Outfits to die for

Gabriele Annan

  • A Woman’s View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women 1930-60 by Jeanine Basinger
    Chatto, 528 pp, £14.99, January 1994, ISBN 0 7011 6093 4

You could call this a post-feminist work – ‘post’ even the new-wave feminism-with-a-smile of writers like Naomi Wolf. Jeanine Basinger seems out not so much to deconstruct Hollywood as to defuse the horror myth of its patriarchal Weltanschauung. The patriarchalism is there all right, but riddled with subversion. Her attitude is most clearly seen when she deals with Shirley Temple. Temple films are women’s films according to Basinger’s completely acceptable definition of the genre: films where the woman – in this case Temple – ‘is always the centre of the universe ... and her concerns are always related to love, family, choices, and all the other usual things’. Basinger starts off with a run-through of some of Temple’s more thought-provoking sequences:

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