Comparison of Wizard of Oz and Hairspray Gender Issues

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Sample (Extract) Section C – Comparison of American Films

What have you found interesting in the representation of gender in your chosen films.

Gender roles are central issues within the musicals The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939) and Hairspray (Adam Shankman, 2007). The differences between the representation of males and females may, in part, be as a result of the shifting ideologies in the USA in two different historical periods.

In the Wizard of Oz, the central protagonist (Dorothy Gale) is a female. At the start of the film, Dorothy is shown to be “in the way” of the male farm workers. This could suggest that the female realm within the film is confined to the domestic sphere of the house. This is further supported by Dorothy being trapped by the tornado but possibly more significantly in her farm house. It is possible to argue that the context of the film - pre- second World War and the civil/equal rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s, both of which arguably changed the ideology of female roles – is reflected by Dorothy’s role in the narrative. In other words, her journey to Oz in the family home could reflect a dominant American ideology about women in the 1930s; a ‘good’ girl will become a housewife and homemaker.

Dorothy’s journey through Oz however could be seen to challenge this ideology as she breaks free of the ‘grey’ world of Kansas, literally steps out of the home and embarks on a ‘Technicolor’ journey through Oz. Her vocalised desire to ‘fly…over the rainbow’ could therefore be an allegory for the frustrations of young females who believed that their destinies were mapped out for them by the expectations that they would become wives and mothers, ultimately confined to the domestic sphere. Ultimately, however, the resolution of the film delivers a crushing blow to the notion that Dorothy may well be something other than a housewife as she accepts “There’s no place like home”. It could therefore be argued that, just as Dorothy...
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