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Feminism in the Crime Film Genre

Uploaded by A.J. Laws on Dec 15, 1999

Throughout motion picture history, women have experienced more transition in their roles, as a result of changing societal norms, than any other class. At first, both society and the movie industry preached that women should be dependent on men and remain in the home, in order to guarantee stability in the community and the family. As time passed and attitudes changed, women were beginning to be depicted as strong willed, independent minded characters, who were eager to break away from convention. The genre of the crime film represents such a change in the roles handed to women. Two films that can be contrasted, in order to support this view, are: The Public Enemy by William Wellman (1931) and Bonnie &Clyde by Arthur Penn (1967). In The Public Enemy, women are portrayed as naive and/or objects of carnal pleasure by men. In this period, women were often categorized as mothers, mistresses, sisters, or ladies. Ma Powers (played by Beryl Mercer), the lead character Tom Powers’(played by James Cagney) mother, is easily fooled by Tom’s fake stories about where he get his money and doesn’t believe that her "baby boy" could be a vile gangster. At one point during prohibition, when Tom brings home a barrel of beer, she doesn’t even question where he obtained it, but rather takes a drink for herself. Ma Powers is the prototypical mother of the 1930’s. She is blind to the ways of the world and doesn’t see the danger of things, even in regard to her own children. She is a widow who does not work, but is supported by her sons. She is even blind to the fact that her sons hate one another. Even though, her Tom was sadistic killer and gangster, she always welcomes him back lovingly with open arms. At the end of the movie, she gets a phone call saying that Tom will be coming home from the hospital, where he had been treated for a gunshot. She rushes upstairs to make his bed and get his room ready, when the doorbell rings and the rival gang drops of Tom’s gun riddled body. The other women who appear in the movie are portrayed as fast women who are sexual object to be enjoyed by Tom, until he gets tired of them and then throws them away. In one famous movie seen, Tom doesn’t appreciate what his mistress moll Kitty (played by...

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Uploaded by:   A.J. Laws

Date:   12/15/1999

Category:   Film

Length:   9 pages (2,067 words)

Views:   1425

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