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Them! and other of them monster/space invader movies


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One interesting aspect, and a refreshing one, of this genre of movies is their portrayal of women. Instead of the brainless, dependent, emotional, yet gorgeous object of the hero's attention, they-at least the primary female role-are not so infrequently competent, intelligent, accomplished, and occupy a position of importance and influence. They also at times direct operations and even command men in the campaign against the monsters/invaders. All this without patronizing or condescending attitudes--if not from the characters, then at least from the filmmakers.

 

Accounting for this in the women's-place-is-in-the-home 50's is perplexing. Perhaps it was necessary to provide a pretext for the presence of the lead male's love interest. Or it this too cynical a view of the makers of these films?

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There's no question that the women of 50's sci-fi/monster movies were a LOT tougher than the helpless damsel-in-distress heroines of the 30's and 40's, who were usually screaming helplessly while awaiting the arrival of the hero to save them.

 

A fave of min in the late 50's is Beverly Garland in "It Conquered The World", and how she is almost single-handedly taking on the alien, first shouting at it over a transmitter "I hate you for what you've done to me and my world...I'm going to kill you, do you hear me?!", and then coming face-to-face with it and snarling "So THAT'S what you look like. You're ugly!"

 

LOL...

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You don't have to go back to the 30's and 40's to find damsels in distresses. What intrigues me about these movies is the way they differ from contemporary movies. For a standard drama, comedy, western, or the like it took a big star to have a woman portrayed as other than a stereotypical June Allyson Good Obedient Wife Who Knew Her Place. These films certainly didn't have headliners in them. But these women pursued interesting scientific careers, and they remained women while they did it. Contrary to the formula then predominating in the culture where a woman would have to trade in her femininity or personality in order to achieve professional or academic success, the women in these movies didn't have to be sexless or depersonalized.

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> {quote:title=slaytonf wrote:}{quote}

>

> Accounting for this in the women's-place-is-in-the-home 50's is perplexing.

 

No, it's not. I was a pre-teen and a teenager when I saw all these films originally, and the reason they made the girls "doctors" and scientists was so they would not seem out of place in a film, and boys always liked to see good looking women in films. A Marilyn Monroe type would be very out of place traveling around with a bunch of cops, scientists, and government men. I don't recall any prejudice against women scientists back in the '50s, since there were plenty of girls in school who took science courses, and all nurses were "scientists" and professional women.

 

Of course, the scientist women in the movies must be beautiful and desirable.

 

I think there was probably a desire among professional men in the '50s to have professional women in their professions, as long as they were good looking babes. What a great way to meet women... at work! And the scientific women were more fun to talk to than the plain secretaries who tended to not know anything about anything.

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> {quote:title=FredCDobbs wrote:}{quote}

 

> No, it's not. I was a pre-teen and a teenager when I saw all these films originally, and the reason they made the girls "doctors" and scientists was so they would not seem out of place in a film, and boys always liked to see good looking women in films.

 

Ah well, it's sad to have my cynicism confirmed.

 

 

> I don't recall any prejudice against women scientists back in the '50s, since there were plenty of girls in school who took science courses, and all nurses were "scientists" and professional women.

 

> I think there was probably a desire among professional men in the '50s to have professional women in their professions.

 

No? No discrimination against women in the era when the career paths for women were restricted to secretarial work, teaching, nursing, and homemaking? Of course, I wasn't around in the 50's so I can't say from personal experience. Perhaps women did enjoy equality in professional and academic spheres; perhaps they were not forced to sit outside classrooms to listen to lectures; or have their intellects considered unsuited to scientific disciplines; or be dissuaded from pursuing academic careers because they would only end up getting married and abandoning them. Perhaps women did have equal standing among their male professionals and didn't have their input belittled, dismissed, and ignored. Evidently my understanding of the past has been inaccurate. In which case, the current disparity in the numbers of men and women in the ranks of academia and the professions, and the low numbers of women in positions of power and influence are not legacies of the past and evidence of lingering sexism, but the result of a recent decline in the status of women. This is an alarming development and ought to be addressed in the highest circles of our society.

 

As I noted before, women in these films not infrequently served as the authority for information, contributed to the intellectual discoveries necessary for understanding the threat and developing the response, and ordered men around in implementation of the response. If women in these films were only granted intellect so there would be a pretext for there to be a babe accompanying the hero, they would only have been given the minimum requirements to provide for their presence, and contingent endangerment, providing the opportunity for their rescue by the hero.

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>No? No discrimination against women in the era when the career paths for women were restricted to secretarial work, teaching, nursing, and homemaking? Of course, I wasn't around in the 50's so I can't say from personal experience. Perhaps women did enjoy equality in professional and academic spheres; perhaps they were not forced to sit outside classrooms to listen to lectures; or have their intellects considered unsuited to scientific disciplines; or be dissuaded from pursuing academic careers because they would only end up getting married and abandoning them. Perhaps women did have equal standing among their male professionals and didn't have their input belittled, dismissed, and ignored. Evidently my understanding of the past has been inaccurate.

 

Slayton,

 

No, you're understanding of that era is not wrong. There is just a big difference between the movies and real life, even then. As Morgan Freeman says, "The public will accept a lot of things in the movies that they won't accept in real life."

 

If it had been an era where women were free to pursue any career path they wanted without discrimination, then the last sixty years of our history would be very different.

 

But it wasn't, and it took a lot of pioneering women to make that happen.

 

But, in the movies, women could have those careers and the women in the audience could dream of day when they or, more often than not, their daughters would have those opportunities.

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> {quote:title=slaytonf wrote:}{quote}

> Ah well, it's sad to have my cynicism confirmed.

>

 

As a survivor of that era, I can assure you that we young men had no interest in "women's lib" in the 1950s, except for a certain type of "liberation", which I won't discuss here. Basically, all we wanted in the monster movies were the tall thin dames with large breasts. It didn't matter if they were a "doctor" or a scientist or the professor's daughter, or a secretary, or whatever.

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> {quote:title=slaytonf wrote:}{quote}

> No? No discrimination against women in the era when the career paths for women were restricted to secretarial work, teaching, nursing, and homemaking?

 

They weren't so "restricted". It's just that not many of them wanted to be doctors, lawyers, scientists. The media back in those days showed women and young girls mostly as the playthings of men, so most young girls, seeing that media type, grew up with that attitude. They were also tricked into believing that being a wife meant that they never had to "work", and they could lounge around the house all day, and the man of the family would do all the hard work and bring home money to give to the wives. It was an old con game pushed off on the women. A media hype that went back to the 19th Century and even before that.

 

There were some exceptions in the media. For example, Scarlett O'Hara was one big exception. There were a few female hero doctors and scientists in movies. But mostly young women in films were portrayed as aspiring to be men's toys and playthings.

 

Ah, the good old days. :)

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> {quote:title=slaytonf wrote:}{quote}

> Perhaps women did have equal standing among their male professionals and didn't have their input belittled, dismissed, and ignored. Evidently my understanding of the past has been inaccurate. In which case, the current disparity in the numbers of men and women in the ranks of academia and the professions, and the low numbers of women in positions of power and influence are not legacies of the past and evidence of lingering sexism, but the result of a recent decline in the status of women.

 

Well, you know, women are different from men. There is no way to make them the same. As far as "positions of power" goes, I usually don't like men who are in "positions of power", because they try to get their employees to work for slave wages, and they often like the employees to think they would be fired if they cause any trouble at work. I don't have any desire to see women turn into Capitalist pigs. That's is certainly no goal for a woman to have, or an average man.

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Wasn't Scarlett O'Hara just a plaything for men in many ways? All of her initial wealth was acquired by marrying men (men she didn't even love or care about), other than what she got from her fathers estate (which was only land after the war).

 

Now once she got the mill she helped make it very successfull but did she really worked hard to do that? Can one say she had a profession? There is that scene in the movie where she agrees to treat the workers worst than slaves where treated prior to the Civil War so that she could get rich. I don't know if I would say that is a role model for women.

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> {quote:title=jamesjazzguitar wrote:}{quote}

> Wasn't Scarlett O'Hara just a plaything for men in many ways? All of her initial wealth was acquired by marrying men (men she didn't even love or care about), other than what she got from her fathers estate (which was only land after the war).

>

 

Only when she allowed them to play with her... :)

 

Scarlett was strong when she needed to be, but a lot of the time she basically whored her way to the top, as it were. Rhett even makes a comment to her about "Do you never shrink from marrying men you don't love?".

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> {quote:title=jamesjazzguitar wrote:}{quote}

> Wasn't Scarlett O'Hara just a plaything for men in many ways?

 

It was a mutual exchange. Sex for money, and Scarlett was always in charge of the arrangement.

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Very interesting topic. I believe your cynical view is on-target: i.e. "Perhaps it was necessary to provide a pretext for the presence of the lead male's love interest". Yes, as others pointed out these movies were made for teen boys. I grew up in the 60s and when I was a teen boy, as much as I love to see some giant art, spider or other 'thing' smash up a town, I also was getting interested in the opposite sex!

 

Note that in many of the movies the good looking but strong, smart gal is the daughter of one of the scientist or some other middle class figure in the movie. My guess (but only a wild one at that), is that since male scientists are middle class working guys their daughter were not spoiled, pampered kids; the type so typical in movies about the upper classes and their drama. I.e. there was also a class thing going on here.

 

So since these movies did require a least one good looking female role (at least), it was a better fit to have a smart, knowledge women instead of just a damsel in distress.

 

Now since more women go to college than men the movies in 2050 will have mostly women in the smart knowledge competent roles and men will be the ones that need to be saved! I call that progress.

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I didn't want to be as brutally honest about Scarlett as you were, but I've seen the film so many times by now, I finally understand what you are saying about her. And remember that Rhett also said to her, "You aren't worth $300!"

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That's why the emphasis is on Drive-In flicks. I can only watch one giant

bug movie at a time, so I caught Tarantula, which I hadn't seen for years.

You've got John Agar for the ladies and Mara Corday for the menfolk (and

Leo G. Carroll for the senior set). Everybody's happy as long as the concession

stand isn't too far away and the speakers work. While Ms. Corday is very attractive,

she wasn't exactly bursting out of her blouse, nttawwt.

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> {quote:title=lzcutter wrote:}{quote}

>

> No, you're understanding of that era is not wrong. There is just a big difference between the movies and real life, even then. As Morgan Freeman says, "The public will accept a lot of things in the movies that they won't accept in real life."

>

> If it had been an era where women were free to pursue any career path they wanted without discrimination, then the last sixty years of our history would be very different.

>

> But it wasn't, and it took a lot of pioneering women to make that happen.

 

 

That's not the way I remember it. I remember that girls in school mostly had no desire to become doctors or scientists. In fact, most boys didn't either. There were only a very few boys in my high school in the 1950s who wanted to become doctors or scientists. Out of 2,000 students, maybe 6 or so wanted to become doctors, maybe 2 or three wanted to be some kind of "scientist", and a few wanted to ?get into engineering?, which was considered somewhat of a scientific field. But the overwhelming number of students had no interest in becoming doctors or ?scientists?.

 

In college I had a girlfriend who was studying to become a pharmacist. That was ok with me. But I certainly didn't want to stand on my feet 8 hours a day, doling out pills to sick people for 35 years. A few of the girls in my high school wanted to become nurses, and that was fine. I never heard any of them saying they wanted to become a CEO for a giant corporation. Even boys didn't say that. Back in those days, no one in school could "plan" to be a CEO of a giant corporation, except for a few sons and daughters who had rich fathers who taught them how to be CEOs for big corporations.

 

As far as "wanted a profession without discrimination", there is always and always will be "discrimination" for the boys as well as the girls. Nobody can say "I want to be a NASA scientist when I grow up", if they are incapable of developing the skills to be a NASA scientist.

 

Women of today seem to think that we boys of the 1950s chose our future professions as kids and the pathway was open and free to us. But it was not. It never has been. Because of the natural competition, with the general principle that the person with the most skill and talent gets the top job. Too many unskilled women today think that they should be given the top job just because they are women, and if they don't get the top job, they think it is because of "discrimination", but that's not true. 99% of boys never get the top jobs either. It's the general rule that 99% of high school football players never get to be quarterback, and 99.9% never get to be quarterback on a pro team. Too many women today are saying "I want to be quarterback, and if the men don't let me, it's because of gender discrimination," but that is nonsense.

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In WWII, by necessity, women took what had been men's jobs, and responsibilities. After the war was over, the vast majority were out of those jobs. Many weren't needed, with the end of war production, and returning GIs took most of the rest of the jobs. Doubtless dissatisfaction that this loss of the near-equality women had in WWII helped bring about the the modern women's movement. Typically, in the 50s, a man would not want his wife to work. That was a taboo. It made him look incapable of being a provider, and it took her out of her place as a homemaker. There certainly was prejudice against women in the workplace, and college in those days. My grandmother worked in an office, and my mother had studied law in college. Both regaled me with the prejudices they encountered.

 

Growing up in the 50s and 60s, I saw plenty of sci fi films with the clingy useless women in them, always getting the hero in trouble. They didn't stop making them in the 50s, but showing knowledgeable, capable women in sci fi films became much less unusual. And, exposing sexism, such as with the comment about the woman computer expert in *The Cosmic Monsters*, became an occasional occurrence. Still, the capable scientist leading ladies had to be pretty, and often had to demonstrate their feminine side, even in their work. Remember the woman in *The Thing* who 'knows what to do to a vegetable?'

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> {quote:title=ValentineXavier wrote:}{quote}

> Still, the capable scientist leading ladies had to be pretty, and often had to demonstrate their feminine side, even in their work.

 

That was for us in the movie audience. We didn't want to see any 21st Century female scientists in movies back then. We wanted to see good looking dames, and it was ok if they were also scientists. :)

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I see two competing views of America in the 50s. One where there was no prejudice against women in the sciences and professions, or anywhere else, for that matter. One where women faced discrimination and exclusion from careers, and sternly directed to roles as wives and homemakers. I'm afraid I have to accept the latter, else why the strident move for equality in the social/cultural upheaval in the 60s and 70s? But there was ferment happening.

 

As for the prettiness of the leading ladies, well, all leading ladies had to be pretty. Just as all leading men had to be pretty. That's true even today. Stars like Marie Dressler and Wallace Beery that attained top billing without prettiness are next to non-existant. The common stereotypes of scientists and academics is masked by the prominence of the roles. In other films where they are supporting or incidental characters, they are either portrayed as mousey social misfits, or crazed eccentrics, obsessed with their field of interest.

 

The thing I like in these films, and sometimes it is the only thing I like, is that though they face prejudice and discrimination from other characters, the filmmakers don't treat them that way. In other films of this time, it is the filmmakers (the writers, producers, and directors) who have the depreciatory view of women in these roles, and it is part of the film's intent to demonstrate that the woman is wrong, and document her return to reasonability by giving up her misguided path. If she doesn't, she dies.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Women are never "useless". How could anyone think such a thing? There is always laundry, cooking, cleaning, and that greatest of all gifts from women, especially late at night... watching TCM with.

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*else why the strident move for equality in the social/cultural upheaval in the 60s and 70s?*

 

The difference was, women who worked in top jobs in the '40s and '50s earned it, were educated in their profession, and were good workers.

 

Women militants who filed lawsuits in the '60s and '70s to get jobs were not good workers, had no experience, but demanded top jobs just "because". I worked with plenty of them in the '80s who did not know how to do their jobs but who had to be hired because of the EEOC and FCC quotas. The ones who DID good jobs, I enjoyed working with and we got along fine, we liked each other, and we helped each other. They were much better than some of the young men who didn't know how to do their jobs but who were also hired because of government quotas.

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I always get a kick out of Faith Domergue's character in It Came From Beneath the Sea. She is described as a "new breed of woman." She even tells Ken Tobey that he underestimates her ability to help out in a crisis.

 

So when she first sees the giant octopus, how does she react? She screams (and Tobey saves the day).

 

When Donald Curtis is stuck on Golden Gate Bridge, how does she react? She screams (and Tobey saves the day).

 

But I'll give her credit. She practically seduces the sailor to get him to admit he saw a giant octopus. Now there is a real woman.

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