Signifying Female Adolescence: Film Representations and Fans, 1920-1950

Signifying Female Adolescence: Film Representations and Fans, 1920-1950

Signifying Female Adolescence: Film Representations and Fans, 1920-1950

Signifying Female Adolescence: Film Representations and Fans, 1920-1950

Synopsis

Scheiner uses films and fan behavior as windows to decode the cultural meanings of female adolescence from 1920 to 1950 and beyond. In film, adolescent girls have been represented as powerful, subversive, problematic, or in opposition to the parent culture. Girls, in turn, have often used the same tropes to create social identity and to affirm cultural authority.

Excerpt

There are two moments involving Judy Garland that capture for me the essence of female adolescence both on and off screen in the early twentieth century. In a rare musical interlude for an Andy Hardy film, making her debut in the series as Betsy Booth in Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938), Judy Garland plaintively sings a song called "I'm Just an In-between." The lyrics underscore the frustrations of this adolescent:

I'm past the age of doll and carriage
I'm not the age to think of marriage
I'm too old for toys
I'm too young for boys
I'm just an in-between

Garland and her song capture the ambiguities and contradictions inherent in female adolescence. Adolescents are an in-between group-- not quite children, not quite adults--trying to create their own identities, and often doing it through overt or covert rebellion. Adolescence is a difficult time for anyone, but especially for girls. At a time when all young people are trying to establish their identity and autonomy, girls are simultaneously taught to subvert their individuality to attain romantic relationships. What dilemmas does this present for individuals and for the society at large?

In the same year that Garland mourned that she was "just an in- between," she also had a cameo in the film Broadway Melody of 1938.

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