Liberated Woman Come Home?: A Female Version of the Prodigal Son

I read the above as an anti-feminist video that maps the “geography of hell” and “otherness”—and concludes with a North American woman (Gale Garnett) making a choice between two paths. One path leads to “frustration” and “confusion”—and the other leads to “true love.”

I thus interpret the underlying message of this video as this: A woman’s natural longing is for a man to marry, and when she goes out into the world alone, she finds it empty—a geography of hell, frustration, and confusion—until she packs up her suitcase and comes home to her true love.

This video functions as a kind of female version of the “Prodigal Son” parable in the New Testament. The singer has been a naughty, unattached woman, seeing the world without the accompaniment of a man. But now she’s going home, implicitly to find a man who will give her life purpose by marrying her.

The video is also a kind of American “Sister Carrie” tale in reverse.

Also, notice in the video the two women dancing around the birdcages. The clear implication is that American birds (females) are free of their traditional cages, but long to return to them.

One of my favorite feminist authors is Susan Faludi (author of “Backlash”) and I think that she would have a field day deconstructing this peculiar video.

Gale Garnett, by the way, was the voice of “Francesca” in the animated cult children’s classic from 1969, “Mad Monster Party.”

UPDATE: After showing the Garnett clip to my wife, she alerted me to the video below:

Here my wife takes over the keyboard:

You may remember the hit by Charlene in the early 80’s: “I’ve Never Been to Me.” Have a sick bag handy before you watch it. It carries the same theme: A woman who has travelled in the world, “been undressed by kings and seen some things that a woman ain’t ‘sposed to see,” sings to a frustrated housewife and tells her how life is meaningless without marriage.

This is roughly ten years before “Thelma & Louise” (1991). In the original 1982 music video, Charlene floats around an empty mansion in a white puffy dress, highly suggestive of a younger version of Charles Dickens’s Miss Havisham from “Great Expectations” (only instead of a cobweb-covered veil, she sports a Farah-Fawcett hairdo that evidences major activity with curling tongs).

She wears a black sash around the white dress, perhaps symbolizing she’s tainted goods. To highlight the gender bias in this, imagine such a song being sung by a man mooning around a mansion in a white suit.

These two songs set up a dichotomy: women can travel OR be married. A good antidote to this problem is Chaucer’s Wife of Bath from “The Canterbury Tales.” She was married five times, AND gets to go on pilgrimages.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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2 Responses to Liberated Woman Come Home?: A Female Version of the Prodigal Son

  1. I think that it is a very interesting and amusing article. Practically all its main points are true.

  2. Some Black Guy says:

    Kinda funny you are married, seems to me you don’t want your wife around, or you feel she’d be happier without you.

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