This week I watched a couple of movies from the ‘50s that made me think twice about the history of woman. The first was Rocketship X-M, from 1950, and the second was This Island Earth, from 1954. Both films featured groups of scientists that encounter aliens from other worlds. I’m not sure why these men of science had to go looking for aliens on other planets. They seem to have plenty of trouble with the aliens on Earth—the women.
Rocketship X-M stars Lloyd Bridges (Floyd) and Osa Massen (Lisa), and one of their conversations onboard the Rocket went something like this:
Floyd- “How did a girl like you get mixed up in a thing like this in the first place?”
Lisa- “I suppose you think that women should only cook and sew and bear children?”
Floyd- “Isn’t that enough?”
Wow! I knew right from the beginning, when we watched the original trailer for the film, that there would be trouble like this. There is actually a shot in the trailer with the words, “Four men and a Girl!” plastered over the picture. In the movie, the “girl” to which the line refers happens to be the scientist that develops the rocket fuel capable of launching the ship and sending it to its destination.
In This Island Earth, actor Rex Reason (Cal) is the chauvinist scientist. He has a conversation with a colleague (Joe) about a machine developed by an alien race:
Joe- “Here’s something my wife could use in the house. An ‘interocitor incorporating an electron sorter.’”
Cal- “Oh, she’d probably gain 20 pounds while it did all the work for her.”
Oh, no he didn’t! I was just proud of the fact that when these lines came up, along with dozens like them, my two sons just stared in disbelief. Their reactions were priceless. They had suggestions of their own about what the women should do with these guys.
Now let me say that I don’t consider myself a feminist. I’m girly. I love that I am surrounded with men who kill my spiders, pump my gas, and carry heavy stuff for me.
I also believe that, with very few exceptions, men and women can do the same jobs equally well. There are differences in men and women, of course—both physically and emotionally. But those differences should be celebrated as natural complements to each other to comprise a perfect team.
I must confess that I have grown complacent as I’ve aged, and I’ve taken for granted the amazing strides for equality that have been made in the last century. These movies served well for a reminder of how things were not so long ago.
That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!