Mildred Pierce Assignment
- In her article, “The Genre”, Jeanine Basinger says there are 3 main purposes of the Woman’s Film. Which purpose (choose one) do you think best describes the messages in Mildred Pierce? Explain why.
The article “The Genre” the author highlights 3 points for which is used in women’s film these are essential to the creation of these movies. In the movie Mildred Pierce it focuses on Mildred’s life who once was a housewife transformed into an established business women. The message/purpose which seems most accurate in the depiction of the Mildred pierce movie as stated by Jeanine Basinger is “To reaffirm in the end the concept that a woman’s true job is that of just being a woman, a job she can’t very well escape no matter what else she does, with the repression disguised as a love… (Basinger, J.The Genre.pg12)”. This was proven since everything Mildred has done from the beginning to the end of the movie was attempt to make her daughter Veda happy as well as give her the life which she herself has never had. In the second scene of the movie it shows Mildred and her husband Bert arguing over the dress which she purchased for Veda her husband mentions the fact that Mildred spoils their daughter this argument escalates thus leading to Bert walking out on his wife and children. Another great example of Mildred’s sacrifice for her daughter was when Mildred was attempting to get her daughter to come back home with her and her daughter Veda refused commenting that she wanted the life which Monte could only offer her. Therefore in order for Mildred to make her daughter happy she married Monte a man whom she did not love just so that she could give her daughter the life which she desired so much. Although Mildred was a successful businesswoman her main goal/purpose was to please Veda and gain acceptance from her. This stems from the loss of her youngest daughter Kay. Although Mildred had made so many sacrifices for Veda she was a spoiled brat and only cared about money and possessions. In the finale scene of the movie the demonstration of Mildred love for her daughter is exemplified it shows the detective interrogating Mildred on who killed Monte she then nearly confesses in order to protect her daughter Veda who is then found out to be the real killer.
2. Into which Women’s Film category (Molly Haskell’s four categories) would you place Mildred Pierce? Why? (Use the Woman’s Film Lecture notes for this question).
In Molly Haskell’s four categories there are 4 options in which that best describe the actions of women throughout films. These four are sacrifice, affliction, choice, and competition. Based on the representation of the movie I would state that sacrifice would best fit the character Mildred Pierce throughout the entire film. In the movie she starts off as being a simple housewife who makes pies and cakes as means for income. She decides to stand up against her deceitful husband, who then leaves her and the children with nothing. Therefore she eventually makes her sacrifice by getting job as a waitress at a restaurant, which takes time away from her being with her children. She eventually excels in this profession and decides to open up her own restaurant. Mildred’s Business becomes very successful but you can sense that there’s still something missing in her life. It was viewed as though her success became an issue since her main goal was to make her daughter Veda happy but was never satisfied. By Mildred doing all these things for her daughter it made Veda more materialistic which lead to her not valuing others. Thus Veda, started to disconnect from her mother, as she was only interested in money and luxury. With those examples Molly Haskell provides support for my perspective as she defines it best “herself for her children, her children for their own welfare, marriage (respectability) for her lover, career for love, love for a career” (Haskell, Molly, from Reverence to rape, 2nd Ed. The University of Chicago press, 1987)”. Eventually Mildred would sacrifice her love life by potentially Marrying Monte a man she married for money. As well as always catering to her daughter Veda’s expenses, and being blind towards the obvious affair between both Veda and Monte. In conclusion there is always a price to pay for success.
3. Robin Morrison contends that Mildred cannot be seen as a “good mother” because she’s working outside the home – in what ways is she shown to be a “bad mother”? Please differentiate here between YOUR personal opinion and critical analysis; you want to employ critical analysis and situate Mildred Pierce as a representative icon of patriarchal structures and sexist ideologies. Try to disengage here from what your personal beliefs are on this matter.
Mildred who was portrayed as a driven successful business women would be perceived as a threat to the patriarchal system during that era as Robin Morrison states “Mildred Pierce is a fable that gives a picture of what women’s lives would be like if they did not let men do their wage earning, if they did not embrace their traditional role, if they did not learn their lesson and stay home (Morrison, R.(1998).Mildred Pierce and His Girl Friday: Portrait of Working Women in the Pre-and Post-World War Period. Pg4)”. Thus this leading to a shift in what is perceived by the patriarchal system on what a women’s role consists of. As well during the period of this movie Robin Morrison explains there was a war which led for the women to take on the responsibility of working while the men were at war. As soon as it ended it was time for the women to go back to their previous roles. The Mildred Pierce movie empowers women to take on roles which would be looked at as a man’s position. As well Mildred’s position as a mother would be tainted due to her career as Robin Morrison points this out by stating “if she is a working woman, she cannot properly take care of her children, but also if she is a mother, her business decisions are negatively affected by that role, and she lets consideration of her children cloud her judgement (Morrison, R. (1998). Mildred Pierce and His Girl Friday: Portrait of Working Women in the Pre-and-Post- World War period.pg3)”. This is demonstrated throughout the movie
where many of the decisions Mildred has made is based on her daughter Veda and what would be of benefit to her which caused an issues for Mildred business. This is confirmed in scene eight where she arrangement with Monte marriage in exchange for a percentage of her business. Mildred sacrifices a portion of her business just so that her daughter will return home. Confirming that she cannot detach the role of being a mother from being business women. Additionally Mildred’s role as flourishing career women intimidates the structure, which the patriarchy has set in place as stated by Robin Morrison “Mildred’s rise to success is dangerous to the status quo, because now it is a possible reality… (Morrison, R. (1998).Mildred Pierce and His Girl Friday: Portrait of Working Women in the Pre-and-Post- World War Period.pg2)”. Therefore altering the state of mind which society once had.
4. Kathryn D’Alessandro describes how many of the visual images (cinematography, lighting) in Mildred Pierce are reminiscent of film noir. Explain how. (You can also refer to notes from 1940’s FILM NOIR Lecture notes).
Both Film Noir and Mildred Pierce opened with very dark scenes. As in Mildred Pierce we are taken towards the end of the film where we all discover that someone has murdered Monte. As well With Film Noir it also has a dark likeness. With this type of imagery they both are similar in a way. In these two movies there are close ups which focus on the facial reaction of the characters. This is demonstrated in scenes that are intense and dramatic. One particular close up was when Veda slapped her mother the camera zoomed in to capture Mildred’s reaction. Another example is when Mildred walks in on her daughter and husband kissing you see again how the director captures her reaction this illustrates the hurt and betrayal that she felt through her facial reaction.
5. Sybil DelGaudio defines the racial stereotype of the “Mammy” role in the “Mammy in Hollywood” article in your course reader (also available online). What character is shown as a racial stereotype in Mildred Pierce? How does she fit the Mammy role?
The mammy as described by Sybil DelGaudio “colored women are maids, cooks , taxi drivers, crossing guards, schoolteacher, welfare recipients, bar maids, and the only time they become ladies is when they are cleaning ladies(DelGaudio,S(1983).The mammy in Hollywood film I’d walk a million miles for one of her smiles. Jump cut, no.28.pg1)”. In the Mildred Pierce movie there is one individual that fits this description who is Mildred’s maid who is a black women portrayed as a maid. She was first introduced in scene four where Mildred walks in the house and sees the maid wearing her waitress uniform when asked where she got it from she quickly replied that Veda gave it to her to wear. The maid’s appearance was that she had braids in her hair and her completion was that of a dark skin woman which Sybil DelGaudio states “iconographically, the Mammy has usually appeared as, the dark-skinned Aunt Jemima… (DelGaudio, S (1983).The mammy in Hollywood film I’d walk a million miles for one of her smiles. Jump cut, no.28.pg2)”. This character embodies the look as well as the character of the mammy. Although she did not have many scenes in the movie you can clearly notice that she is Mildred’s maid and that she is representation of the mammy role. Mildred and Veda who were white women portrayed as sex symbols complete opposite of how the maid was portrayed as the article the mammy reveals by exclaiming “the enormity of her size, while potentially increasing the image of her maternal strength, presented a de-sexualized image, especially contrasted with those sylphlike, objectified others of her gender who exemplified the feminine ideal (DelGaudio, S (1983) The mammy in Hollywood film I’d walk a million miles for one of her smiles. Jump cut, no.28.pg2)”.
Basinger, J.The Genre
DelGaudio, S (1983) The mammy in Hollywood film I’d walk a million miles for one of her smiles. Jump cut, no.28.
Haskell, Molly, from Reverence to rape, 2nd Ed. The University of Chicago press, 1987
Morrison, R. (1998).Mildred Pierce and His Girl Friday: Portrait of Working Women in the Pre-and Post-World War Period