6 Pages, Grade: B
This essay discusses how British silent cinema engaged with its contemporary cultural practices in regards to premarital sex and related moral obligations in the society in the first quarter of twentieth century. The film ‘Hindle Wakes’ (1927), which tells a story of a single factory girl that enjoys a brief sexual relationship, illustrates the argument by analysing the contemporary sexual behaviour and the social and familial reactions to this. The choice of the film could be justified for its controversial message and proto-feminist tone, which portraits an independent working class female who demands the same rights as men to sexual freedom. The first quarter of the twentieth century has seen rapid changes in women’s place in the society and their domestic environment accompanied by feminism movements. The essay argues different ideas about premarital sex and women’s sexual freedom by the turn of the century, its constant transition during the first thirty years of twentieth century and the reflexion of these matters as cultural practices in the British silent cinema.
The position of women issues within British silent cinema has been a historical journey under great influence of changes in contemporary cultural practices and society norms, since the beginning of the silent cinema at the end of the nineteenth century to its termination within the next three decades. During this period, the place of British women in the society had undergone a drastic transformation with the rise of feminism and suffrage movements. By the turn of the century, widespread social and political reforms accompanied by industrial changes, had a great impact upon the image of contemporary femininity. At the same time cinema was establishing its place within British leisure practices. The rapid progression of cinema to the city centre picture places, grabbed the moralists attention to the cinema and they started to notice the impacts of the film on the audiences. These middle class moralists soon determined that the morality of the audience was damaged by cinemas and therefore they launched a crusade against film industry. Rapp in his article suggests that “Based upon Christian convictions, they believed that the body was a sacred temple that should not be violated by pre-marital sex, adultery within marriage, or same-sex relations. According to middleclass notions of appropriate behaviour for females, the social purists thought that women should be pure, chaste, sexually passive, modest, and submissive”. (Rapp 2002)
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