Girls, We’re All Bomshells

January 28, 2012

in Feminism

I couldn’t write a book set in the early 1960’s entitled Bombshells without talking about female bombshells like, Marilyn Monroe. In fact, the story takes place chronologically right after Marilyn Monroe’s death.

The truth is that bombshells, or idealized female types, are part of any culture, and an essential part of American pop culture. Whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, pin-ups, centerfolds, movie stars or any other objectified female image is here to stay. Consequently, these feminine images influence girls as they choose role models to follow in life.

Pre-pubescent girls are impressionable. They want to be accepted, and they want to be liked by boys. Girls internalize the images and actions they observe, filing away looks and behaviors to be examined and implemented in situations as needed.

With the characters of the twelve-year-olds Mellie and Steph, sixteen-year-old Cherie, and even six-year-old Birdie, I explore how girls absorb and then imitate female role models. The same is true for the adult characters in the novel, but they embody more recognizable female archetypes.

In Norah, we find the nurturer, the Madonna figure, and an archetype to the extreme in her pregnant, birthing femininity. She reflects at one point in the novel on her choices in life, limited though they were. Norah had sifted through her influences and made her decision to be wife and mother.

On the other hand, her sister Lola chose to follow the Femme Fatale type, to be ultra-feminine in her view of seduction as the way to achieve what she wants in life. Lola’s behavior is echoed in the character of Rachel Winston. Both women are predatory and willing to take what they want without thought to the consequences.

Flossie, the oldest female character in the novel, has passed through all of these stages of behavior and now settled into the wise woman or Mother Earth archetype. She has the answers, one must simply ask her for them.

All women have internalized these archetypes, and allow them to be visible when necessary. If a person, or a character, is simply one type to the exclusion of all others, that person, or character, is incomplete. Women, like all things in life, are the sum of their parts, the coalescence of the archetypes, if you will.

The image of Marilyn Monroe standing over the subway grate in her iconic white dress embodies what most women want to feel about themselves: beautiful, carefree, sensual, and alive. There’s no shame in that. We may not stand over a subway grate and show our bombshell-selves to the world like Marilyn, but she’s inside us.

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