The vamp’s tendency to posture and her inclination to wear distinctive, vivid makeup combine to render her an excessively produced body. In some sense, she threatens to be out of bounds at any moment, and her body seems always to be in danger of showing. Her laboring efforts help her carry off a kind of masquerade—a false femininity whose veneer is continually slipping. The vamp’s meaning is also strongly articulated by means of costume. Heavily sexualized, her clothing tends to be dark in color or to feature aggressive prints and stripes that serve to mark her sartorial threat. The vamp draws attention to her labors through her costume, and so represents a sharp break with the patriarchal requirement that women’s labor be invisible. Since we are culturally committed to effacing the female laboring body, part of the threat of the vamp is that she presents herself as the evolving site of her own laboring efforts.
- Diane Negra, “Immigrant Stardom in Imperial America: Pola Negri and the Problem of Typology,” from A Feminist Reader in Early Cinema
Everything I’ve read so far from this anthology has been fantastic, but this article made me especially excited, for obvious reasons. (So excited that I’m actually posting on Tumblr again, whoa!)
Pictured: vamp queen Theda Bara.