“I was never the girl next door.” –Bettie Page
The iconic pinup girl Bettie Page died yesterday in Los Angeles. I’ve always been captivated by her images–particularly, her rare ability to express both the reassuring, sunny optimism typically associated with the 1950s and the darker, more dangerous currents of sexuality that were becoming increasingly visible during that era.
Bettie was America’s high-heeled return of the repressed–with a whip. She was natural and perverse, naive and knowing, dominant and submissive. At a time when gender roles were highly polarized, Bettie’s persona challenged the angel/whore opposition by insisting that women could be naughty and nice. It’s a powerful legacy that remains vitally important today.