Movies and Conduct

Source: ‘Female, 15, white, high-school sophomore’, quoted in Herbert Blumer, Movies and Conduct (New York: Macmillan, 1933), p. 37

Text: I have attempted to imitate the manners of several actresses, but I have never received any satisfactory results. I bobbed my hair when I was only eight years old, as a result of seeing someone in the movies doing likewise. I try to walk and move with ease and grace, but I find that it is a little difficult to act like others if I can’t see how I look. I remember one movie star, Mabel Normand, who had large eyes, and from the admiring of them I gradually began to stare at others with wide eyes. My friends thought there was something wrong with my eyes because I did this, and perhaps I did acquire poor eyesight as a result. At other times I curled my hair, manicured my fingernails, and dressed like my favorite stars. Of course my attempts never brought any pleasing results, so I abandoned my imitations and became original. Sometimes I posed for hours at a time before my dressing table mirror, posing with my hands about my face, and moving my arms as gracefully as I could. In the movies, it always seems that the innocent, wide-eyed girls have the most suitors, and that shyness promotes respect and adoration on the part of the opposite sex. When I went to parties I tried to be a meek little maid, but it proved to be a failure in attracting sweethearts; only gay and vivid types are wanted by the modern generation.

Comment: American sociologist Herbert Blumer’s Movies and Conduct presents twelve studies of the influence of motion pictures upon the young, made by the Committee on Educational Research of the Payne Fund, at the request of the National Committee for the Study of Social Values in Motion Pictures. The study solicited autobiographical essays, mostly from undergraduate students of the University of Chicago, and presented extracts from this evidence in the text. Most of the evidence relates to picturegoing in the 1920s. The interview above comes from the chapter ‘Imitation by Adolescents’.

Links: Copy on Internet Archive

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