Coming Attractions: Tijuana bibles and the pornographic re-imagining of Hollywood
‘Coming Attractions’: Tijuana Bibles and the Pornographic Re-imagining of Hollywood Historical understanding of early Hollywood stars by their audiences are rarely informed by the sorts of unofficial and uninhibited discourse that fan writing and slash fictions allow scholars of modern celebrity. ‘Tijuana bibles’–illegal, pocket-sized, pornographic comics of the 1920s-1940s–presented erotic narratives featuring recognisable film stars of that era and make historical (re)examinations of audience understandings of the gossip and scandals of Hollywood trade and fan press possible. Film fan magazines were key to the industry dissemination of carefully constructed star personae, mediating how little or much fans actually knew about their favourite stars, who were portrayed at turns as wholesome, virtuous, admirable and alluring, daring, exciting and glamorous. As stars were sex symbols, their fans craved further insights into, and confirmation of, star’s private lives and personas, beyond the studios’ official ‘line’. A semi-official gossip media of scandal and rumour emerged, with a culture of innuendo, veiled accusation and coded revelation. Tijuana bibles’ graphic sexual depictions work in symbiosis with the controlled revelations of these fan magazines and the uncontrolled enthusiasm of the fans. Highly illegal, little public record of these pornographic publications exist – the age, authors, and distributors remain essentially unknown – while their underground nature and the ageless value of pornographic imagery means these publications have been constantly reproduced, leaving an uncatalogued and uneven record of reprinted booklets, semi-legitimate books and incomplete collections and inevitable internet exploitation and interest – which both assist and confound the archivist and historian. This chapter examines how Tijuana bibles celebrate, denigrate and satirise their star subjects and their supposed/imagined peccadilloes; unhampered by the official studio ‘line’ or the threat of litigation or censorship, reflecting an unofficial discourse which could not have found its way into print or official record. It demonstrates a public understanding, outside of the coded rumours of fan magazines, which both subverted and recognised star-persona and industry-sanctioned gossip, illustrating the speculation of audiences beyond the boundaries of the Hay’s Office, decency or legality.
Citation : Wright, E. and Smith, P. (2018) Coming Attractions: Tijuana bibles and the pornographic re-imagining of Hollywood. In: Mapping Movie Magazines. London: Palgrave MacMillan
Research Group : Cinema and Television History Research Centre
Research Institute : Cinema and Television History Institute (CATHI)
Peer Reviewed : Yes
- Leicester Media School