In the early eighties, when I was in elementary school, I listened to the entire soundtrack of John Huston's Annie (1982) on record, singing along with the songs, and jumping around the room when it was appropriate ( particularly to "It's a Hard-Knock Life," the girls' assemble number). I loved Annie because it was a story I could sing. I loved Annie because it was a story about girls. Girls singing and dancing and filling the spotlight. I couldn't get enough.

Still, as I jumped and sang, thrilling in the thought that I could be in the spotlight, I didn't accept everything the story threw at me. I remember being annoyed with the role of Punjab, thinking it was silly that his character was so flat, possessing only magic and receiving only fear. I disliked the ending of the movie where Annie hung from the edge of a bridge crying out for help. I thought it was unbelievable that she could be saved from there, and I also thought it was stupid that she should have put herself in a situation that required she be saved. Who runs towards a raising bridge?

Finally, even as I sang "Maybe" I changed some of the lyrics. In my version Annie's unknown parents were collecting rabbits instead of "ashtrays;" at eight I had already learned the costs of smoking. Bothered by the traditional gender roles that Annie imagines for her parents, I often reversed the "he" and "she" in the songs to give these imaginary people some variety between sewing and paying bills.

Because of my connection to this story and because, as one Annie viewer recently mentioned, for twenty-somethings today "not knowing many of those tunes is like not knowing happy birthday," I thought I should return to this part of my childhood to look more closely at this piece of pop culture that girls relished when it came out and still refer to today. What was Annie giving to these girls that allowed Annie to be almost as highly recognized as McDonald's hamburgers (Smith 118), and what did these girls take away from the movie? Looking at Annie I will study the representations of the female characters while comparing it to spectators' reactions received via e-mail responding to my questionaire. In the vein of John Fiske, I hope to show that although Annie often seems to demonstrate views in concordance with the need for gender specific roles, females as objects, and the dependence of women romantically and economically on men, this paper will demonstrate the ability of girls as spectators to take something from the spectacle-for them to find strength in a world that often only gives them hard-knocks.

Work Cited

by Abby Manzella, American Studies at the University of Virginia, May 2002