POPCORN VENUS: Women, Movies and the American Dream by Marjorie Rosen
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POPCORN VENUS: Women, Movies and the American Dream

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Women as creatures of male fantasy have been most fully incarnated on the screen where Hollywood moguls could freely create the Perfect Woman -- and sell her as The Ideal to the real life American woman peering enviously up at the screen. Ms. Rosen in her marvelously witty and perceptive book on film goddesses since Mary Pickford, the eternal girl-child (her screen credits from A Little Princess to Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm read ""like a child's garden of verse"") shows just how ersatz most of them really were. Baby dolls, chorus girls, vamps, prom queens, femme fatales, flappers, nymphets, sexpots, devoted wives, bitches, sweater girls and cinderellas -- until the '60's all were created to suit erotic male images. Remember Garbo's essentially appealing void in As You Desire Me -- ""there is nothing in me, nothing of me; take me, take me and make me as you desire me."" From Griffith's pre-World War I stable of child love objects to the mammary madness of the '50's, Rosen examines how the Popcorn Venuses changed, mirroring new socio-sexual realities. What astounds however is the tenacity of attitudes imposed on the celluloid darlings -- the decades it took to dent the idea that good girls didn't put out, that the greatest reward of the (virtuous) angel must be a marriage-minded Prince Charming; how long and how insidiously the taboos on extramarital sex, on abortion, etc. were maintained. And how the eternally sexploitative marketing of woman as commodity and plaything was accomplished by titans like Griffith and DeMille and Zanuck. Rosen brings in the sometimes appalling discrepancies between the actress on camera and the woman behind it, lingers over the reasons for their rise and fall, gets off some hilarious one-liners (e.g., Doris Day as ""the Carry Nation of Hollywood's chastity crusade"") and consistently startles us into uncomfortable or comic awareness of how female stereotypes were created, groomed and sold, and what libidinous roles they fulfilled for a gawking public. A must for film buffs; a must for even the most tentative of Women's Libbers.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1973
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan