Bodies of Work: The Production of Work, Class and Gender in Film Musicals
Film musicals are a unique representation of working-class cultural expression. My study will focus on three film musicals: The Pajama Game (1957), Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), and Hairspray (2007) with the goal of expanding the working-class cannon and the critical understanding of film musicals. The first section focuses on the ways that the title of each of these films references the unavoidable connection between work and play or work and romance. My second chapter will be devoted to the concept of bricolage in the songs, dances, and costuming of film musicals. In my third chapter, I will begin my close analysis of the female worker's body and the way it is affected by industrialization. The depiction of mechanized bodies makes film musicals a visual reproduction of the effects of work on the body. These effects are carried over into my fourth chapter, which deals with the way the feminine body, in particular, has not only been mechanized by industry, it has also been commodifed. My final chapter will look toward a productive resistance present in each of these texts. Again, the female body, though it has been subjugated, mechanized, and commodified, remains resistant to hegemonic forces. In this final section I will show that the bodies in these texts literally strain against the restrictions of "normal," "feminine" beauty and decorum. Even though the films themselves may not be consistently resistant, these female characters are a valuable addition to the scope of working-class cultural expression. Their refusal to succumb to the pressures of marginalization through class, gender and race is emblematic of the working-class struggle to resist economic, political, and cultural marginalization.
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