New Explorations of Girls’ Media Culture
Edited By Mary Celeste Kearney
4 Little Butches: Tomboys in Hollywood Film Kristen Hatch 75
Four Little Butches: Tomboys in Hollywood Film Kristen Hatch In the 1976 comedy, The Bad News Bears, 11-year-old Amanda Whurlitzer (Ta-tum O’Neal) undergoes a remarkable transformation. When we are introduced to her, Amanda wears a long skirt, peasant blouse, and floppy, oversized hat. She is the epitome of precocious femininity. By the end of the film, she has trans- formed into a baseball-playing tomboy whose powerhouse pitch helps save a team of underachieving boys from ignominious defeat. Such a transformation, from feminine girl to tomboy, is virtually unheard of in the annals of tomboy narrative. Even more surprising than Amanda’s metamorphosis into a tomboy is 15-year-old Angel’s (Kristy McNichol) rejection of heterosexuality in favor of same-sex bonds in Little Darlings (1980). In the film’s opening sequence, tomboy Angel responds to the crude come-on of a neighborhood boy by kicking him hard between the legs. Over the course of the film, Angel is taunted as a lesbian, and in an effort to fit in with the other girls at summer camp she seduces Randy (Matt Dillon). However, by film’s end, Angel has rejected Randy and forged a bond with another girl, Ferris (Tatum O’Neal). The film ends on a close-up of the two girls, smiling arm in arm. Writing a decade before the release of these films, Leslie Fiedler confidently identified the transformation of the tomboy into a feminine woman as the defin- ing element of the tomboy narrative (333). Likewise, Barbara Creed has argued that the cinematic tomboy functions to...
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