Perpetual girlhood: what the movies have taught us about ourselves : a content analysis of Best Actress Academy Award-winning films from 1961-1997

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O'Skea, Doreen L.
McDonald, Becky A.
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Thesis (M.A.)
Department of Journalism
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Empowered, embattled and embittered women seem to be everywhere in the media today. Either in film, on television or on the Internet, there are more and more women being shown in a variety of working roles. Women are being shown in nontraditional jobs, they are allowed to work in the man's world and they can take charge. All of these things are remarkable but a note of caution is needed, for while these women are working the boardroom the girls are taking over.Women in power are increasingly being shown as unattractive, undesirable and unpleasant. While their counterparts- girls, are shown as loving, lovable and sweet. Films are reinforcing the girlish archetypal ideal by allowing girls to be the winners in nearly all situations.Female characters may begin the story as independent women but they are soon shown the error of their ways and are quickly reduced to a more pleasant, more malleable girl by the film's end.The content analysis of 37 Best Actress Academy Awardwinning films revealed that women are reduced to girls nearly 87 percent of the time. These women gave up their careers, or at least their career goals. They changed their appearance, they altered their personal goals and they suddenly found a way to express more emotion than they ever had in their life as a woman.Further analysis revealed that several subthemes were present in the films. In 19 of the 37 films women were raped or they were the victims of attempted rape. In 12 of the 37 films women were widows, they either began the film as a widow or they were to shortly suffer the grief of widowhood. In 22 of the 37 women are the victims of violence or they are threatened with violence and in 15 of the 37 films the characters are threatened with the loss of their home or they are struggling to make the journey to their home.The final analysis revealed that women were either pitied, maligned, abused or raped while girls were celebrated, loved and adored.