This essay explores the role that men played — as costars and fans — in Shirley Temple's film career, arguing that Temple's stardom stood at the juncture of two paradigms. It was built upon the fairly stable understanding that male child loving signified men's discipline and restraint, a paradigm that dominated publicity about girl stars in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. However, Temple's stardom risked being undone by an emergent discourse of pedophilia and child endangerment that framed men's interest in child stars in terms of sexual desire, a discourse that her studio, Twentieth Century-Fox, actively worked to suppress. Numerous scholars and critics have pointed to Temple's covert sexual appeal as a means of exposing the workings of power on the child. However, in doing so they also reinforce a definition of innocence that serves to police adult behavior and render the child inert. The essay seeks to denaturalize the iconic figure of the imperiled child that dominates political discourse today by tracing the emergence of this discourse of pedophilia in relation to changing notions of gender and sexuality and by identifying a counter-paradigm that saw men's child loving as beneficial to society.

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