“Please the women or die”: silent cinema and the construction of female desire

Date

2023-01-15

Advisors

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

ISSN

1746-0662

Volume Title

Publisher

Taylor and Francis

Type

Article

Peer reviewed

Yes

Abstract

By the mid-1920s, the top echelons of the film industry on both sides of the Atlantic, were almost entirely dominated by men, despite women becoming the majority consumers of cinema. Male studio bosses, producers, directors and publicists interpreted women’s tastes and expectations throughout the silent period. In 1926, the film critic Iris Barry insisted that cinema ‘exists for the purpose of pleasing women’ (Barry, 59) who formed a significant majority of the British population from the 1910s. Women were also central to the burgeoning consumer cultures surrounding cinema including magazines, novels, fashion, beauty and leisure and their tastes and patterns of consumption steered the expansion of the cinema industry. But despite their increasing economic power as consumers, Barry also lamented Hollywood’s insistence on driving women to romance and marriage rather than adventure and independence (ibid.: 61). This article considers how cinema’s masculine power base was forced to accommodate and address feminine cultures despite repeated excoriation of young female cinemagoers by Britain’s intellectual elites.

Description

The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link

Keywords

Women,, Cinema, WWI, Feminisation, Women and 1920s modernity, women and fandom, women and cultural consumption

Citation

Porter, L. (2023) “Please the women or die”: silent cinema and the construction of female desire. Early Popular Visual Culture, 21 (1), pp. 127-151

Rights

Research Institute

Cinema and Television History Institute (CATHI)