Proceeding for the most part in chronological order, and organizing her book decade by decade, Rosen tells the story of the changing images of women projected by motion pictures over the years. She works from two assumptions. The first is that art reflects life. To some extent, then, films function as a mirror held up to the face of society. They reflect society’s changing images of women over the years under consideration. According to her second assumption, however, life also reflects art. Specifically, people derive from motion pictures perceptions, values, and attitudes that they apply to everyday life. No one should be surprised, she argues, that American women have often been expected, and have themselves often aspired, to live up to the glittering images of women projected on the motion-picture screen.
From one point of view, Popcorn Venus is a history of those images, but it is a critical history, not a mere chronicle. The story involves the constant conflict of repression and emancipation. What one sees on the screen also forms complex patterns of interaction with the world beyond the cinema. Rosen juxtaposes her observations about the films of each decade with a sociological and historical analysis of the situation of women. This material is too closely interwoven with her analysis of films to be dismissed as “background.” The films and the sociohistorical conditions are meant to be mutually illuminating and, together, to realize...
(The entire section is 564 words.)