Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lecture Two - Who are you?

The end of the first world war saw an explosion of production, bringing new products and fashion to the mass markets. Berry notes that these "New commodities generated a fear of mass-produced uniformity as well as a sense of moral confusion". In the realm of fashion the concept of personality came to reign over consumerism as "Style became a means of product differentiation that was quickly aligned with the concept of personalization". This seems a rather odd way of dealing with fear, but it seems to have worked quite effectively. Films, fashion magazines and advertising began to provide set personalities to ascribe to and fit into. Your personality came to define the products you would consume.

Hollywood stars exemplified this rise in personality as each actress was given a specific on and off set role to play. I had no idea how tightly controlled stars were by their film studios, who chose not only how they were portrayed on screen but also off it.

Grace Kelly: the elegant composed lady.

Marlene Dietrich: the femme fatale.
(although there was that interesting top hat scene. A woman in trousers and a girl kissing a girl. Scandal.)


Greta Garbo: the mysterious foreigner.

Marilyn Munroe: The embodiment of sexuality.
Today I watched my first Munroe film, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). I must say, I found her is rather annoying really. Her character was so frivolous and superficial!

Then there is Audrey with her unmistakable allure. As a star emerging in the 1950s, she defied the studios attempts to remodel her into a sterotype. I think the authenticity she maintained is crucial to her continued success, giving her a timeless quality.

Audrey is interesting as she demonstrates the ability of film to counter the personality cliches by drawing attention to the way dress and performance could be used to define social identity (Berry 2000). Transformation movies are one obvious way that people could see the construction of identity through fashion. Audrey did a lot of these movies in Funny Face, Roman Holiday and Sabrina.

Roman Holiday

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