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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

trailer break: ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’

Take a break from work: watch a movie trailer…


Oh the product placement you’ll go!

Girls are so cute with their cute shoes and their cute bags and total lack of financial acumen and their lying on their resumes! Aren’t they? Seriously, what man wouldn’t want to just snap us up?

And they will! So don’t worry, gals: keep on buying all those cute designer shoes and cute designer bags — even if you need to engage in fisticuffs with other women to acquire them. Because you’ll need them to convince rich cute magazine publishers to fall in love with you! Which they will! And then all that pesky credit card debt will melt away, and you can start spending his money! Tee-hee!

*sigh*

How can it be that the depiction of women in movies 60 and 70 years ago was more progressive than it is today? How have we gone from smart, wisecracking adults who could hold our own yakking about sports and politics and business, adults who interacted with men as adults, to simpering, giggly ninnies obsessed with fripperies who have to lie about our work experience to get a job and who interact with men like we’re adorable babies?

How is a character like the one Isla Fischer is playing here something to be applauded instead of something to be pitied? She’s in love with shopping? That’s really… sad.

Confessions of a Shopaholic opens in the U.S. on February 13, and in the U.K. on February 20.



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  • JoshDM

    Look out, Buckaroo Banzai! I smell a contender!

  • grinder

    Ugh. As a female sometimes I really feel like a different species. At least different than the kind of women that made these truly terrible books a best seller, and the women who will go out in droves to watch this crap.

  • How can it be that the depiction of women in movies 60 and 70 years ago was more progressive than it is today? How have we gone from smart, wisecracking adults who could hold our own yakking about sports and politics and business, adults who interacted with men as adults, to simpering, giggly ninnies obsessed with fripperies who have to lie about our work experience to get a job and who interact with men like we’re adorable babies?

    I have my theories…

    1. Movies used to be more oriented towards adults. Today they aren’t.

    2. Movie audiences used to have a higher expectation in regard to adult behaviour. Today they don’t.

    3. Movie actresses used to fight harder for their roles. Plus, certain actresses had more box office clout–which meant they had more influence over whether or not they had to settle for a crappy role. And which also meant that no one considered it unusual to make a movie in which the female lead was the main attraction.

    4. The women’s movie–the movie generally intended for female audiences–was considered more respectable then.

    I’m not going to pretend yesteryear was perfect–try comparing yesteryear’s Roxie Hart to this century’s Chicago if you really want to see how bad things could get back then–but it’s often depressing to see how little progress we appear to have made since then.

    Then again yesteryear didn’t have a Flick Filosopher…

  • MaSch

    And now for *the* important question of this century, cinema-wise: Why do have blatantly misogynist movies portraying women as idiots (although “loveable idiots”, or “adorable idiots”, although that sounds too much of puppies) such an enormous amount of succes with women? While those same movies are being hated by men?

    When I am more offended by a movie’s poor portrayal of women than my girlfriend, what the dickens is going wrong? (And no, the answer “my girlfriend” is not one I want to hear!)

  • Question I can’t resist asking after seeing the movie on DVD last night (yes, I was weak and backsliding):

    Would this same character be equally pathetic if she was spending all her money on laptops, I-pods, I-phones, DVRs, and other technological devices?

    Somehow I doubt I’m going to get an answer to this question but still…

  • Accounting Ninja

    And now for *the* important question of this century, cinema-wise: Why do have blatantly misogynist movies portraying women as idiots (although “loveable idiots”, or “adorable idiots”, although that sounds too much of puppies) such an enormous amount of succes with women? While those same movies are being hated by men?

    Short answer: patriarchy. Lots of women find their lives easier if they just go with what society expects of them and never call out sexist bullshit when they see it. I know, for me, since I’ve started calling out bullshit, my life has been filled with lots more men, on internet and in real life, demanding that I explain myself ;). This type never really thinks too hard about what things really mean for women as a whole. They might buy into the whole “empowerful” movement, in that they think being a sexual spectacle for men is somehow “girl power”.

    And when men in a patriarchy see this, they get to reaffirm just how silly and stupid women are. Hence the bile men have toward these movies. Even a smart women’s movie, if it so much as has a WHIFF of this, men will boo it.

  • So a movie that reinforces the typical male patriarch’s low opinion of women is a movie they’d hate?

    In times past, such patriarchs were never shy about loving movies that reinforced their low opinion of blacks, Latins, Chinese and other minorities so why the difference here?

  • Accounting Ninja

    @Tonio: I think the difference is this:
    White men could laugh at racial stereotypes because doing so didn’t threaten their masculine sexuality. But anything feminine–for women–would be seen as threatening. Could you imagine a dudebro type of guy whose buddies discovered his watching of “chick flicks”? I’m sure his protestations of “But I watch them to MAKE FUN of them!” would just be laughed at. SURE you do, “pussy”.

  • Grinebiter

    Messengers are being shot here, it’s not all about deconstruction of the media, there is actually a real world out here. One In which new shopping malls are being built right next to old shopping malls so as to double the supply of identical fashion stores. In which my city’s only shop for classical music becomes yet another DVD and PC game store, while the number of bookstores remains the same, like about two. A world in which over half the female teenagers in my country tell pollsters that their only hobby or interest is shopping. It’s not just media portrayals of women (and men) that are being dumbed down, it’s real women (and men) who are being dumbed down. We are the Eloi……

  • JoshB

    Speak for yourself, I’m a Morlock all the way.

  • MaSch

    So, women as such are brainwashed by The Patriarchy while men are threatened by anything feminine?

    Well, Accounting Ninja, I am tempted to call out bullshit, but I fear that you would ask me to explain myself, yourself ;)

    (I mean, how can we demand more women in positions of power while at the same time considering them ignorant of what they *really* want?)

  • Accounting Ninja

    No, it’s not “brainwashing”. None of us live in a vacuum. The society we grow up in and get messages from from the time we are infants affects us in ways we may be unaware of, until such time where we get down to examine how everything is interconnected. An unexamined life is not the same as being brainwashed (which implies complete lack of agency).

    I could write a whole article about my teenage and early 20’s anti-feminism. I said the most horrible things about women, thinking they were true. I bought into Venus and Mars thinking. I had a distaste for women as friends, because I didn’t “get” them, and I gathered only male friends. But, all the while, a little voice inside me told me something felt uncomfortable about what I was saying. Whenever one of my male friends said women were stupid or slutty, but that I was “different”, the voice murmured. The voice would protest weakly about the roles of women in movies, for instance: why did I think movies and TV sucked so bad? Whenever I’d bring up my dissatisfaction with the way women were treated in media my conservative family pulled out all the Humorless Feminist tropes (even though I wasn’t a feminist then), basically telling me to shut up and lighten up, and that it was all in my imagination.

    So, I have some experience digging myself out of the heaps of cultural influence. Examining the things I thought and said and how, like little drops of water, may not seem like much, but multiply the drops by millions and you get a tidal wave moving through the country. I stop contributing to this wave, and I still continue to examine my life.

    Why would someone NOT do this? Truthfully, my life was much easier when I was toeing the party line. I got to laugh at sexist jokes and think in easy stereotypes. I got to avoid getting to know real women by asserting “they” weren’t like me (even though I hardly knew any!) I got more approval, socially, than I do now– just try bringing up anything feminist in mixed conversation and see how fast it dries up! :) I pushed down the dissenting voice by convincing myself that I really was different, so unique, not like those other drunken sluts in my peer group. So, not only was I an uptight teen and early 20-something with a bad attitude toward women, but I was also a raging narcissist. Nice combo, huh?

    Ironically, people who told me to lighten up and that I was imagining everything contributed to my “unique snowflake” mentality. I felt like I was the only one who felt as I did, I figured I must be a Defective Woman. But who wanted to be a Woman, silly and slutty? Much rather be a Man, approved by men. Feminist readings really opened my eyes and suddenly that voice inside me made sense. Plus, the internet showed me hundreds of women just like me, serving to give me perspective. I am NOT so unique. Or rather, every woman is unique. Because *gasp* we’re people!

  • Grinebiter

    Speak for yourself, I’m a Morlock all the way.

    Well, I’m not an Eloi either, I’m a nerd. Almost the same thing, perhaps. I’d be an ex officio Morlock if it wasn’t that my eyes prefer daylight to underground.

    I wish someone would make a good film of “The Time Machine”…… I want it with the sweet time-lapse photography of the 1960, the sense of deep time of the book, Wells’ socio-political message intact, the unredeemability of the Eloi, the dying sun at the end, and the elegaic coda

    I had a distaste for women as friends, because I didn’t “get” them, and I gathered only male friends.

    Funny, I was almost the mirror-image, though not for the same reason. Until I was 40 or so almost all my friends were women, some because we were genuine friends and some because I fancied them (cf other thread). Now, I’m more balanced.

  • MaSch

    Accounting Ninja: Thank you for your reply. As Grinebiter, I’m pretty much the mirror image of what you describe (although still far from 40). I also considered myself different and *better* than those other brutish drunken men, and rather wanted to be more like a woman (people with poor eyesight sometimes mistake me for a girl).

    However (you knew there would come a however), I have many problems with this “blame the patriarchy” thing. It always sounds to me like absolving women from the choices they make, like spending money on misogynist movies, in order to pin the blame on the “male-centric” society we live in. And claiming that grown-up women are not responsible for their choices sounds to me much like brainwashing (and yes, I realize that I’ve jumped two steps away from what you said).

    I would be fine that the claim that “women’s” taste for misogynistic trash movies is an acquired taste, acquired through years and years of peer pressure and media exposure. But I do think that the women who enjoy this really do enjoy this, and would continue producing and watching such movies if women would take over the world tomorrow and the world became as female-centric as it is now male-centric (remember, dudes love watching fellow members of their gender depicted as idiots on screen, too). So, blaming the phenomenon of misogynist rom-coms, however indirectly, on men doesn’t really convince me.

    Also, the claim “patriarchy is to blame” seems a little bit off in this context by looking at it from a naive angle: Many non-single hetero men *fear* the next shallow, vapid, generic rom-com as much as the next feminist film critic, because they *know* that their significant other will try to drag them to the movie, and that they will dislike the movie.

    If all studios on earth would proclaim tomorrow that there will no more rom-coms *ever*, the shouts of joy by men would be deafening. If patriarchy would really serve men and have anything to do with rom-coms, it would stop rom-coms now. (The last two paragraphs are pretty much tongue in cheek, by the way.)

  • Grinebiter

    I also considered myself different and *better* than those other brutish drunken men, and rather wanted to be more like a woman (people with poor eyesight sometimes mistake me for a girl).

    Me too! Although I don’t look like a woman. Although again, I sound like one on the phone. When I worked in an office, I found that customer service made my pitch rise even further; deference, doncha know. In consequence, when people asked for “the lady with the such-and-such accent”, everyone knew that meant me. I never had a problem with this, but occasionally a customer went batshit, as though I had seduced him unawares, like Dil. Was asked once, “Are you sure you’re not a tranny?” Go figure.

    Even though I now talk with men more, I am still neither brutish nor drunken. In fact I still can’t stand suchlike, but I have acquired some civilised and erudite men-friends on the Net. Unfortunately they are on the wrong side of the Atlantic Ocean so we can’t do movies. :-(

    Patriarchy is a metaphysical construct that fails the falsifiability criterion. That is, any objection can be dismissed as a product of patriarchal consciousness. In this way it is very similar to the way godbotherers use the concept of the devil. That is, your arguments against the existence of the devil are proof that you are possessed by him, or at least on his side. Imagine that I were to posit an evil “Gynenoocracy”, the intellectual dominance of women. When feminists rise up in outrage, I could then counter-accuse them of being trapped inside the Gynenoocratic box and affected by its deep-structural discourse. Which proves I’m right, neena neena.

    Many non-single hetero men *fear* the next shallow, vapid, generic rom-com as much as the next feminist film critic, because they *know* that their significant other will try to drag them to the movie, and that they will dislike the movie.

    LOL. Makes me even happier that I’m single. My last S.O. had four legs, and if I could, I’d have a cat again.

  • MaSch

    Well, there are some people on the internet who claim that “falsifiability” is less important that “theoretical plausibility” (yeah, that sounds like “in consonance with my prejudices” to me, as well). You could possibly deconstruct the criterion of “falsifiability” as patriarchal, itself.

  • Accounting Ninja

    Okay, guys, you should know that personally, I do not believe the whole “false consciousness” thing that some other feminists believe. Just because I think there are cultural forces at work and that many people choose not to examine this AND that sexism and racism still exist does not mean I’m going to take it to the absurd conclusion that we cannot make choices or know what’s right because we are brainwashed. Nor did I say “anything” can be blamed on patriarchy. We’re talking about sexist depictions in movies.

    Patriarchy exists to me, but as many feminists point out, women aren’t the only ones hurt by it. Patriarchy hurts everyone. Like, Grinebiter, just why do you suppose it was such a big deal to that jerkass guy that you were actually a man when he thought you were a woman? Maybe he had been attracted to your voice and greatly disturbed upon finding out it was a man he was thinking those thoughts about. Instead of laughing it off, he got pissed, because now he’s had “gay” thoughts. I’ve read many feminist essays on how patriarchy contributes to homophobia and “trans panic”. Simply put, it boils down to scorn given to men when they try to “be like” women: effeminate, engaging in receptive penetrative sex, or even transitioning to being a woman. If “woman” wasn’t thought of as lesser than “man”, there would not be such a visceral reaction of disgust. To a lesser extent, it’s why girls can be “tomboys” and dress as boys (they are aspiring to be male, which is fine) but a boy can NEVER wear a dress! Why would he DEMEAN himself like that??

    As for women who enjoy these movies, there are probably many reasons they do. The chief reason is probably that they don’t recognize much of it as “sexist”. They might think, hey it stars women. Girl power! I never liked rom-coms myself because I find them cliched. I only began to see the sexism when I read many, many thoughtful critiques from feminist writers who pointed out things I hadn’t seen before. It IS possible to examine previously held beliefs and after that, you may not like what you used to, but them’s the breaks for taking the blinders off. And these thoughtful feminist’s critiques are automatically judged a non-worthy perspective or An Agenda. After all, aren’t they all zealous man-haters? But to me, they have proven themselves thoughtful and intelligent (MAJ included). And I may not always agree with every single point they make, but I’m not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    I used to enjoy Family Guy. But since examining my previously held beliefs, I now find it barely tolerable at best. But men AND women watch it, totally not seeing the misogyny. They shrug and say it’s just a stupid cartoon, and it’s funny. What sexism? Because a few years ago, I would’ve said the same thing. It’s uncomfortable to be confronted with that. To realize that they have been laughing AT you all along.

  • MaSch

    Accounting Ninja: Damn, your thoughtful responses do make it hard for me to simply snark. You’ve got me trying to make a sensible argument, damnit!

    It’s good to read that you do not buy that “patriarchy makes women do bad things” nonsense, and it’s good to read that you acknowledge the existence of such thoughts in feminism.

    However, I think there has been a bit of a misunderstanding: You said that the subject we are discussing (until MaryAnn stops us) are sexist depictions at the movies; I thought we were discussing women’s liking of said depictions. I bet if only a tiny minority of women were not offended by these sexist depictions in rom-coms, those depictions would stop, because women are the target audience (plus their drag-along boyfriends), and you wouldn’t want to offend your target audience.

    I also think that these “girls can dress like boys, but boys can’t dress like girls, and this proves societal misogyny” is not a good example, since you could also state that obviously girls have a wider range of acceptable self-expression than boys do. One could argue that “dressing like a girl” emphasizes ones vulnerability, and society scorns vulnerable boys/men, while vulnerable girls/women are fine. I think that society rather scorns men claiming parts of the female gender role (like vulnerability or softness) because they think only girls/women should be entitled to them, which would take the same observation to the contrary conclusion. Nothing in gender is ever so simple.

    I also started seeing sexism (and understanding what is commonly derided as the male gaze (thanks, Michael Bay, for illustrating that concept)) where I didn’t before, and I also rather swallow such comments not to spoil other people’s fun with my feminist views. (If you should ever stumble upon “Bienvenue chez les Sh’tis”, you will probably realize as I did that while the men were all average to weird-looking, the women without white hair are all very attractive in a conventional way. And I was euphoric to meet a woman who disliked “Keinohrhasen”, Til Schweiger’s paean to his own wonderfulness with women, as much as I did, because it is really rare.)

  • Grinebiter

    Like, Grinebiter, just why do you suppose it was such a big deal to that jerkass guy that you were actually a man when he thought you were a woman? Maybe he had been attracted to your voice and greatly disturbed upon finding out it was a man he was thinking those thoughts about. Instead of laughing it off, he got pissed, because now he’s had “gay” thoughts.

    Now that you mention it, the one who asked if I were sure I wasn’t a tranny also kept going on about my “wonderful sexy contralto”. :-) I guess those who know I’m a man would call me a tenor, although I can’t sing. It’s an interesting exercise in perception. Actually, though, this wasn’t the guy who was upset and hostile, that was another one. About the latter, of course you’re right, but I’m not convinced that the proposition that such a man was insecure in his sexuality depends on the whole nine yards of patriarchy theory. Seems kind of obvious to me. You going to argue that this is because I have nevertheless internalised some feminist critique? I would say it’s more likely to be cod Freud.

    Regarding dressing like girls, I once had a postcard of a photo taken in the trenches of the Great War. The British soldiers were doing a Christmas pantomime when the Germans started shelling, and rushed to man the guns as they were. The photo shows soldiers in steel helmets and frilly dresses firing this big-ass artillery piece. (Alas, I gave the postcard away to a lesbian acquaintance who lusted after it…… That was before we all had computers and JPG scanners.) I understand that tough soldier and sailor types rather enjoy cross-dressing at parties; no doubt this is because they already have their manliness chops.

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