(You can subtitle this one, "Reusing a School Paper for My Blog #1.")
Throughout Singin’ in the Rain Gene Kelly’s character Don Lockwood rejects the image of available, mature sexuality, represented by Jean Hagen’s Lina Lamont. Furthermore, that kind of open ‘sexiness’ on the part of a woman is continually connected with a materialistic, money-hungry attitude. In the somewhat climactic “Gotta Dance” sequence, there is another ‘sexy’ woman (Cyd Charisse)—this one Kelly does go after. But, though she seems to be attracted to him and wants to continue dancing with him, she goes with the villain dangling a jeweled necklace in front of her. Aggressive sexuality on the part of a woman is very obviously associated with materialism.
Don passes over the glamorous—not to mention ambitious and gold-digging—Lina Lamont for the chaste, smart and tomboyish Kathy Selden, played by Debbie Reynolds. But before Kathy comes in the picture, Don is already ignoring Lina in favor of chumming around with his pal Cosmo (Donald O’Connor). The opening “dignity, always dignity” origin story for Don includes Cosmo in every scene. They’re presented as closer than friends: a double-act, a package deal. The “Fit as a Fiddle (and Ready for Love)” song-and-dance routine—with Don and Cosmo moving in unison, climbing onto each other’s backs and playing each other’s violins—hammers home the point early and often.
Kathy is apparently not only enough of a tomboy for Don to pay attention to her—she’s masculine identified from the first time we see her, driving her own car and wearing a short haircut—she’s self-sacrificing and willing enough to be in the background for him to keep paying attention to her. The film doesn’t only contrast Kathy and Lina in the realm of sexuality. It says that not only is Lina ‘sexy’ and Kathy merely ‘cute,’ and thus non-threatening, but Lina wants the spotlight and Kathy is willing to concede it, and Lina is evil and Kathy is good. No case, therefore, can be made that Don chooses Kathy over Lina because he merely finds her more attractive or more appealing. Kathy is the perfect woman as far as Don is concerned because she is non-threateningly attractive (looking cute and strikingly like a baby duck in the scene where she pops out of the cake and Don falls for her), and good, and willing to do whatever it takes to make Don’s career succeed, no matter how much she has to take the backseat for it to happen. Oh, and she’ll even hang out and pal around with your buddies, as evidenced by the “Good Morning” routine with Don, Cosmo and Kathy all clowning around together (Cosmo notably ending up with Kathy’s hat on—and Kathy wearing his.)
One final complaint: despite all the faults I have enumerated above, Kathy is introduced as being smart, opinionated and sarcastic—all good qualities from where I’m coming from. When Don drops into her car, she doesn’t even know who he is, despite the fact that he’s the biggest star in the world, and this is Hollywood. She tells him she wants to be on the stage saying of movie actors, “They don’t talk, they don’t act, they just make a lot of dumb show.” In short, she’s a radical, independent thinker. Then, the movie totally sells her out when her romance with Don begins. She even admits to buying “five or six” star magazines a week!
Question: is Kathy the precursor to the teen comedy roles played by Annette Funicello, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Hilary Duff and countless others over the years?