Tuesday, September 14, 2021
As Seen through the Eye of the Camera: A Portrayal of How Cultural Changes, Societal Shifts, and the Fight for Gender Equality Transformed the Law of Divorce
By: Taylor Simpson-Wood
Published in: 42 Women's Rts. L. Rep. 1 (2020).
This article explores how changing societal forces and cultural mores have configured to mold the law of divorce from the turn of the Twentieth Century though the rise of no-fault divorce in 1970. It highlights that, irrespective of the varying, contemporaneous views of divorce of different eras, there is one common theme which runs beneath and unites the six decades, gender inequality. To illustrate this premise, it employs representative films for each covered time period to paint a picture of the cultural influences and forces that gave rise to that era’s perspective about divorce as it strove to make a better society.
Specifically, the essay traces the key components of film censorship implemented via the Hays Code in the 1930s and explores how divorce was transformed post-Code from being an anathema to an accepted, if not expected, part of mainstream American life. It also confronts the continuing myth that the 1950s constituted the golden age of the American family. The “ideal” family portrayed each evening on the television was not a documentary and, despite cinematic representations of life during the 1950s, the era was a time of great stress for both spouses. Husbands faced the specter of becoming an “organization man,” while many homemakers were suffering from “the problem that has no name.” The rise of new social mores is often a counter-reaction to those of the immediately preceding time period. This was certainly the case in the 1960s, when the rejection of the values of the 1950s led to a psychological shift resulting in the birth of a new “divorce culture” premised on the idea that when a spouse is unfulfilled due to an unsatisfying the marital relationship, divorce is not only justified, but paves the road to self-realization.