Feminists of Film, Round One:
Any conversation on feminism in film would be pointless without the mention of Bette Davis. To this day she is the symbol of the strong female on the silver screen; completely in control of her life and not about to cede that power to anybody. The basic Bette character sketch is made up of a strong woman (who may be attached to a man, but doesn’t have to be) , something dreadful that happens to her, and how she comes out the other end victorious.
The thing that has always singled Bette out is the fact that she wasn’t innocent, doe-eyed, or even trying to be good. This last point was what separated her from Joan Crawford’s strong female (whom I will touch on in round two). Bette never wanted to make the grade, she wanted to acheive her goal. In not following trends, she learned set them.
When it comes to her impact on women in America, Bette didn’t gain real influence until she had her falling out with Paramount. Like Garbo before her, taking on a studio gave Bette the biggest break she could get. It gave the average American a chance to see and understand her personality for the first time, and when they saw a liberated woman trying to be a legitimate actress through means other than the casting couch, they stood up and begged for more. From that time on, Female rolls in film changed dramatically, and, like it or not, Bette was the new black