Lover-o-Classics

'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers'... so sexist!

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The race issue in musicals has been one of the focuses of this course, and it's led to considerable outrage being expressed by students on just about every aspect of race and racism in musicals.  Fair enough.  While sex roles and stereotyping have also been a focus of this course, I really don't perceive the same sort of anger being expressed over sexism.  People seem to just accept it for what it is, or was in the particular era.  While the story of 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' is one you could view as being silly yet harmless fun, by today's sensitive standards it's probably one that should be condemned as highly sexist.  C'mon, people... kidnapping women and forcibly confining them seen as harmless fun?  And Adam's treatment of his new bride, putting her to work like a slave the moment he got her home.  Where's the outrage from women in this course? 

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Too much outrage in the real world for me to get terrribly worked up over a 60+ year old movie.

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Never could get into this movie, so I haven't watched more than 15 minutes in.  I am going to give it another try.  

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True, by today’s standards the movie is controversial and highly sexist but the whole point of this course is to see these films through the lens of their moment in time. Society at the time was extremely male dominated and sexist. For better or worse it was the reality of the day.

It is important to have these discussions regarding race, gender, class roles and sexuality other than only that of heterosexuals. To see the changes in culture and what strides we still need to take as a society. But to condemn a musical that has so much to offer in terms of dancing and singing entertainment? This is a course on musicals not sociological studies and TCM is thankfully a classic movie station that has made a decision to show movies in their original state. Not cut, censored or colorized. How else can generations that follow the release of these movies have legitimate conversations regarding them? If we look for it we can always find something in any form of art or culture that distresses us. Is that reason to condemn the entirety of something?

Though I might shake my head at the goings on in this and other movies, to be enraged about a film from 64 years ago that has no impact on today’s culture is a bit of a stretch for me.

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I found it interesting that in the "dancing in pantalettes/bloomers" scene the women were fantasizing about the Wedding Day, the pinnacle of a woman's life.   In Oklahoma there's another "dancing in pantalettes/bloomers" scene where the women sing about finding a true romantic partner.  So dancing in undies is okay if it leads to the ultimate goal of marriage.   They're not singing about having a good time and moving on. 

Also, lucky that Milly had the foresight to buy out the dry goods store's fabric supply so these women could have enough clothes for nine months of winter/spring.  "Woman's intuition", I guess. 

And no screaming while she's having the baby!  It just popped out like a jack-in-the-box, the way they did back then.   

The television show The Adventures of Kit Carson (another "rugged frontiersman") ran for several years in the early 1950's.  In late 1954-1955 the Davy Crockett television phenomenon exploded.  So this character type was in the public consciousness. And there's plenty of fringed buckskin in Annie Get Your Gun (1950). 

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While I understand your objections to the story, I'd urge you to look at it from a different angle. Yes, Adam is a sexist pig, but the plot line is really about his learning how to value women -- both his wife and their daughter -- and the happy ending is only possible when he changes. Milly chooses to be a wife instead of a working woman (very 50s) but she it is her decision and she only makes it when she finds the right man -- she has turned down many others. She is very strong, both physically and in character; she tames her brothers-in-law and helps them grow up. As to the other "bridges", yes they are kidnapped, but they have already shown their are romantically interested in the men. And they truly seem happy in captivity -- Julie Newmar's (Dorcas) delivery of the line wondering which brother sleeps in "this" bed is about as sexual a line delivery as can be seen in the 50s and definitely a demonstration of a woman in control of her own sexuality. Yes, the brides dream of marriage and babies, but they also are as sexually interested in the brothers as the brothers are in them. And in the end, it is the bridges who take charge of their husbands and their fathers and create their own happy ending.

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5 minutes ago, Pastiche said:

Also, lucky that Milly had the foresight to buy out the dry goods store's fabric supply so these women could have enough clothes for nine months of winter/spring.  "Woman's intuition", I guess. 

It is a stretch, but it is also said that the grooms' mother's clothes are in the attic, so we can assume some of the clothes have been made over for the bridges. 

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It was a more civilized time :)  And, in the end, the woman usually gets her way - without being a feminist harridan or starting a hashtag de jour.

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On 6/22/2018 at 1:06 PM, CynthiaV said:

True, by today’s standards the movie is controversial and highly sexist but the whole point of this course is to see these films through the lens of their moment in time. Society at the time was extremely male dominated and sexist. For better or worse it was the reality of the day....

Though I might shake my head at the goings on in this and other movies, to be enraged about a film from 64 years ago that has no impact on today’s culture is a bit of a stretch for me.

This movie does reflect its time. The 1950's was saturated with male fantasies of all kinds, notably Playboy, Marilyn Monroe, and the slew of June Cleavers (started 1957), Margaret Andersons (started 1954)  and Donna Reeds (started 1958) in the supporting housewife role, with nurturing the nuclear family being the most satisfying life you could hope for.  Anything beyond that was second rate and pitiable.

I do think this movie does have an impact on today, as people can see what society considered normal expectations for women.  They have a chance to compare that to their lives and options today, as well as women's options (or lack of) in current cultures. 

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Thanks, everyone for your comments.  I was really just trying to stimulate discussion by stirring the pot a bit and seeing how people would respond.  I agree with people who say we need to look at the various social issues of these films through the values of the times, and accept them as they were made.  That said, I was still surprised that there wasn't more reaction to the sexist behavior of the brothers, especially after all the discussion we had on Disney's 'Song of the South'.  As BartG mentioned, Milly dealt with it all by showing herself to be a strong person, taking charge of the house and teaching the brothers how to behave and treat others, women in particular.  And the story was silly enough that you really couldn't take it too seriously.  Finally, I'd like to comment on my own question and suggest a reason why the sex issue hasn't generated as much discussion and anger as the race issue has.  Despite sexism (real or perceived), men and women still live together, love each other and generally get along pretty well.  It's different with race issues, and there are a lot of enduring attitudes that haven't completely changed.  And so the continued anger and resentment of blacks is understandable.  And with that I'll shut up.  Have a great weekend!        

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38 minutes ago, Pastiche said:

I do think this movie does have an impact on today, as people can see what society considered normal expectations for women.  They have a chance to compare that to their lives and options today, as well as women's options (or lack of) in current cultures. 

 

 

In this sense I agree with you. That is why i stated that it is important to watch these movies uncut and have such conversations. If we condemn and tear down every edifice we find troubling what types of conversations and comparisons can we make? And agree with them or not, there are those who still enjoy these films in their entirety. They would never dream to act in a similar manner but they find enjoyment in the film for what it is. They are able to put the film in its proper context. Who am I or anyone to condemn them? Can you read their minds or hearts? And just as we attempt to foist our notions of womanhood on other cultures I ask how is that different than the way Hollywood foisted American culture and exceptionalism on the world post WWII?

I certainly do not applaud the poor treatment and biased consideration of women in this film yet I am still able to enjoy the musical for its entertainment value. And as another poster shared the movie when taken in it's entirety shows Jane Powell's character as an independent, strong and impactful woman whose efforts serve to bring wisdom and change to these backwoods men. The happy ending is only possible when the men recognize the error in their thinking and actions and make the appropriate adaptions.

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FWIW the sexist behavior of the clodhopper brothers is the whole joke/point of the movie! It’s not hidden, unconscious sexism - it’s an intentional comic satire of sexism! 1950s-style.

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Yes, Folks, I was going to post a warning to the forum that it Seven Brides was about to air.  I believe I've unearthed several of you who would like some sort of bat signal warning before it is going to run.  ?  I'll see what I can do to allow you to run screaming from the building in time.

Perhaps a giant Howard Keel mustache and pantaloons in the sky...not because the movie is sexist but because it does absolutely nothing for me...and simply doesn't stand up to time IMO. I agree it should be seen for historical context and for seeing a transition to annoying dancing in far too bright colors and tedious stomping. It is a snippet of the 50s to be sure. One I can say I've seen and skip whenever it is showing on TCM.

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4 hours ago, Pastiche said:

 

I found it interesting that in the "dancing in pantalettes/bloomers" scene the women were fantasizing about the Wedding Day, the pinnacle of a woman's life.   In Oklahoma there's another "dancing in pantalettes/bloomers" scene where the women sing about finding a true romantic partner.  So dancing in undies is okay if it leads to the ultimate goal of marriage.   They're not singing about having a good time and moving on. 

 

I love your observation.

Interestingly, these kind of exchanges were how folks negotiated The Code. As we've seen with Gigi and An American in Paris the code was starting to crack. I just think this plays to the values of that decade's majority. I'll take The Music Man over SBFSB any day. It is a period piece of Americana from 62. What a difference a few years make.

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3 hours ago, Rick LaRoche said:

It was a more civilized time :)  And, in the end, the woman usually gets her way - without being a feminist harridan or starting a hashtag de jour.

Rick -- that's called psychology. It has more to do with economics than the level of civilization at that time.

Feminism is about equal rights.  

Harridan is a pejorative term used for a negative subjectivity.

A hashtag is a form of freedom of speech.

 

"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" is just a MGM musical with great dancing and singing  produced for the public's entertainment so that the public will give over its money to MGM. Case closed.

And then it's all about economics anyway, isn't it?  LOL

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2 hours ago, MarkH said:

FWIW the sexist behavior of the clodhopper brothers is the whole joke/point of the movie! It’s not hidden, unconscious sexism - it’s an intentional comic satire of sexism! 1950s-style.

I get that it's farce.  And the limited plot is filler between the musical numbers. And the songs about a "Lonesome Pole Cat" and a guy looking for a "beautiful hide" could come out of SNL.

But there are standard musical numbers as well.  The barn-raising dance number is similar to Oklahoma's farmer/ranchers dance, with added acrobatics (although Oklahoma the film was released 15 months later the stage version had been around since 1943.)  The bloomer ballet with women giddy over marriage seems like standard musical fare, not a parody.  If it was a parody, it was pretty subtle.    

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Also remember the era the movie was set it. Many couples married to harvest the land and raise sons to help them. Mail order sight-unseen brides were a thing. I guess they still are today, but for different reasons. So it was a reflection of the decade in which it was filmed but also a depiction of time in which it took place. That puts it in historical context as well. 

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The story seems sexist because it's about sexism. It's about seven men who don't know what women are for, or truly, what women are. But it's also about education. In the end, the brothers do learn to appreciate the women, and the women are rewarded for their troubles, with husbands who will appreciate them far more than any of the men in town would have had they married them.

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Supposedly this film inspired the TV show "Here Come the Brides" (1968-1970), where 100 women were brought from New England to Seattle to become brides for loggers in a woman-scarce area. 

Per Wikipedia: 

Quote

 The series was loosely based upon the Mercer Girls project, Asa Mercer's efforts to bring civilization to old Seattle in the 1860s by importing marriageable women from the east coast cities of the United States, where the ravages of the American Civil War left those towns short of men.

The show was aimed at a young female audience, featuring teen singing idol Bobby Sherman as one of the main characters.  Because it was set in the undeveloped West it got classified as a "Western", but the 1960's version:

Westerns

Quote

... the western would, once again, be rewritten in the 1960s. As the networks attempted to de-emphasize violence, the domestic western emerged as a kinder, gentler programming trend. In contrast to action-oriented westerns dealing with the adventures of law officers ...bounty hunters ...professional gunmen ...scouts ...cow punchers ...gamblers  ...,and trail-weary loners, the domestic western focused on the familial.  

 

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The men in the town were all conceded jerks. The brothers did the women a gigantic favor by kidnapping them. They were gentlemen

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21 minutes ago, bluboy said:

The men in the town were all conceded jerks. The brothers did the women a gigantic favor by kidnapping them. They were gentlemen

As another musical put it, "Marry the man today, and change his ways tomorrow."

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37 minutes ago, Pastiche said:

Supposedly this film inspired the TV show "Here Come the Brides" (1968-1970), where 100 women were brought from New England to Seattle to become brides for loggers in a woman-scarce area. 

Per Wikipedia: 

The show was aimed at a young female audience, featuring teen singing idol Bobby Sherman as one of the main characters.  Because it was set in the undeveloped West it got classified as a "Western", but the 1960's version:

Westerns

 

The show also starred David Soul, who went on to make Starsky & Hutch along with Paul Michael Glaser, Perchik in "Fiddler on the Roof". 

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41 minutes ago, Pastiche said:

Supposedly this film inspired the TV show "Here Come the Brides" (1968-1970), where 100 women were brought from New England to Seattle to become brides for loggers in a woman-scarce area. 

 

 

Goodness,  I'm old enough to remember that show and truthful enough to admit I was one of those impressionable young females who loved it and the stuttering Bobby Sherman! Oh how silly it would be considered by todays sophisticated and savvy young female audience but growing up then was an entirely different process. Some things for the better and some for the worse. But I and millions of other women of my generation survived and went on to live successful lives navigating the changing times as did our mothers and grandmothers before us.

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As a male viewer of this, I agree with you.  I've never enjoyed the storyline.  What I can appreciate is the choreography and the some of the songs.  I mainly just fast forward through the other stuff (I usually have to DVR the films as my schedule is strange, and being on the west coast doesn't help when the films are scheduled for the east - 3 hours ahead.)

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