The Southern belle (derived from the French word belle, 'beautiful') is a proper young woman of the American South's upper socioeconomic class.
The image of a Southern belle is often characterized by fashion elements such as a hoop skirt, a corset, pantalettes, a wide-brimmed straw hat, and gloves. As signs of tanning were considered working-class and unfashionable during this era, parasols and fans are also often represented.
Southern belles were expected to marry respectable young men, and become ladies of society dedicated to the family and community. The Southern belle archetype is characterized by Southern hospitality, a cultivation of beauty, and a flirtatious yet chaste demeanor.
The Southern belle archetype has been criticized as part of an overall idealization of the Antebellum era American South in popular culture. Slavery figured strongly into the region's economy during the plantation era. In turn, the image of the idyllic Southern plantation is considered by many to be insensitive to the plight of slaves.
In popular culture
- During the early 20th century, the release of the novel Gone with the Wind and its film adaptation popularized the image of the Southern belle, particularly in the characters Scarlett O'Hara and Melanie Wilkes.
- Southern belles have also been featured in The Birth of a Nation, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie, Jezebel, The Little Foxes, Fried Green Tomatoes, Wacky Races, Steel Magnolias, and Sweet Home Alabama.
- Dick Pope, Sr., promoter of Florida tourism, played an important role in popularizing the archetypal image. Hostesses at his famed Cypress Gardens were portrayed as Southern belles in promotional materials for the theme park.
- Peggy Hill is the self proclaimed southern belle on the Texas based animated series King of the Hill.
- The X-Men member Rogue (aka Anna Marie) is the team's self-described Southern belle and comes from the fictitious Caldecott County, Mississippi.
- In Mighty Magiswords, Penny Plasm, undead ghost who dresses in stereotypical Southern Belle.
- In the Sonic the Hedgehog comics, Bunnie Rabbot, a female cyborg rabbit is a southern belle.
- Scarlett O'Hara, the most famous fictional Southern belle.
- Penelope Pitstop, the fictional southern belle from Wacky Races and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop.
- "History Engine: Tools for Collaborative Education and Research | Episodes". Historyengine.richmond.edu. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
- "Anatomy of a Southern Belle | Deep South Magazine – Southern Food, Travel & Lit". Deepsouthmag.com. June 2, 2011. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
- Clark, Thomas D. (2015). The Kentucky. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky. pp. 238–255.
- Biddle, Sam (October 17, 2014). "The 'Southern Belle' is a Racist Fiction". Gawker.
- Boyd, Elizabeth (August 21, 2015). "Remove the Southern belle from her inglorious perch". The Washington Post.
- Cox, Karen L. "The Ongoing Allure of the Antebellum South". Pop South.
- APPublished: January 30, 1988 (January 30, 1988). "Richard Downing Pope, 87, Dies; Promoter of Florida and Tourism - New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
- The Lakeland Ledger, January 29, 1988. Vol. 82 No.99 Pg11A
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