Flapped Their Wings and Took Flight

Violet Romer in flapper dress (Circa between 1910 and 1915)

 

Lady Diana Cooper, circa 1916

 

Still from The Flapper (Alan Crosland, 1920)

 

Frances Marion, a journalist and author from San Francisco, wrote the screenplay which was responsible for bringing the term flapper, which had been a slang term for many years, into popular use in the United States

 

Portrait of Olive Thomas by Peruvian Illustrator Alberto Vargas. Thomas played a teenage schoolgirl who yearns for excitement outside of her small Florida town in The Flapper

 

Zelda Fitzgerald

 

“The Flapper awoke from her lethargy of sub-deb-ism, bobbed her hair, put on her choicest pair of earrings and a great deal of audacity and rouge and went into the battle. She flirted because it was fun to flirt and wore a one-piece bathing suit because she had a good figure … she was conscious that the things she did were the things she had always wanted to do. Mothers disapproved of their sons taking the Flapper to dances, to teas, to swim and most of all to heart.”

Zelda Fitzgerald

 

Anita Loos wearing a Mainbocher suit

 

Gwili Andre by Cecil Beaton

 

Louise Brooks

 

Clara Bow

 

Norma Shearer

 

Josephine Baker

 

Alice Joyce

 


Norma Talmadge

 

Teresa de la Parra

 

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel

 

Joan Crawford

 

Virginia Woolf

 

“Flapper” was a popular term, in use mainly during the Jazz Age, describing mischievous and flirtatious women. The use of the term has its origins in the 1600s. However, by 1920, the term had taken on the full meaning of the flapper generation style and attitudes and behavior which changed several deeply planted social beliefs and norms. Flappers changed women’s sexuality, fashion, and thinking. Some of them expressed their free will displaying their sex-appeal; wearing short skirts, bobbing their hair, dancing to jazz or doing the Charleston, and for not caring about what someone would think about their loose behavior. There were other types of flappers, though: the intellectual flappers who fostered fashions of that time yet were more concerned about women’s rights (Women’s Suffrage, for instance). These women created more than a “frivolution” in the Western world.

The slang word flapper, describing a young woman, is sometimes supposed to refer to a young bird flapping its wings while learning to fly. However, it may derive from an earlier use in northern England to mean teenage girl, referring to one whose hair is not yet put up and whose plaited pigtail flapped on her back.

By November 1910, the word was popular enough for the author A. E. James to begin a series of stories in the London Magazine featuring the misadventures of a pretty fifteen-year-old girl and titled Her Majesty the Flapper.

The word appeared in print in the United Kingdom as early as 1903 and United States 1904, when novelist Desmond Coke used it in his college story of Oxford life, Sandford of Merton: “There’s a stunning flapper”. In 1907 English actor explained it to Americans as theatrical slang for acrobatic young female stage performers. By 1908, newspapers as serious as The Times used it, although with careful explanation: “A ‘flapper’, we may explain, is a young lady who has not yet been promoted to long frocks and the wearing of her hair ‘up'”.

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Anything but Boring

Thanks to The Perfumed Dandy for inciting my curiosity about this theme:
 

Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, who was considered the female embodiment of the Jazz Age.

 
 

“The only horrible thing in the world is ennui, Dorian. That is the one sin for which there is no forgiveness”, advised Lord Henry Wotton, Oscar Wilde’s alter ego from The Portrait of Dorian Gray. “Intelligent people never get bored,” said a character from Ifigenia, the novel by the French-Venezuelan writer Teresa de la Parra. Diana Vreeland suggested “Never fear being vulgar, just boring.” For Sir Cecil Beaton boredom was the world’s second worst crime (the first is being a bore). On the other hand, Leo Tolstoy affirmed that boredom was the desire for desires. And everyone would agree the cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. But we all are constantly escaping from ennui and feelings like that.
 
Being Boring is a song composed by Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe; the Pet Shop Boys. It is the opening track and second single from Behaviour (1990), an album influenced by Depeche Mode’s Violator, which was released the same year.
 
It’s been said that the title apparently materialized after someone in Japan accused the duo of being boring. The title is also derived from a Zelda Fitzgerald quotation, “she refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn’t boring”. The song is concerned with the idea of growing up and how people’s perceptions and values change as they grow older.
 
Due to various factors (for example, it being hard to sing), it wasn’t initially performed on 1991’s Performance Tour, leading many fans, Axl Rose among them, to complain about its omission. It is considered among the greatest, most beautiful Pet Shop Boys’ songs, despite the track’s moderate commercial success.
 
The Pet Shop Boys first asked photographer and film maker Bruce Weber if he would make a video with them when Domino Dancing was corning out. They met him in New York whilst recording demos with Liza Minnelli. At the time he was keen, but too busy; he was working on his second documentary film, Let’s Get Lost, (a Film about the late jazz trumpeter Chet Baker. His first film was about boxing, Broken Noses).
 
Weber hadn’t done a video before because of “time and circumstance, and I also fell that I really wanted to fall in love with a song. Because I knew I was going to have to listen to it about a million times (laughs). I got the tape and I loved it; I had an immediate reaction to it. I thought it had a lot of musicality and a lot to say, I loved the lyrics and really felt that it was something I wanted to be part of.” he said to Neil and Lowe.
 
The video is shot in black and white. In what is either a coincidence or conscious decision, two previous videos, 1989’s It’s Alright and 1990’s So Hard also lacked color. Apart from these, only 2000’s You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk and partially 1987’s Rent were also recorded in black and white.
 
The video was filmed entirely in one day at the beginning of October 1990 in a house of Long Island. Bruce Weber chose that particular setting, outside New York City, because of its association with Zelda and Francis Scott Fitzgerald. Bruce Weber explained his idea of a wonderful party. He wanted to keep away from the streets after looking at MTV a lot of video clips filmed on roads. He thought it was a corny trend.
 
Weber cast people he was friends with or knew the girlfriends or boyfriends of or had photographed before, including Neneh Cherry’s half-brother, musician Eagle Eye and Drena, Robert de Niro‘s daughter.
 
Weber incorporated a dog because “in certain French films of Renoir there was always a country animal brought as a pet. Like the Bertolucci film where Dominique Sandra comes into the house on a horse.”
 
Originally, the video begun with everyone on the stairs, eyes closed and Neil speaking the Zelda Fitzgerald quote to the camera. This concept turned out to be a bit too complicated so the video eventually began with a handwritten message (written by one of Bruce Weber’s friends) based on Neil’s instructions.
 
In a way, the video is a literal projection of the first video of the song. The video begins with with a nude swimmer and a message: “I came from Newcastle in the North of England. We used to have lots of parties where everyone got dressed up and on one party invitation was the quote ‘she was never bored because she was never boring’. The song is about growing up – the ideals that you have when you’re young and how they turn out”.