“Dear Cinema Girls”: Girlhood, Picturegoing and the Interwar Film Magazine

Lisa Stead

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Abstract

This chapter explores the intersection of discourses on British girlhood and the film fan magazine in the interwar period. Whilst national print media had developed a substantial body of film magazines that broadly targeted and solicited a female readership in this period, a particular thread of this discourse was aimed at younger readers and fans. In their advertising, serialisation of recent film fictions and courtship of readers through competitions and letter writing, fan magazines used film culture to communicate with an emergent image of the young female cinemagoer. In the process, magazines like Girls’ Cinema constructed a film inflected girlhood, channeled through both a shared community of cinemagoing experiences and the interaction of girl fans with models of youthful femininity on and off the screen. Magazines structured interactive spaces and distinct modes of address for a youth readership; some papers included “young picturegoer” sections, others retained a core focus on youthful starlets as a touch point for their readers, particularly through the figure of the adult-adolescent construct “Little Mary” Pickford. They also borrowed and adapted an intimate mode of address from their working girl story paper counterparts to construct the reader as friend and confidant, linked to a wider community of young readers through their shared tastes and desires. The film fan magazine could be a place for young female readers to both learn by example from their favourite stars, but also to access advice on social etiquette, fashion, dance and courtship through gossip pages and question and answer sections, using film as a backdrop for navigating contemporary models of girlhood. The chapter pays specific attention to the ways in which the magazines crafted a distinctly national set of discourses on young female cinemagoing and star consumption, navigating an often conflicting pull between glamour and restraint, modernity and tradition. In the process, it examines how print media mediated a wider set of discourses concerning the perceived vulnerability of the film fan girl, simultaneously at the centre of both a network of media soliciting their attention, time and money, and of more widespread cultural concerns about the lowbrow reputation and potentially damaging effects of film fictions and cinema environments.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWomen's Periodicals and Print Culture in Britain, 1918-1939
Subtitle of host publicationThe Interwar Period
EditorsCatherine Clay, Maria DiCenzo, Barbara Green, Fiona Hackney
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781474412544, 9781474412551
ISBN (Print)9781474412537
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017

Keywords

  • print culture
  • interwar
  • women's writing
  • magazines
  • girlhood
  • cinema
  • cinemagoing
  • British cinema

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