Victim or Vixen? Ambiguity and The Portrayal of Prostitution and The “New Woman” in The Films of G.W. Pabst

  • Marley Sterner University of Victoria


This paper examines the ambiguous portrayal of prostitution in Weimar Germany through the films of German film director G.W. Pabst. The women prostitute characters in Joyless Streets (1925), Diary of a Lost Girl (1929), and Pandora’s Box (1929) reveal the extent to which class lines began to blur for prostitutes during the economic crisis in the Weimar Republic. Pabst’s films explore the different circumstances that steered women into prostitution, and how the prostitutes’ behaviours affects whether they are intended to be perceived by the audience as “victims” of financial desperation or sexually manipulative “vixens.” The paper further investigates the existence of an unofficial criteria in Pabst’s films that decides whether a prostitute character will have a fortunate or tragic end, and whether this criterion exists to appease the concern of censor boards that the existence of prostitutes as protagonists in film made the profession appear desirable.

How to Cite
Sterner, Marley. 2021. “Victim or Vixen? Ambiguity and The Portrayal of Prostitution and The ‘New Woman’ in The Films of G.W. Pabst”. the Ascendant Historian 1 (March), 75-83.