July 28, 2010

Sucker Punch: Stilettos, Booty Shorts, and Machine Guns

Filed under: Gender,Media — Tags: , , — Rachel @ 7:23 pm

So the trailer for Zack Snyder’s latest film Sucker Punch premiered on Apple yesterday.  While Zack’s films have featured some kick-ass women in the past, his new movie looks like the hypersexualized violence that Hollywood seems to be such a fan of; feminists deconstructing pop culture, not so much.  Snyder has received critical acclaim in the past for his stylized action movies (some of which I’m a fan of, particularly his Dawn of the Dead remake), but the director’s latest film just looks disgusting.  The homepage for the trailer on Apple’s website shows the main girls in the film in various states of undress shooting machine guns, in front of a background reminiscent of World War I footage.

What I gathered from the trailer was these are supposedly some kick-ass girls breaking out from a patriarchal run insane asylum – but they look super sexy while doing so!  Cuts between images of violence and victimization feature the actresses in showgirl costumes, close-ups of long eyelashes, and sparkly leotard dance numbers. Apparently being in a mental hospital doesn’t cramp your beauty routine!

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June 20, 2010

Let’s talk about sex (and support indie media)

It’s hard to escape the subject of sex; images of sex saturate advertisements, gyrating teens proclaim abstinence, millions of dollars of federal money has been funneled into abstinence-only “sexual education,” virginity has become another commodity sold to the highest bidder, teens are sexting and wanna-be celebrities are caught in sex-tape “scandals,” sex trafficking is the number one crime worldwide, daughters vow to save their virginity for their husbands by “marrying” their fathers with purity pledges while male virginity is mocked, pornography informs mainstream heterosexual notions of sexuality, girls are increasingly sexualized at younger and younger ages, women are “rejuvenating” and blinging out their vaginas, sex scandals are commonplace whether it be a celebrity, politician or religious leader, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish pornography from pop culture.

Frankly, I’m bored with and annoyed by this cultural obsession with sex. These manufactured, one-dimensional images of heterosexual sexuality constantly shoved down my throat (no pun intended). Running parallel to the cultural obsession with sex (and nude or near-nude ladies that grace countless magazine covers, billboards and populate advertisements), is the obsession with female virginity (so much so that many women opt to have their virginity restored via plastic surgery).

Clearly, with all this sex out there, the important issues regarding sex and sexuality are glossed over and given little media coverage. What remains in the public eye remains a vapid, one-dimensional image of sexuality and a perpetual reinforcement of the good girl/ bad girl (madonna/whore dichotomy). In this strange cultural climate where contradictory messages are being sent simultaneously, Therese Schecter is a breath of fresh air.

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April 20, 2010

"Kick-Ass" Females Don't Pass The Bechdel Test

Guest post: Rachel O

Warning: Big Spoilers For Kick-Ass Ahead

This weekend I went to go see Kick-Ass.  I went to go see it for a couple reasons.  First I’ve been a fan of superhero action films since I was dragged to X-Men when I was 16.  Second, articles about the character of Hit Girl, an eleven year old assassin, were popping up everywhere, something that’s increased 100 fold since it opened on Friday.  The response to the foul-mouthed and hyper violent adolescent has been overwhelming, with everyone chiming in to voice their opinion.  However, while I found the purple haired killer plenty problematic, there were some issues I had with the other women in the film, that I haven’t yet seen addressed.

Kick-Ass has only a handful of female characters.  This is the doing of the original author of the comic the film was based on, Mark Millar, when he decided the original main characters of Hit Girl and Big Daddy, were “…not lead characters…too cartoonish…”  Two of the three mothers are dead (one dies of a brain aneurism in the first five minutes, the other dies of a drug overdose in a comic book panel.)  Red Mist’s mom, the only one who’s alive, has two lines, and is never present, despite the fact that many scenes take place in her home.  A final scene shows the family penthouse in lockdown in preparation for a final battle, but the mom is mysteriously absent – I guess she was out that day?

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April 12, 2010

Ellen Page on Feminism, Abortion, Hollywood, and the Media

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Melanie @ 5:14 pm

Guest post by Rachel O (yeah, she’ll be a regular contributor very, very soon):

Despite the fact that’s she been acting since the age of 10, Ellen Page’s career didn’t take off until 2007, when she starred in Juno. Juno was an indie film that got huge, and Ellen Page became a well-known name.  Her roles both pre- and post- Juno, have proven good women’s roles aren’t just as “hookers, victims, and doormats” as Shirley McClaine once said.  She’s played everything from a young girl who turns the tables on an online perv in Hard Candy, to a kick-ass high school roller derby girl in Whip It.

While Juno raised some questions about its message, and inspired a lot of pro-choice/pro-life debates, I found the film undeniably Pro-Choice.  It showed pro-choice isn’t just about having abortions – it’s about having options – whether it’s to have a baby, give it up for adoption, or get an abortion.  When asked about the two opposing interpretations of the film, Ellen said in an interview just a week ago,

“I am a feminist and I am totally pro-choice, but what’s funny is when you say that people assume that you are pro-abortion. I don’t love abortion but I want women to be able to choose and I don’t want white dudes in an office being able to make laws on things like this. I mean what are we going to do – go back to clothes hangers?”

Page doesn’t just speak about women’s issues in terms of politics, she addresses the way women are handled in her business – Hollywood.  It made headlines last year when the head of Warner Bros. announced they would no longer allow women to be the lead of their films, because women couldn’t bring in box office bucks.  Whenever a woman-dominated cast does less-than-stellar at the box office, it is usually dissectedWhat happened?  What went wrong?  What does this mean for women in Hollywood and the roles actresses will get? Page has experienced this first hand.  Whip It was a huge hit with critics, but only managed to bring in $4 million opening weekend.  As if the above quote isn’t enough to make you love her instantly, when asked about what Hollywood is like for women,

“I think it’s a total drag. I’ve been lucky to get interesting parts but there are still not that many out there for women. And everybody is so critical of women. If there’s a movie starring a man that tanks, then I don’t see an article about the fact that the movie starred a man and that must be why it bombed. Then a film comes out where a woman is in the lead, or a movie comes out where a bunch of girls are roller derbying, and it doesn’t make much money and you see articles about how women can’t carry a film.”

As if that’s not bad enough, women in the media business are expected to look a certain way, and shamed, ridiculed, denigrated when they don’t.  Even women who promise to be beyond the pressure give in and sell out.  Personally, I think Page is gorgeous, but tabloids and gossip blogs aren’t about embracing beauty and making women feel good about themselves.  Page admits she’s not beyond this pressure herself.

“I hate to admit it but, yeah. I definitely feel more of a sense of personal insecurity. I really try and smarten up when I feel that way but sometimes it does get to me. The fact is, young girls are bombarded by advertisements and magazines full of delusional expectations that encourage people to like themselves less and then they want to buy more things. It is really sad and it encourages the consumerist cycle. Boys used to have it slightly easier but I think they are now getting more of the same kind of pressure. Look at all the guys in junior high who think they should have a six-pack.”

It’s a little sad that reading an interview like this is such a big deal, because so few people in Hollywood are willing to express themselves in this way, and say these things in a public forum.  Having just recently become media literate myself, it’s awesome to hear an actress I admire speak about such widespread but underreported issues.  This summer, Ellen will be starring in Christopher Nolan’s new film, Inception.  I feel confident the film, and her role in it, will be nothing short of amazing.

Ellen Page: ‘I’m totally pro-choice.  I mean what are we going to do – go back to clothes hangers?’ (Guardian UK) via Jezebel

February 14, 2010

There's nothing sweet about Valentine's Day

Filed under: Gender,Media — Tags: , , , — Melanie @ 7:14 pm

In fact, there’s nothing remotely redeeming about Valentine’s Day despite bringing in 52.4 million this past weekend. Then again, we know box office numbers don’t necessarily reveal anything about quality.

Jezebel’s review reveals a more accurate picture of the film than the numbers.

That text was, of course, written in the heat of passion: Valentine’s Day isn’t actually the worst movie I’ve ever seen, because it’s far too boring and forgettable for that. By now everyone knows the “plot” of the movie: a bunch of characters experience tiny story arcs over the course of one illogically all-encompassing Valentine’s Day in Los Angeles. (Seriously, in the fantastical world of this movie, Valentine’s Day is a holiday so big it’s bigger than Christmas, bigger in fact than any holiday we have in America, taking over the lives of every character, from a wee child to adult men and women with jobs to wise old elderly folks. It’s absurd.) Suffice it to say that not one of these characters or their easily-tied-up “problems” are more compelling than a sitcom clip show, or low-budget children’s television (which it actually, a few cliched dirty jokes aside, most resembles). This movie has the emotional depth of an (over) two-hour episode of Saved By the Bell, but without the nostalgia element to make it palatable. If you’ve read even one review of the movie, or even if you haven’t, there will be no surprises — not a single one. Everyone ends up making the decisions you know they will make as the film plods on, and even if the movie’s only “surprises” haven’t already been spoiled for you by the internet, you’ll figure them out ahead of time based on the simple math of how many characters are left over who haven’t been matched up yet — it’s like that preschooler’s game, “Memory.” But it’s a movie. A long, boring, lazy movie. In which the only star with double-digit on-screen minutes is Ashton Kutcher.

I love romantic comedies. Well, I love them like I love chocolate or the junkie loves their fix. You want more knowing it’s not good for you. The point is I have devoured countless sappy flicks even when the overlying message is offensive from a gendered perspective. So, I was open to liking it. In fact, I *really* wanted to like it, or at least parts of it. If nothing else, I thought I’d find some juicy bits to critique in this blog. Nope, it was soooooo bad that there wasn’t even anything to diss. AND. It’s one of less than a handful of movies I’ve seen in a theater since my son was born. So, I REALLY wanted to find something worthwhile in a film that was advertised as better than a big ol’ box of sweets.

Nope.

Now, that is pathetic.

May 13, 2009

Gender and Star Trek

….by Jennifer Weiner.

When the ads for the new film started running, I should have been suspicious. “Not your father’s Star Trek?” What was wrong with my father’s Star Trek? I liked my father’s Star Trek! But still, there I was, on opening day, with a bucket of popcorn, surrounded by what looked like the entire staff of several area comic-book stores.

There was much to love about the movie. Kirk was hot, and Spock was cool, and their relationship felt just right, at once edgy and familiar. Unlike the earlier outings, where a shaken camera connoted a collision, danger, and/or black holes and time warps, the special effects were, indeed, special.

I’m not so much of a nerd that I couldn’t handle the way the film chucked continuity and ignored some of the original show’s rules of the road (although, note to J.J. Abrams: if a Vulcan is bonded and his spouse suddenly dies, he either dies, too, or ends up in mortal agony, and should not be depicted just calmly hanging out on a transporter pad. Okay, fine, maybe I am that much of a nerd).

I was even okay with the way the plot recycled Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (in “Khan,” the villain deploys a Doomsday weapon because he believes Kirk was responsible for the death of his wife. In “Trek,” the villain deploys a Doomsday weapon because he believes Spock was responsible for the death of his wife….and let me just add that, in the all-important categories of “pecs,” and “scenery chewing,” Eric Bana is no Ricardo Montalban.)

Honestly, I didn’t have a problem until about midway through the film…at which point I realized that every single lady on screen was either a mother, a ho, or an intergalactic hood ornament.

That sounds like more of the same and exactly like your father’s Star Trek.

January 15, 2009

Women on the big screen are still loved most in a cat fight

Filed under: Gender,Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Melanie @ 12:11 pm

Who’s surprised?

Bride Wars reinforces catty and two-faced “friendships” between women in which women overtly and covertly try to sabotage one another.  The second layer of stereotypes involves painting these women as vapid and superficial creatures that are willing to fight over a wedding day, the day that “all little girls dream about.”

But their aggression toward each other isn’t their fault — they’re just women, after all, empty-headed creatures naturally prone to impractical fantasies and vicious rivalries.

Ugh.  Welcome to 2009.  As things change and we celebrate women like Rachel Maddow, Katie Couric and Campbell Brown, we are reminded how much stays the same.

Read Stephanie Zacharek’s full review here.

October 11, 2008

Book Spotlight: Feminism and Pop Culture by Andi Zeisler

Co-founder of Bitch Magazine, Andi Zeisler‘s most recent book, Feminism and Pop Culture (Seal Press) continues Zeisler’s focus on the realm of popular culture as an important area of analysis in considering the symbiotic relationship and influence of contemporary feminism and the media industry:

We’ve tried to get people to see that pop culture is a critical locus of feminism. Most young girls are not reading Ms. They’re watching “The OC” or “Veronica Mars.” It makes sense for us to talk about those pop-culture products, because those are the conversations that girls are having among themselves. They’re not talking about how many seats women have in Congress. They’re not talking about public policy.

TV and mass media in general are the conduit by which most people get their information and form their opinions. We are such a mediated society.