'The Great Gatsby' Still Gets Flappers Wrong

May 3rd, 2013

Have you heard? There’s a new swell in town named Gatsby, and he’s bringing flapper flair back into fashion. Baz Luhrmann’s latest cinematic spectacle—his take on “The Great Gatsby”—promises to be a sensational commercial for Prada and Brooks Brothers, who partnered with Luhrmann’s wife, costume designer Catherine Martin, on the film’s clothing. Fashion-world heavyweights, like Vogue and WWD, are already gushing about the new Roaring Twenties styles.

“She flirted because it was fun to flirt. The things she did were the things she had always wanted to do.”

But if you think the flappers were only about drop-waist dresses, fox furscloche hats, and excessive celebration, you’re missing the point. The trouble with “Gatsby” is, as beautifully as F. Scott Fitzgerald describes the opulent world of 1920s high society in his novel, he gets flappers all wrong. That’s because he portrays this liberated “New Woman” through the eyes of men. Even so, his novel has become the go-to source for American pop culture when we want to relive the Jazz Age.

Of course, given his directing style, Luhrmann would be drawn to a classic tale of intrigue, betrayal, and reckless excess that allows him to create a stunning, opulent Art Deco tableau. The Roaring Twenties possess an undeniable magic—a brief, giddy period of time when America wasn’t at war and wasn’t broke.

Top: Carey Mulligan, wearing an anachronistic pink fur and loads of Tiffany jewelry, plays Daisy Buchanan in Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby." Via Warner Bros. Above: F. Scott Fitzgerald based Daisy, the self-identified flapper, on his wife, Zelda. Via thegatesofdamascus.wordpress.com

Top: Carey Mulligan, wearing an anachronistic pink fur and loads of Tiffany jewelry, plays Daisy Buchanan in Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby.” Via Warner Bros. Above: F. Scott Fitzgerald based Daisy, the self-identified flapper, on his wife, Zelda. Via thegatesofdamascus.wordpress.com

Through their writings, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald—the young, glamorous literary couple du jour—defined the Jazz Age as we know it. Scott declared his Southern belle wife, whom he married in 1920, “the first American flapper.” The inspiration for Daisy Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby,” Zelda was known for her wild antics, like drunkenly jumping, fully clothed, into the fountain at New York’s Plaza Hotel. Even as a kid, she was always creating a scene: She stole a car when she was 8; she went swimming in a flesh-colored bathing suit in her teens. (Read more about her in this excellent bio at The Gloss.)

In her June 1922 piece for Metropolitan Magazine called “Eulogy on the Flapper,” 22-year-old Zelda only hints at the radical edge of the flapper movement.

“The Flapper awoke from her lethargy of sub-deb-ism, bobbed her hair, put on her choicest pair of earrings and a great deal of audacity and rouge and went into the battle. She flirted because it was fun to flirt and wore a one-piece bathing suit because she had a good figure, she covered her face with powder and paint because she didn’t need it and she refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring. She was conscious that the things she did were the things she had always wanted to do. Mothers disapproved of their sons taking the Flapper to dances, to teas, to swim and most of all to heart. She had mostly masculine friends, but youth does not need friends—it needs only crowds.”

Less-than-affluent flappers reveal their knees in the 1920s. Via Smithsonian.com.

Less-than-affluent flappers reveal their knees in the 1920s. Via Smithsonian.com.

But in 1925’s “The Great Gatsby,” Scott depicted a more dire view of flappers. Narrated by a man, the cautionary tale seems to warn against the wiles of The New Woman—the feminist ideal of an educated and sexually liberated woman that emerged in the 1900s. So instead of intelligent, independent women telling their own stories of rebelling and rejecting their mother’s values, you have male war buddies sharing how vapid, spoiled socialites carelessly wrecked their lives. In “A Feminist Reading of the Great Gatsby,” Soheila Pirhadi Tavandashti points out the pattern:

“The novel abounds in minor female characters whose dress and activities identify them as incarnations of the New Woman, and they are portrayed as clones of a single, negative character type: shallow, exhibitionist, revolting, and deceitful. For example, at Gatsby’s parties we see insincere, ‘enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names,’ as well as numerous narcissistic attention-seekers in various stages of drunken hysteria. We meet, for example, a young woman who ‘dumps’ down a cocktail ‘for courage’ and ‘dances out alone on the canvass to perform’; ‘a rowdy little girl who gave way upon the slightest provocation to uncontrollable laughter’; … a drunken young girl who has her ‘head stuck in the pool’ to stop her from screaming; and two drunken young wives who refuse to leave the party until their husbands, tired of the women’s verbal abuse, ‘lifted [them] kicking into the night.’”

The latest in chic flapper-inspired fashion, as presented by the summer 1928 issue of McCall Quarterly. Via HubPages.com.

The latest in chic flapper-inspired fashion, as presented by the summer 1928 issue of McCall Quarterly. Via HubPages.com.

Indeed, Zelda, who was ultimately diagnosed with schizophrenia and died at an insane asylum, spent most of her marriage struggling to define herself as an artist and her own person. Her husband copied liberally from her journals and letters for his novels. When she finally wrote an autobiographical novel of her marriage in 1932, “Save Me the Waltz,” he edited out several of the stories that he intended to use for his own, 1934’s “Tender Is the Night.”

But Zelda, as fearless and trail-blazing as she was, can’t even embody the flapper movement fully. For one, it was not all white women, as NYU’s Modern America reports: “For the time being, the bob and the entire Flapper wardrobe, united blacks and whites under a common hip-culture.” Secondly, the flapper’s rebellion against Victorian sexual mores didn’t start among the high-society debutantes, but in “working-class neighborhoods and radical circles in the early 1900s before it spread to middle-class youth and college campuses.”

African American flappers take in a college football game in Washington, D.C., in the 1920s. Addison Scurlock Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

African American flappers take in a college football game in Washington, D.C., in the 1920s. Addison Scurlock Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

That’s the piece that most people forget: The flapper movement wasn’t simply a fashion trend, as Emily Spivack at Smithsonian.com’s Threaded blog explains; it was a full-blown, grassroots feminist revolution. After an 80-year campaign by suffragists, women were finally granted the right to vote in the United States in 1920, when the Nineteenth Amendment was passed. When the U.S. entered World War I in April 1917, many women entered the workforce, and when the soldiers returned in November 1918, their female counterparts were reluctant to give up their jobs.

As a result, young, unmarried women experienced far greater financial independence than they’d ever had before. Bicycles, and then cars, allowed them to get around town without a male escort. The spread of electric lighting allowed nightclubs to flourish, just as the Prohibition Amendment of 1919 forced them to go underground. Drinking at illegal “speakeasies” became a thrilling part of flapper culture. Suddenly, it was possible for women to go out and enjoy freedom and rebellion in a way they never had before when they were beholden to their fathers or husbands.

Flappers enjoy the women's smoking car of a train in the 1920s. Via Smithsonian.com.

Flappers enjoy the women’s smoking car of a train in the 1920s. Via Smithsonian.com.

“These things are not merely a flapper uniform. They are The Style, Summer of 1925 Eastern Seaboard, worn by all of Jane’s sisters and her cousins and her aunts.”

First, these flappers ditched the constraining, skin-covering clothes of their Edwardian mothers. Inspired by Cubist art and Art Nouveau haute couture, flappers rejected the dramatic, hyper-feminine S-shaped Edwardian silhouette created by tight, time-consuming corsets for sheath dresses that gave them boxy boyish shapes. In fact, this straight up-and-down figure was so extreme that curvier women went out of their way to squeeze into girdles and bandage their breasts flat. It was so severe that Luhrmann’s film doesn’t really go there, as most women today would not want to sport such a curveless look. These radical women pushed the boundaries of androgyny even further by chopping off their long Edwardian locks for bobbed hairstyles.

At the same time, flappers revealed a shocking amount of skin. The older generation was absolutely outraged by the site of bare knees and arms, which flappers would highlight with loads of bangles. They were also appalled by the red lips, rouged cheeks, and kohl-lined eyes of flappers, as previously only prostitutes had worn makeup. But these young women would load up with affordable costume jewelry and take their newly invented lipstick tubes and compacts out with them to speakeasies, where they would smoke, drink hard liquor, listen to jazz, and dance the Charleston, the Black Bottom, or the Lindy Hop, dances considered sexually provocative. So flappers were derided for being both too masculine and too titillating.

Josephine Baker, in her famous banana skirt from the Folies Bergère, was an American who made a name for herself in Paris as an exotic dancer. She became an icon of flapper sexual liberation. Photo by Lucien Waléry, via Wikimedia Commons.

Josephine Baker, in her famous banana skirt from the Folies Bergère, was an American who made a name for herself in Paris as an exotic dancer. She became an icon of flapper sexual liberation. Photo by Lucien Waléry, via Wikimedia Commons.

Importantly, most flappers felt no particular hurry to get married, since they were working and able to provide for themselves. They dated casually, flirting, kissing, petting, and even had sex with men they had no interest in committing to. It’s not surprising that artistic men like Fitzgerald would find them so attractive—and terrifying enough to make them the center of his novel cautioning against self-indulgence and hedonism. Look what might happen, he seems to worry, if we keep letting women drive cars!

“The Great Gatsby” was not a hit when it came out; at that point, being scandalized over flappers was already passé. Once Clara Bow and Louise Brooks played adorable flappers in silent movies, the short hairdos and boxy drop-waist dresses, albeit with respectably long skirts, became the dominant style of the day.

The Flapper Magazine, which began publishing in 1922, used the tag line, "Not for Old Fogies." This issue brazenly depicts a woman playing football, a manly activity.

The Flapper Magazine, which began publishing in 1922, used the tag line, “Not for Old Fogies.” This issue brazenly depicts a woman playing football, a manly activity.

In a 1925 piece in The New Republic called “Flapper Jane,” Bruce Bliven writes: “These [looks] which I have described are Jane’s clothes, but they are not merely a flapper uniform. They are The Style, Summer of 1925 Eastern Seaboard. These things and none other are being worn by all of Jane’s sisters and her cousins and her aunts. They are being worn by ladies who are three times Jane’s age, and look ten years older; by those twice her age who look a hundred years older.”

So flapper fashion had lost its edge by the mid-1920s, when department stores and mail-order companies had discovered the money-making potential of this radically new look. Flapper fashions can be seen in the 1926 Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog, as shown in Smithsonian.com’s “The History of the Flapper.” It wasn’t long before, the Great Wall Street Crash of 1929, which led to the Great Depression of the 1930s, crushed the fun, free spirit of Jazz Age, forcing men and women alike to get less materialistic and more practical about money.

A page from the 1926 Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog, full of flapper-inspired fashions. Via ArtDecoBlog.blogspot.com

A page from the 1926 Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog, full of flapper-inspired fashions. Via ArtDecoBlog.blogspot.com

But the flapper’s influence on American culture could not be undone. She rejected the notion that women should be submissive and keep to their “separate sphere” of the home. She proved that women could work and live independent from men—and party just as hard. She opened up new conversations about dating, sexuality, and sexually transmitted diseases. Along with all those feminist hallmarks, she also created a new, more demanding beauty standard for women that requires wearing makeup, tanning, and dieting and exercising to stay lithe and youthful.

Keep all this in mind while you watch the new “Gatsby.” Like the 1926 Sears catalog, Hollywood is exploiting an ever-popular cultural phenomenon to sell you something. But these vain, manipulative characters wreaking havoc onscreen in their fabulous Prada shifts are not the true flappers, the ones who made the world as we know it.

Rolling their stockings was another way flappers rebelled. By 1926, teens and preteens were doing it.

Rolling their stockings was another way flappers rebelled. By 1926, teens and preteens were doing it.

(Recommended reading: “Shelved Dolls: Zelda Fitzgerald – Just A Total Mess Or What?” by Jennifer Wright at The Gloss; “A Feminist Reading of the Great Gatsby,” by Soheila Pirhadi Tavandashti; “The History of the Flapper,” parts 1-5, by Emily Spivack at Smithsonian.com’s Threaded blog; “The Flapper: The Heroine or Antagonist of the 1920s” from NYU’s Modern America; “When flappers ruled the Earth: how dance helped women’s liberation” by Judith Mackrell at the Guardian UK; “The Roaring 20s: Jazz, Flappers, and the Charleston” at Hub Pages.)

41 comments so far

  1. Heather C Says:

    Awesome story! I am still waiting for the day someone makes a realistic flapper movie from the woman’s point of view. I’m so tired of the bored socialite trope!

  2. Jim Says:

    How about sitting down and actually writing a novel that portrays the flapper the way you want them to be seen instead of complaining that a man didn’t do it the way you’d like.

    Just a suggestion.

  3. Alison Says:

    Wow Jim, overreact much?
    My guess is Heather C isn’t a screenwriter or a flapper contemporary otherwise she would.

  4. Big E Says:

    Two words: Jordan Baker.

    Nice try, tho.

  5. Caitlin Says:

    Very interesting piece. However, the term New Woman was coined in 1894 by Sarah Grand and was a common trope in the 1890s (and really was depicted without the name before then). The bicycle became popular in the 1890s and helped change the way that women were able to move in social spaces. I’d recommend reading Modern Girl Around the World.

  6. RC Says:

    Just an FYI, Daisy is based on Ginerva King from FSF’s youth:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginevra_King

  7. Tyler Says:

    How many women dressed in revealing clothes in the present day do you imagine are doing it to prove their equality and power in society? I would imagine that it was very few in those times, most complied out of stylistic ideals, just as it’s written, and just as it is with any given trend that starts with a fragment of a social statement and is later romanticized into more than it ever was. Don’t criticize classic American literature over a time you didn’t live through. People are sheep, sheep now, sheep then. Women wanted to look like other women, plain and simple.

  8. Jeffrey Says:

    A couple curious things about your article, Zelda Fitzgerald had terrible nightmares about dying in a fire, which she actually did at Highland Hospital in Asheville, N.C, on March 10, 1948. Also, I believe that there is a spelling error with: Secondly, the flapper’s rebellion against Victorian sexual mores didn’t start among the high-society debutantes… Did you mean morals? When referring to dance, why was “The Lindy Hop” chosen over “The Charleston?” Swing and Bebop happened much later! Otherwise, I liked your approach and agree with it on a lot of levels. Just know that “Hollywood never gets period films right!”

  9. Elsie Says:

    Jim,
    How about stepping down from your privileged high horse and realizing you completely missed the point of the article? There have already been commentaries on the flapper- in both in fiction and journalistic form- written by females. There was no “complaining” by the author of this article, only a valid point that Gatsby is a product of the biased male perspective. Perhaps a bit of research and less jumping to conclusions would prevent you from sounding like an ass.

  10. Bertha Says:

    Jeffrey, mores is a word, and one which makes sense in that context, so I’m assuming that’s what she meant. Correcting people’s spelling in articles like this is slightly patronising even when it’s a genuine mistake, but far more so when you assume a word you don’t know is an error on the author’s part, not yours.

  11. Tim Says:

    The Great Gatsby isn’t about flapper clothing or how women acted in that era. It’s about the disintegration of society as a whole.
    “…But these vain, manipulative characters wrecking havoc onscreen in their fabulous Prada shifts are not the true flappers, the ones who made the world as we know it.”
    Seriously? You think flappers made the world of today? I hate to break it to you but humans haven’t changed at all in hundreds of years. Additionally, prostitutes have been dressing and acting like flappers long before the term was ever coined.

  12. Tim Says:

    I would also like to recommend a movie called The Day of the Locust. It’s The Great Gatsby movie of the 1970′s.

  13. Nichola R Says:

    Gee your comments seem incredibly reductive – I have never thought of The Great Gatsby as a cautionary tale about flappers – what fem crit box are you trying to squeeze this book into?

  14. Rebecca Says:

    so basically, evidence suggests this isn’t an inaccurate portrayal but it’s “negative” so it’s wrong.

    Okay.

  15. John Says:

    In all fairness, this article is – at its heart – critical of the book and the forthcoming movie’s depiction of flappers:

    “Keep all this in mind while you watch the new “Gatsby.” Like the 1926 Sears catalog, Hollywood is exploiting an ever-popular cultural phenomenon to sell you something. But these vain, manipulative characters wrecking havoc onscreen in their fabulous Prada shifts are not the true flappers, the ones who made the world as we know it.”

    By expressing dissatisfaction with the way flappers are depicted in “The Great Gatsby,” Lisa Hix is, by definition, complaining about it. That said, I personally was enlightened by the article and don’t take issue with Lisa bringing this information to light. Thanks to this, I plan on researching flappers more before reading/seeing TGG.

  16. juju belle Says:

    Isn’t the whole book about self-destruction? As I recall, things didn’t end so great for Gatsby either.

  17. C.B. Says:

    Thoughtful, impressive article. Yet, sadly, women have never been depicted in movies and books as they really exist (turn on the TV to any channel for five seconds, and you’ll see a woman who looks vastly different than your next door neighbor) and those industries, then and now, are mostly dominated by men. Pictures of my grandmother indeed look like these ordinary women and not like Carey Mulligan. But how many men would make a movie, or write a book, about women like my grandmother, who went to college in the 1920s??

  18. Mitchell Says:

    This article would be more credible if the source for Daisy Buchanan were properly noted as Ginevra King instead of Zelda Sayre. But, you know, source material is so boooooring.

  19. Naomi Says:

    This article is incorrect on several terms, though I will not dispute that that picture from the film is anachronistic. The problem is several things. 1. F. Scott Fitzgerald wasn’t a misagonist, in fact he was very happy with the “new woman”, the negative attributes he gives to flappers is accurate and was widely backed up by the FEMALE writer and Arch Flapper Dorothy Parker in many of her writings. 2. Zelda who they use as the typical flapper type, was not only a schizophrenic (which the article does mention) she was also a drug addict and alcoholic, a point that many flappers shared. 3. The women at the top end of the flapper movement never voted and thought it highly unladylike to be seen at a polling station so this malarkey about female liberation with the vote is rubbish, in fact in the US less then 20% of women cast ballots in the 1920s and it wasn’t until after WW2 that it became something that women did. 3. Flappers didn’t choose to be single, the fall out of the Great war was that women outnumbered men at least 3 to 1 so there weren’t enough men to go around. Furthermore, a lot of these women had their husbands and fiancée’s killed in action and their excess was a way of coping and grieving, the others who were married, had gotten fast marriages before their boyfriends went off to war, and more often then not at the end when they came back were not the same person. So they were in tortuous relationships with shell shocked men, that instead of ending in divorce would spiral into each partner having extra marital affairs and public flirtations. Most famously in Chicago there were a string of murders committed by flappers which were dubbed the Jazz Murders. Many of the murderesses killed their shell shocked husbands while states of alcoholic and drug induced rage. 4. The carefree sexual liberation had less to do with politics and the Suffragette movement, and more to do with several inventions, a. The bra, b. the first reliable mass production condom, c. the car. There was also a decided effort that the old ways had brought about the war and therefore, the old ways were bad. That a new modern open society should replace it so that another great war would not happen. This meant throwing everything away from stifled Victorian etiquette, to the corset, even décor and previously taboo subjects and ideas. To claim the suffragettes, and the feminist movement had anything to do with this is to overlook the shear trauma the First World War inflicted on the world and the repercussions of entire communities having their young men killed in battle. Revisionism, of history and the dissimulation of uncomfortable facts in the struggle to push an ideology even a good one is a bad idea. IN this case feminism itself is under attack for being out of date and not in touch with actual modern women and the people writing this article and publishing it will be called out by people like myself for their factual errors, that are in fact pandering to a specific societal view and that view will consequently suffer the loss of reputation just like those writers will. 5. While the 1920s were highly political, flappers tended to be apolitical as they were still reeling from the shock of the effects of bad politics in the 1910s, they were more concerned with shopping, parties, nail polish and where the next drink was coming from , regardless of class.

  20. Andrew Says:

    All in all I thought it was a great article.

    I prefer to view the ‘misrepresented flappers’ in films as symbolism for liberation and freedom from societies constraints. With that being said, a more “accurate” depiction of flappers would not be nearly as entertaining in my opinion.

  21. Samba Says:

    Maybe pop culture journalists got to Gatsby to get a sense of the “jazz age”,but anyone who doesn’t have half their brain turned off ,in order to function in such artificial realms as pop culture and what passes for journalism, goes to Jazz ,as in the music, to learn about the so “jazz age”

  22. Rich Says:

    I think I would prefer a film version of a book to portray the characters in the manner the book portrays those characers, but I’m weird that way.

  23. HP Says:

    Here’s a better link to a playlist of Annette Hanshaw: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGf3QglD7BU&list=PL9F2B52962B7E3C0A

    Just put this on while you do something else.

  24. mary Says:

    Rich has a point that I agree with. The author writes his characters – and would be nice if the movie would stay close to the author’s work.

    So many interesting points about this story! Thank you Lisa. Haven’t seen the movie yet but look forward to it.

  25. Deirdre Clemente Says:

    Perhaps more important than turning flappers into canned cultural icons as both this article and The Great Gatsby do, we should acknowledge the generation of women who came before them. Flappers are both the product of cultural change and the producers of cultural change.

    History buffs and Fitzgerald freaks aside, I would have loved to have seen some actual scholarship in the recommending reading section. Kathy Peiss, anyone?

    http://fitzgeraldandfashion.com/

  26. Scotty Says:

    This article is the definition of ‘limited perspective.’ If one actually reads ‘The Great Gatsby’ you see Fitzgerald is just as dismissive about the shallow men who attend the parties, Tom Buchanan, and even Mr. Wolfensheim. Alas, even Gatsby is shown to be a shallow fabrication. So it’s not all the flappers’ fault.

  27. Alexa Says:

    This is a very interesting article! Thank you for the dose of reality and helping paint the picture for what things were actually like for women of the 1920′s.

  28. Allie Says:

    I don’t know why anyone would be up in arms about Baz Luhrman’s interpretation of anything. If you’re familiar with his style of filmmaking, set design, and costuming, you know he’s all about fantasy, and a collage-like re-interpretation of whatever subject or time period he’s presenting.
    You write yourself, “Of course, given his directing style, Luhrmann would be drawn to a classic tale of intrigue, betrayal, and reckless excess that allows him to create a stunning, opulent Art Deco tableau. The Roaring Twenties possess an undeniable magic—a brief, giddy period of time when America wasn’t at war and wasn’t broke.”
    Most films are just entertainment, not historical re-enactment. We go to the movies for fantasy. We go to museums for historical accuracy.
    No need to get your vintage panties in a twist over that point.
    At this stage in the evolution of our culture, if you’re upset about commercial product placement in Hollywood films, you should buy a digital camera and make your own.
    This would have been a much less off-putting article if you just presented some facts about ’20s style. Instead you made it into an unfortunately bitter rant.

  29. jr23 Says:

    hollywierd has screwed up our perception of history by there ideas on how things were instead of doing real research and fact checking but then presenting their rendition as fact not fiction

  30. jason c Says:

    I agree with Jim above. This novel is one person’s perspective. Anyone is welcome to write their own version, and we’ll see how successful it is. bah feminists and their ever-pointing finger…

  31. Stephanie Says:

    Wow, ok this novel was not a cautionary tale about the New the New Woman. Rather it was about the carelessness of excess and those that wrap themselves up in or. Clearly Jay Gatsby got caught up in a great many sad things. His devotion to Daisy was the catalyst that lead to what likely would have been a unsavory end either way. The novel is about what is says it’s about: the careless people of this world, and the rest left to clean up the path of destruction.

  32. jessieru Says:

    After reading all the views on opinions of the latest Great Gatsby, I am happy to say my interest has sparked a desire to see it in its latest form. The costuming alone must be especially grand, & the scenery & cinematography as well. I look forward to the performances, to see how well the actors & actresses dipict the changed behavior of people of that era, changes that came from war & being civilians who had to deal with its catastrophic disasters & try & make sense of life during & after..also with the men who had to be a part of the war & the changes of the times. I like to see interoretations.Si this movie is on my of how people may have lived their lives in thosetimes.

  33. jessieru Says:

    Correction: I like to see the interpretations of how people may have lived their lives in those times..So this movie is on my “Must see” list. ,’)

  34. Betty Says:

    I thought the term “flapper” originated from the new-era, 1920s bob-haired college campus girls who (I assume in winter?) spearheaded a trend of running around campus with their galoshes unbuckled. I read that somewhere. Is that correct?

  35. Lisa Dunick Says:

    Though I get the point about the way Flappers are portrayed, the author misses something important about GATSBY– it’s told in a frame narrative. Nick is not a reliable narrator– he’s complicit in everything that happens. And any time someone tells you that he’s “the most honest person I’ve ever met,” you know that you should take everything that follows with a heap of salt. Nick’s not a reliable narrator, so the book can’t be taken as some sort of history. There’s also the issue that some of Fitzgerald’s flapper stories were written by Zelda–and published under his name because the couple could get more money that way.

  36. someone pay naomi to write an article about flappers Says:

    it seems like there are a lot of uncomfortable and interesting things surrounding the flapper movement that preclude interpretation into feminist/”non-feminist” or whatever. approaching them as a complex cultural phenomenon involving individuals deeply entrenched in dizzying layers of circumstances and signifiers seems much more productive and neat

  37. googler Says:

    It takes less than 10 minutes of googling images from the 1920′s to show that this article is based on a flawed premise.

  38. Pj Lirrlw Says:

    Gatsby got it wrong? Maybe not. My grandmother’s were born in the 1880′s. My aunt was a flapper who become a semi-famous designer and married well. Even as a kid, from my point of being outside looking in at the lavish excess, parties, pretense, and power I felt like I was watching actors in a staged play. And despite a six figure bank account, a lavish home, and trips to Europe twice a year she was neither happy nor kind. She was a hollow lush who died in a nameless nursing home alone and forgotten.

  39. Cheryl Tracy Says:

    Oh! Far too many critics and far too few of the critics with the industry to undertake the massive job of creating and maintaining their OWN entertaining and lively online magazine> It is an OPINION article… and the author has a right to their opinion. I have read Gatsby several times and have seen two previous screen versions. I also had three aunts that were flappers. I don’t see much variance in what this article’s author depicts and what my aunts related to me in their recounts of their lives during the years of WWI and the immediate years after. Gatsby is as it is written is barely recognizable in the previous two film versions, and it would be surprising if this newest version is any different. We get from a novel what we personally take from it as the reader. Far too many haughty “know it all”, and self puffing comments from the peanut gallery here. The women of the 20′s were experiencing liberating lifestyle changes and that a man can’t see it is nothing new, nor nothing unexpected. That women here feel the need to put another down in order to elevate themselves is also nothing unexpected. It was an interesting article, that provoked those who can think to look at the Gatsby tale from another perspective. What a shame that critical thinking has gone so far by the wayside that so many of you couldn’t appreciate another perspective than your own.

  40. Lisa W Says:

    Hurray for your comment Cheryl Tracy! I was doing research on women of color and the flapper phenomenon and came across Lisa Hix op. Her perspective gave me many points to consider that I had not come across while doing my research. The flappers have now, pushing 90 years later, become something of a two dimensional characature because of film and print. Hix, I feel, was attempting to present a humanized interpretation of the women involved with this phenomenon. The critics to this board are just what makes comment boards so boring now. They throw out one or two lines they feel are clever and snarky to show off their supposed wit and superiority to the articles writer. Are they that desperate for attention? Geez. This article was a well thought out and written piece. And I really appreciated the photos, especially those that have not been seen infrequently such as The Flapper magazine.
    I would like to add to this article a movie still from the Barbara Stanwyck film ‘Baby Face’ where Stanwyck’s character is living the high life and is going out on the town. She and her sidekick Chico ( a woman of color) are BOTH dressed glamorously ; furs and jewels galore. This is a rare time in 1920s film where a woman of color is allowed to look completely gorgeous and attractive on par with the Caucasian lead . That, I feel, was were the Flapper phenomenon was trying to push the role of women forward to and that is one of the many reasons it failed. The backlash towards women who wanted it all was too much and too soon for society. So after the Hays code women on film were now regulated to being the good wife/mother/homemaker or the tough/lonely/businesswoman. And women of color were back being the maid (usually quite obese and jolly or quite obese and self-sacrificing) tied to the kitchen. The Flapper was over, and so was the fun.

  41. Lisa W Says:

    * please excuse the few typos above. Most noticeably I meant to write ‘frequently’ instead of infrequently.


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