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“But I’m Expensive”

The Baby Burlesks series of shorts includes a 1933 lampoon of the national government entitled┬áPolly Tix in Washington. The short depicts an “anti-castor oil” lobby using seedy methods to persuade a Western senator (characterized by his ten gallon hat and pistol belt) to join their cause. One of their methods is to enlist the help of Miss Polly Tix, portrayed by Shirley Temple, to seduce the senator. The short, to my knowledge, does not reference a specific film from the era, but instead plays upon popular opinion of the United States government during the Depression, depicting politicians as crooked or inept.

The main part of the short that supports Kasson’s arguments is the way that Shirley Temple and her character are portrayed. Polly Tix is essentionally a prostitute, with the character going as far as exclaiming that “[she’s] expensive.” She is also scantily clad throughout the short, and adorned with copious amounts of jewelry that she recieved for “being good.” This character fits what Kasson describes as “a surrogate for an adult – and frequently, a seductive – woman.” (131). Although these characters and situations are meant to be light-hearted and comedic, their use of children in such adult situations is slightly unnerving to a modern audience.

Despite confirming Kasson’s assertions toward child “flirtatiousness,” the end of Polly Tix in Washington doesn’t manipulate the joy of children to reaffirm the spirits of the viewers, but instead makes fun of American politicians by depicting a bumbling congressman searching aimlessly for “prosperity just around the corner.”┬áThis part of the short seemed slightly cynical compared to Kasson’s claims of childhood joy.

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