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Women in Movies 
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Post Women in Movies
For a long time, women have been objectified by the industry, but it seems feminism has had either little effect, or contrived to make things worse. Too often "girl power" has in effect meant women aggressively participating in their own exploitation.

At least in the 30s and 40s women could be idealised. Now chivalry is considered insulting.

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Sat Dec 13, 2014 7:58 am
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Post Re: Women in Movies
I don't think it's just in movies, but how one grew up and was raised, and how this country is getting away from certain ideologies. I have always been taught to say Yes Mam to an older woman, hold the door open for a lady, rise from the table when a woman gets up, etc; its just how I was raised.

But also, like Vince Vaughn's character in Wedding Crashers, I won't apologize for being a cocksman. I think victoria's secret models are absolutely gorgeous and michael bay certainly doesn't cast them in his movies for their acting ability.

And when girls such as Miley Cyrus (who countless young women look up to) go from this:

Image

to this:

Image

it's fucking disgusting.


Sat Dec 13, 2014 2:41 pm
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Post Re: Women in Movies
Definitely have to disagree on Miley Cyrus(and I really don't see how she's relevant to a discussion on women in films anyways), I don't think what she's doing is disgusting in the least.

In case anyone's interested, there is a documentary on how women are represented in media:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1784538/

It certainly did make some interesting points, though I disagreed with some aspects of the film, such as praising Twilight for how successful it was and not acknowledging that Bella is actually a horrible role model for women(much worse then any of the other female characters in TV shows/movies shown in the documentary), it also wrongfully blames the media for violence against women and makes misleading and false claims about studies proving said claims true, when in actuality no study to date has backed up any kind of evidence that media in any way makes people commit acts of sexual violence.

I definitely do not believe feminism is "contrived" to make things worse, though there are some more extreme forms of feminism that I personally do not agree with.

I also don't necessarily "girl power" means participating in one's own exploitation(though the term is definitely overused).


Last edited by Vexer on Sun Dec 14, 2014 4:52 am, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Dec 13, 2014 9:13 pm
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Post Re: Women in Movies
The girl power term is definitely obnoxious and overused.

As for Miley Cyrus...I find her behavior obnoxious, but nothing more. And frankly, her um...transformation...got way too big a reaction from the media, as really it's very predictable and something everyone should have seen coming anyway. She's a pop star, she reached a certain age, and it's about what you would expect.

I do get annoyed when chivalry is considered sexist, especially in movies. Frankly, some of my favorite movies of all time are extrapolations of male fantasies regarding chivalry, many focusing specifically on the man taking on the role of protector to the woman. I don't really see anything wrong with that. Surely it's okay for some films to be aimed at male viewers, and real women aren't offended by that sort of thing. I may be more bothered with some femme fatale films, where women may be portrayed more hatefully.

And yeah, it often feels almost as if women were more favorably portrayed in movies from the 30s and 40s than they are now.


Sat Dec 13, 2014 10:28 pm
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Post Re: Women in Movies
One of the problems, and this is not just a contemporary problem but has become more glaring over the past so many years, is that it appears to be difficult for writers to actually write women. For the male writers out there who can capture at least some of the essence of men there are the female writers (in film and across all other literature) that don't have a grasp on women save for some basic alien caricature they've picked up from other nuggets of pop culture.

There was an article in Variety last year about Sarah Silverman that offered up something interesting about how, on top of the eternal difficulties of capturing women in print and film, it's now more deeply integrated into how women are looking at themselves the same way that men look at them. This bizarre reversal of the male gaze wherein women, at least as represented by themselves in pop literature, look at themselves with the same set of expectations and longings and scorn as their heterosexual male counterparts has given rise to a second ice age of anti-feminist thinking*. To the person willing to think about this for just a second I submit Bridesmaids, written by someone who is very much a woman.

The softcore porn "pure candy" pleasure of paperback fuck-novellas like Fifty Shades of Grey are as old as Victorian furniture but that they now seem to represent an ideal of popular entertainment -- what publisher doesn't want the success of that book or one of its clones? -- should send up alarms that not only is the old still new (white horses, may they carry us away!) but that the stuffy old ways are actually preferable to sincere liberation.

And what's most crazy is that, going by pop culture, it's almost impossible to know what sincere liberation would even look like. It surely isn't Bridesmaids with its obvious piggybacking on the attitudes and outlook of The Hangover and it isn't Superhero Movie of the Month with a leather-clad Anne Hathaway wagging her tail in the face of Christian Bale. Maybe Gravity, where it's impossible not to point and say "Hey, look! It's a girl astroman!", is the closest to a step in the right direction. But even that seems like a wanting example of an accurate portrayal of a woman, just a woman, on screen.

The problem isn't only that men have stuffed women into this corner but that it's unquestionable that women are, of course, right at home there. So women in movies can either be a novel little twist on masculinity and all its foibles or they may be women as seen by men as seen by women, almost the very same thing. Things remain in the twilight zone of screwball ideal, perfectly captured in its simplicity by Danny Boyle in Trainspotting:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIrOGH3MUw0

Indeed. Men fare better, on average, and of course there are exceptions when women get the same kind of treatment that Woody Allen affords men (but don't get me started on how he sees and writes women. My god.) but when it comes to what's being gabbed about at the water cooler you can bet it's about guys, some realistic, and the testosterone-informed women who love them. Crazy shoppers who just need to be swept away with the only lesson to learn being the patience to just wait for it to happen.

If anybody needs me I'll be at my desk at Cambridge University. Office hours are posted on your schedule.

*Substitute your own term here if you like. It's what I chose but I'm sure something better may have occurred to some of you.

PS: Times like this I wish a girl was on the forum. Just one.

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Tue Dec 16, 2014 3:12 pm
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Post Re: Women in Movies
I personally don't agree that Bridesmaids is necessarily piggybacking on THe Hangover, as I really don't see much similarity between the two films.


Tue Dec 16, 2014 6:53 pm
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Post Re: Women in Movies
I could not have said it any better, Mark. I was trying to come up with a response similar to that, but couldn't quite find the words.

A problem that you didn't mention is that writers seem unable to divorce femininity from sexuality. There is a difference, of course, but it's not something you see much in most studio productions. It does seem like Hollywood writers' way of making women equal to men is by making them drink, smoke and fuck just like men. Either that, or you see women frequently typecast as ditzy hot chicks (see Anna Faris in Scary Movie, The House Bunny, Observe and Report) or stereotyped as an obnoxious hippo (see Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids, Identity Their, Tammy, etc.) Or any other stereotype, you get my drift.

It's too rare that women are given roles that allow them to be shown as intelligent. I guess that's what I liked about Jessica Chastain's character in Interstellar; yeah, the writing was a bit flawed, but at least she was smart.

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Tue Dec 16, 2014 8:58 pm
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Post Re: Women in Movies
I don't really think McCarthy has been stereotyped, IMO she always manages to give her characters some amount of depth.

But you do bring up some good points, of course women can also have the same problems writing female characters(i've heard a number of women complain about how unrealistic the characters on Sex and the City).


Wed Dec 17, 2014 12:06 am
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Post Re: Women in Movies
Vexer wrote:
how unrealistic the characters on Sex and the City).

That is a great example. Women LOVED that show (also rubbish like Desperate Housewives and Fifty Shades of Grey), despite the women being portrayed as most woman actually aren't (thankfully), but presumably somehow aspire to be (i.e. ridiculously superficial, selfish, materialistic and even dominated). This naturally casts women in a terrible light if you assume that this is indeed what women want deep down. Of course men aren't much better. The problem is more about what we THINK we want without actually THINKING about it, which is endlessly exploited and marketed to us by a purely profit driven industry.


Wed Dec 17, 2014 3:25 am
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Post Re: Women in Movies
I did find Gravity to have strong hints of sexism regardless. But as for women reinforcing chauvinist stereotypes...

What I think from personal experience is that America is an intrinsically conservative, prudish country. Sure, we seem to split down the middle in terms of politics, but I really think even the most liberal people aspire to some semblance of a conservative lifestyle. The "American Dream" IS inherently conservative. And despite several prominent democratic presidents, we've never actually gotten away from the 50s conformity ideal. Not even close. Progression has happened in terms of the jobs women can get. But in terms of aspiring to support their husbands, there's a lot that hasn't changed and never will. More than half of the women I've ever met find many aspects of male chauvinism to be "cute" and amusing. I went to a screening of The Spy Who Loved Me two years ago, aecialnd it wasn't the men who laughed the most. It was the women. They love that shit. Or at least they can if they acquire the taste for it. My own girlfriend loves the Bond movies, in fact preferring the older entries. Pussy Galore doesn't offend her. And why should it?

But as for women in movies, here's what I've noticed: the 30s and 40s were all about chick flicks, literally. Actresses were just as big as actors, and all the biggest directors specialized in bringing out the best from actresses. George Cukor, William Wyler, Howard Hawks, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Vivien Leigh, Katharine Hepburn, and countless others. These women were huge, and the movies themselves were geared toward women. Hitchcock himself was known as a director of "women's pictures." Guy-movie directors like Raoul Walsh and Mervyn LeRoy were relegated to the background.

Then, in the 50s, things started branching. There was a wider gap between people like Douglas Sirk and Anthony Mann. Guy movies were starting to become more prominent. Then more still in the 60s, with French New Wave, which was subjectively male for the most part, Bond movies, David Lean movies, etc. So by the time the New Hollywood directors came around, there arguably wasn't a single woman's director among them. Few, if any, 3-dimensional characters are developed in The Godfather or in any of the films of Spielberg, Scorsese, Peckinpah, De Palma, etc. Robert Altman, here and there, but still largely focusing on the subjective perspectives of men.


Wed Dec 17, 2014 5:43 am
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Post Re: Women in Movies
Mark III wrote:
One of the problems, and this is not just a contemporary problem but has become more glaring over the past so many years, is that it appears to be difficult for writers to actually write women. For the male writers out there who can capture at least some of the essence of men there are the female writers (in film and across all other literature) that don't have a grasp on women save for some basic alien caricature they've picked up from other nuggets of pop culture.

There was an article in Variety last year about Sarah Silverman that offered up something interesting about how, on top of the eternal difficulties of capturing women in print and film, it's now more deeply integrated into how women are looking at themselves the same way that men look at them. This bizarre reversal of the male gaze wherein women, at least as represented by themselves in pop literature, look at themselves with the same set of expectations and longings and scorn as their heterosexual male counterparts has given rise to a second ice age of anti-feminist thinking*. To the person willing to think about this for just a second I submit Bridesmaids, written by someone who is very much a woman.

The softcore porn "pure candy" pleasure of paperback fuck-novellas like Fifty Shades of Grey are as old as Victorian furniture but that they now seem to represent an ideal of popular entertainment -- what publisher doesn't want the success of that book or one of its clones? -- should send up alarms that not only is the old still new (white horses, may they carry us away!) but that the stuffy old ways are actually preferable to sincere liberation.

And what's most crazy is that, going by pop culture, it's almost impossible to know what sincere liberation would even look like. It surely isn't Bridesmaids with its obvious piggybacking on the attitudes and outlook of The Hangover and it isn't Superhero Movie of the Month with a leather-clad Anne Hathaway wagging her tail in the face of Christian Bale. Maybe Gravity, where it's impossible not to point and say "Hey, look! It's a girl astroman!", is the closest to a step in the right direction. But even that seems like a wanting example of an accurate portrayal of a woman, just a woman, on screen.

The problem isn't only that men have stuffed women into this corner but that it's unquestionable that women are, of course, right at home there. So women in movies can either be a novel little twist on masculinity and all its foibles or they may be women as seen by men as seen by women, almost the very same thing. Things remain in the twilight zone of screwball ideal, perfectly captured in its simplicity by Danny Boyle in Trainspotting:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIrOGH3MUw0

Indeed. Men fare better, on average, and of course there are exceptions when women get the same kind of treatment that Woody Allen affords men (but don't get me started on how he sees and writes women. My god.) but when it comes to what's being gabbed about at the water cooler you can bet it's about guys, some realistic, and the testosterone-informed women who love them. Crazy shoppers who just need to be swept away with the only lesson to learn being the patience to just wait for it to happen.


If anybody needs me I'll be at my desk at Cambridge University. Office hours are posted on your schedule.

*Substitute your own term here if you like. It's what I chose but I'm sure something better may have occurred to some of you.

PS: Times like this I wish a girl was on the forum. Just one.


That's a wicked post dude.

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Wed Dec 17, 2014 5:53 am
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Post Re: Women in Movies
I read an article on Scarlett Johannson a while back, and in it she said that she "fell in love" with the part she was given in The Prestige ... and I thought - what the fuck? This is one of the best known actresses in Hollywood, even by 2006 she had been in Lost in Translation and numerous others films. She WAS well known, and she fell in love with a part that was basically a walking prop for Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman.

I was always disinterested in sexism in Hollywood, but I must admit this did strike a chord with me. If an A-lister could think such a minor role be worth getting excited over, then actresses really do have it a bit shit.

Mark made some good points above. Especially re: Bridesmaids which provides an excellent microcosm for the whole problem.

It's a film that is basically a formulaic RomCom. On one level it's an insecure woman is messed around by good looking playah. Then said woman finds nicer more down to earth guy and lives happily ever after. So far, so Hollywood female. But with the added puerile-ness of the Hangover lumped in for good measure. Is this woman's place? The film was a huge success and launched professional chubber Melissa McArthy into the mainstream. Now she's out there, misbehaving and proving (apparently) that you don't have to be Sandra Bullock to be a worthwhile woman. In fact women are just men really, but with tits.

Are there positive feminists in Cinema? And not just the fettishsing of Katheryn Hepburn and whoever else. There are good female actors who get worthwhile roles. Jodie Foster springs to mind. Erm, I'm struggling a bit here, Judie Dench, I guess.

Nancy Dowd wrote the screenplay to Slapshot based on her Brother's experiences in minor league hockey. A wonderful critique and satire on what happens to a man's world when you take our toys off us. To me, that is feminism in film making. As now that I know that the film is written by a woman, it all makes sense. The cold, steely detached look at how a town's economic fortunes threaten its masculinity. It must have been a cathartic anthropological exercise for her to pen such chronicle on decline. And not in a nasty way. Yes it takes the piss, that's what people do, but it isn't riddled by misandry. It's a film written by a woman, but not a film that is a film about being written by a woman.

My conclusion is that woman, perhaps more than men, are victims of the binary society we, or at least the media, exist in. You're either liberal or conservative. Pro gay, or anti gay. George Bush or Barrack Obama. You think Avengers is the greatest thing ever or a waste of time. You love Britney Spears/Linsey Lohan/Christina Aguilera or take some joy in her latest public meltdown.

If you're a famous woman you'll be pushed into sex symbol or man-hating lesbian/female man. The 2 templates the industry allow you to launch yourself from. The 2 gears of public life fuck us all, but women especially.

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Wed Dec 17, 2014 7:31 am
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Post Re: Women in Movies
Have you noticed how lately the movie-related internet has become a battleground for feminism? I don't mean that in a reductive way. But when a movie like Gone Girl comes out we get 800 think-pieces about whether it does, or does not, uphold someone's idea of feminism. It makes me want to write an article about how Foxcatcher (which has two female characters with a total of perhaps 20 lines) is the "most feminist movie ever" just to see if I can get people to agree with me.

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Wed Dec 17, 2014 8:36 am
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Post Re: Women in Movies
Mark III wrote:
To the person willing to think about this for just a second I submit Bridesmaids, written by someone who is very much a woman.


Awesome post and one I very much agree with, but one small counterpoint...isn't the fact that we have a movie like Bridesmaids (and others like it since), that features an all woman cast and isn't some cheesy romantic drama like Steel Magnolias or Terms of Endearment, a sign of progress, at least on some level? A ripoff of The Hangover that stars women is at least a little better for "the feminist movement" than a ripoff of The Hangover that stars men, right?

It's a micro vs. macro debate - the movies themselves might not be advocating what some consider feminism, but the larger point that women are now considered viable candidates for roles and movies like these probably shouldn't be ignored. Which one is more important, or represents something closer to the ideal for feminism, is absolutely an important debate.


Wed Dec 17, 2014 11:07 am
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Post Re: Women in Movies
I feel as if I owe two or so posts to address all the additional points that have been made and, time being what it is, will almost surely have to do so.

Sexual Chocolate brought up Melissa McCarthy and made it possible for me to finally say the following: I think Shakespeare would have loved her. And I really mean this, not trying to spit on The Bard's grave or incite some small intellectual riot or bring on the Harold Bloom Squad. It's that she's really the perfect Shakespearean fool: all use of physical space, all barb-loaded dialogue, a hint (or more) of tragedy below the surface, the attention she demands. And, most important of all, she's a neuter. Not a drop of sexuality or sensuality or even gender colors her roles. If he had ever written a play where the fool was front-and-center, the impetus for all the action and the most significant lead character, it could be cast with Melissa McCarthy. Try to picture it, if you would. Shakespeare may have killed her character off in the fifth act but, minus said fifth, there's The Heat or something like it. The mind reels.

So I add to S.C.'s list (ditzy hot chick, obnoxious plain frump) the obvious: frigid intellectual who's a knockout under the thin veneer of corporate responsibility and eyeglasses and what Melissa McCarthy represents: the neuter, a female that has been stripped of femininity so that she may threaten and not earn the love or respect she may deserve. Which, when you come right down to it, represents an entirely new problem: women are either a threat or a solution, nothing like a gray area. Women are a solution to themselves, to men, to the problem of how to cast the fool.

And as far as intelligent women captured on screen? They may exist in some form, in some way where they're portrayed by writers, directors, and the actresses as organically intelligent people. But as often as not we get grossly hyperbolic compensation where the intelligent woman is seen as ruthlessly ambitious and cold to the touch, an analytical machine all the more special because she's a woman. Which brings us back to the chief problem that started this thread.

There are, of course, great examples of Women As We Know Them in film. Frances Ha, with its average heroine and her comprehensible existential woes, did a good job of bringing to life a character we've all met and haven't rushed to get away from. This is progressive, sad as it is that progress may be marked by a neurotic woman plagued by self-doubt. But progress it is. I'll do well to remember that progressive doesn't always mean marching forever toward a better tomorrow. So we come again to the case of Bridesmaids and whether or not it represents progress.

I think not. I see it is as a parallel move, the women now neutered men. And while the condescending drip that is Steel Magnolias or Terms of Endearment is yet more dusty Victorian furniture, Bridesmaids offers women a chance to play people that are plagued by Victorian problems: have we the relationship we so had with our sisters?; have we the care earned by honest virtue?; and who are the villains in the drama? The black and white: neutered sisters, through it all. Don't mistake my terminology for some damnation of the bridesmaids of Bridesmaids. It's that women they may be but Austen Soul they still remain. How very old fashioned indeed.

It's hard to know from which platform to argue because, alas, none of us really know the experience that is womanhood. But we all know what looks and sounds familiar. I've known a Frances Ha but I've never known a ukulele-strumming Zooey Deschanel tap dancing on a bowling alley (at least not without self-inflicted steak knife wounds on her upper arms, something the quirk capers of recent yesteryear never bothered to film) and I've known intelligent women who exist as people, not as some wrapped-up archetype, but they so seldom cover the gray areas in filmdom. Exaggeration is what the people want and I'm not really so different.

But I think of Claudette Colbert taking off from the ship, diving right into the water at the beginning of It Happened One Night and find myself wondering if MGC isn't right about how the audiences, and their attendant warpings, have changed and so, alas, Ideal Women are now -- in the words of NotHughGrant -- "just men really, but with tits". And it isn't all Shakespeare: those aren't men in drag up on the screen, drinking their beers and shitting into public sinks. Those fools were played by our better halves.

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Wed Dec 17, 2014 2:41 pm
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Post Re: Women in Movies
Mark III wrote:
It's hard to know from which platform to argue because, alas, none of us really know the experience that is womanhood. But we all know what looks and sounds familiar. I've known a Frances Ha but I've never known a ukulele-strumming Zooey Deschanel tap dancing on a bowling alley (at least not without self-inflicted steak knife wounds on her upper arms, something the quirk capers of recent yesteryear never bothered to film) and I've known intelligent women who exist as people, not as some wrapped-up archetype, but they so seldom cover the gray areas in filmdom. Exaggeration is what the people want and I'm not really so different.


Agreed on the difficulty in arguing these points. The irony of a film forum frequented by only men discussing the merits of feminism is basically the definition of irony. Or pretension. Or assholery. Or maybe it isn't the definition of anything and that's just a terrible phrase I use way too often to sound like I know stuff. Whatever the case may be, it's still an interesting discussion even if a person with a vagina can shit all over anything we say, no matter how valid, by saying, "yeah, but you have a dick." It's a fair point, and she'd be right, but that doesn't stop me from having my opinions. Probably because I have a dick.

So, a question: Does the portrayal of women in film necessarily need to be loaded with examples of, as Mark calls them, Women As We Know Them in order to have value to feminism? I mean, it's not like Hollywood is particularly invested in showing Men As We Know Them, at least not with any kind of regularity. I don't know anyone like Will Hunting or James Bond, after all. It's an industry built on archetypes, both because that's what sells (exaggeration, fantasy, escapism, etc.) and because it's really hard to write (and act) "real" characters. We can argue whether or not that should be more common, but if that's the end goal, we aren't really discussing an issue inherent to feminism, but one that plagues film as a whole. Sure, there are less overall opportunities for women, but that's why I'd argue (and am, I guess) women getting these archetypal roles that traditionally would have gone to men is progress.


Wed Dec 17, 2014 4:06 pm
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Post Re: Women in Movies
Quote:
mean, it's not like Hollywood is particularly invested in showing Men As We Know Them, at least not with any kind of regularity.


There is something of a market for films that tell us men have lost purpose in our lives. At the back end of C20 this was a theme being hammered like Lohan's ass cheeks after a few glasses of fizz.

But, I don't recall it happening for women

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Wed Dec 17, 2014 5:28 pm
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Post Re: Women in Movies
NotHughGrant wrote:
Quote:
mean, it's not like Hollywood is particularly invested in showing Men As We Know Them, at least not with any kind of regularity.


There is something of a market for films that tell us men have lost purpose in our lives. At the back end of C20 this was a theme being hammered like Lohan's ass cheeks after a few glasses of fizz.

But, I don't recall it happening for women

That sexual comment was unnecessary.

What is C20 BTW?


Wed Dec 17, 2014 5:34 pm
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Post Re: Women in Movies
NotHughGrant wrote:
Quote:
mean, it's not like Hollywood is particularly invested in showing Men As We Know Them, at least not with any kind of regularity.


There is something of a market for films that tell us men have lost purpose in our lives. At the back end of C20 this was a theme being hammered like Lohan's ass cheeks after a few glasses of fizz.

But, I don't recall it happening for women


I'm not sure that qualifies as either A) Men As We Know Them, or B) regularity.

It also ignores my larger point - that Hollywood deals in archetypes, so why wouldn't, or shouldn't, women take archetypal roles?


Wed Dec 17, 2014 5:54 pm
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Post Re: Women in Movies
PeachyPete wrote:
NotHughGrant wrote:
Quote:
mean, it's not like Hollywood is particularly invested in showing Men As We Know Them, at least not with any kind of regularity.


There is something of a market for films that tell us men have lost purpose in our lives. At the back end of C20 this was a theme being hammered like Lohan's ass cheeks after a few glasses of fizz.

But, I don't recall it happening for women


I'm not sure that qualifies as either A) Men As We Know Them, or B) regularity.

It also ignores my larger point - that Hollywood deals in archetypes, so why wouldn't, or shouldn't, women take archetypal roles?

Agreed, it's refreshing to see female led films like The Hunger Games series do so well at the box-office.


Wed Dec 17, 2014 5:57 pm
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