Category Archives: Strumpalicious

Cold War Femme: Lesbianism, National Identity, and Hollywood Cinema

A review of:
Cold War Femme: Lesbianism, National Identity, and Hollywood Cinema.

by Robert J. Corber, Duke University Press, Durham and London, 2011,

ISBN 978-0-8223-4947-1

TL;DR summary: highly recommended for anyone interested in American cinema history, the paranoia of Cold War culture, the treatment of female film characters and discovering a whole new coded subtext within some classic Hollywood films! Read it, it’s great! Or just read this review and then use your second-hand knowledge to leap into vitriolic internet debates…

With his 9780822349280third book Cold War Femme, Robert Corber expands upon his previous scholarship on the intersection of homophobia, Hollywood and American Cold War identity by exploring the film industry discourse on the femme lesbian. Corber aims to understand the femme both as a queer figure distinct from the butch lesbian, and as an allegedly anti-American outgrowth of women’s demands for equality. Through close readings of films in Part One, and a star studies approach in Part Two, Corber persuasively argues that the coded representations of femme lesbian characters reflected their construction as a direct challenge to heterosexuality, thereby destabilising the traditional family structure which insulated the American identity against Communism. Through the trajectory of Hollywood’s lesbian discourse, the book explores not only sexual presentation and gender performance in film, but also how concepts such as frigidity, homosociality, motherhood, domesticity and career ambition were deployed to pathologise lesbianism and bolster the Cold War sexual agenda.

Corber’s 23 page introduction includes a 19 page tour of the dominant trends in psychoanalytical and sociological opinion of female sexuality in the twentieth century. As scholarship developed awareness of the femme lesbian, her feminised gender performance made her an object of censure and paranoia due to the camouflaged threat she supposedly posed to the perpetuation of America’s normative family life. A provocative and absorbing read, this tour also provides essential theoretical underpinning to Corber’s subsequent film analysis, and lends authority to his interpretation of Hollywood’s susceptibility to, and manipulation of, the Cold War culture of sexual paranoia.

Part Two effectively complements Part One’s film readings with detailed explorations of how homophobia affected the production and promotion of female stars, and how their personas influenced the presentation of gender and sexual norms within films.  Corber also highlights the contradictions within the discourse, such as the contrast between Bette Davis, whose sexual illegibility was subsequently pathologised as lesbian, and the wholesome Doris Day, whose tomboyish masculinity resisted construction as lesbian because her characters ultimately assimilated into heterosexual lives.

The validity of Corber’s analysis relies strongly on the introduction’s literature review, which is persuasive, however his avoidance of chronological arrangement of information can produce unnecessary confusion. This would arguably have been a more lucid structure for his analysis, given that the material correlates directly to sequenced events such as trends in thought, career trajectories and backlashes against earlier discourses. Nonetheless, Corber’s obvious passion for the combined study of film, gender and sexuality is well-suited to reveal the fascinating intersections in the field and he offers richly detailed evidence without sermonising. Not only solidly argued, the book is also nearly as much fun to read as the referenced films are to watch.  Cold War Femme offers valuable insights for any reader interested in filmic representations of female sexuality. With this book, Corber redresses his admitted previous neglect of lesbian history as non-distinct from gay men’s history, and he triumphs in his goal of bringing analysis of Hollywood’s femme lesbian into the broader picture of American women’s history.


Bicycles: Making good women go bad since the 1800s

two wheeler strumpets!!!!

via Bicycles: Making good women go bad since the 1800s.


“What a beautiful life I’ve had”.

collette

These were reported to be Sidonie Gabrielle Colette’s last words.

Colette (French novelist and playwright 1873-1954) was a glorious strumpet. She was raised in a little village before being swept off her feet and taken to Paris by Henri Gauthier-Villiers, a man about town known as “Willy”, a famous writer of potboilers. Her husband discovered she could write so he got her to write her stories and published them under his own name. He became very wealthy from the ‘Claudine’ series of novels Colette penned. Willy was in the habit of keeping Colette locked in her room to produce new works. This went on for 13 years before Colette packed her bags and left.

Without Willy’s publishing connections Colette struggled to make a living, becoming a drama critic, political writer, fashion critic and cooking columnist. This was not enough to pay the bills so she also became a music hall dancer, which gave her a rich new source for her stories. One night she appeared on stage and brazenly exposed her breast (see pic. above) with shameless strumpet pride. She was announcing to the world that femininity was no longer something that could be confined, she had let an alternative version of femininity free. It created an international scandal. She liked to cross-dress in men’s clothing when it suited her too, which caused a stir. She cared not a fig for what people thought.

She married a news editor and had a daughter, but kept on writing her stories, which were thinly disguised autobiographies such as ‘Renee’, a story about a divorcee turned actress. One of her first stories after the end of her first marriage was ‘Dialogue des Betes’ a conversation between a cat and a dog. Her books centred on the themes of nature, passion, sexuality, sensuality and human relations. After that came more books, the ‘Caroline’ series, Gigi, Cheri, L’Ingenue Libertine’, The Ripening and ‘La Vagabonde’. La Vagabonde was declared by critics to be one of the dozen best French novels of the times. She divorced her second husband in 1924, had a scandalous affair with her step-son and kept writing. She also flaunted her numerous lesbian affairs which did nothing to quell views that she was most definitely a strumpet. In 1927 Paul Claudel called her “the greatest living writer in France”. She lived next door to Jean Cocteau and they shared ideas about poetry, art and life. Colette married the 16 years younger Maurice Goudeket in 1935, a Jewish man she supported and hid during the German occupation of France. In 1935 Colette became an Officer of The Grand Legion of Honour. Colette was a strumpet of the highest order.

“I love my past. I love my present. I’m not ashamed of what I’ve had, and I’m not sad because I have it no longer”~ Colette.


Liber Novus: The Dreams and Art of C. G. Jung

jung-snake
C. G. Jung’s hand drawn dream journal: Liber Novus

“Jungs interest in alchemy began around the same time that Silberer was doing his research. He kept having a dream in which he saw that his house had another wing which he never noticed before. Jung eventually managed to gain access to this undiscovered part of the house to find that it contained a magnificent library. Upon closer inspection, he found that the books all of which were leather bound folios from the fifteen and sixteenth centuries, contained alchemical diagrams and texts.

Jung Began to study alchemical books during his waking hours, and came to believe that the alchemist was not so much trying to create precious materials from base in the laboratory, as to redeem matter. He wrote:

“The Alchemical operations were real, only this reality was not physical but psychological. Alchemy represents the projection of a drama both cosmic and spiritual in laboratory terms. The Opus Magnum had two aims: the rescue the human soul, and the salvation of the cosmos.”

The work of the Opus Magnum (The Great Work) was therefore psychological. He became convinced that the Nigredo; or the initial black chaotic stage of the work, was infact the unconscious. The various stages of the work are, according to Jung, stages in what he called the individuation, or the psychological process that marks the growth of a personality into a balanced maturity.

In the first stage, the matter is cooked in the vessel. This corresponds im Jung’s view, to a personal crisis that threatens to destroy the personality. Yet in order for the sufferer to recover fully, the personality will have to be destroyed anyway but voluntarily. This surrender of the ego is vital to the process’ ability to heal and brings to mind the dictum stressing that in order for the work to be successful, the alchemist needs to be humble (ego free).

In the later stages of the work, the self is purified, which would correspond to the albedo or whitening of the matter and in the Citrinitas stage the individual would continue on their path of recovery through learning to become grounded again. The final stage, that of Rubedo would involve a complete integration and acceptance of the persons experiences and personality. Jung held that we all go through this process many times through the course of our life.”

– Sean Martin (Alchemy & Alchemists)


Washing with pig fat

soapER

Most commercial soaps are made from tallow. Tallow is not strictly defined as beef or mutton fat. Tallow is animal fat that can be melted down. It is common for commercial tallow to contain fat derived from other animals, such as lard from pigs. We feel that washing oneself in animal fat is a disgusting concept for any self-respecting strumpet.
img from google image cc