As the postwar mass media in France imagined her, the teenage girl was no longer a demure and daughterly jeune fille. Instead, she was an enfant terrible, a “bad girl”—implying that she was unapologetically and unsentimentally no longer a virgin. Focusing on the role of gender in representations of youth in post-World War II France, Susan Weiner traces how, after 1945, young men and women came to symbolize different aspects of social order and disorder in a country traumatized by the Nazi Occupation and Cold War paranoia, seduced by consumerism and Americanization, and engaged in an undeclared war in Algeria. While overtly political discourses about “youth” generally referred to middle-class young men, Weiner argues that it was in media representations of “bad girls” that anxieties over the loss of a morally and socially coherent national identity found their expression.
Enfants Terribles looks at French culture from the Liberation to 1968 through images of the teenage girl which appeared in a broad range of texts and institutions: magazines such as Elle and Mademoiselle, newspapers, novels, popular essays, popular music, surveys, and film. Weiner highlights the new importance of youth as a social category of identity in the context of the postwar explosion of the mass media and explores the ways in which girls both defined and disrupted this category.