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Class Acts: A Sociocultural History of Women, Labour, and Migration in Hollywood


Class Acts: A Sociocultural History of Women, Labour, and Migration in Hollywood

McElroy, Kerry (2021) Class Acts: A Sociocultural History of Women, Labour, and Migration in Hollywood. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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This project takes a gender-specific and sociological approach to the figure of the actress in Hollywood. Steeped in interdisciplinarity, it draws on cultural history, sociology, anthropology, performance studies, psychology, and feminist theory. The overall purpose is to examine Hollywood as a classed sociocultural system based on labor and sexual exploitation. The project begins with a survey of class within American culture, querying its place in the American Dream and in westward migration. From such a vantage point, the study asserts that women functioned as second-class citizens within the economic and social structure of the studios. The star system, which reflects Hollywood's hierarchical, male-centred organization, offered many actresses aspirational careers through the illusion of glamour, while in reality offering them ephemeral careers and exploitative labour conditions. Within such a conceptualisation of women as a class, the mistreatments of women who were star actresses are spotlighted, while they are also clearly situated upon a continuum of misogyny and precarity with women screenwriters, extras, and other employees. The project depends heavily on primary sources and includes testimonies from actresses and other women in Hollywood, especially found in memoirs and interviews. Such first-person accounts bolster the argument that within classical Hollywood, glamour and publicity served as twin cudgels of industrial and social control, working under management corruption, criminality, and sexual abuse. Within this context, the studios established an authoritarian and dehumanised working space for women, obscured by star discourse and publicity, and prone to all manner of abuse, exploitation, and disappearance. Finally, the project closes by raising questions of ethical imperatives towards historiographic justice, asserting that if the change sought by MeToo/Time's Up since 2017 is to solidify, the precise historical roots of today's system must be reckoned with first.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Humanities: Interdisciplinary Studies
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:McElroy, Kerry
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Date:30 April 2021
Thesis Supervisor(s):Maule, Rosanna and Neurerberg-Denzer, Ursula and Szapor, Judith
Keywords:Hollywood; cultural history; feminist history; performance history; studio system; class; sexual harassment; workplace sexual assault; casting couch; #MeToo
ID Code:988168
Deposited On:29 Jun 2021 21:11
Last Modified:29 Jun 2023 00:00


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