Research Centre for Film

Past News & Events

Becoming a Woman at the Pictures: Girls and cinema-going in 1950s Italy

Research Seminar, October 27, 16:00 to 17:00, Room 2.22, Research Beehive

Danielle Hipkins (University of Exeter)


It is generally agreed that in Italy of the 1950s cinema audiences were predominantly male, particularly in the South (Fanchi, 2007).


However, the Italian Cinema Audiences project (Universities of Oxford Brookes, Bristol and Exeter), which has engaged with the memories of the over 65s, shows that in their childhood and teens women went to the cinema regularly.


In the burgeoning discipline of Girlhood Studies, there is a strong interest in the question of how girls consume, and have consumed mass media (Douglas, 1998; Kearney, 2009).


To date studies on gendered media consumption of this period have tended to focus on textual evidence of women’s responses, in particular women’s letters to magazines and women’s diaries (Cassamagnaghi, 2007; Cardone, 2009; Vitella, 2016) and less upon oral history.


Understanding girlhood as a historically contingent notion (Dyhouse, 2014), this paper draws upon our analysis of over 1000 questionnaires and 160 video interviews to reflect upon the ways in which the relationship between growing up and the cinema is gendered in our audience memories.


In particular I will consider how girls went to the cinema, particularly the collective nature of that experience, what kinds of strategies they developed to manage the potential risks of the experience (molestation) and how they process and narrate those memories now.


I will consider the role of cinema in memories of their life cycle, for example, how frequently patterns of cinema-going were, and are still tied to key life stages, such as romance, and how their relational identities inflect memories.


I will show what role cinema played in their development of values and their imagined futures, from visions of new freedoms to models of self-sacrifice.


If we concentrate on girlhood, I argue, particular new stars, films and dimensions come to the fore, such as swimming star Esther Williams and an interest in sport, which take us outside the traditional canon associated with Italian audiences and revise our ideas about the role of cinema in Italian life in this period.


This event is co-hosted by the School of Modern Languages.

Dr Danielle Hipkins is looking at post-war Italian cinema audiences, specifically focusing on young girls's experiences in the 1950s.
The research seminar looks at female cinema audiences in 1950s Italy.

published on: 21 September 2016