The American 1950s have long been regarded as perhaps the most conformist decade of the 20th century. The leading female ideology was filled with mixed messages about what women should and should not do, and what they could and could not be. While one image insisted on women’s equality, the other insisted on total subordination. More than any other medium, the Hollywood industry fostered American ideals and images of modern womanhood and manhood.
Overall, this thesis will investigate how female schizophrenia and the containment of female public participation in post-war America are central issues that need to be linked to the larger imperatives of post-war policies and the development of the mass culture of that time. Thus this thesis examines female representation in post-war melodramas, in relation to four different films: All That Heaven Allows (1955), Imitation of Life (1959), Far From Heaven (2002), and The Hours (2002). These films are treated as primary sources that, juxtaposed with other kinds of historical evidence, lead to gendered work, sexuality, family life, and politics.