Friday, April 25, 2008

Feminism & film (by Suzie)

      After many years of promiscuous movie-going, I now avoid ones that don’t have at least one significant female character. I prefer ones that revolve around women, written and/or directed by women. I’m voting with my dollars.
      This baffles some friends, who don’t see gender when they look at a movie like “No Country for Old Men,” but accept the idea that men won’t – or shouldn’t – like a “chick flick.” (I hate, hate, hate that term and “chick lit,” which mark stories by and about women as trifles that could not possibly interest men. Ugh, now I have to wipe the foam from my mouth.)
      A few years ago, a feminist friend was trying to get me to see “The Perfect Storm.” I argued, “But it’s all about men.” She replied cheerfully, “But in the end, they all die!” The movie is an interesting commentary on the construction of masculinity, but then again, there’s no shortage of movies about men who die while doing something dangerous, adventurous or heroic.
       To find movies by and about women, I like Melissa Silverstein’s Women & Hollywood blog. This week on DVD, I saw Julie Taymor’s “Across the Universe” and Amy Heckerling’s “I Could Never Be Your Woman.” About Taymor, Silverstein asks what it takes to be an “auteur.” (A penis seems to help.)
        In another post, Silverstein explains why “I Could Never Be Your Woman” was released last month, direct to DVD. In the movie, the character played by Michelle Pfeiffer worries about getting too old to be competitive in Hollywood. You might think: “She’s Michelle Pfeiffer, for the Goddess’ sake!” But Heckerling told Entertainment Weekly: ''There was some concern about doing a movie with an older female protagonist — not anybody's favorite demographic.''
         In an interview with the AV Club, Heckerling talks about women trying to look young to keep their careers alive.
It's been that way from Sunset Boulevard on. Hollywood is the dream factory, and no one dreams about older women. It's a youth-and-beauty-obsessed place that sells a certain image. Of course I have sympathy. If you look at all the pictures of women in magazines, everybody's got a forehead that looks like a billboard. Completely blank. When I was 20, I had these furrowed lines between my brows, because I was always angry. And I was 20. I don't think that was a mark of age; it was just my personality. Yet these people think that when you have a completely blank head, you can put advertising on it. That's not youthful. What is that? Some of these young girls that I find and put in films, I see them in a magazine a year later, and they've got big fat lips and stick figures. And you go, "Why? Why are you buying into this?"