How and why was this project born?
For a long time I’ve studied the way girls and women are represented in Italian cinema. Then I started working on the memories of Italians’ cinema-going in the 1950s, and I was struck by how many women said cinema was an important part of their growing up. I also wanted to know more about what Italian girls and women think of Italian television and cinema today, but there’s not much information about this. When I met Romana Andò at a conference, and she suggested to me that she also thought we needed to know more, I thought that we should work on this together, particularly because she has the expertise on younger audiences.
What do you hope the impact of this project will be?
When we originally had the idea we hoped that film and television makers in Italy would take more notice of female audiences, but they are doing that now, as we finally see series like L’amica geniale and Baby. I hope that we can contribute to this conversation and encourage the growing diversity of representations we see in Italian cinema and television. I also hope that participants in the project will feel like Italian cinema and television belongs to them, and can speak to them.
What sort of films or TV shows on girlhood did you grow up watching?
I remember very few, to be honest. I loved a television series they did of Heidi. Otherwise we followed the storylines of girls, like Charlene (Kylie Minogue), in soap operas like Neighbours. A lot of the programmes I watched seemed to be about boys and men, like The Dukes of Hazard or The A-Team, involving car chases and action. Maybe it was because I had brothers! Sometimes I also watched the TV series my parents watched, like Dynasty or Dallas, or mini-series, like The Thorn Birds, but they did all seem to be about very distant adult worlds. My “girl world” I found in books, like the Anne of Green Gables series, or Little House on the Prairie, or What Katy Did. I read a lot! I hardly went to the cinema in those days: the first film I remember seeing there about women was one with Julia Roberts, Sleeping with the Enemy, so not about girls at all. I do remember that Pretty Woman was so popular I watched it on video at a friends’ house, and then I went home and my parents were watching it on video, so I saw it twice in one day.
What are your favourite films or TV shows about girlhood today?
Well, quite recently I did really love the US series Girls. The characters seemed so selfish sometimes – it was quite a relief not always to see girls being accomplished and feisty. I really enjoy Jane the Virgin, because it’s funny and so over the top. Films I really like are recent ones made by female directors, like the British Fish Tank or American Honey by Andrea Arnold because they show how girls can be vulnerable and recover, and the Italian Cosmonauta because it’s about how being a girl is always political.
What films or TV shows that you know of now would you recommend to your younger self?
I think the one I really wish I’d seen when I was younger was Veronica Mars. I think that’s my all-time favourite girl-focussed show. A female detective who takes matters into her own hands. I would have found that really inspiring. I still do! A recent film I think my younger self would have loved is Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird – it presents a really rounded and funny view of growing up.