Thursday, February 27, 2003

The Colossal Hangover

If Mickey and Judy didn’t exactly save the world with “Babes in Arms” and similar cinematic pap — the second World War was breaking out as the movie opened — they made a textbook example of what American Youth was expected to be.

The Depression had been the colossal hangover after the equally-colossal party of the late ’20s. By the mid-’30s, the sophistication and/or abandon that had characterized late ’20s movies and music (and indeed bled over into the early ’30s) symbolized the hedonism that had gotten us into trouble. Culture and fashion, as a result, shifted back to a “wholesome” look and feel. The Sweet Sixteen of 1927 wore black silk stockings under a short-skirted, sleeveless dress and bobbed her hair; her 1939 counterpart grew her hair long and pinned it up, wore frilly polka-dotted dresses that hid her knees, and childlike bobby sox and saddle shoes.

Mickey and Judy’s Road to World Redemption was paved with wholesome intentions. They were what the public wanted to see in its teenagers: nice, scrubbed-behind-the-ears kids. “Babes in Arms” represents an era of enforced rose-colored glasses that would soon be broken irreparably as the kids putting on a show in the barn became extras on the set of “Let’s Put On a War.”

Friday, February 21, 2003

A Lot of Evolution

Should the mind set that women are examined by one set of assumptions and men by another change? Sure, we’re not that different.

Does biology seem to play a bigger role that I want to acknowledge? Absolutely. Did y’all catch the PBS thing with the geneticist who believes he has traced the way peoples wandered (walked) across the globe, using a genetic marker? That’s a lot of biology — a lot of evolution. That’s the time it takes for people in warm climates to evolve a little taller and darker, and for people in cold climates to conserve heat by getting a little shorter, a little fairer. We haven’t spent anything like that much time working out a society where we treat people by things other than what we think we see.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Expected Roles

As to point two, I’d venture that it’s a fundamental disconnect between the expected “roles” of men and women, both in the world of entertainment and in society at large. Men are judged by their actions, women by their innate qualities. In other words, a woman is charming, beautiful, what have you, while a man does things of importance. I’d even go so far as to say that, though perhaps less overt, it’s largely remained unchanged in the past half-century.

An interesting follow-up question: To what degree should — or perhaps even can — such a mind-set be changed? Two schools of thought, here — one, that humanity is fundamentally an animal, and subject (at least at some level) to biological nature (i.e., females and males have fundamentally different criteria for reproductive suitability); and two, that humanity is above its so-called “baser instincts,” and can exercise free will to a (near) absolute degree. I suppose I’d fall somewhere between the two camps. I contend that humanity is absolutely chained to biological nature (at least in this stage of our genetic development), but that does not preclude aspiring to change. Okay, I’m not really going out on much of a limb there, but witness how many proffer arguments that completely discount one side or the other of the proposition. Thoughts?

Friday, February 14, 2003

Mickey Rooney Caught My Eye Today

I describe one of my sabbatical projects as regaining control over my Girl Scout collection, begun around twenty years ago. Right now, I’m integrating information from old lists onto an Access database. I type slowly, and get distracted easily, so it’s taking forever.

Mickey Rooney distracted me today, in a movie still with Judy Garland, in American Girl Magazine (published by GSUSA from 1920–1979). In the November 1939 issue, the magazine — always optimistically aimed at “all girls” — reprinted from The Parents’ Magazine reviews of movies “for ages twelve to eighteen.”

Of MGM’s “Babes in Arms,” the reviewer wrote “It may be human weakness to depend on the younger generation to save the world, but when we refer to the entertainment world this picture justifies the hope! Mickey Rooney displays real creativeness in his performance, and Judy Garland continues to be the charming girl everyone would like for a friend or daughter. Good tunes and wholesome gayety for the entire family.”

Questions for Discussion:
  1. Did Garland and Rooney’s generation save the entertainment world? From what?
  2. Why is Rooney described as actually acting (working) and giving a performance, while Garland just “continues to be”?
  3. Trace the evolution of the meaning and usage of the word “gay.”
  4. If you ran the Video Fan, which section would you hide it in?