Study Guide

An American in Paris Gender

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The gender dynamics as portrayed in this film won't surprise anyone who's seen two episodes of Mad Men. When it comes to gender roles and equality, the 1950s were not a great time to be a woman. Men were expected to be large and in charge, make all the money, and support their little ladies at home. A woman was expected to be pretty, polite, and stand by her man. We're painting in broad strokes here, but An American in Paris is a product of its time, and it reflects the era's antiquated attitudes about gender. The fact that the film's wealthiest and most powerful character is a woman isn't celebrated; it's a glitch in the gender matrix. In short, An American in Paris proves that we've come a long way.

Questions About Gender

  1. How would the movie's narrative be different if all of the main characters' genders were switched? What if Jerry, Adam, and Henri were all women, and Milo and Lise were men?
  2. Why doesn't Milo take offense when Jerry assumes that she inherited her wealth from her father or husband?
  3. How does Lise subvert society's view of women in the 1950s? How does she uphold it?
  4. Would the movie's treatment of Milo change if the story were set in the present?

Chew on This

When it comes to Milo's sponsorship, Jerry's biggest hang-up isn't the money, it's the fact that Milo's a woman.

Lise represents the 1950s idea of the perfect woman: she's pretty, she's mysterious, and she doesn't say much.

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