Women In 1950's Hollywood Films The Hayse Code And The Changing Roles Of Women.

1269 words - 5 pages

I am not a scholar of feminism, but I believe that any such movement such as feminism must have seminal images in the popular imagination to become a popular movement. The popular imagination, here, consists of what its mass media produce. A member of the populous can see the media how she likes, as fascist dictators of the imagination or as an anarchic self governed pool of imagery to add to and take from as they want. Both are useful points of view and not the only points of view. In the nineteen-fifties a large part of the media was Hollywood. The nineteen-fifties was a period of transition in Hollywood. Among the most important transitions that took place in Hollywood in and around that decade was in how women were represented in film.There have always been powerful and independent women but it wasn't until the nineteen-fifties that an image of such a woman was accessible to anyone who could go to a movie theatre. In the U.S. this meant that the young girls of the baby boom generation, or the archetypal frustrated house wives of the fifties could spend their weekly allowances to consume the latest Hollywood creations. Whether they lived in the cities, the suburbs, small towns, or made the trip into town from the diminishing and distant rural regions, women and men alike would consume the images placed before them on screen. In many ways, much as they do today. In some films of the fifties the portrayal of women was as oppressive to the desires and needs of women as they always had been. The protagonist was a patriarchal male and a women purpose were always subordinate to him and his desires. Into the early fifties the Hayse code, Hollywood's a self imposed censorship code, dictated how a woman was to be portrayed in film. Women in film, according to the code, had to be married or want to be married, had to serve a man, and had to live the domestic life and enjoy it. But in the early fifties the restrictions of the Hayse code were loosened. The way a woman could be portrayed in a film became more open. This loosening of the code is evident in some films, however some attitudes toward the depiction of women did not change.The coming of the fifties marks the end of Hollywood's Golden age. The golden age of Hollywood was a time when the studio system dominated movie making. There were about seven major studios in Hollywood who made thousands of movies every year. The movies made as if on an assembly line. They were all generally shot in a studio or on the studios back lots. The stories were formulaic. One reason that they were formulaic, among many reasons, was because of the restrictive Hayse code. A film called Jezebel from the late forties, starring Bette Davis, is a film that was made under the full weight of the Hayse code. The protagonist of the film is a woman. She is vengeful unwilling to submit to the patriarchal figures in the film. In the end, as punishment, she ends up being shipped off to work on an island full plague victims, and no...

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