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What is the cultural terrain staked out by Amelia, the recent Hollywood-distributed biopic about intrepid flyer Amelia Earhart? The quick shots that precede the opening credits direct attention to the particular themes that Producer Ted Waitt, director Mira Nair, and screenwriters Ron Bass and Anna Hamilton Phelan have emphasized in their 2009 feature about the flyer. Her airplane taking off into the dark gestures to the mystery of her last flight and disappearance without a trace. Her celebrity status is indicated by cheering crowds, radio interviews, and photographs, fusing seamlessly with her status as an object of heterosexual adoration once we find out that her publicity is orchestrated by her promoter/husband. There are intimations of Earhart’s adventurous and dauntless spirit via a more hopeful take off into a dawn sky, expansive aerial views accompanied by soaring music, and a playful exchange between Earhart and her navigator crewman. There are reminders of the enormous risks of her flights, voiced by the concerned husband (this exchange appears twice in the film). Shots alternate between a serene and smiling Earhart at the controls and the vastness of the ocean, the ambiguity of the clouds. Bold and daring female pilot; glamorous celebrity; gloriously heterosexual romantic partner; having it all, losing it all, defying death’s inevitability by disappearing into mystery.


Author's submitted manuscript. Published in the Journal of American History:

Judith E. Smith, Amelia. Dir. by Mira Nair. Prod. by Kevin Hyman, Lydia Dean Pilcher, Ted Waitt, Don Carmody, and Genevieve Hofmeyr. Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2009. 111 mins. (, Journal of American History, Volume 97, Issue 1, June 2010, Pages 274-277,



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