Monday, 11 May 2020

Movie Women's Spaces. Archetypal Settings ... All Leading to Marriage.

"It's interesting how often movie women occupy spaces that might be thought of as masculine (...). These spaces, however, are never remembered as female spaces. This is because movies suggest to us that these are men's spaces that unusual women - remarkable women, wonderful women, movie women - are occupying because of their specialness. They occupy this space inside the frame on behalf of the women in the audience, who will never occupy it in real life."

"The woman is trapped in her limited spaces, and her options for mobility are not presented as horizontal. That is, she can't move easily from job to job across an occupational landscape in the movies. What she can do is more spectacular: she can go up, or she can go down. Thus, one of the most common plot forms of the woman's film is that of the rags-to-riches story (she goes up) or its mirror image, the riches to rags (she goes down).
When a woman goes up, she climbs by marrying or seducing men or by shutting men out of her life. Either way, her mobility is linked to the old problem of men and her relationship to them via her decision about love and romance. When she goes down, it is always because of men. (...)"

"The woman's world on film is a box within a box. The female protagonist has her internal self, desirous of freedom, sex, a job, or a wardrobe, and this is the interior box. The exterior box is the actual setting of the movie, and her private world is contained within it. The easiest way for the movies to tell a story about a woman's world is thus as a personal story about a woman in a specific kind of limited setting with defined parameters.
The way this works can be grasped by considering four typical settings of the woman's film - the prison, the department store, the small town, and the home. They are archetypal: anything else - from the science lab to the nunnery - turns out to be pretty much the same thing. These places are astonishingly alike, on an ascending scale of size. They share one dominant characteristic: clear markers for right and wrong. (...)
The woman starts out on one side or the other. She can begin on the wrong side of the tracks, in the kitchen, down in the stockroom, behidn the perfume counter, or in the prison cell. How does she progress? By using her assets, which are beauty (recognized and commented upon) and brains (concealed and used in covert ways). The rich boy in town marries her and moves her across the tracks. The son of the department-store owner notices her, marries her, and removes her from the working world. The homeowner's son notices her, marries her, and makes her the mistress of the home (shifts her over from the kitchen to the bedroom). The prison doctor notices her, realizes she really isn't a criminal at all, and gets her a pardon or rehabilitates her. He'll marry her later, when it's more socially acceptable. (...)" (Basinger, 1993)

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- Basinger, J. (1993). A Woman's View. How Hollywood Spoke to Women, 1930-1960. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
- image ("That Touch of Mink", 1962, Cary Grant and Doris Day) via