Through Two Peepers in Tune with the Times

What "Singin' in the Rain" was REALLY about

A glance at the December 2000 issue of "Colby Quarterly": Gene Kelly, gender roles, and "Singin' in the Rain"

The classic 1952 MGM musical "Singin' in the Rain" presents the viewer with a "gender hierarchy" in which Gene Kelly reigns supreme, writes Stephan Prock. Mr. Prock, who teaches composition at the College of William and Mary, asserts that "the inequities of gender representation in this film are part of a larger performance aesthetic of male-centered subjectivity formulated across Kelly's career as a whole." According to Mr. Prock, "the film creates a fantasy about gender that represents one type of gender relationship on the level of plot and another in the structure of its musical performances." Until the 1950's, he notes, Gene Kelly was cast alongside women like Judy Garland and Rita Hayworth, who were well-known in their own right. So the "objectification of women" did not become prevalent until 1951's "An American in Paris," costarring the unknown Leslie Caron, and "Singin' in the Rain," in which a 19-year-old newcomer, Debbie Reynolds, plays opposite Kelly. "One of Kelly's major achievements in the film musical was to shift the emphasis of dance away from the intimate world of heterosexual coupling ... and towards the homosocial world of work, 'buddies' and male bonding, and masculine agency," Mr. Prock writes. "During this process of reversal, however, women tend to become more objectified than ever, because they pose a threat to Kelly's developing 'masculine' aesthetic, they must be specifically displaced, reordered, or objectified." But, as Mr. Prock speculates, Kelly's "negation of the feminizing potential of musical performance, in a sense, finished the cultural 'work' of Kelly's art (and perhaps the genre he helped redefine)," as 1952 "marks the beginning of the end of the great film musicals at MGM."



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