Friday, July 27, 2007

Women and the Cynical Bachelor (Ten)

Ugh, I've been reading these awful adverts from "Emily Shops" (Frocks and Frills for Women) for a few weeks now, and they drive me crazy. They're the type of "funny story" advertisement I've been quoting recently, but these are particularly bizarre. Here's episode ten, from January 28, 1928:
"A woman," said the Cynical Bachelor, "changes her mind as easily as she changes her dress."

"Let us be frank, old boy," said He to Whom Feminine Changes are a Natural Phenomenon, "a woman changes her dress often. But, in all things that really matter, she never changes her mind at all.

"For her mind is made up on the vital matter of being always attractive to men. And, granted she can find new dresses that reveal new facets of her attractiveness, she must change her clothes to keep from changing her mind.

"All she needs is some source of clothes that make attractiveness assured. And, if she knows those charming little Salons of Feminine Personality, the Emily Shops, she need never change her mind, and she can always change her dress, to the most fascinating effect."
WHAT? All of these ads make some weird generalization about "feminine psychology." Then, as if the generalization wasn't odd enough, they have to contort it into a promotion for Frocks and Frills...always in a single paragraph, and probably with very little time to think about it. So you get these offensive openings, followed by a "final thought" that's supposed to sell the clothes but only confuses you.

I should have started posting these earlier...if I run across more I'll put them up.


Eric Little said...

This is why so much of late Twenties-early Thirties popular fiction is so unreadable to me: the preciosity, the jackassery of sentiments behind it. As Odgen Nash said of S.S. Van Dine's detective hero,

Philo Vance
Needs a kick in the pants.

I have to phrase this correctly, but one of the good results of the Great Depression was the expunging of a lot of this attitude. Hemingway had started it earlier, almost in anticipation of the Zeitgeist; it's why he had so many imitators, from fiction writers to sports columnists. (Look at the way Dorothy Parker immediately embraces him.)

The hard-boiled school of writers led by Dashiell Hammett is another result. Give me Sam Spade and the Continental Op over Vance any day.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Yes, that's exactly it! It's precocious and jackassey. It hadn't ocurred to me that this sort of smug writing had a reverse influence on Hemmingway. The New Yorker book reviewer doesn't seem big on Hemmingway, but Dorothy Parker praises his economy.