pt en es
"I'm so excited": flight attendant fashion, films and performance from 1933 until 2013

Dr Prudence Black, PhD

The cosmopolitan mystique of airlines has long been parodied, most recently in Pedro Almodóvar’s film, I’m So Excited (2013). In Almodóvar’s tale the "flight hostess" is replaced by three gay flight attendants who prepare a plane for an emergency landing. The economy-class passengers are drugged so they are blissfully unaware of the impending disaster, while the first-class passengers and crew are out of control, fuelled up with mescaline and alcohol. This paper takes this film as a starting point to analyse the appearance of the flight attendant and the way this profession lends itself to a camp ‘glorification of character’ (Sontag).

In the 1960s there was nothing more glamorous than a flight attendant, while today it is hard not to read the in-flight safety demonstrations as a semiotics of a highly formal (post-erotic) showgirl code with a bit of camp irony. But is it the snappy uniform or the routine of gestures which lends itself so neatly to performance?

This paper will discuss the role of the uniform in the imagery and spectacle of the performative acts of the flight attendant both in the air, on stage, and in films from the 1930s until today.