Nazi cinema's new women : Marika Rökk, Zarah Leander, Kristina Söderbaum / Jana Francesca Bruns.
This dissertation investigates ideology and politics in National Socialist cinema, studying how ideas about propaganda, culture, and gender shaped the period's films and stars and how they resonated in the public realm. Specifically, it examines the careers of the period's most famous female movie stars, Marika Rökk, Zarah Leander, and Kristina Söderbaum, using them as windows into the institutional and aesthetic transformation of German cinema as a result of Nazi rule. It argues that integrating official dogma, commercialism, and creative enterprise proved difficult, often yielding paradoxical results: films whose visual and narrative organization is confusing and inconsistent, or works presenting Hollywood-style entertainment that seemed utterly irrelevant to National Socialism. The film industry struggled, in particular, to contrive pertinent on- and off-screen roles for actresses which were attractive to male and female consumers while also conforming to National Socialism's idea of women. Consequently, Nazi cinema's images of womanhood were thoroughly ambiguous, oscillating between deviance and conformity, open-mindedness and reaction. The strikingly ambivalent nature of women's roles and the prominence of female stars in Nazi cinema has been overlooked by previous scholarship because this seems to contradict National Socialism's gender paradigm, which defines women primarily as homemakers, bearers of Aryan children, and dutiful companions. The dissertation shows that this reductive reading oversimplifies the aims, tactics, and operation of National Socialist ideology and, more generally, the makeup of culture in the Third Reich. While it acknowledges the prominence of Nazi anti-feminism, it offers new insights into the inconsistencies inherent in its structure and the tensions of its execution. Drawing out the complexity of female movie stardom thus not only grants a deeper understanding of women's role in the movie industry, but also of their status in the Third Reich more generally. Moreover, by joining the analytical methods of film and cultural studies with those of historical inquiry, the dissertation presents a more nuanced and comprehensive picture of the internal mechanisms and concrete effects of Nazi ideology in the cultural realm.
Record last modified: 2018-04-24 16:01:00
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