The always engaging Manohla Dargis of the New York Times recently wrote a brilliant article about what Kathryn Bigelow’s Best Director win at the Oscars means. Dargis’ thorough, bullet-proof essay concludes that women in film are probed about their personal life more than men as well as “ghettoized in romantic comedy.”
This got me thinking about some of those recent movies, both romantic and comical, and just how they view women. Let’s take a look at two of 2009’s biggest films: The Hangover and The Twilight Saga: New Moon.
At a glance, these films may appear to have absolutely nothing in common. On closer analysis though, they both share some kind of anti-feminist philosophy. The Hangover operates under the philosophy that women are either a nuisance, or just total bitches, while New Moon treats its female “heroine” like a junkie looking for a testosterone fix.
In The Hangover, though, the real claws come out. Everyone in the film is either escaping from a woman who is painted as a monster, or painted as a distraction from the fun. New Moon offers Bella (Kristen Stewart) the choice between two hunks, never presenting “being single” as one of them.
There is also the other side of the coin. Recent films like The Ugly Truth and The Proposal both present strong, impenetrably independent female characters somehow seduced by the macho charm they claim to revile. This is the kind of film constructed and aimed at women. The factory-line of horribly made romantic comedies not only perpetuate gender stereotypes, they insult the intelligence of the gender they are made for.
It is these kinds of negative portrayals in both mainstream and independent cinema that help solidify the glass ceiling in Hollywood. Thankfully, Kathryn Bigelow has more directing talent and rebellious spirit than any of the aforementioned movies combined.
Time for discussion. What do you think of female roles in Hollywood, on and off camera? Did Kathryn Bigelow’s win change anything long-term, or are women forever stuck in rom-com hell?