In their quest for official and cultural recognition, French First Wave critics such as Louis Delluc discursively positioned the working-class female cinemagoer as emblematic of the sorry state of unsophisticated French film audiences. From this discourse came the stereotype of the starry-eyed midinette, which is still used by French film critics to describe lowbrow film taste and an overly emotional mode of spectatorship. This essay attempts to reconstruct the social practice of cinemagoing among the midinettes of 1920s working-class Paris by focusing on the female fans of the serial Les deux gamines (1921). Both a critique of intellectual cinephilia as a cultural discourse and a geographically specific retrieval of the multiple ways in which socioeconomically and culturally marginalized audiences interacted with the cinema, this historical study repositions young women from working-class neighborhoods as key actors in film culture—fans, but also social activists. Through a study of disparate, unpublished archival material, including fan letters, film programs, and announcements in the leftist press, this essay attends to the social realities of a number of female film fans in Montmartre and grounds their spectatorship spatially within their local communities.
Les Midinettes Révolutionnaires: The Activist Cinema Girl in 1920s Montmartre
Annie Fee is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Media and Communication at the University of Oslo. Her work has appeared in Early Popular Visual Culture and is forthcoming in several journals and edited volumes. She is currently developing an interactive historical map of 1920s Parisian cinema culture and working on a book manuscript dealing with the class and gender politics at play in the emergence of cinephilia in interwar France.
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Annie Fee; Les Midinettes Révolutionnaires: The Activist Cinema Girl in 1920s Montmartre. Feminist Media Histories 1 October 2017; 3 (4): 162–194. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2017.3.4.162
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