One of the fun things that is happening in the NY Times is that they have unleashed their film critics to talk casually about films on different topics. It’s so nice to hear opinions from Manohla Dargis — and Scott — not in the context of a review. This past weekend the two discussed the new trend of young women kicking ass in films. Both of them are very thoughtful in their comments with Dargis getting some great digs in on the lacks of female role sin films in general.
I really like these conversations between the two. It shows us their take on the world of films outside the context and content of a single film.
Here are some choice quotes from the piece.
Here are some of Dargis’ comments
It’s no longer enough to be a mean girl, to destroy the enemy with sneers and gossip: you now have to be a murderous one. That, at any rate, seems to be what movies like “Hanna,” “Sucker Punch,” “Super,” “Let Me In,” “Kick-Ass” and those flicks with that inked Swedish psycho-chick seem to be saying. I like a few of these in energetic bits and pieces, but I’m leery of how they fetishize hyper-violent women. Part of me thinks the uptick in bloody mama and kinder-killer movies is about as progressive as that old advertising pitch for Virginia Slims cigarettes, meaning not very. You’ve come a long way, baby, only now you’re packing a gun and there’s blood on your hands (or teeth).
The question is why are so many violent girls and women running through movies now, especially given that the American big screen hasn’t been very interested in women’s stories, violent or not, in recent decades, an occasional Thelma, Louise and Jodie Foster character notwithstanding. There are other exceptions, of course, usually romantic comedies that are so insipid and insulting I want to kill everyone on screen. Wait a minute — is it female rage fueling this trend?
But it seems to me that what fuels these fantasies is also a deep anxiety — an unstable compound of confusion, fascination, panic and denial — about female sexuality, especially the sexual power and vulnerability of girls and young women.
I like that A.O. (the father or a teen daughter) is able to bring up about how all these girls with guns in a deep cultural reaction to anxiety about female sexuality.
Bottom line: It used to be easier to make movies with women. You could put them on a pedestal and either keep them there (as revered wives, virginal girls) or knock them down, as with femmes fatales. If that’s trickier to pull off today, it’s partly because, to quote the great Kim Gordon, “fear of a female planet.”
I don’t see a shoot ’em up like “Hanna” challenging those fears, but at least it has female characters who do more than smile at the superhero or the guys having a swell bromance. It’s better than nothing. The truth is that many American filmmakers, including favorites of mine like David Fincher, Michael Mann, Paul Thomas Anderson and Wes Anderson largely or completely avoid stories about women.
I complain about the representations of women, but I’m more offended when in movie after movie there are no real representations to eviscerate, when all or most of the big roles are taken by men, and the only women around are those whose sole function is, essentially, to reassure the audience that the hero isn’t gay. The gun-toting women and girls in this new rash of movies may be performing much the same function for the presumptive male audience: It’s totally “gay” for a guy to watch a chick flick, but if a babe is packing heat — no worries, man!
I couldn’t agree more with Dargis. There is a deep fear of female power that drives a lot of the misogyny in our culture. It’s just everywhere and the movies are one place where it seems to be acceptable and that’s what some people in the culture like and thrive on.
Gosh, Sweetie, That’s a Big Gun (NY Times)