Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Satisfied Staying Single Day-According to Bolles

Today we have yet another silly celebration that has spurred a bit of serious discussion. First, don't ask me who came up with this 'holiday'. It most certainly has not been ratified by Congress or whatever weighty body makes such decisions. What is truly curious, however, is that the empowered and independent woman was such a hot button theme back in the mid-1920s. There were several illustrators who did girl-in-charge covers and here we see Bolles getting into the act with several examples from Film Fun, all involving hapless men being manipulated or if they weren't so lucky, about to be devoured by the girl in charge. Some have speculated these covers were a cultural reflection of the growing unease with the rapidly changing role of women in society, or that they depict the emerging cultural archetype of the vamp. Today that term has lost most of the sexually aggressive connotation it carried back in the 20s (which it should be noted was short for vampire), but at that time serious concern was expressed about the new woman and her emasculating effects on the red blooded American male. Among others the author, Carolyn Kitch has written about how magazine images of women were exemplars of cultural phenomena. If you are interested check out her book The Girl on the Magazine Cover which has lots of great images and interesting stories about Flagg, Christy, Gibson and others.
Bolles most certainly did not originate this theme, Flagg had done similar covers nearly a decade earlier, whereas the Bolles covers spanned a narrow window from 1923 to 1925. There's also the question as to whether illustrators were responsible for creating and codifying cultural themes like this or simply reporting on them. In Bolles' case I think it was the latter, but Flagg was truly bothered by the new woman and complained about, among other things, her "strapped bosom" so he may have been expressing a sentiment that was just beginning to move into the cultural cross-hairs. Moreover, Flagg's peers were also out of joint over the changing image of women in society and his mentor Gibson, admitted he had only mustered one decent drawing of a flapper. Bolles, however, had no such reticence, anatomically or culturally and I strongly suspect that was the case for the readers of Film Fun as well.

All of these covers, by the way, are courtesy of Bolles pal Mark Forer and can be seen along with many others at magazineart.org


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I will not concur on it. I think nice post. Expressly the designation attracted me to read the unscathed story.