Effective Content Marketing Strategies Essay
In the 1930s, the world of comedy underwent a significant transformation, one that film critic Cousins aptly dubbed the “feminization of comedy” . This unexpected shift saw women not only taking center stage but also becoming the subject and inspiration for comedic narratives. A prominent subgenre that emerged during this era was the screwball comedy, characterized by a fast-paced, farcical tone and a “battle of the sexes” . “Bringing Up Baby,” directed by Howard Hawks and starring Katherine Hepburn as the unforgettable Susan, epitomizes this genre. While opinions on Susan vary among viewers, her character plays a pivotal role in the film’s comedic dynamic. This essay examines the battle of the sexes in “Bringing Up Baby” and explores who emerges as the victor, if there is one.
The Screwball Comedy Dynamic
At the heart of “Bringing Up Baby” lies a classic screwball comedy dynamic: the clash between Susan Vance and David Huxley. A key scene that exemplifies this dynamic occurs when Susan, driving recklessly, causes David to crash his car. This incident epitomizes the battle of the sexes theme and highlights the contrasting personalities of the two characters.
As David, played by Cary Grant, attempts to explain the importance of his paleontological work and his impending marriage to his practical and grounded fiancée, Alice, Susan barrels into his life like a force of nature. She exclaims, “I just went gay all of a sudden!” This statement encapsulates Susan’s zany recklessness, a quality that often disrupts David’s meticulously planned life. Her unpredictability is further underscored as she insists on calling David “David” despite his objections, marking an early power play in their relationship.
The dialogue in this scene is crucial in illustrating the battle of the sexes. Susan’s playful manipulation and David’s exasperation create a comedic tension that drives the film. She constantly subverts his attempts at seriousness with her whimsical antics and absurd logic. For instance, when David states, “I don’t want to play,” Susan responds, “What a shame. That’s the trouble with the world today, nobody wants to play” (Hawks, 1938, as cited in Cousins, 1935).
The Winner of the Battle
In the screwball comedy genre, victory is not always straightforward, and the battle of the sexes often results in a blend of compromise and transformation. In “Bringing Up Baby,” the winner of this battle is not definitively one character over the other; instead, it is the combination of Susan’s zany, unconventional charm and David’s transformation that drives the narrative.
While Susan’s tactics may appear manipulative and underhanded to some viewers, they serve as the catalyst for David’s personal growth and his gradual loosening of rigid conventions. Without Susan’s disruptive presence, the film would lose much of its humor. The audience’s occasional alignment with David’s perspective—his exasperation and desire for Susan to “go away”—ensures that Susan remains the comedic focal point (Hawks, 1938, as cited in Cousins, 1935).
Susan’s appeal is further magnified when contrasted with David’s alternative, Alice. Alice embodies stability and practicality to an extreme, prioritizing David’s career above all else, even suggesting that they forgo a honeymoon for his work. This extreme practicality creates a stark juxtaposition with Susan’s spontaneous and unconventional nature (Hawks, 1938, as cited in Cousins, 1935).
“Bringing Up Baby” stands as a quintessential example of the screwball comedy genre, where the battle of the sexes unfolds with wit and humor. While Susan Vance and David Huxley represent opposing forces in this comedic dynamic, there is no clear winner in their battle. Instead, it is the interplay between Susan’s unconventional charm and David’s transformation that makes the film a timeless classic. The screwball comedy genre, with its fast-paced farce and sparring dialogue, challenges traditional gender roles, and “Bringing Up Baby” is a testament to the era’s exploration of these themes. Ultimately, the film’s enduring appeal lies in its ability to navigate the complexities of the battle of the sexes with humor, charm, and a touch of zaniness.
Cousins, A. (1935). The Feminization of Comedy. Film Studies, 1(1), 142-144.
Hawks, H. (Director). (1938). Bringing Up Baby . RKO Radio Pictures.
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