Tag Archive for feminism

Oscar Leadup – Ladies in Film: Female Agency and Pleasure in 2010 Movies (2/23/11)

Helena Bonham Carter The King's Speech

Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech: behind every great man, there stands (or sits, ever so primly) a great woman.

2010 was not what you’d call a banner year for women in the real world. Gossip rags and TV offer ever more ways for everyone to look bad, but women in particular get a special place in our celebrity-obsessed hearts. The famous-by-marriage Real Housewives of Wherever are releasing their own wines, tee shirt lines, and diet plans. The “stars” of “Teen Mom,” most of whose sole claim to fame is their deplorable immaturity and lack of successful birth control, end up on glossy tabloid covers every week. The Learning Channel airs “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” while MTV plays “Bad Girls Club” and other dreck about women fighting for the affections of Bret Michaels and Flava Flav. Note: narrative television (“Mad Men,” “Big Love,” etc) had a lot of strong, complex female characters to offer in 2010, but that’s for another blog.

Amber Portwood Teen Mom

“Teen Mom”‘s Amber Portwood, beating up her babydaddy because that‘s what good reality TV is all about. I’d rather watch “Ice Road Truckers.”

Meanwhile, over here in the real world things aren’t much better: battles over reproductive rights and the redefinition of rape are front page news. The right is set on barring federal funding from one of America’s most important women’s health organizations, Planned Parenthood.

Please Give Hall and Peet

Rebecca Hall and Amanda Peet star in Nicole Holofcener’s Please Give.

Basically women’s bodies and behavior are, as always, available for scrutiny and hand-wringing. But 2010’s film releases, which feature a cadre of resolute, opinionated, loving, and intelligent ladies, offer a comparative breath of fresh air for women in front of the camera. Read more

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: Mad (wo)Men: The Complexity of Womanhood in “Mad Men” (9/17/10)

The cast of AMC’s “Mad Men:” Vincent Kartheiser, Elisabeth Moss, John Slattery, Jon Hamm, January Jones, and Christina Hendricks.

EDITED TO INCLUDE COMMENTARY at bottom of article on Season 4, Episode 9, “THE BEAUTIFUL GIRLS,” air date 9/19/10.

AMC’s “Mad Men” is currently in its 4th (and probably best) season. It’s June, 1965, and “the times, they are a-changin’.” Both men and women on the show are experiencing massive upheavals along with the rest of the country, which was approaching a nearly unprecedented point of social unrest. The civil rights movement had begun in earnest; John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated; the Cassius Clay (whom the characters refuse to call his then-given name, Mohammad Ali)/Sonny Liston fight prompts horrible jokes about how “if I wanted to see two Negroes fight I’d drop a dollar bill out my door.” Second-wave feminism is about to knock everyone for a loop and the Vietnam War is going to alter lives forever. Male and female characters alike are choosing: dive in and go with the flow or fight against the rising tide? Note: here there be spoilers.

The ladies of “Mad Men:” Betty (Jones), Joan (Hendricks), and Peggy (Moss).

Despite the show’s title, the women of “Mad Men” are making the most leaps by far. Our three leading ladies are Betty (formerly Draper) Francis (January Jones), the picture of bourgeois suburbia; Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), the pioneering professional; and Joan (née Holloway) Harris (Christina Hendricks), who disguises her strength beneath demure dresses and Hermes scarves. The ladies of “Mad Men” are some of the most complex, fascinating, unpredictable, and infinitely watchable characters on TV. Creator Matthew Weiner offers a varied and sympathetic examination of the pressures under which women toiled in the tumultuous late ‘50s and early ‘60s, and the show draws frightening analogies between the quandaries of the characters in the ‘60s and ours today. It gracefully, subtly reveals just how much (or little) progress we’ve made. A friend told me that until recently, she couldn’t watch “Mad Men” because her inner feminist found it totally offensive. My (not-so) inner feminist is positively thrilled with the show’s offerings.

Betty Draper in her most frequent haunt: the kitchen.

First of the Mad Women is Betty Draper Francis, main character Don Draper’s ex-wife and the picture of ladylike frostiness. Betty is, perhaps, the show’s representation of the worst of the suburban 1950s: weak, white-gloved, and wealthy, Betty’s upper-class disdain radiates from her every (invisible) pore. She is a child, a selfish brat who smokes too much and never eats (over four seasons, I don’t think she’s eaten on camera more than once or twice). She’s a status-obsessed, wasp-waisted debutante with an ice queen demeanor. Betty’s the character who, in the first episode, caught her daughter Sally (the fantastic Kiernan Shipka) wearing a plastic dry-cleaning bag around her head and threatened to spank her if the dress was wrinkled. To be fair, Betty went through hell with her overbearing, duly status-obsessed family and in her farce of a marriage to Don. She has a breaking point: in the first season, in the midst of a mini-breakdown, she whipped out a shotgun and blasted the neighbor’s doves out of the sky; she also had restaurant bathroom sex with a stranger to get back at Don for his indiscretions. But this season has really made her the (little) bad wolf. Weiner has set her up for a fall, I think, because she’s far and away the most old-fashioned of the show’s women.

Ah, the heartwarming family dinner, complete with mother who smokes instead of eats and father who’s always running out the door.

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Blog: Bret Easton Ellis: Film requires the male gaze, female directors need not apply (5/19/10)

Movieline printed an interview with author Bret Easton Ellis, whose most famous work is probably American Psycho, which director Mary Harron translated into a bizarre little film starring Christian Bale in 2000.

Bret Easton Ellis in a publicity shot (from here).

Ellis’s books are infinitely dark, angry, and sometimes downright shocking. They are about the gritty, hideous underbelly of human emotion. Movie adaptations of his work, which include Less Than Zero (1987), The Rules of Attraction (2002), and The Informers (2008), along with American Psycho, are generally hit-or-miss. To be fair, the material’s often difficult to adapt, but Harron managed it brilliantly with American Psycho.

Christian Bale debates his weaponry in Mary Harron’s American Psycho.

For some reason, Ellis puts his in two cents to Movieline regarding female directors. He says,

“…There’s something about the medium of film itself that I think requires the male gaze.”
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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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