Still doing less damage than men
When tackling multiple far-reaching topics in one breath (women, film, 2010), I prefer general statements based on feelings more than fact. But since this commentary is being published in a print journal of some repute, let’s get some nuts and bolts out of the way, to placate fact checkers and balance the ill-researched opinions below.
In 2010, films were made, released and seen by the American public. Some films included women. My credentials as a film writer are no more or less qualified than the average Josephine, albeit one still star-struck by Billy Wilder and the MGM back lot. I have hope for the future of film, because if it truly is darkest before the dawn then I say to you, “Start the oatmeal! It can’t get much darker!”
When I see a movie, it never occurs to me that I might witness the next step in equality of women in film. It’s never, “Remember this night; the night Drew Barrymore led us to cinema parity!” Not because I’ve lost all hope for women in film, but due to my disdain for how 99 percent of human beings in general are portrayed. In my opinion, the fewer Lady Reservoir Dogs, Mrs. Terminators and Die Hard With a Stack Heels we are privy to, the better. As my movie ticket is ripped in half, so are my expectations.
Analyzing the films of 2010, and the female roles in them, is daunting, until I employ the Bechdel Test, named for comic strip artist Alison Bechdel, which asks the following three questions to assess a work:
1) Are there are at least two named
2) Do they speak to each other?
3) About something other than a man?
Simple yet nearly unattainable goals in the film industry, yet in my own life I see that 1) the women in my life are named, 2) we speak to each other, 3) rarely about a man.
What’s a named woman-to-woman speaker of not-a-man-things to do?
When choosing a movie, I want to see female characters who are either like me, an idealized version of me, or an unattainable me. So if 98 percent of lead characters are designed to fulfill this same need for men, what’s up with The A Team, Jackass 3D and American Grindhouse? Is Johnny Knoxville like our men, an idealized or unattainable version of them? I say men’s roles in film are even more degrading than women’s. But nobody is noticing.
A few surprising films passed the Bechdel test this year, among them Alice in Wonderland, Iron Man 2, and The Runaways. Groundbreaking? No. Good? Barely. The cause of mass feminist celebrations? Not even close.
The Bechdel Test is only one imperfect way to judge women’s role on screen. I’d like to mention a few noteworthy titles that I have judged in my own imperfect ways, with my own imperfect standards:
Grown Ups The worst film of 2010, with no identity, no positive role models of any age, race or gender, and Blatant Misuse of Salma Hayek.
Eat Pray Love We employ a catchphrase here for any movie that I am certain to see alone or with someone other than my spouse. We call them “Julia Roberts Movies.” EPL does overtime, a “Julia Roberts Movie” that actually features Julia Roberts, Italy, food and introspection. Phew! Unfortunately, nobody I knew wanted to see this, so its mention is purely obligatory.
For Colored Girls All female leads, all truly emotionally engaging stories … oh what? Originally a play? Disqualified since it was originally intended for thinking people.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse The Bella Swan Award for Who the Hell Cares! Also Best Lack of Emotion Without Botox.
The Social Network At this writing, 1,893,543 people like Mark Zuckerburg. When he invented Facebook that number was considerably smaller. And included 0 females.
And two special mentions to two very special films that prominently feature women, both causing me to consider “other” on future forms requiring my gender:
Sex and the City 2 For doing the most damage to women in general as well as the film industry. It begs the question, “How many green lights between Hollywood and the crap heap?”
Burlesque Guess which blockbuster has more named female characters having more conversations with each other about more than men? I know. And we’ll never know what emotions Cher is conveying.
On second thought, let’s have another Hot Toddy before we think about breakfast. It’s still pretty dark out.
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