The Freshman: Comedy and Masculinity in 1920s Film and Youth Culture, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Freshman

Comedy and Masculinity in 1920s Film and Youth Culture, 1st Edition

By Christina G. Petersen


122 pages | 8 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2019-03-26
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Before the advent of the teenager in the 1940s and the teenpic in the 1950s, The Freshman (Taylor and Newmeyer, 1925) represented 1920s college youth culture as an exclusive world of leisure to a mass audience. Starring popular slapstick comedian Harold Lloyd, The Freshman was a hit with audiences for its parody of contemporary conceptions of university life as an orgy of proms and football games, becoming the highest grossing comedy feature of the silent era. This book examines The Freshman from a number of perspectives, with a focus on the social, economic, and political context that led to the rise of campus culture as a distinct subculture and popular mass culture in 1920s America; Lloyd’s use of slapstick to represent an embodied, youthful middle-class masculinity; and the film’s self-reflexive exploration of the conflict between individuality and conformity as an early entry in the youth film genre.

Table of Contents

Introduction: When Both Were Young

1. ‘A Large Football Stadium with a College Attached’: 1920s Collegiate Youth Culture

2. ‘Just a Regular Fellow’: Harold Lloyd and Silent-Era Middle-Class Masculinity

3. ‘The College Hero’: The Freshman’s Individual Conformist

4. ‘Laugh and Live Longer’: The Mass Marketing and Reception of The Freshman 

Conclusion: Before the Teenpic

About the Author

Christina G. Petersen is Christian Nielsen associate professor of film studies at Eckerd College. She has published on identity and embodiment in American cinema, including essays on the origins of the youth film, the independent African American race film industry, international avant-garde cinema, and contemporary film exhibition technology.

About the Series

Cinema and Youth Cultures

Cinema and Youth Cultures engages with well-known youth films from American cinema as well the cinemas of other countries. Using a variety of methodological and critical approaches the series volumes provide informed accounts of how young people have been represented in film, while also exploring the ways in which young people engage with films made for and about them. In doing this, the Cinema and Youth Cultures series contributes to important and long standing debates about youth cultures, how these are mobilized and articulated in influential film texts and the impact that these texts have had on popular culture at large.

Series Editors: Siân Lincoln (independent scholar) and Yannis Tzioumakis (University of Liverpool)

Published volumes:

Clueless (1995)

Grease (1978)

Boyhood (2015)

L’auberge Espagnole (2002)

The Hunger Games (2012)

The Virgin Suicides (1999)

Easy A (2010)

The Freshman (1925)

Breakfast Club (1985)

Halloween (1978)

American Pie (1999)

Y Tu Mama También (2001)


Bande de Filles (2014)

American Graffiti (1973)

Rock Around the Clock (1956)

Precious (2009)

Gidget (1959)

Mary Poppins (1964)

The Beatles on Film: A Hard Day’s Night (1964), Help! (1965), The Yellow Submarine (1968)

Big Wednesday (1977)

Moonlight (2016)

The Commitments (1990)

Clerks (1994)

Heavenly Creatures (1994)

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PERFORMING ARTS / Film & Video / History & Criticism
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Popular Culture
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Children's Studies
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies