Cover image for Signifying female adolescence : film representations and fans, 1920-1950
Signifying female adolescence : film representations and fans, 1920-1950
Gills, Georganne Scheiner, 1951-
Publication Information:
Westport, CT : Praeger, [2000]

Physical Description:
x, 171 pages ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1350 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN1995.9.Y6 S34 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Motion pictures have been one of the forces that have both shaped and reproduced adolescent femininity. Films not only reflect culture--they help to create it. So it is worth looking at films to see what messages they gave girls--and adults--about what girls were and should be like. Scheiner uses film as a window into the cultural meanings of female adolescence, and explores how those meanings changed over time. She looks at how female adolescence has been constructed in film, focusing on the period from 1920 to 1950. She contextualizes representations of female adolescence by looking at the actual experience of adolescence in each period and by examining the material conditions and film industry processes that contributed to these portrayals.

As Scheiner makes clear, historical interpretations of film messages must be expanded to determine what conclusions girls themselves reached from film images. Girls are hardly passive consumers of film. Rather, they choose how to respond to the films they see. This is perhaps best illustrated by fan activities, where girls actively define what is important about films and film stars, and create their own understandings of female adolescence. Scheiner also looks specifically at adolescent girls as fans to decode their responses to filmic representations of adolescence. She uses some nontraditional sources such as fan columns in fan magazines, fan publications of various stars, reviews in young women's literature, fan mail, and letters to film companies to find evidence of audience reception. Scheiner opens up a world often at odds with the actual experience of female adolescents, and she makes clear that films about adolescent girls are not only a formative part of the nation's history in the early 20th century, but a formative part of becoming a girl. Scholars, students, and other researchers of American film and women's studies, popular culture, and 20th-century history will find this study of particular interest.

Author Notes

Georganne Scheiner is Assistant Professor of Women's Studies at Arizona State University.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Taking a historian's look at dominant film representations of adolescent girls, Scheiner (women's studies, Arizona State Univ.) considers fan response and its role in the formation of female identity during the first half of the 20th century. The author looks first at cautionary tales of the 1920s, with their critique of poor parenting and girls gone wrong, and argues that instead of acting as a deterrent, the films' representation of the wild life of the flapper often made adolescent girls long for a life of adventure and pleasure. Films of the Depression idealized young girls; the context of hardship and suffering allowed them to act as saviors and problem solvers. Shirley Temple, Deanna Durbin, Judy Garland, et al. helped audiences escape, offering the musical as an alternative space of collective activity and optimism. During WW II, films encouraged teens to create a world separate from their parents'; adolescent girls, or "bobby-soxers," could concentrate on what to wear and on whom to date instead of participating in the war effort. Scheiner concludes with a discussion of the Deanna Durbin fan club, to illustrate how young girls found community and a means of expressing themselves in their shared devotion to a particular icon. Most useful in undergraduate collections. S. Vander Closter; Rhode Island School of Design

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
1 The In-betweensp. 1
2 Delinquent Daughtersp. 23
3 Babes in Armsp. 57
4 The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxerp. 91
5 The Female Movie Fanp. 117
6 Conclusionp. 137
Filmographyp. 147
Selected Bibliographyp. 155
Indexp. 165