This essay considers the historical and conceptual framing of the American better films initiatives of the early twentieth century. Starting with the observation that the film betterment campaigns coincided with the moment women en masse began to be admitted to decision-making processes of government and civic enterprises, the article connects the advances achieved in both spheres with the downplaying of better films achievements by historians of cinema. In doing so, it calls for a more complex explanation of this so-called movement in order to understand women's active participation in their own social subordination. It proposes that women's well-documented exclusion from politics, and the systematic exemption of their collective and individual activity in matters of social organization and politics, should be taken into greater consideration by theorists of cinema.
The Better Films Movement and the Very Notion of It
Jennifer Horne is an assistant professor of film and digital media at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her book in progress—Civic Cinema: Citizenship and the Better Films Movement—focuses on the administrative and bureaucratic relationships fostered by the better films framework, and will be published as part of the Women and Film History International series by the University of Illinois Press. Her other publications include articles in the Moving Image and the Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television, and chapters in Useful Cinema (Duke University Press, 2011) and Beyond the Screen: Institutions, Networks and Publics of Early Cinema (Indiana University Press, 2012). She is on the editorial advisory board of the journal Camera Obscura and has represented the Society for Cinema and Media Studies on the National Film Preservation Board since 2005.
Jennifer Horne; The Better Films Movement and the Very Notion of It. Feminist Media Histories 1 October 2017; 3 (4): 46–68. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2017.3.4.46
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