Tuesday, March 20, 2007

How Should I React to the Cornucopia and Dead Pheasant on Your Head

I fully intend to write up a bit about my trip to Vienna, but I'm still busy catching up after the trip. I'll try to tie the whole thing into a film topic by reviewing the in-flight movies, but it'll all be a pretense to announce what a good time I had. As for now, a shameless rant about silly hats in old movies:

Although presumably part of the problem comes from fashion and culture in the period between 1930 and 1959, I still find it hard to believe the real-life equivalents of silly hats were so ludicrous. Gratuitous offenders are usually marked by a diameter in excess of shoulder width, a height amplified by feathers or antennae and garnishes that may include frills, flowers, doilies, vales, animal corpses, experimental art and more.

The problem goes beyond being a simple fashion blemish as it often undermined female characters or simply writing them off with using the visual shortcut in lieu of real development (equivalent to an upper-class “dumb blonde” stereotype). The emphasis on women’s “silly and frivolous” characteristics was often patronizing and ridiculous even at the time and seems evermore so in retrospect. Silly hats had the chutzpah to spill over into the plot, becoming a major element in films like “The Phantom Lady” (1944) and serving as a painfully trite metaphor for personal growth in the Oscar-winning “Mrs. Miniver” (1942).

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