What does the application of modern gender theories reveal about the representation of women in 1940’s American Film as exemplified by the films: Adam’s Rib, His Girl Friday and Gilda?
During the classic Hollywood era in the 1940s, female representation and gender expression was restricted by patriarchal control and the strict production code. Representations of femininity were limited since they were constructed and controlled by men, which meant that women were limited to identificatory stereotypes. This dissertation uses modern gender theories conceived by the likes of Judith Butler and Laura Mulvey, among others, to examine the films Adam’s Rib (1949), His Girl Friday (1940) and Gilda (1946) to reveal what they say about the representation of women. It analyses how the female protagonists in each film, manipulate notions of femininity and how they challenge and renew female archetypes. It also considers the significance of the actresses portraying these characters and how that adds depth to the analysis. By performing a textual analysis on each of these films we gain an understanding about how the films and their characters can be decoded and read to reveal themes surrounding female representation and gender identity, that were not necessarily obvious when they were first made.