Susan Friedman's recent theory of planetary modernisms, from her book Planetary Modernisms: Provocations on Modernity Across Time, holds that modernism as a distinguishable period, and modernity, as the characteristics of said period, can take place at any point in time and in any place that is experiencing rupture and upheaval. Planetary modernisms studies de-colonizes and de-centralizes traditional modernism and opens it up to logical and important new horizons. It encompasses not only literary output, but all forms of cultural production, including theatre and film. I use this theory to identify and compare two unique moments of modernism which until now have been neglected by modernism studies. Friedman suggests that the side-by-side comparison or "collage" of two disparate instances of modernism throughout history elucidates each respective moment and creates additional meaning.I examine on one hand the "gold digger" showgirl musical film subgenre of the early 1930s, a product of the intense social upheaval of the Great Depression, in which aspiring actresses desperate for jobs are forced to come to illicit agreements with the rich male producers of the shows. I juxtapose this with the #MeToo movement of the 2010s, wherein women speak out en masse against men who have exploited their influence over them to sexually harass them. Both center around women uniting in physical and/or online spaces to work against the abuse committed against them within the entertainment industry. In each case, men have wealth and power on one hand, while on the other hand women in need of jobs have little or no power. This power imbalance creates an environment in which predatory sexual behavior thrives. Furthermore, both time periods, past and present, are marked by rapid social and economic change, which serves both to exacerbate these power imbalances as well as accelerate the need for women to defend themselves despite possible retribution. The pressures of each period vary as do the potential outlets for women to voice their concerns and seek relief. I highlight the effects of women's solidarity in resistance to harassment and abuse and note how far society has yet to go when women today pushing for fairness and change continue to face intense opposition which at times belittles, disregards, and fights back against them.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Chandler, William Drew, "1930s Gold Digger Films and #MeToo: Collaging Modernist Moments" (2019). Theses and Dissertations. 7522.
Planetary modernisms, MeToo, gold digger, sexual harassment, Busby Berkeley