Economy and excess: Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy

Kathrina Glitre

in Hollywood Romantic Comedy

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print July 2006 | ISBN: 9780719070785
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781700990 | DOI:
Economy and excess: Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy

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This chapter is about the Hollywood actors Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, who epitomised the adage that opposites attract. Sexual difference is not their only opposition: she is upper-class, while he is lower-class; she is liberal, he is conservative; she is Anglo-Saxon Protestant, he is Irish Catholic; she is intellectual, he has common sense. The various textual and extratextual discourses about the Hepburn/Tracy couple repeatedly work out this structural opposition through a process of moderation. Seemingly having nothing in common, Hepburn and Tracy's union symbolises the moderation of oppositional idiosyncrasies creating a stable equilibrium. The metaphor of economy and excess proves extremely useful in characterising this dynamic, but it also suggests a hidden gender essentialism: male as practical and rational, female as impractical and irrational—or the difference between a straight line and a spiral.

Keywords: economy; excess; Katharine Hepburn; Spencer Tracy; oppositional idiosyncrasies

Chapter.  11109 words. 

Subjects: Film

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