Hollywood & Child Female Sexuality
In a 1937 review of Shirley Temple’s film Wee
Willie Winkie, Graham Greene wrote, “Older men respond
to her dubious coquetry, to the sight of her well-shaped
and desirable little body, packed with enormous vitality,
only because the safety curtain of story and dialogue
drops between their intelligence and their desire.”
Pretty biting hatchet piece on a 9-year-old.
From the earliest days of Hollywood, film makers dallied
not just in female sexuality but in the construction of
child female sexuality.
With the advent of film, children and sexual innuendo
appeared almost immediately in the form of the Baby Burlesks Films.
Children are provided to us as totsies, the film industry
argues, because the culture demanded it in the 30’s as it
demands it today.
The Lolita-like portrayals of Shirley Temple, Brooke Shields
in Pretty Baby and Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver continue to appear.
The “constant sexualizing of children and our quick denials of that activity”
In one film, Shirley Temple wore trousers with the
mature suggestiveness of a Dietrich. Her neat and
well-developed rump twisted in the tap-dance.
Her eyes had a sidelong searching coquetry.
It’s not Shirley Temple in the clip below but
from the same period [1930s]. Pretty shocking.
Novelist and film critic Graham Greene was sued
by Fox Studios when he reviewed Wee Willie Winkie
and pointed out Temple’s overt flirtatious behavior
throughout the film.
Greene was quick to note that Shirley Temple’s biggest
fans were middle-aged men and clergymen who could satisfy
their perverse desires watching Shirley on screen.
Infancy is her disguise, her appeal is more secret
and more adult. Already two years ago she was a
fancy little piece.
In Captain January she wore trousers with the
mature suggestiveness of a Dietrich: her neat
and well-developed rump twisted in the tap-dance:
her eyes had a sidelong searching coquetry.
Now in Wee Willie Winkie, wearing short kilts,
she is completely totsy.
‘Watch her swaggering stride across the Indian
barrack-square: hear the gasp of excited expectation
from her antique audience when the sergeant’s palm
is raised: watch the way she measures a man with
agile studio eyes, with dimpled depravity.
Adult emotions of love and grief glissade across the
mask of childhood, a childhood skin-deep.’
Hollywood’s abusive treatment of minors is especially acute for females in a particular age range where they’re (to quote a Spears song).
Young actresses are often victimized and commodified, which affects their ability to make personal and professional choices. They are given the illusion of control, but as Portman exposed, that only leads to other problems.
Hollywood divides young women’s sexuality so they usually only have two options: to be hypersexual or to deny that they are sexual at all.
Natalie Portman found power at the time in denying her sexuality, whereas someone like Miley Cyrus found power by becoming a caricature of what a sexually in-charge person looks like.
Cyrus, a former child star with an undeniably powerful singing voice, is also known for her cheeky clothing and
provocative statements; she has made it to the point where she is laughing with us at her excess.