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Gender Roles in Imitation of Life February 27, 2007

Posted by lindamc in imitation.
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One of the major themes in Imitation of Life is breaking out of traditional gender roles. The film seems to want to discuss the classic ideals of “women stay home” and “men work and provide for the family” with such sequences as Steve’s first proposal to Lora and her response “I want more. I want it all.”  She argues with him, breaking away from being a stay at home mom, and wanting a career. Steve’s role is to represent the voice of the time period the film was made in (1959) which pushed women to strive for marriage and raising a family as opposed to any form of a career. The film clearly wishes to put the idea out there of women (Lora, and later her daughter) breaking free of the restrictions of society and going on to achieve success in the workplace (Lora’s daughter goes on to college).

This agenda of the movie seems, to me, fairly obvious and blatant, however what makes it particularly interesting is the racial or class discussion which follows. Throughout the film, Annie and Lora have a very genderized relationship. Lora is obviously the breadwinner, and Annie the homemaker, raising both children and providing Lora with food, house, and all her other needs at home. So while the film is clearly standing up for women to join the work force, it is at the same time only encouraging white women to do so. Lora could not succeed as she does without Annie in her life. The two have a sort of classical marriage (more…)

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Ambition: Lora vs. Sarah Jane February 27, 2007

Posted by Wasik in imitation, Uncategorized.
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I found the comparison between Lora and Sarah Jane very interesting in “Imitation of Life”. I felt as though both of them were driven, ambitious, and wanted to achieve something, though their circumstances were very different. In the end, race was clearly the main difference between the two, and it imposed a limit on Sarah Jane’s success.

It was hard for me to tell whether or not Lora was meant to be seen as a sexual object by the viewers of the film. She is often wearing very beautiful, eye-catching clothing, but did the director use these outfits to titillate those watching the film, or did he simply mean to show Lora’s wealth? Clearly, the men within the film (Steve and her director friend) find her attractive, and wish to posess/control her; however, at different points in the film, she rejects both of their advances in order to pursue her dream on her own terms. In the end, I think hers is a success story, because she achieves what she wants, and actually gets Steve to conform to her.

Sarah Jane, on the other hand, is far more objectified. She is portrayed as a disobedient, edgy young woman who has a mind of her own. She wears sexier clothing than any of the other female characters, and is the only one which ever exposes her underwear to the camera while she is changing. However, I think that her ambition is very similar to Lora’s: she wants to be a performer, and wants to leave home and create a career for herself. It’s interesting to note, however, that the director chooses to make her a sexual object in the film even before she runs away from home– is he trying to say that there is something inherently erotic about her (and her ambiguous racial makeup), is he saying that society cannot help but see her (or black women in general) as a sexual object and not a true protagonist with any sort of real agency, or does he mean to present a combination of the two? Her identity is already very problematized by her unusual appearance and background; why is she further complicated by strange, dangerous sexual tension? In general, I found many parts of the movie to be unresolved by the end, and Sarah Jane’s confusing existence was the most interesting one.