From woman to chick: the rhetorical evolution of women in american film



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Throughout its history, the American film industry has produced films about women and for women, and three distinct phases may be identified within it: the ?woman?s film,? the ?new? woman?s film, and the ?chick flick.? I assert that the recurring themes and images within the films operate as a mythic framework that intuitively resonates with audiences. In this thesis, I argue that despite seeming progress, women in film remain constrained by traditional mythic archetypes. As mediated images influence the culture, archetypal images of women in film potentially further constrain women?s social progress. This study explores feminine mythic archetypes in films from each phase and demonstrates that first, the era of the woman?s film presents traditional archetypes such as the Mother and the Wife; second, representation becomes more progressive in the new woman?s film of the 1970s through the influence of the women?s movement; third, representations regressed in the chick flick with the onset of postfeminism in the late 1980s; and finally, through the rhetorical function of myth, the films serve a persuasive and explanatory function for audiences.