Tuesday 12 January 2010

The Mistress Bookshelf: Femininity in the Frame (2009) by Melanie bell

This morning, on BBC Radio 4 "Woman's Hour", there was an interview with the film lecturer, critic and theorist Melanie Bell.

In her new book "Femininity in the Frame", Bell argues that during the 1950s, British Cinema portrayed women in much more varied and complex roles than in contemporary cinema. By arguing this, Bell is contesting a lot of inherited and unilateral media stereotypes of women in the 50s as dutiful housewives, whose chores was making sure the house is clean and that dinner is promptly served as their husbands come back home exhausted from a day's work.

Bell also traces cinematic analogies of the 1950s with the 1950s and the insurgence of feminism in the 1970s ( a very interesting parallel, and the subsequent (and unattended) demand of women for more accurate representation in the industry.

The issue with the representation of women in Cinema is a complex one. Not only aren't women represented on screen, there are not enough women working behind the lenses, nor in film criticism and literature.

Jane Campion is a tireless spokesperson for the equal representation for women in Cinema. To paraphrase her, women make 51% of the world's population, so why aren't there at least 50% women in the Film Industry?

Back to Bell's book, it serves us as an important reminder that we might be now living in times as conservative if not even more conservative that the days of our grandmothers.

Especially if we consider flicks like "Sex and the City" as an expression of our hard earned freedom (sigh), and this so-called 'freedom' comes at the literal expense of how much, or how many dresses and bags and shoes, you can afford.

Bell explains how in the 50s veteran and pioneer actresses like Virginia Mckenna (who has also founded the Born Free Foundation!) had consistently demanded the versatile portrait of women in careers as police officers, for instance.

It seems like a great read, and I am looking forward to getting myself a copy.

Ladies, don't forget that by removing our historical pink glasses we might also end up getting rid of our social leashes!

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In this blog I intend to do some historical justice to the many, many women who have contributed with their genius, creativity, adventurous spirit, nurturing - amongst other qualities - to the apparent linear and male dominated prescribed notion of History. This is just the beggining.