Review: Hollywood Lolita

Hollywood Lolita: The Nymphet Syndrome in the MoviesHollywood Lolita
by Marianne Sinclair

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Hollywood Lolita / 0-85965-130-4

This book was recommended to me, not as light reading, but as a critical commentary on our culture that fetishizes and sexualizes very young girls, particularly on the silver screen. To Sinclair's credit, this slim book has managed to assemble some of the most interesting and egregious cases of Hollywood exploitation of young girls - complete with photos to match. What is not in Sinclair's credit, however, is that she has managed, in compiling this slim volume, to completely and utterly miss the point.

Make no mistake about it - this book is not commentary in the critical sense. Sinclair has managed to compile and catalog instances, both on and off the screen, of young women being exploited sexually, but she has no interest in examining the social causes behind the culture that allows and embraces this exploitation. Sinclair documents the phenomena only, she does not examine it, except in the most superficial, apologist terms.

Sinclair regularly rails against the mothers of these young actresses, dismissing them with stale criticism like "husbandless ex-dancer" and calling these often exploitative mothers 'has-beens' and 'never-was' actresses. However, this criticism is more name-calling than substantive, as Sinclair is never curious enough to examine these mothers more closely. It would certainly be valid to question why, for instance, so many relatively young, beautiful, and talented women felt that their only chance at stardom was through their younger daughters - daughters who were often less experienced (and, thus, often less talented) than their mothers. Why did this culture place youth at such a premium? Why were these beautiful women considered worth 'less' than their children? It would also be valid to wonder why, exactly, did American movie tastes run so strongly towards seeing extremely young women in (often) highly sexualized roles? Sinclair cannot step back from her culture to question these cultural 'truths', and thus is she a furthering part of this problem.

If Sinclair is perhaps too hard on Hollywood mothers, she falls all over herself to exonerate the Hollywood men who too advantage of these girls. Regularly, when discussing a sexual "affair" between a powerful director in his forties and a new actress of thirteen, fourteen, or fifteen years of age, she assures us that "we may never know who seduced whom". Sinclair turns the reader's stomach with page after page of apologetics, as she hurries to make such commentaries that "most" men desire to have sex with girls twelve years of age or younger, and that "most" women fantasize about being a young child again, with an older father figure to have sex with them before they are even physically capable of having sex without being seriously hurt. Indeed, reading "Hollywood Lolita" is something of an eye-opener into the concept of 'projection' as Sinclair seems to do a great deal of it.

Due to the apologist note, it is difficult to say how much of "Hollywood Lolita" can be taken as gospel truth, which is troubling. Sinclair is notably fact-free in her light commentary on Polanski - she brushes his rape conviction off as a simple case of statutory shenanigans, and completely fails to mention that Polanski's sodomy of the young girl was so brutal that he wasn't even initially charged with "statutory" rape at all, rather he was properly charged with forcible sodomy, and he pleaded down to statutory rape as part of a plea bargain. For Sinclair to obscure the facts of the case by, basically, lying about the case entirely casts doubt on the factual accuracy of this book.

Although "Hollywood Lolita" examines an important phenomenon in our culture, I really cannot in good conscience recommend spending money on this book. In addition to Sinclair's lack of depth, critical examination, and disgusting projection and apologetics, the last several chapters of the book descend into serious boredom, as Sinclair abandons her premise entirely (Hollywood Lolita syndrome and the causes and effects on our society) in order to gossip about how pretty Elizabeth Taylor's "violet eyes" looked in her prime. Shallow commentary indeed.

~ Ana Mardoll

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