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Bad Women

Regulating Sexuality in Early American Cinema

1995
Author:

Janet Staiger

Bad Women

Charts the cultural tensions played out on-screen in early American cinema.

Bad Women takes us back to this time of massive social, cultural, and economic change to show us how American cinema gave women and women’s sexuality images useful to the new consumer culture of the early 1900s and its exploitation of sexual pleasure. Rich in historical detail and theoretical insight, this book offers an original depiction of a culture in transition, a sexual sensibility in the making, and film’s participation in the change.

This excellent film scholarship represents a major contribution to the study of the reception of films and other works. It is written in an accessible style and should interest feminists, Americanists, and general readers.

Choice

It was a new age, and on movie screens the American middle class presented its visions of sexual morality, with definitions of good women and bad. Bad Women takes us back to this time of massive social, cultural, and economic change to show us how American cinema gave women and women’s sexuality images useful to the new consumer culture of the early 1900s and its exploitation of sexual pleasure.

Although aimed at producing a certain kind of woman, these new images did manage to put discussions of women and their sexuality on America’s agenda. Charting the resulting cultural tensions as they played out in movie regulation, Janet Staiger shows us how representations and their endless permutations enacted conflicts over women’s public and private behaviors. Rich in historical detail and theoretical insight, this book offers an original depiction of a culture in transition, a sexual sensibility in the making, and film’s participation in the change.

Bad Women

Janet Staiger is professor of radio, television, and film at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Interpreting Films: Studies in the Historical Reception of American Cinema (1992).

Bad Women

This excellent film scholarship represents a major contribution to the study of the reception of films and other works. It is written in an accessible style and should interest feminists, Americanists, and general readers.

Choice

A provocative and stimulating discussion of American culture during the heyday of Progressivism. In Bad Women, Staiger explores what the audience wanted, how the producers satisfied that desire, how advertising helped create desire, and how the conflicting goals of reformers set limits to a discourse that was ever changing. Staiger focuses on how the cinema at its most formative moment became a major site for understanding the processes by which cultural values are internalized and mediated.

Journal of American History

Staiger’s volume is welcome for its many insights into the representation of women in the early cinema.

The Historian