chapter  4
Gender competition, camp spectacles and impossible machismo
Pages 30

Throughout the twentieth century male flyers were considered the leading aerialists, even though most aerialists were female and continued to demonstrate comparable athletic capacity. Male performers became an athletic elite and females, with a few rare exceptions, were perceived as an extension of the aerial ballet even within the profession in the post-Second World War era. Gender differences were magnified in films about circus imbued with emotional conflicts, in turn influencing social perceptions of aerialists. There is some fascinating intertextuality between film narratives and aerialists’ stories, and yet circus is routinely overlooked in critiques of film in relation to other art forms.