Ann Margret in Bye Bye Birdie, 1963.
This song perfectly describes the slanted gender roles and descriptive physical traits of the what it is to be a woman, well, a stereotyped, Hollywood-ized, female character of the mid-Twentieth Century to be exact. Unfortunately though, we still see these factors in play today: the beauty standards, the male-female hetero assumed behaviors, the vanity and the deceptive reputation that woman are so often accused of. Yes, one can defend this classic modern musical narrative as a reflection into the subtleties (and certainly not so subtle) parts of Americana culture in the 1960s as one era of fashion, music, culture and morals changed to the next, noting the clearly iconic Elvis-like character that circles the main plot as a trending bridge from adolescence to adulthood, but it is more than that. In essence, this play and movie, provides staples of gender-bias (seriously, listen to the lyrics of “Special Boy” …. oy vey) and showcases behavioral development through the eyes of pop culture, not reality. And then, of course, just take a moment to really try to understand Ann Margret’s part in “Lot of Livin’.” Dear God. And her character is sixteen. SIXTEEN.
No, I am NOT arguing that drinking, per-marital sex, cheating or cheesy pop stars are immoral. Instead, what I AM saying is that we must critically look at our cultural icons, be they movies, actors or ideals. This film is a humorous critique of American society, but nonetheless it influenced thousands of fans, largely young fans looking for role models.
Overall, the film is great, fun, well-styled and entertaining to watch and listen to. The songs are catchy, the dances funky and the plot very silly, but analysis is always needed when such tight boxes are placed around a generalized member or culture in society, so they we do not to take it literally.