Argument: Pillow Talk furthers the patriarchal structure of American Society. Putting women below men, but also emphasizing the role that men should be in.
Since the 1950s release of the film Pillow Talk, the role of women in society has evolved. During the 1950s and before, women were perceived to only be able to carry out domestic roles (housekeeping and motherly duties). Now society is more aware that women are capable of much more than household duties and can perform the same jobs as men. Due to this old misconception about what a woman could achieve, there was a strong push for women to simply get married and have babies. This distorted view of a woman’s place and society was ingrained in American culture. The popular film, Pillow Talk, furthered the stereotype of portraying women as weak and short sighted in their life goals. Even though getting married and having children are still objectives for Americans, Pillow Talk is a degrading snapshot of Americas vision of the ideal women in a patriarchal society.
During the beginning of Pillow Talk audiences quickly learn that Jan Marrow (the leading lady played by Dorris Day) is a headstrong and determined woman that has put her career ahead of having intimate relationships with men. This makes Jan stick out, because other women her age are either already married with kids or at least striving too. Not even 15 minutes into the movie, Jan is portrayed as a social peoria and criticized for wanting to have a career before she gets married and has children. Jan is constantly pushed to find a nice husband and have kids, since this is the ideology of the 1950s and the message that the film wishes to encourage. In fact when Jan tries to obtain a private phone line, because of friction between the man she shares her line with, the manager of the phone company explains that only an emergency would permit her to gain a personal line. One such emergency is being pregnant. This examples furthers the preconceived notion that women are limited only to motherly position and that they will only be rewarded for submitting to this societal law.
Even though Jan ultimately ends up happily married at the end of the film, the movie seems to express that women are to bend to the will and desires of men. Throughout the movie, Jan is courted by a man, Brad (played by the famous Rock Hudson), who uses deceit in order to gain Jan’s favor. Eventually Brad’s con falls apart and Jan sees Brad for the lier he is. Jan makes her negative feelings clear to Brad, yet he persistently pursues Jan. Brad continues to enamor Jan and does so by unrelenting acts of devotion. Somehow Brad succeeds in winning Jan’s affection, leaving me dumbfounded. The fact that Jan changes her opinion of Brad is completely out of her character and appears to be simply a “cutesy” way of ending the film. The ending of Pillow Talk seems to say, “if a man loves a woman, the woman should drop all her desires in life for his”.
While Pillow Talk is a comedy, the movie explains a great deal about gender roles in the 1950s. One of the most significant points that I found troubling was that women were to submit to getting married and have children. By reviewing the dated opinions of a woman’s role in society in the 1950’s it is almost laughable that it took so long for women to gain the respect needed to be seen as individuals instead of dependents. Pillow Talk highlighted some of the more outrageous opinions of how women were to behave in America during the 1950’s. A last point to consider is how popular culture today drives how Americans are to behave. It is easy to critique the past, but the biggest struggle to come is how we strive to make society more equitable and hospitable to peoples’ goals in life.
Pillow Talk. Dir. Michael Gordon. Perf. Doris Day, Rock Hudson, 1959. Film.