Bettie Page is probably most famous for being known as the “Pin-Up Queen of the Universe” and is arguably deserving of that title for being the object of many men’s affections and causing ripples in the US Congress and Courts regarding pornography in the 1950’s. Ahead of her time, her actions and life decisions could be seen as a precursor to the sexual revolution of the 60’s and a step towards the women’s rights movement. But wait a minute! She made a career posing nude so men could stare at her pictures lustfully! Well, yes and no. With a different director, this biopic The Notorious Bettie Page could’ve been taken in the direction of a run of the mill, naive woman from the South who just wanted to take her clothes off and be photographed one day. But Mary Harron took this opportunity to depict arguably the first woman of the Twentieth Century to be in control of her own body and sexuality. While Bettie is not in any way in control, she does grow throughout the film to claim her independence from the male-dominating factors in her life and takes charge of her own life, a rarity for female characters in the world of film.
In Hollywood mainstream most films tend to depict just about any female character as passive and non-confrontational, almost fully dependent on the leading male star. In other words, she’s usually just along for the ride. Sure you get some diamonds in the rough such as Ripley from the Alien or Sarah Connor from theTerminator films, but characters like that appear very rarely in Hollywood films. More often than not the best female characters are found in indie films not unlike this one. Not surprisingly with as much of a lack of decent female characters in Hollywood, there seems to be an incredible lack of female filmmakers as well. The 1990’s saw a revolution in independent cinema that also brought with it a slew of new, creative female filmmakers. Christina Lane contributes this largely to the advent of certain technologies, namely cable TV and, later on, digital video, to democratize and get around the male-dominated big studio system (Lane 199-200). In fact, this film benefitted from alternative means of production and distribution through HBO Films. With the rise of internet streaming and VOD, not to mention Kathryn Bigelow being the first woman to win an Oscar three years ago, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see more women enter mainstream filmmaking in the near future.