girlshine' is a term coined by Lisa French in her 2007 PhD thesis: Centring the female: the articulation of female experience in the films of Jane Campion.

The term was theorized by French as one of the central preoccupations of Jane Campion's cinema.

'Girlshine' is also the title of Lisa French's forthcoming book: Girlshine: Feminisms in Contemporary Cinema.

French developed this term to describe the luminous beauty of youth. It refers to a time where young women experience a physical blooming that causes them to radiate a sensual energy. Because of it, they have sexual power. It is a brief, transient and liminal phase.

French argues that in "representing the 'girlshine' experience, Campion places female desire and subjectivity at the centre, but also looks at the effect of this desire on all those who come in contact with it…"(2007, p. 184).

French theorizes this concept of 'girlshine' in Campion's films as embodied by Ruth Baron (Kate Winslet) in Holy Smoke! , who clearly sees that her desirability has weakened PJ and she uses it to her advantage. According to French, 'girlshine' is visible in Campion's earlier films, for example, "Janet Frame looks into a mirror at various times in An Angel At My Table to try and 'see' what I would argue is 'girlshine' in herself. Later in the film we see it as a vision of her, like a mermaid, when she swims naked in the Spanish sea. In The Portrait Of A Lady, Isabel Archer's 'girlshine' is recognized by Madame Merle (Barbara Hershey), and used to trap her. These 'girlshine' women are to some degree innocents, living before the scepticism of life and experience has burned them. By 'burned them' I am referring to the fear that Campion states she acquired as she got older … and to the shift that comes with age in relation to how one might interact with the world. This shift is from the innocence of youth—there is no going back. The reason they are so luminous has to do with the clear path they see before them, and the impediments that they don't. For a time they are 'hot', their luminousness attracting not just a male gaze, but the admiration of women who also recognize this transient phase—and transient power." (French, 2007: 184-185)

French extends this concept to Australian Cinema more broadly, observing that there are "other films that explore 'girlshine' in the sense that they feature central characters who are 'hot' and in this girlshine moment, for example in Suburban Mayhem (director Paul Golman and writer Lucy Bell, 2006). … Katrina (Emily Barclay) says that men will do anything for a girl like her. However, although the character of Aunty Dianne (Genevieve Lemon) notes that one day she'll get old and sag, implying that her 'girlshine' will pass, Katrina's journey is unseen, we don't explore the 'shadowing', nor is the film offering any cognisance of this idea … [However] Campion takes this vision of female experience further and explores the consequences and aftermath of the 'girlshine' experience through exploring the growth, or journey of her character Ruth." (French, 2007, p. 182)


Lisa French, Centring the female: the articulation of female experience in the films of Jane Campion. PhD Thesis, RMIT University, 2007.