I chose this ad because I felt that it portrayed exactly who Rose didn’t want to be. This is the type of life that Rose said she didn’t want in “Some People”. Gypsy focused on women, and the female characters were given more thought. This is very different from what this ad for Van Heusen shows, saying to “show her it’s a man’s world”. In the eyes of Rose, it’s a woman’s world, her world. Perhaps this is why she stands out as a character: she went against the common thought in the 1950s.

Musical assigned: Gypsy

Publication: unknown

2 Replies to “Women in the 1950s”

  1. In this ad, we can see a woman kneeling before a smug-looking man, presenting him with a plate of foods. She’s looking expectantly up at him, waiting for his approval. The text accompanying the ad instructs the viewer to “show her it’s a man’s world.” This definitely goes against the world portrayed in the world of Gypsy. Firstly, the male characters leave the storyline as the show progresses and more female characters get added to the cast. Gypsy also delves into the world of burlesque, a profession dominated by female performers utilizing their femininity and allure as power. The world pictured that Gypsy Rose Lee is ascending in is very much a woman’s world. Although burlesque might be targeted towards the “male gaze,” the dancers are profiting off of it. They are in the position of power that the man in this ad takes up, while their male audiences offer them wealth and fame. Lastly, Gypsy doesn’t delve into a heterosexual romantic plotline which was often portrayed as the ideal for women in this time — the “happy ending” for the two main female characters doesn’t feature them in a position like this woman’s. Instead, there are no men in the picture at all.

  2. I think that this ad offers such an excellent counterpoint to Gypsy’s themes. The dynamic between the husband and wife in this ad, with him lounging in bed and her serving him on her knees, is exactly the opposite of Rose’s relationship with Herbie. Throughout the show, the characters play the roles assigned to the other gender in this ad. Herbie repeatedly accedes to Rose’s every wish and Rose adamantly rejects a life with Herbie as her breadwinner.
    Further, the slogan “show her it’s a man’s world” indicates that the woman can only be included in the ‘world’ through her subservience to the man. She has no agency or identity of her own. Even while Rose undoubtedly “wears the pants” in her relationship with Herbie, their flirtation is not even the central relationship in the show. As Knapp writes, the protagonist of Gypsy is categorically the complex and evolving bond between Rose and Louise.
    I wrote that Rose “wears the pants” in the family, but I could just as well have written that she “wears the tie”; Though the ad emphasizes that these ties are for men only, the adjectives used for the pattern, “man-talking, power-packed,” aptly describe Rose. Not only is Rose breaching the bounds proscribed for her as a woman, she is also venturing into male territory, as Prof. Wolf explains in her assessment of Rose’s male Jewishness. I actually looked through pictures of different incarnations of Rose to see if any of the costumes include a tie, as it seemed so appropriate that Rose would wear one.
    Despite the ad’s misogyny, the ties seem marketed as a way of infusing some of the design and color of traditionally female wardrobes into menswear. I am reminded of the contrast between Louise’s drab, more masculine outfits and June’s bright pageantry. It’s almost as if Louise is dressed in such a way in order to emphasize her ineptitude on the stage (eg. the cow). It is ironic that the only time the male gaze is explicitly felt in Gypsy is also the first time that Louise embraces feminine dress, when she begins her striptease routine. Just as the ties in this ad are framed as representing male centrality in the world, Louise’s calculated use of her feminine dress and exposure reiterates that each gender is capable of affirming its sway through performative means. At the end of Gypsy, it is the men who are on their knees before Louise.

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