Sunday, September 9, 2012

From Reverence to Rape

1974, 1975 Penguin edition
Molly Haskell
From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies
Original and purchase price both $4.50
Worn paperback with split spine

At times, reading this was like if a slightly more coherent Germaine Greer had become a film buff.  Although like Rosen, Haskell divides the films into decades, she not only digresses from this approach twice rather than once (for "The Woman's Film" and "The Europeans"), she more than Haskell drifts out of the decade she's supposed to be discussing.  (The part on Hitchcock was all over the place.)  Not only is she unfocused, but she contradicts herself.  "Labels are bad.  The actresses of the time were men's women or women's women, except for those who were both."

On the plus side, she was less homophobic than I remembered, although she does seem to see male-male friendships (which she calls "homophile") as more immature than heterosexual romance.  Also, when she does zero in on something, like the positive effect that sound films had on women's treatment, or someone, like Rosalind Russell or Doris Day, she's as good as or better than Rosen.  I'd recommend reading the two books in sync, like pairing their sections on the '30s, which is how I used to read them, and I got more out of it, comparing and contrasting their thoughts on specific films and stars.  Also, Rosen lists too many dates of films and Haskell not enough, so the books complement each other that way, too.

Haskell revised this book in 1987, but I've only read this edition.  I'm guessing that since she didn't change the title, she didn't feel that the movies of the later '70s to the mid '80s were any kind of improvement.  (Susan Faludi would partially disagree.)

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