Apr 6, 2011

Most Depressing Article Ever

In this week's New Yorker, Tad Friend writes about the appalling state of affairs for women in Hollywood by following the career of Anna Faris, a gifted young comedienne. Reading this excellent piece, my heart kept sinking by the sentence. In any other industry, women could sue for millions on the basis of rampant sexism and discrimination, but in Hollywood they are being crushed by the system and we all hear the distant sobs and the sighs and the bitching, but nobody does anything. One almost wishes women in Hollywood would do a Norma Rae, Made in Dagenham or an Arab Spring kind of thing, and strike for their rights, walk off productions en masse (all of them, from crew members, to stars, to producers) and see what the boys would do in the world without women they so seem to pine for.
The article cites a study that shows that women writers, directors and producers make up only 17% of the total in Hollywood and this is not counting R rated movies, which seem to be exclusively the province of men. This is an appalling number. But besides the obvious disparity and enormous boys' club that is the industry, even worse are the attitudes towards women that are perpetuated in mainstream Hollywood films. Women almost don't amount to anything but disposable sidekicks, or light reflectors on the male heroes. In comedies, for the most part they always seem to be humiliated in some way or another. 
Friend cites the utterly insulting Hollywood "Laws of Date Night", that are as follows:
Men Rule -- they decide what movies couples see on weekends. Women can tolerate explosions and shoot em ups and brash and vulgar bromedies, but God forbid a guy is caught watching a movie with a central female character, let alone Jane Eyre, 'cause that would be so gay.
Men are simple. Don't confuse them -- Supposedly, "men don't understand the nuances of female dynamics". Male moviegoers only care about watching men on screen. But aren't there healthy profits to be made on the millions of women who like movies and want to watch something less stupid?
If a woman is the star, it better be a romantic comedy -- or mindless entertainments with cyberwomen like Lara Croft or Sucker Punch. Because nobody in Hollywood thinks that women can do anything other that obsess about marriage or fall in love with guys or, in the case of Angelina Jolie action flicks, behave like men on steroids. It is true that a bunch of comedies are coming out this year with women instead of guys. Bridesmaids, Bad Teacher, etc. But I am afraid that they will be about women behaving like guys: the Apatovian universe with a sex change. And I'm pretty sure that women will enjoy them. Even as we are being starved from interesting, sophisticated, reality based female characters, we have no choice but to eat what's on the menu. I hope I'm wrong, but these comedies seem to have been made, once again, with guys in mind.
Women don't have to be funny, women aren't funny and really, they are not --
These make my blood boil. I always counter this ridiculous argument: what about Lucille Ball? What about Carol Burnett? What about Tina Fey? Anna Faris? But it is true, as Friend points out, that the venue for these enormously funny female talents is not the movies, but television. Maybe women are less threatening to men on a smaller screen. But I think this is artificial. There are movies out there that have strong female characters who are not humiliated in order to exist. These come to mind: Fargo, Juno, and Cedar Rapids (and you will say, yes but they are small and kinda indy, but there is nothing wrong with that). After all, aren't women tired of always seeing the same  storylines about father issues? The same repetitive hero bullshit? The same chases, explosions and torrents of gun fire? The same distant second banana roles for women?
The height of chutzpah comes from the marketing geniuses who are quick to point out that it's the audiences that are misogynists. It's the audiences that want to see semi-anorexic women bumping into poles and playing the dumb blonde or the drunk dumb blonde, etc. After all, the studios are only giving "audiences" what they want. This is a bunch of crap. Movies have the power to change perceptions, and the public can accept other paradigms and more complex characters, if somebody takes the trouble of presenting them.
The fact is that movies are like dreams. Therefore, if Hollywood is ruled exclusively by men, all we ever are going to see are the dreams and fantasies of men. Period. This is why there should be a legal basis with which to correct this imbalance of power. Otherwise, nothing is ever going to change.

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