This chapter (based on a British Academy funded project) quantifies female influence in Le Petit Journal, avatar of France’s popular press and Europe’s first daily to achieve mass circulation with a ‘modern’ commercial approach and a cheap sales price of a ‘sou’. Decisions about what the female audience was likely to be interested in were made by men, and were defined fairly conventionally in representations that were increasingly negative. A study of Le Petit Journal’s launch year of 1863 is compared to 1896 when the paper was riding high as an established and successful brand name. During this golden age of the popular press, financial considerations came first, coloured by masculine perceptions of what female audiences wanted and by largely Bonapartist political sympathies amongst the high profile editorial team. Coverage tended towards the prurient and sensational, categorised into what is referred to as ‘the 4 ‘Vs’: victorious, virtuous, vicious and victim. The findings relating to this conservative feminisation challenge some of the existing interpretations of the effects of mass culture, and resonate with criticisms of today’s media stereotyping of women
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