Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ah, L'amour

I don't know why there's been such a tizzy about the messages that the Twilight films pass along to their young, female viewers.  Or rather, I understand the tizzy; I just don't know why the people at the center of it are treating Twilight as if it's in any way anomalous instead of a mere intensification of an industry-wide process.  At the same time that more and more energy and talent are being poured into romantic comedies for and about men (which seem to invariably treat women as killjoy moms whose job it is to force the man-child lead to grow up), the ones Hollywood produces for women just keep getting more toxic.  In the last year alone, we had films whose messages can best be summed up as 'women!  Isn't it hilarious how they desperately want a man and yet no one will ever love them!,' 'if only you file away every last bit of your personality, wants and desires, you too can land an obnoxious misogynist!,' and 'a WOMAN?  Proposing to a MAN?  Who ever heard of such a thing?'.

And now we have The Bounty Hunter, in which, according to the trailer, Gerard Butler kidnaps his ex-wife, played by Jennifer Aniston, stuffs her in the trunk of his car, laughs when she tearfully begs him to let her go, block-tackles her when she tries to run away from him, handcuffs her to a hotel room bed, threatens her with his gun, and talks about wanting to kill her.  The only thing you'd have to do to turn this trailer into one for a woman-in-peril film would be to change the background music.



No wonder that romantic comedies like (500) Days of Summer, which 'only' reduces its female lead to a personality-free, over-romanticized blank, are treated like a brave, intelligent alternative.

6 comments:

Dotan Dimet said...

I'm sure there are other things Hollywood can do with Gerard Butler beyond making us want to punch him in the face.

Can't help but wonder how much more interesting this premise would be if the genders/buddy movie roles were reversed.

michellebacon said...

It's infuriating that Hollywood has succeeded in redefining "romantic comedy" as male-penned hatefests like Bounty Hunter and Knocked Up.

I think it's telling that the only fiction actually written for women that gets turned into films is the self-hating, misogynistic gender-role-enforcing stuff like Twilight.

Meanwhile there's this huge body of written fiction by and for women that mysteriously never gets the big screen treatment: romance novels. Something by Jennifer Crusie, not Confessions of a Shopoholic (I groaned when I saw that trailer). There's a wealth of romcom IP waiting to be mined by Hollywood, but you'd never know it by what they choose to produce in its stead.

Anonymous said...

thing is, if you reversed the gender roles as DD above suggests, then you'd be complaining that the film is merely reducing women to another stereotype, expressing just another facet of misogyny: the vicious harpy...

Abigail Nussbaum said...

Anonymous:

if you reversed the gender roles as DD above suggests, then you'd be complaining that the film is merely reducing women to another stereotype, expressing just another facet of misogyny: the vicious harpy...

Surely that depends on the execution? I've gotten rather tired of the 'if work X were less racist/sexist/other kind of -ist, it would be boring/not financially feasible/cause for complaint from the same people now accusing it of racism/sexim/other kind of -ism' construction, which has been cropping up like a weed in discussions of Avatar. No one can make these kinds of hard and fast determinations, and too often they're used to shut down criticism by either arguing that prejudice is an inevitable component of art, or that people complaining about it are over-sensitive.

Kit said...

I dunno, some premises are just inherently terrible. I don't think a romcom about a bounty hunter capturing their ex has any potential to not be an awful movie regardless of the gender choices- the plot more or less forces the characters into some sexist conformation. The only way you could fix it would be to make the couple homosexual, and even then the movie would still be terrible, it just wouldn't be sexist and terrible.

I agree with you that anon is trying to shut down the discussion rather than engaging with it, but I think they're actually right in this case.

communicator said...

I think you could make a silly but enjoyable film from that premise along the lines of Mr and Mrs Smith (not that I've seen that) or the recent Doctor Who. I wouldn't like to see a girl in the underdog role though. And there would have to be absolutely no abject terror or tearful begging. Yuck, what a mood-spoiler!

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