When I saw this opinion piece by Sacha Molitorisz in the Sydney Morning Herald I prepared to get my grrr on: To kick goals, girls need fewer bad teachers and more grand tourers:
Seeing Bad Teacher at a session packed with teenagers, I wondered: did all the girls in the audience want to be this woman? Did all the boys want to be with her? Is this the sort of female role model my daughters are destined to emulate when they’re older?
One female character in one movie who doesn’t act like a “proper woman” and there’s gnashing of teeth about role models and about how women are supposed to behave. I don’t recall people saying that boys and young men needed better role models when The Hangover was released. I recall words like “edgy comedy“, “clever script“, and frothing about it being hilarious. If you thought it was hilarious, then you should read The Lazy Misogyny Of The Hangover: “The Hangover, Phillips’ most recent (and successful, both comedically and commercially) work is arguably the worst of the lot, presenting women as warm-hearted whores, nut-cracking bitches, or spectacular-looking dum dums“. (For the record, I haven’t seen The Hangover. I saw a little bit on the weekend and it looked like utter shit. However, as was pointed out to me, I’m not exactly their target audience.)
Our culture needs more female protagonists, but not like this. We need fewer rap pretties gyrating like porn stars, fewer Elizabeth Halseys exploiting their appearance. Predatory as they are, these women are no more emancipated than ’50s pin-up girls. Their identity is defined entirely by their looks.
I agree when he says we need better female role models in our culture, but he’s only interested in the same three devils: glossy mags, rap music videos, and one female movie character. He’s blaming women, black men (although the gyrating women get most of the blame), and women. Phew, the white men who control the record labels and the movie studios are off the hook. Anyhow, it’s hard to argue that a gyrating woman in the background of a music video is a role model.
So, you want to talk about female role models in movies? Sure. Let’s start with female visibility in films. I’ve blogged before about the dearth of female characters in Pixar and Disney films, but here’s a quick summary:
* In the top 101 G-rated films from 1990 to 2005, only 28 per cent of speaking characters were female.
* In the 400 top-grossing G, PG, PG-13 and R films in the US between 1990 and 2006, only 27 per cent of the characters were female.
* In family movies, only 17 per cent of the people in crowd scenes are female.
* Female characters in G-rated films wear the same amount of skimpy clothing as female characters in R-rated films.
In The Shame of Family Films, Julia Baird writes:
A study commissioned by the advertising group Kaplan Thaler showed that 68 percent of those who watched Commander in Chief were more likely to take a female president seriously. Yes, even though it was just a TV show. That’s the point of all this—what we see on our screens matters. It shapes our imaginations, and sometimes limits them. “The more we see female characters who are hypersexual, one-dimensional eye candy, sidelined, or not even there,” [Geena] Davis said, “the more it affects the way boys and girls think about girls.”
It is a disgrace that we are still teaching girls that they should be onlookers in a world where boys do interesting things. Too many females on screen are inaction figures: watching, waiting, applauding, and baring flesh.
Every film does not have to be everything to everyone. But the film industry does seem to be just for boys and menn. I dare anyone to argue that all animated cars have to be male. Look at the twenty top grossing films in Australia this year and show me the female characters:
1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part Two)
2 Transformers 3
3 The Hangover Part II
4 Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (3D)
5 Fast Five
8 Cars 2
9 Kung Fu Panda 2
12 X-Men: First Class
13 Black Swan
14 Yogi Bear
15 Mr. Popper’s Penguins
17 Water for Elephants
19 The Green Hornet
20 Just Go With It
A few hot chicks and a few crazy hot chicks who have a lesbian sex scene. And Bridesmaids, which caused a heap of famous douchebags to write about how women aren’t funny. There was also some gnashing of teeth about the female characters behaving badly.
Remember at the start I said I agreed with much of what Molitorisz said? Yeah, well his final paragraph ruined that:
And besides, Ellyse is so much more attractive than Elizabeth [Halsey – the Cameron Diaz character in Bad Teacher]. That’s the ultimate irony. Much more than a sex object, Ellyse Perry is a fascinating subject.
He’s reduced one of Australia’s most talented athletes to a sex object. To whether he finds her attractive. Her sporting achievements – representing Australia in soccer and cricket – are nothing compared to whether or not a 42-year-old writer finds her hot. She’s 21, by the way.