From Sanctity to Nymphomania

By: Maria Adell  

On May of 1970, a gossip columnist affirmed that the baby who American star Jean Seberg was waiting was not her husband’s; the real father was an African-American leader of the Black Panthers Party. Nine years later, after Seberg’s suicide, the FBI admitted that the story was a lie, but the choice of the sexual scandal to discredit her allows to talk about how sex was intimately linked to the construction of Seberg’s star image since her beginnings, when she starred in Saint Joan (Otto Preminger, 1957). Halfway between Hollywood and European cinema, and between the so-called sexual "liberation" of the 60s and the feminist revolution of the 70s, Seberg is key to understand the evolution of sexual discourse about the female desire. Since her appearance in Godard’s Breathless, where she shared a long scene in bed with Belmondo, she became a reluctant icon of sexual freedom, but when her star persona evolved from young girl to sophisticated woman, the charming mixture between sexual availability and innocence disappeared and became a pathology. From 1964, when she stars in Lilith, Seberg will play a never-ending list of adulterous and nymphomaniac, as in Birds in Peru (1968), directed by her own husband, the writer Romain Gary, which starts with her having sex with two African-Caribbean men. The analysis of the evolution of her star image will uncover revealing statements about the prevailing hegemonic discourses about female sexuality in terms of age and race in the second half of the twentieth century.

Jean Seberg, Celebrity studies, Sexuality, Transnational star, Ageing stardom, Race
Media Cultures
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Maria Adell

Profesora Doctora Contratada, Estudios Fílmicos, ESCAC - Escuela Superior de Cine y Audiovisuales de Cataluña. Centro adscrito a la UB (Universitat de Barcelona), Spain

PhD in Film Theory and Analysis from the Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona), with the thesis "A modern star: Jean Seberg, from Preminger to Garrel". Professor of Modern Cinema and History of Spanish Cinema at ESCAC (attached to the UB). I have participated in international conferences with papers about contemporary Spanish actresses, Spanish female film directors and pop icons from the Spanish cinema of the sixties as Marisol. I have published articles about Spanish folkloric musical film stars (an interview with Eva Woods Peiró about her book "White Gypsies:Race and Stardom in Spanish Film Musicals") and also I have collaborated in books with articles about American comedy actresses and actors ("Very Funny Things. Nueva Comedia americana" and "Adam Sandler: la infancia infinita"). Recently, I have joined the research project of Grup CINEMA (Department of Communication of Pompeu Fabra University), with the title: "Women desire under the Franco regime. The gesture of the actress under the censorial coercion". My research interests are: Actresses, Stars, Celebrity Studies, European stardom, Spanish cinema, Transnational Stardom, Gender Studies, Cultural Studies.