Thursday, October 27, 2011

Creative Process Journal: Marie Antoinette and Chick Lit

Marie Antoinette and her ladies in waiting from the movie Marie Antoinette by Sofia Coppola
One of the best thing about being a grad student is having access to online academic journals..... And given how much I like to read, it is almost like getting my daily dose of candy. One article that helped me gain a better understanding of the most recent wave of interest in Marie Antoinette is called "Marie Antoinette: Fashion, Third-Wave Feminism, and Chick Culture" by Susanne Ferriss and Mallory Young which was published in Literature Film Quarterly in 2010.

In this article, the authors trace the popularity of Marie Antoinette as an icon of fashion to the rise of chick culture and third wave feminism. They identify Antonia's biography called Marie Antoinette The Journey (2001), Caroline Weber's book Queen of Fashion (2006) and Sofia Coppola's movie Marie Antoinette (2006) as being pivotal to the transformation of the woman who was once considered a "heartless, elitist, anti-revolutionary wicked witch" into a "sympathetic, unfairly maligned victim" (Ferriss and Young: 98). The authors present the argument that this  revisionist account of Marie Antoinette is representative of a "third-wave feminist aesthetic focused on youth, fashion, sexuality, celebrity and consumerism." (Ferriss and Young: 99).

Fashion figures heavily into their analysis of the books and film and the authors consider how a ceremonial change in dress symbolized a "re-fashioning of self". For example, there was a stripping of her Austrian identity as Marie Antoinette crossed the border from Austria into France with her nakedness becoming "a metaphor for her psychic vulnerability" (Ferriss and Young: 102). As well, the authors consider other aspects of fashion in the movie such as the use of pink as a "signature colour of postfeminism" and as the shoes by Manolo Blahnik as having a "strong chick-culture connection" (Ferris and Young: 104-105).

Marie Antoinette Movie - Converse Sneakers
There is a lot of meaty content in this article but of note here are two items:
1. The Converse shoes in the film's shopping scene were not a mistake (as some articles/websites would suggest). The authors posit that "Coppola consciously admits and laughs at her own use of contemporary fashion imagery." (105)
2. Marie Antoinette's love of fashion and her lavish consumption is considered to be "evidence of her playful, endearing, queen-next-door charm" and is pivotal to the understanding of the movie as a revisionist account and alignment with chick lit culture and third-wave feminism. (106)

This scholarly article was both entertaining and enlightening. I equate reading it to a light-bulb moment. I now understand why "the attitude toward the infamous queen might provide a clue to the Zeitgeist during any period in Europe and America since her own time," as Caroline Weber suggested in her book and is emphasized by Ferriss and Young  (99).

Bottom line - I think that I need to incorporate a pair of Converse high-tops into my Marie Antoinette dress installation.....

Works cited:
Article: Marie Antoinette: Fashion, Third-Wave Feminism, and Chick Culture
Authors: Suzanne Ferriss and Mallory Young
Source: Literature Film Quarterly, 2010. Vol. 38, Issue 2, p98-116

Queen of Fashion, What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution
Author: Caroline Weber
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company, New York, 2006.

Project Clock: Article review and synthesis 3 hours
To date: 13 hours

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