Acknowledgement: The author would like to acknowledge the guidance of Suzanne Leonard, Simmons College, the excellent feedback provided by Jump Cut’s peer reviewers and editors. This article would not exist without the friendship and support of Dana Hatcher.
1. Henry, Buck, “The Betty Boom,” Playboy (December 1992):122+. Bettie Mae Page was born “Bettie,” but due to the volume of publications in which she appeared, her name was often misspelled. In my writing, I use “Bettie” but preserve alternate spellings when used by other authors (as Henry did in his 1992 Playboy article). [return to text]
2. Bussmann, Kate, “Cutting Edge,” The Guardian, March 5, 2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/mar/06/mary-harron-film.
3. Bussmann, “Cutting Edge.”
4. Heller, Dana, “Shooting Solanas: Radical Feminist History and the Technology of Failure,” Feminist Studies 27.1 (2001): 167.
5. Heller, “Shooting Solanas,” 170.
6. Heller, “Shooting Solanas,” 170. The film intimates that Solanas’ assassination attempt is fueled by her reading of Warhol’s financial success and his acceptance by mainstream culture: That Warhol is such a star suggests that his brand of transgression is acceptable, even admirable. As a homosexual male provocateur Warhol is less of a threat to patriarchy than the “butch” Solanas, especially since his art is both an ironic indictment of consumer culture and extremely profitable within that same culture.
7. Kaufman, Anthony, “Interview: 9-Months Pregnant and Delivering American Psycho, Director Mary Harron,” indieWIRE, April 14, 2000,
8. Stewart, Ryan, “Gretchen Mol: An American Affair,” Suicidegirls.com (2009), http://suicidegirls.com/interviews/
9. Stewart, “Gretchen Mol.”
10. Stewart, “Gretchen Mol.”
11. Cabin, Chris, review of The Notorious Bettie Page, directed by Mary Harron, Filmcritic.com, AMC, 14 April 2006, http://movies.amctv.com/movie/2005/The+Notorious+Bettie+Page [Copy and paste this link in browser to see review.]
12. Ebert, Roger, review of The Notorious Bettie Page, directed by Mary Harron, Rogerebert.com, Chicago Sun Times, 21 Apr. 2006, http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/
13. Gleiberman, Owen, review of The Notorious Bettie Page, directed by Mary Harron, Entertainment Weekly, April 21, 2006.
14. Kaufman, “Interview” (my emphasis).
15. Kaufman, “Interview.” Harron goes on to note: “There was another company who were saying, we almost have a conventional detective story, can't you build up the role of the detective? It's like, no, if I wanted to do a conventional detective story, I would have. So there's a chance with the bigger studio and the more money that you're getting, to take the edges off it, I think.”
16. Hornaday, Ann, "Women of Independent Miens; Nicole Holofcener and Mary Harron Prove a Woman's Place Is in the Director's Chair," Washington Post, April 16, 2006, Sunday Arts.
17. Genz, Stephanie, Postfemininities in Popular Culture (New York: Palgrave, 2009), 1.
18. Genz, Postfemininities, 1.
19. Genz, Postfemininites, 2.
20. Sanders, Lise Shapiro, "Feminists Love a Utopia: Collaboration, Conflict, and the Futures of Feminism," Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration, Eds. Gillis, Howie, and Munford (New York: Palgrave, 2004): 5.
21. Sanders, “Feminists Love a Utopia,” 5.
22. Sanders, “Feminists Love a Utopia,” 5.
23. Snyder, R. Claire, “What Is Third-Wave Feminism? A New Direction Essay,” Signs 34.1 (2008): 175.
24. Snyder, “What is Third-Wave Feminism?” 175-176.
25. Bulbeck, Chilla, "Unpopularising Feminism: 'Blaming Feminism' in the Generation Debate and the Mother Wars" Sociology Compass 4.1 (2010): 23-24.
26. Hornaday, “Women of Independent Miens.” My emphasis.
27. Gaines, Jane, “In the Service of Ideology: How Betty Grable’s Legs Won the War,” Film Reader 5 (1982): 54.
28. Buszek, Maria Elena, Pin-Up Grrrls: Feminism, Sexuality, Popular Culture (Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 2006), 7.
29. Gaines, “In the Service,” 54.[return to page 2]
30. Harron, Mary, Guinevere Turner, and Gretchen Mol, filmmaker commentary, The Notorious Bettie Page, DVD (HBO Films), 2006. My reliance on filmmaker commentary serves two purposes: 1) First-hand accounts of the filmmaking process provide context clues to the finished film and, to an extent, its rhetorical intentions. The subjectivity of filmmaker assertions is always suspect; however, subjectivity aside, useful insight can be drawn from the filmmakers’ conversation. 2) Cult figures like Bettie Page generate an extensive variety of ‘source’ material regarding their lives and exploits, so much so that mythologies and a kind of short-hand reference emerge. By surveying the filmmaker commentary, we can, in a sense, triangulate the ‘facts’ in a way that better reveals the rhetoric of the film.
31. It is also possible to read this sequence in terms of the cheesecake spreads in popular men’s magazines: Prior to the postwar photographic pin-up, pin-up artists like Gil Elvgren created cheeky pin-up scenarios that traded equally in humor and female physicality/sexuality. In the 1950s, pin-up art was, to an extent, replaced by humorous photographic narratives with scantily clad models cavorting with men in gorilla suits and the like. Harron may be citing cheesecake with her injection of humor into the camera club sequence.
32. Essex, Karen and James L. Swanson, Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-Up Legend (Los Angeles: General Publishing Group, 1998), 64.
33. Bettie and Charlie’s conversation brings up a theme not discussed in this article: Bettie’s comfort with being alone. Charlie equates Bettie’s desire to be alone with that of great artists and thinkers. This conversation echoes similar observations throughout the film, suggesting that Harron intends her audience to read Bettie’s choices as those of an innately independent spirit which, in turn, reinforces the reading that Bettie’s modeling and sexuality are not to be viewed as patriarchal objectification but conscious choices of a free spirit.
34. Charlie’s “thank you” is delivered with such a grateful tone that I wonder what the audience is expected to think: Are we meant to understand that Charlie’s erotic desire is met? His gratefulness makes it difficult to find such fulfillment negative, or couched in patriarchal, fetishistic objectification. I’m inclined to think Harron uses Charlie’s desire to suggest that looking at and finding pleasure in female sexual spectacle is, in appropriate situations, acceptable. The question becomes what constitutes an appropriate situation? Keeping with my insistence that the film denies such pleasure to its audience, it’s worth noting that our attention is focused on Charlie’s pleasure and not on our own.
35. Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure,” 61-62.
36. Martin, Nina K., Sexy Thrills: Undressing the Erotic Thriller, (Urbana: U of Illinois P, 2007), 158, 160.
37. Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure,” 69.
38. See comments on note 27. [return to page 3]
39. Foster, Richard, The Real Bettie Page: The Truth About The Queen of the Pinups, (Secaucus: Citadel Press, 1999), 13.
40. Essex and Swanson, Bettie Page, 25.
41. Essex and Swanson, Bettie Page, 50- 57.
42. Silke, Jim, Bettie Page: Queen of Hearts (Milwaukie: Dark Horse Books, 1995), 51.
43. Martin, Sexy Thrills, 3.
44. Projansky, Sarah, "Film and Television Narratives at the Intersection of Rape and Postfeminism," in Watching Rape: Film and Television in Postfeminist Culture (New York: New York Univ. Press, 2001), 100.
Projansky, “Film and Television Narratives,” 101.
46. Martin, Sexy Thrills, 4.
47. Martin, Sexy Thrills, 10.
48. Projansky, “Film and Television Narratives,” 107.
49. Projansky, “Film and Television Narratives,” 118.
50. There is no unified, common postfeminist movement and postfeminism contends with a fickle popular imagination. What is clear across a myriad of postfeminist discourses is that postfeminism opposes the second wave’s stance on sexuality. This opposition is, in some ways, shared with third wave feminists. Where these brands of feminism differ is in how they oppose the second wave.
51. Buszek, Pin-Up Grrrls, 4.
52. Genz, Stephanie, and Benjamin A. Brabon, Postfeminism: Cultural Texts and Theories, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press, 2009), 156.
52. Friedan, Betty, The Feminine Mystique (New York: Laurel, 1983). The historical Bettie Page can be considered a product of Betty Friedan’s feminine mystique. What Friedan uncovered in her seminal second wave text, The Feminine Mystique, was that proliferation of a definition of femininity that contained and exploited women, that reduced them to good housekeepers and dutiful handmaidens. Through the rhetoric of women’s magazines, fifties women were told happiness lies in “accepting their own nature, which can find fulfillment only in sexual passivity, male domination, and nurturing maternal love” (43). This narrow definition of femininity resulted in a variety of cultural (dysfunctional) manifestations, not the least of which was a burgeoning market of men’s magazines.
54. Buszek, Pin-Up Grrrls, 247.
55. Buszek, Pin-Up Grrrls, 247.
56. Harron accurately draws from the real Bettie Page’s life—with a few careful changes: The years after Bettie stopped modeling were indeed filled with drifting, displacement, and a call to do God’s work. What Harron opts not to include, however, was the real Bettie Page’s final descent into obscurity and madness. Bettie spent years in Bible schools, even making a brief contribution to Billy Graham’s crusades. At one point she went back to school to acquire a Master’s Degree in English and journalism, though she fell short of completing the degree by a few credits. Bettie tried to reconcile with her first husband Billy Neal; she also entered into two other marriages that failed. Richard Foster’s unauthorized biography follows Bettie’s twisted, post-modeling journeys and claims that Bettie eventually wound up in mental institutions and racked up charges of assault and attempted murder.
57. Gaines, Jane, “In the Service of Ideology.”
58. Gaines, Jane, “In the Service of Ideology.”
59. Buszek, Pin-Up Grrrls, 247.
60. Buszek, Pin-Up Grrrls, 7.
61. Crowley, Sharon, Toward a Civil Discourse: Rhetoric and Fundamentalism, (Pittsburg: Univ. of Pittsburg Press, 2006), 61.
62. Crowley, Toward a Civil Discourse, 62.