"Just Once I Want My Life to Be Like an 1980s Movie!": Female Adolescence and the Flapper Youth Spectator

Christina Petersen
Washington University in St. Louis

[1] This past September, Screen Gems released Easy A (2010), a whimsical takeoff on Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter in which Emma Stone's highly self-aware high schooler Olive Penderghast pretends to have sex with a gay classmate in order that he may pass as straight and escape bullying. What begins as an act of charity though quickly becomes big business when word gets around that Olive will pretend to do just about anything in exchange for the current currency of choice for teenagers – the gift card. Business booms at Ojai High School, leading to Olive's casting as the school "harlot" and her melodramatic defense of her virtue via the live webcast that structures the entire film. Constructed as a mash-up of the popular novel, classical Hollywood narrative, and the vlog, Easy A plays freely with form to represent the contemporary girl's experience of high school as a heavily mediated rumor mill. In addition to accelerated dolly shots that visualize the one-way, almost instantaneous flow of information through texting and word of mouth, the film punctuates Olive's narrative with references to the gangster film, film noir, director Will Gluck's previous feature, Fired Up! (2009), as well as earlier youth films. [1] In particular, in one chapter of Olive's tale, her lament about the disappearance of male chivalry in contemporary adolescent society is layered over a series of clips from John Hughes film (as well as one honorary Hughes film) that seem to suggest new millennial youth culture is merely a pastiche of the late twentieth century youth film.

[2] After Olive's voiceover introduces a montage of several teen johns whose payments ($100 Best Buy gift card, $50 to T.J. Maxx, $90 Panda Express gift card, $40 in movie passes, and a 20%-off coupon) demonstrate the decreasing market value of Olive's reputation, Olive demands of her webcam, "Whatever happened to chivalry? Does it only exist in 1980s movies?" A companion montage of alternative (chivalrous) masculinity then unfolds under her voiceover that features not images from Easy A but footage from iconic 1980s youth films – John Cusack holding up a boombox in Say Anything (1989), the lawnmower ride off into the sunset with Patrick Dempsey in Can't Buy Me Love (1987), Jake the upper-class crush waiting by his Porsche in Sixteen Candles (1984), and Judd Nelson's rebel thrusting his fist in the air in a freeze frame at the end of The Breakfast Club (1985). The grainy look to these clips reinforces their status as recollection-images with a dual address to the audience. [2] While a moviegoer of Olive's age would only "remember" these films as home video texts, as representations of a time already past, these clips also address an older audience member who could remember viewing these films when they were first released and experience nostalgia for a form of representation they understand to be equally mediated. In this sense this montage functions as a shared culture repository of how adolescence used to be and should be, at least according to Olive, as opposed to how it "is" now. However, rather than read Olive's nostalgia for a past she never experienced as indicative of the film's status as a postmodern text, I will argue that Olive's final memory image in this sequence suggests something quite different, that in fact the American youth film has been and continues to be a modernist genre since its earliest beginnings.

[3] The montage ends with another image of 1980s adolescent masculinity, but of a different type than the others. As Judd Nelson is caught in freeze frame, Olive declares from offscreen, "Just once I want my life to be like an Eighties movie!," and the sequence cuts to Matthew Broderick (as Ferris Bueller) rising into the frame, as he performs an impromptu musical number on a parade float in downtown Chicago. This footage from another iconic youth film, Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), marks a distinct shift in register that is also paralleled in Olive's voiceover. She now proclaims that not only does she want her life to be like a 1980s youth film in general, preferably she wants to live "one with a really awesome musical number ... for no apparent reason." In this moment, she shifts from a discussion of bygone images of teen chivalry to the youth film's strange preponderance of musical numbers. And in the process Olive transforms from wishful thinker to genre critic, a position that she invites the film's spectator to take up as well.

[4] I would argue that in fact Olive is presented throughout the film as a correlate of the spectator of Easy A. The film's spectator is meant to be familiar, just like Olive, with the films she cites and further understand the self-reflexive joke that youth films are themselves made up of already-mediated images of adolescence that condition young people to have certain expectations about gender roles. At the same time, Olive's wish to live a life in which a "really awesome musical number" occurs "for no apparent reason" signals another appeal to the spectator as one who would wish for an escape from the everyday world of the narrative that the musical number provides. As Richard Dyer has argued, musical numbers are exemplary of film's ability to offer the spectator a feeling of a utopian other-world "where things could be better, that something other than what is can be imagined and maybe realized." [3] At the same time, then, that Easy A pokes fun at its own construction of adolescence to address the spectator as a sophisticated consumer of media, it also gestures towards the youth film as an escape from such critical consumption into the pleasures of the text.

[5] It is these dual aspects of the youth film, brought into relief by Easy A, that I am most interested in addressing in relation to the historical and theoretical conception of what I have termed the "youth spectator." When I use the term youth spectator, I refer not only to the actual adolescent moviegoer but also to a structure of looking and feeling constructed by the formal organization of the youth film accessible to the filmgoer of all ages. [4] Youth spectatorship signifies a conscious and unconscious mimetic relationship to the images and sounds of the youth film, in which the viewer is constructed as a critical consumer and a subject revitalized by the shocks and stimuli of modern American life as they are refigured on film. [5] In this manner, I view the American youth film as a modernist text according to Marshall Berman's conception of modernism as "any attempt by modern men and women to become subjects as well as objects of modernization." [6] Miriam Hansen has similarly argued against modernism as solely associated with high culture and the avant-garde, but applicable to "a whole range of cultural and artistic practices that register, respond to, and reflect upon processes of modernization and the experience of modernity." [7] In order to make this argument though, much like Easy A, I turn to the figure of the adolescent girl in the early years of a new century, namely the flapper, to consider how youth films first registered, responded to, and reflected upon the experience of modernity by selling youth as a genre of experience rather than chronological age.

"Flapper Americana Novissima"

[6] Thirty years before the advent of the 1950s "teenpic" and sixty years before John Hughes directed his first feature, the American film industry had already recognized the importance of adolescent audiences by courting America's young with a new genre: the 1920s "youth picture."[8] Featuring emerging stars like Colleen Moore, Clara Bow, Joan Crawford, Louise Brooks, and William Haines and focused on the exploits of the most prominent adolescent types of the era – flappers and college students – the youth picture sparked a wave of emulation of its fashions and flirting techniques that drew on the prevailing conceptions of the stage between childhood and adulthood first introduced at the turn of the century. In 1904, developmental psychologist and pioneer of the field of child study, Granville Stanley Hall, who today is best known for bringing Freud and Jung to the United States for a series of lectures at Clark University five years later, published an unlikely bestseller, a two-volume tome entitled Adolescence: Its Psychology and Its Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology, Sex, Crime, Religion and Education, that redefined the in-between stage for the modern era. [9] For Hall, adolescence began with puberty in the early teens (he dated it to fourteen) and lasted well into an individual's mid-twenties with the assumption of adult responsibilities (Hall considered age twenty-four the ceiling for adolescence) such as a marriage, work, or graduation from university. [10]

[7] What captured the public's imagination most was Hall's application of genetic psychology to the study of adolescence, in which he compared the stages of individual physical and psychical development to the stages of human evolution, claiming that adolescence marked a "marvelous new birth" in which "youth awakes to a new world and understands neither it nor himself. The whole future of life depends on how the new powers now given suddenly and in profusion are husbanded and directed. Character and personality are taking form, but everything is plastic." [11] Hall's account sparked debate as he argued for more attention to the influence of the modern environment on American youth. Twentieth-century America, a nation undergoing its own troubled adolescence, now increasingly thrust its young into "urban life with its temptations, prematurities, sedentary occupations, and passive stimuli just when an active, objective life is most needed." [12] Hall further warned: "never has youth been exposed to such dangers of both perversion and arrest as in our own land and day." [13] In Hall's view, Gilded Age young people were particularly vulnerable to the temptations and vagaries of modern life because of their distinctively mimetic relationship to the world, as adolescence constituted the "acme" of imitation, plasticity, and susceptibility to one's surroundings. [14]

[8] As other scholars have discussed, Hall's idea that those who had entered puberty were considered the most susceptible to the influence of their environment would gain much purchase with Progressive reformers such as Jane Addams and Louise de Koven Bowen and further inform the Payne Fund Studies' first attempts towards the empirical measurement of the effects of moviegoing on America's youth in the late 1920s. [15] Importantly though, while Addams and the Payne Fund researchers considered youth's susceptibility to cinema a largely negative affair, Hall considered the cinema a site where modern bodies drained by the shocks and stimuli of the city streets and the demands of Taylorized labor could return to a revitalized state – not unlike adolescence – through an involuntary mimicry of cinematic bodies. In 1921, in an essay entitled "Gesture, Mimesis, Types of Temperament, and Movie Pedagogy," Hall claimed that film had much to teach modern subjects who lived in a world where communication had become increasingly less expressive of internal emotional states. For this reason, Hall heartily approved of gesture's resurgence in the (silent) cinema, since, as "a form of expression more primitive and fundamental than language," the return of gesture could make life "not only more expressive but more sincere and interesting." [16] Film thus offered more than a means to record gesture for study; it offered the pedagogical potential to produce a more "truthful" and embodied form of communication that could energize the spectator.

[9] For Hall, this energy was transferred directly from the body of the performer to that of the spectator through the seemingly passive act of viewing. He

How the discriminating spectator is thrilled, e.g., by a really new dance, with original features, which does not depend on or lapse to mere athleticism or acrobatic but shows a true artistic spirit and flash of originality! Still more is he stirred by expressions of grief which do not depend on sprayed-on tears and a face turned away or hidden because the actor is inadequate to do justice [17]

Here Hall praised the verisimilar acting style of 1920s film as an improvement on the codified, histrionic gesture of the nineteenth-century stage, comparing "a really new dance" and an actor's ability to express authentic emotion in their effect on the spectator.[18] He disdained the conventions of "sprayed-on tears" or "a face turned away" as they were merely external signifiers of affect disconnected from internal feeling. For Hall, both dance and gesture melded the spectator's body with the mind of the actor via a mimetic visual connection. Yet this connection was not simply a mindless one, as it is the "discriminating" spectator who is thrilled by these flashes of originality and artistic expression. Hall did not consider critical viewership an impediment to being moved by the cinema; in fact, it was a precondition.

[10] In an essay published the following year entitled "Flapper Americana Novissima," Hall turned his attention from adolescence and film in general to a concerted discussion of the new species of young womanhood that had evolved since World War I. According to him, the flapper rendered prewar models of femininity obsolete due to her keen interest in all that was modern and modish, including fashion, dance, music, and especially film. For the flapper attired in short pleated skirts and open galoshes, "a good dance is as near as heaven as [she] can get and live" just as "her nerves are uniquely toned to jazz, with its shocks, discords, blariness, siren effects, animal and other noises." [19] Furthermore, for Hall, no flapper was unique nor did she simply take her schoolmates as her model. Instead, according to Hall, "in all such matters, as in so many others, the girl imitates, consciously or unconsciously, her favorite movie actresses." [20] In this manner, eighteen years after he initially expressed his concern for the adolescent as a product of the modern world, Hall now included cinema as a modern phenomenon. Indeed, while the Progressive-era adolescent girl was naturally imitative of all those in her environment, the 1920s flapper looked to the screen and its stars for templates of fashion and conduct. However, Hall did not consider this a necessarily negative development. While he opined that "at least half the movie films seem almost to have been made for the flapper; and her tastes and style, if not her very code of honor, are fashioned on them," the flapper's new modes of comportment and style offered the older generation an opportunity for revitalization by adopting them, as "she has already set fashions in attire, and even in manners, some of which her elders have copied, and have found not only sensible, but rejuvenating." [21] Although primarily a representative of the younger generation, the flapper, like the cinema, also offered the opportunity for rejuvenation for those of any age, in this case for those that adopted her youthful (life)style.

[11] In line with Hall's observation, in the 1920s the American film industry first targeted adolescent audiences through its production of films featuring flapper characters and flapper stars. In 1923, John Francis Dillon's adaptation of Warner Fabian's salacious novel, Flaming Youth (1923, featuring Colleen Moore), sparked a cycle of flapper films including Black Oxen (1923, Clara Bow), The Perfect Flapper (1924, Moore), Ella Cinders (1924, Moore), Ermine and Orchids (1927, Moore), Dancing Mothers (1926, Bow), IT (1927, Bow), The Patsy (1928, Marion Davies), and Our Dancing Daughters (1928, Joan Crawford) that depicted flappers drinking, dancing, and freely engaging in premarital sex. Sara Ross has argued that in order to stave off censorship of the flapper film's often racy themes and images, flapper stars like Moore and Bow deployed their own brand of comic masquerade designed to highlight their flirtatious behavior as merely a pose and not indicative of their "true nature."[22] Ross reads moments in Flaming Youth, Ella Cinders, Ermine and Orchids, and IT as particularly indicative of this tendency. In Flaming Youth in particular, Ross argues that Moore's performance identified both herself and the flapper she portrayed as adept imitators, although not of a previous female type like the vamp, but of the flapper type herself. The film rather "constructs flapperhood, somewhat paradoxically, as the act of masquerading as a flapper." [23] In this sense, Hollywood constituted both flapper character and flapper star as models for emulation much as Hall described, but again not as unique models; rather, the flapper represented a copy of a copy.

[12] The Patsy, a Marion Davies vehicle also known as The Politic Flapper and directed by King Vidor, further linked the flapper's propensity toward imitation to film spectatorship and fandom. Davies plays Pat Harrington, a downtrodden Cinderella with an up-to-date Dutch bob who falls for her older sister's beau, Tony, although he only sees her as a good pal. In a desperate attempt to make Tony jealous, Pat pretends she is in love with another man but despairs of producing the body when Tony asks about him. She then turns to her father for advice, who, in turn, draws on the cinema, and, it is intimated, flapper films, for tricks on how to get her man. He confides to Pat that he has just seen "the slickest movie last night and the girl in it sure knew her onions" and then begins to demonstrate the girl's technique by winking and pursing his lips as the sequence fades out. Based on her father's advice, Pat then makes four attempts to gain Bill's attention. She begins first by Charlestoning madly into the room, framed in the doorway, but Billy, who is visibly drunk, is unmoved.

[13] Pat then casts about for new techniques and again takes her inspiration from the cinema as her eyes light on an almost life-sized portrait of film star Mae Murray mounted on Billy's wall. Immediately galvanized, Pat jumps up from the sofa and effects a quick change, removing her belt and slinging a shawl around her body. When she turns around, her transformation is complete, not into a generic flapper but into an uncanny impersonation of Murray, complete with Mae's trademark bee-stung lips. [24] Pat returns to the doorway for her performance, hopping and careening towards the couch. Billy is distinctly unamused and violently kicks her to the floor. Again casting about for technique, Pat's gaze now falls upon a poster of Lillian Gish, star of D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (1915), Broken Blossoms (1919), and lately Victor Sjöstrom's The Scarlet Letter (1926). Pat quickly abandons the shawl and fashions a cape from a bed sheet, a bonnet from a handkerchief, and practices Gish's demure expression in the mirror. Finally Pat models herself on Pola Negri circa The Spanish Dancer (1923), again practicing her chosen star's aggressive demeanor in the mirror and then appearing to Billy framed in the doorway holding a knife over her head. While all of these impersonations fail to rouse the sleeping Billy, they underscore the prevailing construction of the flapper as marked not only, as in Flaming Youth, by her attempts to effect a worldly attitude at odds with her true nature, but also that when a flapper looked to female stars for models of behavior, she did so knowingly.

[14] The imitation sequence from The Patsy thus addresses its spectators as correlates to Pat, as sophisticated media consumers and movie fans. Much like the chivalry montage in Easy A, this sequence assumes that the film's spectator will easily recognize Murray, Gish, and Negri and appreciate Davies' virtuosity in emulating them, exploited by long shots and longer takes that reinforce the impression that she is putting on these impersonations in real time. In addition, much like the 1980s clips in Easy A, it is significant that the stars that Pat chooses to imitate were not contemporary flappers, but female stars all over the age of thirty and whose careers were in decline by the time of The Patsy's release. By 1928, Murray, Gish, and Negri all represented models of femininity as, respectively, mature sophistication, demure innocence, and eroticized exoticism rendered out-of-date by the flapper. It would seem then that Pat's lack of success in garnering Billy's attention was not due to the quality of her imitations but rather that she chose the wrong stars to emulate.

[15] Variety further described Davies' star imitations as "corking fan stuff, especially in the smaller communities where screen gossip is a matter for table conversation." [25] Her performance revealed her as a "skillful mimic" and the review described how the New York audience especially "broke into applause on the Gish interpretation." [26] In addition, the suggested exploitation for the film included a familiar tactic – the flapper impersonation contest – with a twist: unlike similar contests in which female entrants were encouraged to imitate the stars of the films, the contestants in the "Marion Davies Impersonation Contest" were asked to imitate not Davies herself, but other film stars. [27] The film thus constructed its spectator as a fan who could identify these stars, the impulse to mimic their conduct, and the eventuality, as Pat and likely the contestants in the Marion Davies Impersonation Contest soon discovered, that such imitations, as slick as they might be, could still fail to achieve their objective.

[16] At the same time, The Patsy also gestures toward a second type of spectator engagement, an involuntary somatic mimesis of the screen body, exemplified by Pat's initial attempt to seduce Billy by doing the Charleston. Lori Landay has argued that the foregrounding of dancing in flapper films, especially Joan Crawford's performance in Our Dancing Daughters, in which her character begins the film by doing a vigorous Charleston as she dresses for an evening out, invited the female flapper film spectator in particular to undergo a "distinctly modern experience of spectatorship." [28] Female viewers who watched Moore, Bow, Crawford, Pickford, and Davies do the Charleston, Black Bottom, or simply career exuberantly about the screen were not passively reacting to them as erotic objects or models of commodity consumption. Rather, the female flapper spectator possibly enjoyed a "particularly active subjective identification" with flapper stars and the characters they played "because of her experiences of doing similar dances." [29]

[17] However, the youth spectator's experience of flapper films encompassed not only the visual aspect of dance but also the music meant to underscore it. In an earlier moment in The Patsy at a dance at the local yacht club, Pat, desperate to gain Tony's attention and eager to dance with him, performs an improvised dance with her fingers (in an homage to Chaplin). She then asks the distracted Tony: "Doesn't that music go right to your feet?" This humorous reworking of the popular adage, in which music going straight to one's feet is substituted for alcohol going directly to one's head, is suggestive of how music in this era was considered to cause a similar physical reaction. Much like alcohol, music here is intimated to affect both mind and body by traversing the ear-foot barrier and causing a form of somatic intoxication.

[18] According to the music cue sheet given to theater accompanists for The Patsy, this moment in the film was meant to be underscored by Broadway composer Ray Henderson's jazz ballad, "Without You Sweetheart," sped up in cut-time. [30] Similarly, the prelude to her "seductive" Charleston was to be accompanied by Henderson's popular jazz dance hit "The Varsity Drag" (1927), made famous a year earlier in the hit musical Good News (1927), which brought collegiate proms and preoccupations with football to the Broadway stage. [31] "The Varsity Drag" quickly became a staple of cue sheets for companies like the Cameo Music Publishing Company; it was also cued to accompany Joan Crawford's famous Charleston during the yacht club sequence in Our Dancing Daughters in which she whips off her skirt and performs solo for a group of spectators.[32] The use of "The Varsity Drag" in both films is significant because the song itself was more than just a catchy tune, it sparked a dance craze whose lyrics denoted "the precise steps, wiggles, shakes, and shimmies that distinguished" the Varsity Drag from the Charleston or its successor, the Black Bottom, as "down on your heels, up on your toes, that's the way to do the Varsity Drag." [33] In this sense, it also highlights the role of popular jazz in the spectator experience of flapper films in the 1920s.

[19] In 1920s America, jazz was considered more than a musical style; it represented a way of life. Flapper films that dealt with society life such as Flaming Youth were often described as "jazz life" films and the confluences between youth and jazz were many and varied in the so-called Jazz Age. Much like prevailing characterizations of the flapper, jazz was considered the "brazen defiance of accepted rules" in music (or otherwise) and signified all that which was "rapid, feverish, excited, and exciting." [34] F. Scott Fitzgerald noted that jazz first stood for "sex, then dancing, then music" as it was mainly "associated with a state of nervous stimulation, not unlike that of big cities behind the lines of a war." [35] The "Jazz Age" was largely marked, for Fitzgerald, by an ethos of expenditure of all the pent-up nervous energy from World War I. [36] In this sense, "jazz" became an action as well as a way of life; to "jazz" or "jazz up" meant to introduce "speed and excitement into any activity of life." [37] In this sense, jazz signified not only the music and lifestyle of the young, it represented a means for those deadened by the shocks, stimuli, and monotonous cadences of modern life to pep things up and reinhabit their bodies. The adolescent flapper could dance the Charleston, but so could her mother, at least the promotion for Dancing Mothers argued: "Parked perambulators. Dancing Mothers. Jazz! Class! Jazz!" [38] In the 1920s, the jazz age was that of energetic youth and to be jazz-mad was to feel young, spontaneous, and invigorated.

[20] That this form of revitalization was predicated on an African American style of music was usually repressed or at best unspoken in flapper films. [39] However, jazz as a form of live musical performance situated in the space in the exhibition, as Mary Carbine's work on the reception of mainstream American films in Chicago's race theaters has shown, could often work against the image, transforming a mass-produced film into localized entertainment and, in the process, invite a more participatory form of spectatorship. In the film theater as jazz performance venue, African American audiences would often engage in disruptive practices of talking, whistling, stomping, hand-clapping, and "audible dramatic criticism" at odds with white and middle-class standards of moviegoing conduct. [40] In addition, the flapper's diegetic performance of dances first popularized by African American performers brought back the black body in mediated form as jazz dancing offered the opportunity for white bodies to imitate black ones and enjoy the feelings of spontaneity and liberation that such emulation implied. [41] With such suggestive accounts as to the disruptive nature of jazz on the level of performer and spectator, music cue sheets for flapper films like The Patsy and Our Dancing Daughters can be read as an attempt by the American film industry to standardize jazz, to rein in and harness the energy and excitement of a musical form that could otherwise distract the spectator. Music cue sheets repurposed jazz so that image and accompaniment could work together to attempt to revitalize the film spectator and further sell youth as a quality of experience.

"For No Apparent Reason"

[21] To return to where we came in, how can we discern the influence of the 1920s flapper film and its construction of a spectator who could be made to feel revitalized by the images and sounds of jazz in a new millennium youth film like Easy A? In addition to the film's incorporation of footage from flapper star Colleen Moore's performance in The Scarlet Letter (1934) under Olive's précis of the narrative of Hawthorne's novel, I would argue that Easy A's identification and inclusion of its own "really awesome musical number" is indicative of its debt to the tropes and conventions of the flapper film. As I have attempted to detail, the youth picture, while largely predating the transition to synchronized sound, drew on the energy of contemporary popular music, i.e. jazz, as a means to attempt to innervate and rejuvenate its spectator. Thomas Doherty has similarly dated the beginnings of the 1950s teenpic to its incorporation and commodification of rock 'n' roll in Rock Around the Clock (1956), another youth film which largely represses the bodies of African American performers in favor of a white origin for rock 'n' roll. According to Doherty, Rock Around the Clock began a cycle of rock 'n' roll teenpics that themselves led to the inclusion of teenybop performers like Bobby Darin and Frankie Avalon in clean teenpics like Gidget (1959) and the Beach Party series (1963-1966). [42] When Olive states that youth films include musical numbers "for no apparent reason," she pinpoints exactly what the youth film borrowed from the musical as a continued means to construct youth spectatorship as a subject position.

[22] Dyer claims that the utopian feelings engendered by the musical are a learned response, that entertainment forms acquire "their signification in relation to the complex meanings in the socio-cultural situation in which they were produced." [43] For Dyer, tap dance in African American culture has an "improvisory, self-expressive function similar to that of jazz" while minstrelsy marked it as a "jolly mindlessness." [44] Similar to this, I read the musical number in the youth film as indicative of the genre's modernist orientation, as a means to allow those enervated by modern life to feel young again while watching authentically young bodies dance to a style of music that broke with previous convention. While its original function has been obscured, white female bodies still function as the touchstone for making the youth spectator feel young. In fact, when we look closer at the musical number Olive chooses to cite, there are striking similarities between Ferris Bueller's Day Off and the 1920s flapper film.

[23] While Ferris is no Joan Crawford, the number begins with him lip-synching to the Beatles' of "Twist and Shout" (1963), a cover of the Isley Brothers' rock and blues version of "Shake It Up, Baby" (1962), with a group of young white women dancing behind him. Ferris's performance thus doubly represses the African American origins of this rock song, which, much like "The Varsity Drag," instructs the listener on the precise movements (shaking it up, twisting and shouting) to perform along with the song. However just as he reaches the end of the first chorus, the repressed black body returns in a much more visible form as the sequence cuts to an African American construction worker twisting and shouting on a piece of scaffolding high above State Street. Further shots on ground level reveal the entire crowd of parade spectators, both white and black, to be moved by and moving to the number. At this point, though, the number cuts to a new space – a series of steps that do not appear contiguous to the parade root – as a phalanx of black dancers glide into view, singing and dancing in unison to the song. The number then cuts between long shots of the dancers and medium close-ups of Ferris "singing" as if to reveal the real provenance of this song. Yet it is Ferris, rather than the black dancers, who revitalizes the crowd of young and old, male and female, black and white, working class and upper class (including a series of four identically dressed businessmen). In this case, the white body no longer represses the black one, it has now replaced it and the white female body still remains paramount, when the camera cuts to a medium shot of a teenage girl shaking her derriere in time to the music, as if not of her own volition. And as the sequence cuts to Ferris's middle-aged father doing the twist to his own son's performance in a high-rise office overlooking the parade route, we get another diegetic version of the youth spectator, one who is physically distant from the action, but who is made to feel in sympathetic rhythm with sound and image and actively imitates the bodies below.

[24] Although Easy A only includes a few shots from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, it also boasts its own unexplained musical number, in which Olive delivers a cover of "Knock on Wood" (1966), another song originally recorded by an African American artist (Eddie Floyd), at a school pep rally. Akin to Our Dancing Daughters, Olive performs in a suggestive outfit and gets the crowd going, clapping, and swaying when she rips off, not her own skirt, but the woodchuck costume of the school's mascot. However, Olive herself assigns a purpose to this number – to pique interest in her webcast. In this case, the musical number serves to widen her audience, to attract not only hormonal boys and curious girls, but adults as well. And when the film ends with Olive and her elusive crush riding on a lawnmower with their fists thrust into the air in a freeze frame while Simple Minds's "Don't You (Forget About Me)" (1985) plays in the background, it fulfills Olive's wish from her earlier rant. Her life has become an 1980s movie. Yet it also allows the spectator the opportunity to escape into that fantasy as well, experiencing the felt good of an economical ending and nostalgia for an earlier period in the genre. Only that earlier period is not the 1980s, but the 1920s, when young female bodies first became objects of a modern form of representation such as the cinema but youth itself became a subject position that could be inhabited by all.


[1] When Olive goes to a foreign film theater, she has the choice to see Der Scharlachrote Buchstabe (1973), Wim Wenders' adaptation of The Scarlet Letter, or ¡Vamos por las Chicas! (2009), the Spanish-language title of Fired Up! (Olive of course chooses Der Scharlachrote Buchstabe.) In addition, one scene is set in an orange grove reminiscent of those in Chinatown (1974), the film is filled with artfully placed oranges as in The Godfather (1972), and Olive explicitly mentions Carlito's Way (1993) as an influence on her behavior.

[2] Deleuze describes the recollection-image, as drawn from Bergson, as bringing a "whole new sense of subjectivity" to the fore than the movement-image that privileges the "temporal and spiritual." Much like Deleuze's discussion of this subjectivity on the level of character and text, I am interested in considering this in relation to the film's spectator. Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: the Time-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989), 47-48. See also D.N. Rodowick, Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1997), 79-118.

[3] Richard Dyer, "Entertainment and Utopia," in Hollywood Musicals: The Film Reader, ed. Steve Cohan (New York: Routledge, 2002), 20.

[4] I take this idea from Miriam Hansen's discussion of the shift in the nickelodeon era "from a collective, plural notion of the film viewer to a singular, unified but potentially universal category, the commodity form of reception." In this period, the spectator, as opposed to the moviegoer, came to signify "a structural term anticipated by the film." Miriam Hansen, Babel and Babylon: Spectatorship in American Silent Film (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991), 84.

[5] I employ the term mimesis as anthropologist Michael Taussig defines it in relation to Walter Benjamin's concept of the mimetic faculty. For Taussig, mimesis is a "two-layered notion": "a copying or imitation, and a palpable, sensuous, connection between the very body of the perceiver and the perceived." Taussig, Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses (New York: Routledge, 1993), 21.

[6] Marshall Berman, All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity (1982; New York: Penguin, 1988), 5.

[7] Miriam Hansen, "The Mass Production of the Senses: Classical Cinema as Vernacular Modernism," in Reinventing Film Studies, ed. Christine Gledhill and Linda Williams (London: Arnold, 2000), 333.

[8] See Cynthia Felando, "Searching for the Fountain of Youth: Popular American Cinema in the 1920s" (Ph.D. diss.: UCLA, 1996), 55-57, 96; and Felando, "Hollywood in the 1920s: Youth Must Be Served," in Hollywood Goes Shopping, eds. David Desser and Garth S. Jowett (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 82-107.

[9] Adolescence went on sale in March 1904 and initially sold 25,000 copies in the United States. A second edition was in the works by October of the same year. Two years later it was repackaged as a single volume for use by "parents, teachers, reading circles, normal schools, and college classes" as Youth: Its Education, Regimen, and Hygiene (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1906), vi. See "The Publishers," New York Times, February 13, 1904, BR111; and "Some Good Sellers," New York Times, October 15, 1905, BR690; and Dorothy Ross, G. Stanley Hall: The Psychologist as Prophet (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972), 335-336.

[10] G. Stanley Hall, Adolescence: Its Psychology and Its Relations to Physiology, Anthropology, Sociology, Sex, Crime, Religion and Education, Vol. I (1904; New York: Appleton and Company, 1907), xix.

[11] Ibid., xv.

[12] Ibid., xv-vi.

[13] Ibid., xvi.

[14] Ibid., 316.

[15] On Hall's influence on Addams and other Progressive reformers, see Anthony M. Platt, The Child Savers: The Invention of Delinquency (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1969), 26; David Nasaw, Children of the City: At Work and At Play (Garden City, New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1985), 138, 166; Paul Gerard Anderson, "The Good to Be Done: A History of the Juvenile Protective Association of Chicago, 1898-1976" (PhD diss., University of Chicago, 1988), 245-53; David S. Tanenhaus, Juvenile Justice in the Making (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 115-116; and Nicholas Sammond, Babes in Tomorrowland: Walt Disney and the Making of the American Child, 1930-1960 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005), 97-103.

[16] Hall, "Gesture, Mimesis, Types of Temperament and Movie Pedagogy," Pedagogical Seminary 28 (1921): 171.

[17] "Gesture, Mimesis, Types of Temperament and Movie Pedagogy," 172.

[18] For more on the shift from the histrionic to verisimilar acting style, see Pearson, Eloquent Gestures: The Transformation of Performance Style in the Griffith Biography Films (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992); and Tom Gunning, D.W. Griffith and the Origins of American Narrative Film: The Early Years at Biograph (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991), 225-7. For criticism of Pearson's argument, see Ben Brewster and Lea Jacobs, Theatre to Cinema: Stage Pictorialism and the Early Feature Film (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 79-110.

[19] Hall, "Flapper Americana Novissima," Atlantic Monthly 129 (June 1922): 773.

[20] Ibid., 775, emphasis added.

[21] Ibid., 780, emphasis added.

[22] Sara Ross, "'Good little bad girls': Controversy and the flapper comedienne," Film History 13 (2001): 415.

[23] Ross, "Banking the Flames of Youth: The Hollywood Flapper, 1920-1930" (Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2000), 226.

[24] Surrealist poet Jacques Rigaut wrote of his love for Mae Murray's "incorrigible gaiety, and "long, too agile body." Rigaut, "Mae Murray," Littérature 1 (March 1922): 18, repr. in The Shadow and the Act: Surrealist Writings on the Cinema, 3rd ed., ed. and trans. Paul Hammond (London: BFI, 2000), 205.

[25] "The Patsy," Variety, April 25, 1928, 28.

[26] Ibid.

[27] The Patsy press sheet, The Patsy clippings file, Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Beverly Hills, California. Ross notes that the press sheet for Moore's film, The Perfect Flapper, suggested a similar "Perfect Flapper Contest," in which local flappers were invited to "'compete'" with Moore by most closely approximating her clothing and demeanor from the film, down to purchasing a "Colleen Moore Perfect Flapper Frock." The best emulator in such contests was often advertised as winning a trip to Hollywood and a screen test. Ross, "Banking the Flames of Youth," 23-24.

[28] Lori Landay, "The Flapper Film: Comedy, Dance, and Jazz Age Kinaesthetics," in A Feminist Reader in Early Cinema, eds. Jennifer Bean and Diane Negra (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2002), 234.

[29] Landay, 234.

[30] The Patsy music cue sheet, cue #13, Stills, Posters and Paper Collections, Motion Picture Department, George Eastman House.

[31] Ibid., cue #32.

[32] Our Dancing Daughters music cue sheet, cue #11, Collection of Thematic Music Cue Sheets For Silent Films, 1915-1928 (Collection No. 162), University of California-Los Angeles Performing Arts Special Collections.

[33] John Bush Jones, Our Musicals, Ourselves: A Social History of the American Musical Theater (Hanover, NH: Brandeis University Press, 2003), 63-4.

[34] Sullivan, 479.

[35] Fitzgerald, 16.

[36] Ibid., 13. Fitzgerald dated the beginnings of the period with the May Day Riots of 1919 and ran up to its "spectacular death" in October 1929 with the stock market crash.

[37] Sullivan, 480. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term jazz was first employed in the 1910s in relation to baseball and became commonly defined as "Energy, excitement, 'pep'; restlessness; animation, excitability" (OED). Other sources though emphasize jazz's association with sexuality.

[38] Dancing Mothers copyright application, Famous Players-Lasky, March 3, 1926, LP22441, Motion Picture & Television Reading Room, Library of Congress.

[39] As Lewis Erenberg and Lawrence Levine have noted, jazz offered white musicians like Eddie Condon, Benny Goodman, and Bix Biederbecke the opportunity for "a personal and emotionally authentic expression" of their individuality and interiority that they had not found in high culture European music but that contemporary critics disparaged jazz for "not only for returning civilized people to the jungles of barbarism but also for expressing the mechanistic sterility of modern urban life." Lewis Erenberg, Swingin' the Dream: Big Band Jazz and the Rebirth of American Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 10; Lawrence Levine, "Jazz and American Culture," Journal of American Folklore 102:403 (Jan.-Mar. 1989): 14.

[40] Mary Carbine, "'The Finest Outside of the Loop': Motion Picture Exhibition in Chicago's Black Metropolis, 1905-1928," camera obscura 23 (May 1990): 24-26.

[41] Laura Mulvey has highlighted the similar way in which the "very visibility of the flapper as an emblem of whiteness draws attention to the equivalent invisibility of blackness" in this era. Mulvey, "Thoughts on the Young Modern Woman and Feminist Theory," in Visual and Other Pleasures, 2nd ed. (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009), 221.

[42] Thomas Doherty, Teenagers and Teenpics: The Juvenilization of American Movies in the 1950s, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002), 54-82; 145-186.

[43] Dyer, 21.

[44] Ibid.