Friday, July 1, 2011

Independence and Proto-Feminism in the Movies

I watched Abilene Steve walking down the street towards his car from my window this morning, drying my tears and pondering Attachment.  I deal with attachment and separation all the time in my classroom, and it's been clear to me for years that one of the reasons I'm a very good preschool teacher is that I'm really just a giant Three year-old with a decent expressive vocabulary and the ability to think abstractly.  Little kids remain concrete thinkers for a very long time.  Sometimes kids in my classroom watch from the window as somebody walks away.  Good Byes are much easier when you know that you'll be saying Hello again soon.  I don't know when I'll ever get to say Hello to Abilene Steve again.  It's hard to know how things will develop between Grown Ups.  Like they say in The Glass Bottom Boat, "Que Sera Sera."

My perspective on almost everything was informed by movies like Glass Bottom Boat, Please Don't Eat the Daisies and With Six You Get Eggroll.  My mother says that Doris Day was a proto-feminist because she had a job in The Glass Bottom Boat and was, therefore, demonstrating that women can go to work.  Granted, there's marriage and then staying home with kids in all the pictures - but still, there was a tantalizing hint of Independence.

Sophia Loren runs off from her father in Houseboat to get a taste of  Independence too.  Sophia's singing her song at 1:43 in this trailer.

Sandra Dee was in If a Man Answers in 1962 - just before The Feminine Mystique was first published.  I'm not sure if the idea that husbands can be trained like dogs is a feminist notion, but I'm pretty sure that a beautiful French chorus girl becoming a society matron in Boston and managing her stuffy husband through sex and trickery is a manifestation of certain widely held societal beliefs of some kind.

I'm sorry to say that it looks like Sandra Dee as Gidget had a lasting impact on most of my ideas about men, women and romance.

With a little Ann-Margret thrown in:

Independence and Romance just don't seem to mix when the women are in their childbearing years.  The Pill changed all that, but those kind of movies never made it on to network TV - especially not The Wonderful World of Disney, no matter what Walt and that bunch of stoners might have thought about the issue privately.

I'm not sure where I got my ideas on how grown women act - especially now that I'm a grown woman.  Certainly I had better sense than to get pouty or clingy with Abilene Steve just because he had to leave much earlier than I wanted.  He had to be at a meeting two hours up the highway at noon, so there was no lolling about all morning, and I didn't fix migas even though I had gotten chorizo and everything.  One thing you know once you're grown is that things don't always work out the way you want, and sometimes, that might be for the best.  Real life has a way of teaching us things that never show up in the movies - at least not when they are in technicolor. You may have to look at black and white movies to find the best shades of grey.


Vancouver Voyeur said...

I grew up watching Doris Day movies too, and watching my mom work 2-3 jobs at a time because none of the men in her life ever lasted for very long. She was just too strong, too independent, and too needy all at the same time. She never quite figured out how to train a man to do her bidding and yet not emasculate him in the process. She is a complex person. I've never met anyone quite like her, although I'm sure my ex would say I'm just like her. What can I say, I have a need to be taken care of, I just haven't found any man who can take care of me as well as I can. Must be why I'm with a woman now. :-)

Jerry Critter said...

Telephones work in both directions. Call him!

Susan Tiner said...

My mom was like Vancouver Voyeur's when it came to the men in her life.

Me, well, I've made every mistake in the book and hope I learned something. I think I did.

Mr. Charleston said...

Between this list and Hugh Hefner, not wonder we're so fucked up.

Jerry Critter said...

The text, rather than a call, is a good move. The next one is up to him.

PENolan said...

Sorry, Jerry, I made a change and F-ed up the comment sequence. But thanks, I thought texting to make sure he's home safely was the thing to do.

No kidding, Mr C

Susan, I'm convinced that you learned plenty

V.V. You and M seem very well suited.

Cali said...

Those of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s did have one hell of a time trying to figure out who to be because we were supposed to be all things to all people. We were supposed to be able to cook like Julia Child, be prim and proper like Doris Day, stand by our man (no matter what or who he did) like Tammy Wynette, bring home the bacon like Mary Tyler Moore, mother our children like June Cleaver, keep our homes spotless at all times like Carol Brady (never mind that she had Alice and we didn't,) look like Barbie or Marilyn, and have sex like Linda Lovelace-- all night every night. It's no wonder we all ended up having identity crises, depressed, divorced and addicted to various substances. We really bought into it when we were told we could have it all. Unfortunately too many of us ended up with nothing.

Beach Bum said...

I'm not sure if the idea that husbands can be trained like dogs is a feminist notion, but I'm pretty sure that a beautiful French chorus girl becoming a society matron in Boston and managing her stuffy husband through sex and trickery is a manifestation of certain widely held societal beliefs of some kind.

One of my favorite columnist, a very politically incorrect and grumpy guy named Fred Reed, has said something very close to that several times. That's why he ended up married to a senorita in Mexico.

Not that his wife is in anyway some timid flower, she is a graduate, University of Guadalajara, with fifteen years of experience teaching Spanish to sorry ass gringos like me as well as many other people around the world.

Fred just got tired of the byzantine maneuvering of Anglo ladies.

PENolan said...

I know that women were often manipulative, but I read somewhere that becoming manipulative is a typical consequence when somebody has to stifle their own power and can't be direct. When you're required to remain BEHIND somebody, you don't have much choice except to resort to covert operations.

But then, I've always thought the patriarchy sucked for everyone - men and women both - even though the men did get the cash.

Cali, there was a time when I belonged to a mothers' group called FEMALE, Formerly Employed Mothers at the Leading Edge. They advocated Sequencing - having it all, just not all at the same time since that was blatantly impossible. The idea never really caught on because it would mean we had to give up a consumer driven lifestyle for a simpler way of living.

I'm all about living simply.

Cali said...

My mother is a Grand Master Manipulator, no doubt about it. She also believes men can be trained just like dogs. What's worse, it seems to work for her. She's now 69 years old, has her own businesses that are worth several million dollars and lives in a million dollar plus house on a hill with a spectacular view of a lake and the valley beyond. She is now more than ten years into her sixth relationship. When you look up serial monogamy her picture is there, even though she only married two of them.

I can't tell you how angry I have been when I've discovered how she has manipulated me many times over the years. But, eventually, (sometime in my forties) I learned how to not play the parts she was trying to manipulate me into playing. Now we have very little to do with each other. It's really quite strange to have a parent who is a "frienemy."

Jerry Critter said...

Usually the best way to handle manipulative people is to avoid them.

Jennifer said...

Dang. I thought I was like Susan, having made all (or most) of the mistakes. But Cali, BB and PE N are making think, I'm fucked.

I never cared for Doris Day or Sandra Dee. Is that bad?

PENolan said...

Bad? I'm sure it's Lucky for you.
I'm not sure I liked them much either, to tell you the truth. And my mother certainly had no use for "Gidget" and "Where the Boys Are." Either way, though, the media does influence our ideas about gender roles and behavior.

Look at how The Code of the West has influenced American foreign policy.

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