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Blog: In Defense of The Social Network: Movie demonizes sexism, doesn’t glamorize it. (10/13/10)

Note: this article was also posted on the official website for The Social Network

Fiction vs. reality: Eisenberg and Zuckerberg.

First things first: I’m in the business of paying close attention to roles of women in film and TV, both behind and in front of the camera. I also really enjoyed The Social Network, David Fincher’s biopic of Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg.

Critics in the blogosphere claim the movie is everything from racist and sexist to homophobic (Indiewire states that Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes is gay, and that isn’t represented in the film). TechCrunch’s Sarah Lacy vocally protests Sorkin’s depiction of tech geeks, saying even though she’s worked in Silicon Valley for ten years, she’s never encountered this level of sexism. Jezebel.com’s Irin Carmon bemoans its lack of dynamic female characters, while others hate the way it glosses over gay characters and its fetishism of Asian women.

In The Social Network, there are only a few memorable roles for women—and this is what most of the feminist blogs take issue with. Certainly, Fincher is notorious for making what I refer to as “dude movies.” Se7en and Fight Club both feature women (Helena Bonham Carter’s Marla and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Tracy, respectively) as prizes–something either bizarrely attractive or wholesomely pretty to come home to–while men are the dynamic characters. The Social Network certainly doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, which requires 1) two female characters, 2) who talk to each other, 3) about something other than a man. And yes, that’s certainly a problem. However, Sorkin maintains (and I understood from watching the movie) that he wrote the film in such a way to demonize misogyny–not to glamorize it.

Rooney Mara as Erica, one of the movie’s only strong women.

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Blog: Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, the Horror and Beauty of Ballet (9/9/10)

Portman has never looked quite so spooky: the Black Swan poster.

Once upon a time, I was a little girl who, as my oldest friend likes to put it, loved to wear cute little dresses, then swing on the monkey bars and play with the boys. (I like to think this is still a fair representation of my personality.) I also squeezed myself into a leotard, tights, and legwarmers, then shoved my tiny feet into pastel pink ballet shoes and clung to the bar for dear life as I strove for a plié in fifth position. I was no ballerina, but ballet occupied a part of my growing brain that nothing else could. I ached for the exquisite beauty, strength, and poise of the ballerinas striding and leaping beneath the hot white lights in The Nutcracker. I never danced en pointe, eventually grew out of the legwarmers, and started playing softball, but ballet continues to fascinate me. Though I’m drawn most often to drama, satire, and horror, I can hardly resist a ballet movie…and it’s interesting how ballet fits so well in those genres.

Black Swan‘s theatrical trailer.

The trailer for Darren Aronofsky’s highly anticipated thriller Black Swan released recently, and it made me think: why does a movie that focuses on ballet dancers appear so utterly bizarre and frightening? Black Swan tells the story of prima ballerina Nina (Natalie Portman) who is cast by artistic director Thomas (Vincent Cassel) in the role of the swan in Swan Lake. Rival dancer Lily (Mila Kunis) provides an eerie doppelganger for Nina as the two battle it out for the lead role and the love of the artistic director. Aronofsky’s films are often bizarre, surreal, and spooky; Black Swan looks no different—but if there’s one director who can do beautiful and horrific at once, it’s Aronofsky.

Ballet is an art form, a style and grace of movement that captivates so many because it is so extraordinary. So why is it, then, that so many movies about ballet are horror-influenced?

Moira Shearer dances like there’s no tomorrow in The Red Shoes.

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Blog: Kick-Ass and the Hit Girl Debacle (4/9/10)

Chloe Grace Moretz as Hit-Girl in last weekend’s Kick-Ass

In my review for Kick-Ass, I only mentioned Chloe Moretz’s Hit-Girl briefly, though her role is getting the movie the most press. Roger Ebert called the film “morally reprehensible” and Kenneth Turan writes, “[Hit-Girl’s] language is so astonishingly crude that it has taken people’s attention away from all the killing she does, which is mind-boggling as well.” Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman mentions that Hit-Girl’s sadism isn’t much different from Bruce Willis’s in the Die Hard movies, and yet it is.

Because Hit-Girl is a little girl, played by an actress who was eleven years old when she filmed the movie. The movie is very, very R-rated, so I’m not concerned with her status as role model for other little girls (though thirteen-year-old Julia Rhodes would’ve loved her). What does concern me is the critical heat it’s taking because a little girl does most of the hardcore killing.

In Mark Millar’s graphic novel, Hit-Girl is hardcore. Did it translate well to the film?

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