In "Couching Resistance", Janet Walker examines professional and popular psychiatric literature published between World War II and the mid-1960s to develop a picture of psychiatry's ambivalent response to women patients. This ambivalence, Walker argues, also comes through in the profusion of Hollywood films from the same period on the subject of psychiatry and women. Even though in many cases men and women made up an equal number of psychiatric patients, psychiatry and fictional psychiatry often relied on the adjustment of "deviant" women in order to present their respective solutions. Still, Walker reveals a self-critical strain in psychiatry that attacked the profession's authoritarianism. Over the time period in question she sees an increasing willingness on the part of Hollywood cinema to deal with volatile issues, including childhood sexual trauma and the social origins of female mental illness. These issues were coming up, Walker says, in the emergent feminist critique of conformist psychiatry.
Walker's reading of films including "The Snake Pit", "The Three Faces of Eve", "Lilith", and "Freud" in conjunction with such non-film cultural representations as marriage manuals, pharmaceutical advertisments, and letters from psychiatrists to motion-picture personnel, responds to the challenge to understand film in its wider cultural context. The book is aimed at those in the field of American cultural studies, women and psychology, women's studies, film studies.