Girls on Film
This one goes out to all the ladies.
I just read a New York Times article, on the advice from another comic obsessed woman blogger, about the lack of good roles for women in Hollywood movies and Hollywood comic movies. I immediately got on board with the idea presented in the article. It’s something that I only really started to notice mid-way through my HS career.
It happened while reading Siddhartha during my senior year of HS. I was trucking along with the material, and then stumbled upon the passage where the male protagonist up and leaves his wife and children to go off and attain enlightenment.
Why? Because he could.
There was no other reason for it. His wife was left alone to tend to the children and the household while he went off on some completely selfish religious journey. Then, it occurred to me that up until that moment, all the folks I was idolizing (writers, artists, philosophers, religious figures) were men.
So what did that mean for me?
That was the final straw. After spending so much of my time in HS learning about the deeds and exploits of men, and reading their collected works – I was done.
That’s when I realized there were a different set of rules for men to operate with in the world. And as a woman – I would have to try harder to find what would be relevant and resonant for me.
8 years later – and I’m still looking.
So a few questions I have: Where are all the women? Where/How are the people who look like me represented in history books, politics and the cinema?
And some more answers as well – straight from the mouths of the women who are playing second (or third or fourth) fiddle to the Male Heroes in this summer’s biggest blockbusters.
And while men get the heroic pose covers – these talented, intelligent and engaging women are pictured as meek and playful as kittens.
Here’s something to chew on: I was REALLY excited to see “Baby Mama” because it hosts not one, but TWO well known female comedic leads – Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. The trailers are hilarious, and guaranteed to get a laugh from me every time. Successful women comedians are rare, and films that brilliantly show-case their talents are just as rare. So, yay right? It seemed like there was nothing that could go wrong…
But then it did. Dan was the first one to notice it as we sat in the darkened theatre, munching on popcorn and red vines. He leaned over and whispered, “there’s something wrong with the projector bulb.” I squinted and then shook my head. “No, there’s not.”
Dan: “Yeah, there is – see how there’s like a soft glow on the screen, and everyone is kinda fuzzy.”
Me: “No – that’s the glow of romantic comedy. There’s nothing wrong with the bulb, that’s the movie.”
And I realized, much to my hearty dismay, that indeed – there was the soft glow of romantic comedy all over Baby Mama. It stank of “rom-com” softness.
Worse than that? The two women sniping at one another over economic and social class differences. This film would have 98% of my Gender, Class and Culture course from last term shrieking obscenities at the screen. *sigh*
I had such high hopes. Can there be a movie tailored to women that does not involve weddings, romance, soft lighting, and jokes about menstruation?
Can there be a film/movie where the woman isn’t seen as the mother, daughter, sister, lover, girlfriend, secretary (uhm, don’t we call them administrative assistants now?), or help-mate of the male lead character. Not this summer, and most likely not this year.
On a different note: I thought it was brave of “Baby Mama” to briefly recognize it’s own stereotypical attitudes towards “white trash,” but it hardly excuses the rest of the insults hurled by the preceeding 3/4’s of the film. I thought Poehler did a lot to really humanize the character she was playing, but all in all – I was turned off by the use of the word white trash, the upper-class-liberal attitude towards children and the lower class, and the deliberate placement of romantic comedy elements in what could have/should have been a film about a woman and her baby mama.
Come on – that concept in and of itself is intriguing.
I’m going to assume that Hollywood “ized” the film towards it’s assumptions of what women would want to see. Whoever cut the trailers was smart enough to leave most of that romantic comedy bullshit on the floor, but it was certainly a kick in the teeth to get to the theatre and realize it was a lot of the same old.
Many men really don’t understand the beef women have with hollywood, comics, and history books.
I can respect that, because they don’t get to see a world (or at least a Hollywood Blockbuster season) that relegates them to less-than-sidekick roles. They’ve never had to preen the history books for the one or two token persons of their gender who’ve possibly invented something clever, led an army, or ruled a kingdom.
It’s easy to brush these supplications off as mere “feminist bullshit.” But I’m tired of having to identify with leading men (yes, even if a token male minority is thrown in for diversity).
I want more WOMEN on film, in film, and making films. And the same goes for the comic industry. I’m tired of having the female body used to sell, sell, sell without any homage being paid to the reality of who women are. We have high pain tolerance, amazing organizational and leadership qualities. We can fly airplanes, hold presidential offices, serve and protect, pump your gas, balance your checkbook, repair your HVAC system, own property, perform your spinal surgery…
But we can’t star in your movies. Not really. Not yet.
And if we do…men won’t come to see us. Unless we’re half naked. Why? Because men don’t like to see strong woman doing the things that men do. Am I wrong? Someone please tell me that I’m wrong about that! Because I would love to be wrong (just this once though, not all the time).
If I didn’t love comic books (and thusly, comic book movies) so much, I would seriously consider boycotting this summer blockbuster season. I really and truly would.
Hollywood really needs to pull it’s act together and get back to what I enjoy most about comic books – team dynamics. There are great books out there (Avengers, X-Factor) and television shows (Lost, Heroes) that show-case strong female characters, without having to subvert the lime-light to men ALL THE TIME.
Well, I mean – for awhile anyway, LOST had that quality going for it. Lately it’s been very male character centric, and decidedly less appealing to me personally.
One of the other film franchises I felt was at least moderately giving women a fair shake, X-Men totally killed off it’s strongest female character (X-Men: The Last Stand) and de-powered the other. Leaving only Storm – whom Halle Berry had already mangled thoroughly.
There’s not much else to say. The status of women in films is especially pitiable at the moment. It seems to fluctuate, with some years being kinder to my gender than others.
I wouldn’t say this is Hollywood’s women-friendliest year, by far.
Much Love, Mindy C