Seeing Through Happiness. Class, Gender and Popular Film: Liverpool Women Remember the 50's Film Musical

Lacey, Joanne. 1998. Seeing Through Happiness. Class, Gender and Popular Film: Liverpool Women Remember the 50's Film Musical. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

My research, drawing on interviews with seventeen white working class women in Liverpool, explores the meanings that the women made around Hollywood film musicals in Liverpool in the 1950's, and the significance of those memories in their lives today. The central aim of the thesis is to challenge and expand existing theoretical frameworks for understanding the relationship between class, gender and the consumption of popular culture.

The thesis stages a series of questions around the function of qualitative empirical research on audiences for film, specifically the function of empirical research on working class female audiences for popular film, in terms of understanding the breadth of meaning made around cinema in working class women's lives. What the interviews present are a complex array of readings of the musical texts, readings that are located within specific personal, social, cultural and geographical histories.

The research contributes to current debates in film and cultural studies. The thesis intervenes in current debates within cultural studies, placing centre stage fundamental concerns around the relative absence of class within contemporary research on popular culture. It contributes to methodological debates within cultural studies through an analysis of the possible methods for researching the lived experience of media audiences. It enters film studies at the site of recent methodological debates around the possibilities and limitations of textual and empirical analysis as a means of accounting for the ways in which audiences make meanings around film texts. It also enters in the midst of the fascinating and important emergence of empirical research that produces ethno- histories of popular cultural practice by investigating the ways in which cinema and film going figure in the daily lives of people. In demonstrating the breadth of meaning of the cinema in working class lives, the thesis also shows the limits of an exclusive focus on film texts. The presentation of situated readings of the musicals within a grounded theorisation of memories of the time and place of their consumption is generative of some new ways of reading specific film texts, the genre in general, and indeed the institution of Hollywood cinema as a whole. vision intersects with the everyday lives of women in transitional Korea, and how the experience of television is further implicated in the formation and transformation of identities. Within the larger socio-historical context of Korean modernity, it explores how_women deal with social change and make sense of their lives and identities with the cultural experience of television in everyday life, mediated by generation and class. This empirical work overall demonstrates the reflexive workings of popular television culture in its multifold manifestations. It reveals how critical ordinary women are in their engagement with television and how reflexivity actually operates in the variegated settings of their everyday lives. The thesis therefore argues for reflexivity at work: Reflexivity is constitutive of the experience of modem television. The practice of reflexivity is a defining characteristic of the experience of television, and television culture today has become a critical condition for reflexivity. Specifically, the thesis emphasizes the social dynamics of different forms of reflexivity with which to organize the project of self-identity, and the significant role of television as a resource for reflexivity. Reflexivity is organized around the axis of generation oriented toward different directions, which are the tradition-directed, the inner-directed, and the other-directed. The dialectical nature of the reflexivities of each generation is a push-and-pull of different tendencies towards modernity. Tradition in everyday life is now under threat, beginning to dissolve by the experience of modernity. As a consequence, the reflexive organization of the self becomes an inevitable unfinishable project to be worked at, and television, as historically-situated cultural experience, is integrated into the project of the self Television is an important resource for reflexivity in modem everyday life, which stimulates ordinary women to research their own lives and identities for a journey of hope.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Liverpool, working class women, Hollywood film musicals, 1950s

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies



Item ID:


Date Deposited:

29 May 2020 11:05

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 14:24


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