Since the commercialization of pinball in the 1930s, the pinball industry has used art and imagery to promote the pinball machine as a product and to generate and cultivate its audience. Much of that imagery has relied on sexualizing and stereotyping women to appeal to a presumed male player. In this thesis, I explore how the depiction of women on pinball machines has evolved from the 1930s to 1970s, with a specific focus on artwork from 1970 to 1979. This is followed by an examination of how second wave feminism, popular culture, and the introduction of film licensing may (or may not) have influenced artwork design and production. I will then present the findings of a quantitative analysis of stereotypes in pinball artwork from 1970-1979 and consider areas of further research. I examined sources from The Strong National Museum of Play (Rochester, NY), in particular the International Center for the History of Electronic Games (ICHEG) Collection and the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play. Combined, my analysis documents how the depiction of women has or has not changed in pinball artwork over time, and what it might mean today for a niche industry to depend on the visual sexualization of women for its commercial success.
Museum Studies (BS)
Department, Program, or Center
Department of History (CLA)
Fanton, Melissa A., "Pinups and Pinball: The Sexualized Female Image in Pinball Artwork" (2016). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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