Pamela Robertson Wojcik


On her book The Apartment Plot: Urban Living in American Film and Popular Culture, 1945 to 1975

Cover Interview of November 07, 2010

A close-up

The chapter on the bachelor, “We Like our Apartment: The Playboy Indoors” offers readers a fun way into the book.  Much of it deals with the way in which Playboy magazine figures the apartment as a space of seduction, through cartoons, editorials, articles, and pictorials.  It deals with such famous bachelor pads as the ones in Pillow Talk and That Funny Feeling and describes the way in which the playboy identity is produced in and through the apartment in films like Boys Night Out, The Tender Trap, Come Blow Your Horn, and The Apartment.

The chapter also takes up the way in which male roommates are rendered queer and/or problematic in The Odd Couple, Artists and Models, and Rope, and the affinity between the straight bachelor pad and the gay apartment in Boys in the Band.  These films articulate a model of masculinity that is uniquely urban, and curiously domestic. At the same time, they represent this indoors masculinity as under constant pressure, vulnerable to intrusion, and marked by feminine and queer influences.  In different ways, they each posit a model of masculine identity that is tenuous, contingent, and mobile.

“Movin’ On Up: the African American Apartment” presents a different angle on the genre.  I suggest that the philosophy of urbanism activated within the apartment plot whitewashes the city to represent urbanism as a privilege accorded whites, isolated from the realities of the city’s racial and class dynamics.

In this sense, the apartment plot not only participates in a project of imagining the urban in the context of mid-century urban renewal, but enacts a process of urban renewal at the level of representation.  As it does so, it also participates in the process James Baldwin identified as “Negro removal,” since urban renewal so often depends upon eliminating black neighborhoods and populations from sight.

Texts such as The Jeffersons, Claudine, A Patch of Blue, and The Landlord, attend to the ways in which black urban populations have been systematically denied access to the life chances afforded white middle class urban populations, and present a critique of the status quo.  They insist on what Lefebvre terms “the right to the city” as a possibility that should be available to all.