9 January 2010

Betty as sex symbol

Betty Boop is known as the first and one of the most famous sex symbols on the animated screen; she was a symbol of the Depression era, a reminder of the more carefree days of Jazz Age flappers. Her popularity was drawn largely from adult audiences, and the cartoons, while seemingly surrealistic, contained many sexual/psychological elements, particularly in the "Talkartoon", Minnie the Moocher, featuring Cab Calloway and his orchestra. Minnie the Moocher is perhaps the one cartoon that defined Betty's character as a teenager of a modern era at odds with the old world ways of her parents.
Betty is at odds with her parents and opts to run away from home, only to get lost in a haunted cave with her boyfriend Bimbo. A ghostly walrus (rotoscoped from live-action footage of Calloway), sings Calloway's famous song "Minnie the Moocher", accompanied by several other ghosts and skeletons. This haunting performance sends the frightened Betty and Bimbo back to the safety of "home, sweet home". "Minnie the Moocher" was a huge success on two levels. It was a tremedous promotion for Calloway's subsequent stage appearances, and also established "Betty Boop" as a cartoon star.

Betty Boop is important to animation history for being the first cartoon character to fully represent a sexualized woman. Other female cartoon characters of the same period, such as Minnie Mouse, displayed their underwear or bloomers regularly, suggesting children or comical characters, not fully defined in a woman's form. Many other cartoon "girls" were merely clones of their male co-stars, with alterations in costume with the addition of eyelashes and a female voice. Betty Boop wore short dresses, high heels, and a garter belt. Her breasts were suggested with a low, contoured bodice that showed cleavage. (In Any Rags she looks out the window and her dress momentarily falls down revealing her cleavage.) In her cartoons, male characters tried to sneak peeks at her while she's changing, or simply walking along minding her own business. There was, however, a certain girlish quality to the character. She was drawn with a head bigger than normal for an adult, but normal for a baby. This suggested the combination of girlishness and maturity many people saw in the "flapper" type which Betty Boop was supposed to represent. While compromises on Betty's virtue were always a challenge, the animators kept her "pure" and girl-like, on screen, anyway.

1 comment:

Filomena Barata said...

Obrigada pela informação. Bem me lembro da forma genial como aparece no Roger Rabit, a única a preto e branco.

Quanto ao meu Alentejo, passarei praticamente só a dar notícias. Claro que não o abandonarei. Será apenas diferente o olhar, o tratamento.

Que bem me sabe a tua companhia. Até já. Filomena