Form and Content
In From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies, feminist Molly Haskell, drawing on her experience as film critic for the Village Voice, traces the depiction of women in films from the 1920’s to the 1970’s. The first chapter, “The Big Lie,” provides an overview of the book and establishes Haskell’s recurring theme: Women are the pawns of a male-dominated motion-picture industry and are used in films to perpetuate images of female inferiority, serving as scapegoats for men’s problems and as vessels for the projection of male fantasy. Further, women are degraded and denigrated in such stereotypes as virgins, whores, sex objects, Earth Mothers, and dumb blondes because males, in a constant state of insecurity and anxiety, need to assert their superiority and independence. Haskell contends that some heroic directors and actresses have managed to subvert these proclivities, but these images come from the past. Her analysis of women’s roles in a historical context reveals a steady deterioration of positive images, culminating in the most demeaning portrayals in the films of the 1970’s, when this work was written.
The remaining chapters are organized in a roughly chronological pattern, examining the ways in which these themes are played out or subverted in five eras: the 1920’s, 1930’s, 1940’s, 1950’s, and in “The Last Decade,” the 1960’s and 1970’s. Although the chapters focus on the...
(The entire section is 473 words.)