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Representation of the Feminine in American Feminist Cinema - Essay Example

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Summary
This thesis explores the development of feminism in American cinema as a way to encourage greater equality between the sexes by focusing on the evolving representation of femininity and why such is a significant achievement against the opposing efforts of a predominantly masculine establishment.
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Representation of the Feminine in American Feminist Cinema
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Representation of the Feminine in American Feminist Cinema

Download file to see previous pages... The film "Rebecca" shows how women who strayed outside the lines of pre-defined social roles were generally demonized by society, which includes opposition from other women who are comfortable in fulfilling their traditional roles, but occasionally worshipped by other women who longed for freedom of being. The film captured Rebecca’s loss of identity as a woman who is expected to live according to traditional norms of behavior, handing down this mindset to succeeding generations as a continuation of the old ways and old ideals, despite their personal desire for the freedom to express their individuality. In a sense, the film showed that in their uphill quest for freedom, women had to go through several barriers imposed by gender and social tradition. This landmark film established the base for similar Hollywood films against which subsequent cinematic outputs would be compared.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) demonstrated in a clearer manner the feminist stirrings of American cinema. The depiction of women in Martha combined the traditional - stay-at-home and career-less daughter of a well-known university professor who married a loser - and the modern - childless but with an imaginary child, aware of her sexuality, cursing and nagging her husband in public, and flirting openly with a young married guest in front of her husband and the guest's wife.
In contrast to other portrayals of women in the past, the film signified a certain degree of equalization between the sexes. Elizabeth Taylor's Academy Award as Best Actress for her portrayal as Martha in a film laced with profanity and feminine sensuality that shocked audiences at the time may have marked a turning point as it showed that a woman could be the mistress of her destiny.
Some two decades later, Desperately Seeking Susan (1981) seemed to move towards closing the loop as it directly addressed the concepts of female voyeurism and female desire. It starred the 1980's icon of the fun-loving material girl (pop star Madonna) and featured a young woman obsessed with another young woman whom she had never met, and although there is a strong element of lesbian criticism involved, there is little indication that the women are true lesbians.
A psychoanalytic approach to the film necessarily excluded the possibility that the desire inherent in the film is not for the female body but is instead a desire for the 'other', an idealized fantasy life believed to be lived by this other. This film introduced different viewpoints raised regarding its message that addressed the concept of the feminine directly, making it an ideal framework for studying how femininity is reflected in modern cinema ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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