Sunday, February 19, 2012

Tomboys in Media Through the Decades

The way that tomboys are represented in Hollywood films has changed over time, just as this article brings up.  In the 1950's, the tomboy narrative involved a young, immature girl who would eventually make the transformation into a woman not through her clothes are style, but through her behavior when it comes to men.  During this time, the tomboy narrative demonstrated that the most important way for a tomboy to become a woman was by pursuing a love interest in a man and by being submissive to men.  Just as is seen in the movie Gidget where a young girl disappoints her friends with her tomboy actions because they think it ruins their chances of attracting men.  Eventually, the tomboy transforms into a more feminine character by falling in love with a surfer man who rescues her multiple times.
When I thought of Hatch's idea that the 1950's tomboy narrative "demonstrates that gender is not a product of clothing an hairstyle alone but is predicated on a set of behaviors that bolsters a system of male dominance and female submission...", a few films in which I remember seeing tomboys represented came to mind.  A good example of a modern day 'tomboy' film that challenges this 1950's ideal is the movie Miss Congeniality, in which a woman who has been more 'masculine' and a tomboy all of her life enters a beauty pageant in order to complete a secret FBI mission.  The main character is transformed into a feminine woman by being taught certain 'lady-like' behavior, but the transformation into a woman mainly involves her physical makeover--she has makeup put on her, has her hair done, has a lot of waxing done and finally puts on a short sexy dress and a pair of heels to top off the look.  Her tomboy character at the beginning of the film is seen as negative and her transformation into a more typically feminine woman is meant to be a positive thing.  She also ends up having a romantic interest in one of her co-workers, who now finds her irresistible because of her sexy new look.
I think that the representation of tomboys in films today is much more complex, and there isn't one specific 'tomboy narrative', though I would argue that the tomboy narrative still almost always includes the tomboy having a romantic interest in a male character.  An example I thought of in which a tomboy is portrayed in a very positive light is the Disney movie Mulan.  Mulan wants to be able to fight in her father's place, so she runs away from home and portrays herself as a man so that she can fight.  Mulan's character is very story and independent, yet of course toward the middle of the film, her character falls in love with a strong, masculine man, and her femininity is brought out through her actions toward this man as well as the way she appears physically at the end of the movie. 

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