what Hollywood does to women

• Sarah Jessica Parker gets shit because of her mole or lack thereof.

• Rumer Willis (Bruce’s daughter) gets shit because of her chin.

• Katie Holmes gets shit because of her height. She is all of five-nine, which causes her to call herself “a big one,” and to consider her height an “imperfection.”

Is this really what we want to be doing to half the human race? Really? I walked past a salon recently on a very chic street in Boston (I visited friends over the Fourth of July) where one of the services offered was “eye brightening,” and I thought: What the fuck, now the whites of my eyes aren’t bright enough? They found another part of our bodies that women should be ashamed of, and can pay a fortune to “fix”?

Or am I just particularly sensitive to all this because I, like poor Katie, am also five-nine, and never realized before that I was supposed to be considering myself a freak?

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Jan Willem
Jan Willem
Thu, Jul 17, 2008 5:23pm

Dear MaryAnne,

Being a European male measuring 1.87 metres – about 6 foot 2 – I would not consider you a freak in any way.

Best wishes, Jan Willem

Kate
Kate
Thu, Jul 17, 2008 5:23pm

Yes, I saw a blog where one could vote on whether or not SJP should have kept her mole or not. Health issues aside, lordy, I don’t even care about my OWN moles, let alone someone else’s.

Interestingly enough, at not quite 5’2″, I’ also feel like a freak for being too short. I guess any woman who isn’t, what? 5’6″ exactly? Is somehow flawed?

Bill
Thu, Jul 17, 2008 5:25pm

Sarah Jessica Parker gets shit because of her mole or lack thereof.

This one killed me, only because somehow I completely missed when this became her “signature facial feature.”

Perhaps I’m just out of the cultural mainstream.

Perhaps that’s a good thing.

FunWithHeadlines
Thu, Jul 17, 2008 5:47pm

It’s not just Hollywood, but all of society treating women this poorly and superficially. It’s a real shame, and now I’m seeing the emphasis on surface qualities being applied toward men by society. Turnabout is fair play, I suppose one could say, but it’s not done nearly as much as it is toward women. Better yet would be if we could all appreciate each other for who we are as individuals instead of superficially insisting we all measure up to impossible standards of sameness.

Frankly, what I find interesting in a person’s looks often are their differences or even “imperfections.” There are times when I see someone with, say, a large nose and I think it gives them a distinct look that works for them. I can only imagine how much pressure they get from society to “fix” what actually ain’t broken.

Ah well, superficiality, thy name is humanity.

Clayj
Thu, Jul 17, 2008 5:48pm

Katie Holmes is a freak because of being hooked up with the Church of Scientology and Thomas Cruise Mapother IV. (And now I’m sure their web crawlers will home in on this site because I criticized them.)

Beyond that, I think she’s great. Tall women are sexy.

ThatTickles
ThatTickles
Thu, Jul 17, 2008 6:26pm

MaryAnn, you sound like a good candidate for sphincter bleaching. At least think about it.

JoshB
JoshB
Thu, Jul 17, 2008 7:54pm

This is somehow different from what Hollywood does to men? Have you seen 300? What do you think flabby, skinny, weak, pasty and otherwise less than ideal men thought watching that? I’ll give you a hint: it didn’t boost our self-esteem. What I’d wager it did do was give gym owners ten different kinds of orgasms.

With regards to Sarah Jessica Parker’s mole, there’s half of the population that couldn’t possibly care less, and they have Y chromosomes.

I’d bet Tom Cruise gets a lot more shit for being short than Katie Holmes gets for being tall.

Making public sport of Rumer Willis’s chin is pure assholery, no doubt about that.

Aderack
Aderack
Thu, Jul 17, 2008 8:19pm

Yeah, 5’9″ seems a bit short to me.

Then again, I’m 6’5-1/2″. Which is, as you must imagine, legitimately awkward at times.

I was once on a Tokyo train at rush hour. It was just like the stereotype; the conductors with the white gloves pushing people onto the train. Can’t even stand up on my own; I’m being held up by all the people around me. We reach a popular stop; the sardines start pouring out of the can, carrying me with them, and THWONK goes my forehead against the top of the door frame. I fall back on the crowd and am carried out of the train. No one notices.

I didn’t want to get off there.

Aderack
Aderack
Thu, Jul 17, 2008 8:21pm

Regarding thin, weak men: at least you can go the metrosexual route. Get some fishnets and tight pants! People will think you’re a rock star.

PaulW
PaulW
Thu, Jul 17, 2008 10:29pm

To Hollywood, image is everything. Tis the pity of it.

Remember Jennifer Grey? Just off one of the biggest romance movies ever – Dirty Dancing – she gets driven to do a nose job to make herself look sexier… only to have the job botched to where no one hires her because she’s no longer recognizable as Jennifer Grey. You can’t win sometimes…

All women have to be blond and skinny.

All men have to be chisled and square-jawed.

All small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri have to have 9 inches of fur and not shed.

It’s insane.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Thu, Jul 17, 2008 10:53pm

This is somehow different from what Hollywood does to men? Have you seen 300? What do you think flabby, skinny, weak, pasty and otherwise less than ideal men thought watching that?

Yes, it is different. *300* is one movie. All the less than ideal men have lots of opportunity to see men onscreen who look more like them than not. But we simply do not see women who look like, oh, Jack Black, or Will Ferrell, or John C. Reilly appearing on film *at all,* never mind in starring roles.

If that one movie intimidated you, JoshB, imagine being inundated with imagery like that everywhere you turn, and imagine what it could do for your self-esteem.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Thu, Jul 17, 2008 10:54pm

All men have to be chisled and square-jawed.

This is clearly belied by the many nonchiseled, non-square-jawed men who dominate our movie and TV screens.

Ibrahim
Ibrahim
Thu, Jul 17, 2008 11:14pm

I would say this is not what Hollywood does to women, it is what OTHER women do to celebrity women. These are “gossip rag” news. The only reason men read them is to look at pictures of scantily clad women – the articles with all their juicy contents are in there for the sole benefit of female readers.

On the height issue, I guess 5’9″ is a bit tall when you have to be fit in frame. Most actors are surprisingly small people who look well proportioned on camera. I don’t think anyone (with the exception of smaller people) has an issue with tall women, quite the opposite. My wife is 5’10” and as a result she is always the first person in a room to be checked out.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Fri, Jul 18, 2008 12:04am

I would say this is not what Hollywood does to women, it is what OTHER women do to celebrity women. These are “gossip rag” news. The only reason men read them is to look at pictures of scantily clad women

Ah, I see: women are doing it to themselves. So the men are looking at images of scantily clad women who run the gamut of attractive womanhood, then, right? Not just impossibly skinny blondes with impossibly huge tits?

Shadowen
Shadowen
Fri, Jul 18, 2008 1:43am

James McAvoy recently said he thinks it’s an absolute horror to be a woman in Hollywood. He cited (I believe) the scene in Date Movie where Alyson Hanigan in a fat suit dances around singing “My Milkshake Brings All The Boys To The Yard”. As a scene, it’s not in and of itself bad–an overweight woman loving her body is fine. That it is played, in context, for a simple fat joke is what makes it repulsive.

Ibrahim
Ibrahim
Fri, Jul 18, 2008 1:48am

I think you are greatly simplifying my response, but pretty much, yes (sorry, I don’t know how to quote). When men are asked to rate their ideal woman from a full range (not just skinny or super skinny, that’s not much of a choice!), the result is not the typical woman you see in the glossy mags or the gossip rags, but is one with a shape that is invariably more voluptuous and well padded. I’m not saying rolls and spare tires are universally attractive, I am saying that what the media tend to feed the public is NOT the full gamut of what men find “attractive” – one end of the range is over-represented, there is a middle that is largely excluded, and the other end is almost completely absent.

The harshest and strictest critics of women are other women – whether the woman in the street (whose purchase power dictates the success of crap like Vogue) or in the editor’s room (where standards are constantly pushed, to the point that the majority of images are more CGI/retouched than they are real).

Hollywood and acting in general are slightly different beasts. You have various limitations to deal with on film, including of course height (you have to fit in frame and make your 5’6″ male co-star look manly!) and weight (people with less body fat tend to look better on film, period). There’s a priceless scene in one of the Conan movies where a nearby female lead is as tall or taller than Schwarzenegger. She’s gorgeous, but her stature “breaks” the scene because she makes the male lead look smaller and consequently less powerful (which, you will agree, is a problem when you are playing Conan the Barbarian).

Apart from these basic limitations (which I think are *somewhat* justified from a technical viewpoint), I would say Hollywood is sadly influenced by fashion, and not the other way round. I think the real culprit you’re looking for is the fashion world and the growing use (and glamorization) of coat rack models in the last several decades. Gossip rags are simply very low-end fashion publications and take a similar approach (with a similarly low tolerance for deviation) so it is not surprising to find them giving us similar fare.

In fact I believe we can trace back most of these issues with women’s image and body shape in the media to fashion. Remember how Hollywood used to be populated by curvy buxom stars? Then fashion started marketing the waif look as desirable and elitist, borderline anorexic girls became image role models, and now this narrow range has become the standard in most media (thanks for nothing Twiggy…).

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Fri, Jul 18, 2008 2:28am

I am saying that what the media tend to feed the public is NOT the full gamut of what men find “attractive”

I didn’t say that it was. In fact, I’ve said here many times precisely what you’re saying. And yet still Hollywood — and the culture at large — continues to feed us a line, and it’s a line that belittles women and dramatically impacts women’s and girls’ self-esteem. Why? Why do we let Hollywood get away with that?

(people with less body fat tend to look better on film, period)

So why are there so many pudgy, flabby, and fat men onscreen? Why are men allowed to be less than physically perfect, while women are not?

Ibrahim
Ibrahim
Fri, Jul 18, 2008 3:34am

I don’t believe it’s Hollywood feeding us a line. It’s the Fashion world. Hollywood merely reflects what it perceives to be an elite and desirable image. Unfortunately that image is informed by the fashion industry. Change fashion and you’ll change media in general. Or reduce the status of fashion, and it will no longer be emulated across the board, as it is now.

“Why are men allowed to be less than physically perfect, while women are not?” There are a number of answers IMO.

1. Media images of women already exist in popular culture (thanks to fashion, as argued), and Hollywood enterprises attempt to conform to maximize market value.

2. As pointed out earlier, the harshest critics of women are other women – whether directly or indirectly. For example, I have never heard a sane man criticize Beyonce’s looks, but I hear women complaining about her thighs and ass all the time.

3. A lot depends on the role in question. There is also the popular perception that a man can be ugly and still attractive/fascinating, but a woman is either attractive or not attractive. I suppose you can chalk this up to women being more complex creatures.

4. It’s a reflection of what happens normally in society. How often do you see a beautiful woman with (to steal a line from Friends) a totally “nothing” man? All the time. How often do you see the reverse? Much more rarely.

5. If you think that Hollywood women have to be “physically perfect” I submit you are falling in the money-making trap the fashion world has been constructing for decades. As mentioned earlier Hollywood actresses tend to conform to certain expectations that exist in media, but what is physically perfect, really? Katie Holmes? Jennifer Aniston? Salma Hayek? Cynthia Ettinger? (she’s the smouldering Rita Sue in Carnivale, who is neither young nor skinny). Even in Hollywood there exists some variety – certainly more than you find in the fashion world!

In a sense Hollywood is a victim of the fashion scam, just like media in general. Don’t rage at Hollywood – go straight for the root of the problem and take down the fashionistas!

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Fri, Jul 18, 2008 4:26am

I don’t think Hollywood women have to be physically perfect: Hollywood seems to think that. When even obviously beautiful women think they’re “imperfect,” something is wrong.

I’m not blaming any one segment of our society: I am blaming all of us. Saying that it’s all “fashion’s” fault is meaningless. (So is blaming women for being critical of other women.) It’s all one big ball of bullshit. Why is there “market value” in “conforming” to images that you yourself have conceded do not reflect how most people feel?

MaSch
MaSch
Fri, Jul 18, 2008 4:49am

Dear MaryAnn,

you asked, why *we* let Hollywood get away with treating women the way they do. I agree, we shouldn’t let Hollywood get away with it, but what can we do?

Maybe it would help if feminist film critics would only review and recommend movies which satisfies the three feminist rules for movies:

There are at least two women in the movie, who talk to each other in at least one scene about something else than a man.

Therefore, disrespect to movies like “In Bruges” and hail to movies like “Sex and the City”, “Mamma Mia!”, “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” and lesbian porn in general!

Well, or maybe think about something more intelligent to do …

Ibrahim
Ibrahim
Fri, Jul 18, 2008 5:55am

“I’m not blaming any one segment of our society: I am blaming all of us.”

Keep me out of it!

It’s not “all” fashion’s fault, because without a degree of collaboration (such as the guilty pleasure of reading fashion and gossip rags) the situation might be quite different. But if you can identify a single party that bears more responsibility for this than the fashion industry, I would love to know about it.

“(So is blaming women for being critical of other women.) It’s all one big ball of bullshit.”

No it’s not, it is precisely what happens, as described. As such, it is part of the equation and part of the problem. You can ignore it if you wish, but complaining about something without analyzing the root causes is not productive.

“Why is there “market value” in “conforming” to images that you yourself have conceded do not reflect how most people feel?”

There is enormous market value involved because fashion and gossip rags are read by a huge readership, primarily women. Now you answer this: are women in general being force-fed this fare, or is it something the market itself demands, or is it a combination of both or something else?

We’re talking about the bizarre phenomenon of magazines that contain skinny fashionable women who, we are repeatedly told, make the average woman reader feel like crap. So why does the average woman not only read such material, but actively seeks it out?

Hollywood has very little to do with it, and is a symptom of the problem rather than a cause. School girls have similar issues: beautiful young girls become anorexic, think they are hideous, engage in destructive behaviour motivated by self-hatred, etc., long before they even get to Hollywood. So do we blame schools? Or is there something wrong in the media-obsessed society itself? If the latter (and it certainly is the latter) then what exactly are the root causes?

It’s not Hollywood. In terms of image models and the impact on society, Hollywood is the weakest of the graphic media triumvirate (film, pop music, fashion). Because of the long lead and production times, Hollywood tends to follow or at least lag behind other aspects of popular visual culture.

It is undeniable that the fashion industry (and not Hollywood) made the skinny and waifish look popular. There has always been air brushing, but when an industry informally institutes digital editing of images to produce commercial photos of women with completely unrealistic (and impossible) proportions, you know there’s something seriously wrong. And it’s not even nice, if you look at these pictures closely these poor digitally manipulated women look deformed in addition to underfed. At least Jessica Rabbit had a nice rack…

The modern wave of evil fashion influence began in the 60s as fashion segments began creeping into every television show, it intensified in the 90s with the explosion of music videos (a fusion of music and fashion with a heavy dose of sex) and the proliferation of fashion magazines, even ones targeting children and teens. So yeah, unless you have more convincing candidates the finger of blame points to the fashion industry’s decades-long emphasis on very thin women.

Gloria
Gloria
Fri, Jul 18, 2008 7:57am

Oh piss. 300 is a (1) mythic tale (2) based on a comic book (a genre whose penchant for unreal bodies is well-known) and (3) told in an over-the-top way in every aspect anyway (“THIS IS SPARTA!”).

And I think the principal characters are raised from childhood to be soldiers or something? Ridiculously chiselled bodies are quite called for.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Fri, Jul 18, 2008 11:59am

Maybe it would help if feminist film critics would only review and recommend movies which satisfies the three feminist rules for movies

That’s an interesting idea, but it would leave me with very few films to talk about. And here’s another problem:

Therefore, disrespect to movies like “In Bruges” and hail to movies like “Sex and the City”, “Mamma Mia!”, “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” and lesbian porn in general!

*Bruges* is brilliant. Those other three range from Not Very Good to Total Shit.

So yeah, unless you have more convincing candidates the finger of blame points to the fashion industry’s decades-long emphasis on very thin women

Ibrahim, I think you’re not quite getting me. I don’t deny that “fashion” is a problem when it comes to women and self-esteem, and our culture’s ideas about what women are “supposed” to look like. But you’re still missing my point: Why do people let themselves be sold these ideas? How can it be profitable to sell people ideas they don’t actually believe?

I don’t have the answers.

And please stop blaming women. Women are brainwashed into being hypercritical of themselves. It’s really hard to overcome, even when you are able to recognize, on an intellectual level, what’s going on. Women do not have to “actively seek out” images that smash our self-esteem: we are surrounded by them everywhere. And I suppose it’s fine to tell women, Hey, just ignore. Just don’t read those magazines, watch those TV shows, go to those movies. But we don’t tell men they have to withdraw from the culture in order to live a happy life.

The culture is what is sick, not the people. Of course, the people are the culture, but starving people eat what they are given, not the imaginary meal they might prefer to eat that no one is offering.

You talk about root causes: I’m talking about something even more root-cause than the fashion industry.

Kathy A
Kathy A
Fri, Jul 18, 2008 12:29pm

“Women are brainwashed into being hypercritical of themselves. It’s really hard to overcome, even when you are able to recognize, on an intellectual level, what’s going on.”

I so agree with this. I’m an overweight woman myself, fully versed in all the feminist awareness of media bias, and also educated in Golden Age of Hollywood anecdotes and biographies, yet, when I watch Judy Garland in “Summer Stock,” I think to myself, “Gee, she looks fat. When do we get to her in the tuxedo jacket, where she looks fabulous?”

However, I know she was not fat in that film, but her body was at its natural and healthy weight, and to get her body down to that “fabulous” point, she had to starve herself and get addicted to pills yet again.

I feel disgusted with myself for thinking this way about the female body on film.

JoshDM
JoshDM
Fri, Jul 18, 2008 2:07pm

“They let Sarah Jessica Parker’s face on TV and she looks like a foot.” – Peter Griffin, Family Guy

JoshB
JoshB
Fri, Jul 18, 2008 2:16pm

Oh piss. 300 is…based on a comic book (a genre whose penchant for unreal bodies is well-known)
And I think the principal characters are raised from childhood to be soldiers or something? Ridiculously chiselled bodies are quite called for.

Very well Gloria, if you want to be fatuous then I can play. Look up at the top 5 box office movies as listed on this very site. Picture the male leads. Now try again.

Didn’t I see Will Farrell in Old School running naked through the streets to laughter of the “ewwww, he’s fat and gross” sort? What man did Monique want and get in Phat Girlz?

MaryAnn, believe me, Jack Black notwithstanding, the message I get from our culture is that I should be tall and muscular, and it ain’t just Hollywood saying it. But that’s cool with me. Being fit is a good thing. I didn’t feel intimidated by 300. Shamed maybe. Motivated certainly. Why ask Hollywood to tell me that it’s ok to be scrawny and weak when I can get my ass to the gym and do something useful about it?

If I called you shallow every time you proclaimed George Clooney “toe-curling” you’d get annoyed with me in a big hurry, and you would be right.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Fri, Jul 18, 2008 3:44pm

Look up at the top 5 box office movies as listed on this very site. Picture the male leads.

Okay, let’s!

*Hellboy II: The Golden Army*

The lead is an almost 60-year-old man buried under horns and other demonic gear. Hardly a realistic — even pretend realistic — image for men to follow.

*Hancock*

Yes, it’s true that Will Smith is handsome and fit. But he’s also black. Name a black actress who headlines big studio movies.

*Journey to the Center of the Earth*

I’ll spot you Brendan Fraser. He is a paragon of stereotypical physical manliness. And yet, I’d also argue that he is primarily a star because he’s funny, not because he’s good-looking.

*Wall-E*

The lead is a robot with no gender.

*Wanted*

The male lead is a skinny Scotsman. Cute as hell, sure. But hardly, you know, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or even Gerald Butler in *300.*

If I called you shallow every time you proclaimed George Clooney “toe-curling” you’d get annoyed with me in a big hurry, and you would be right.

Now, I’m pretty sure I’ve called myself shallow plenty of times, so no, I probably wouldn’t be annoyed with you. I’m not ever saying that we don’t find attractive what we find attractive, or that we can even change that. But can you tell me, in all honesty, that the full range of what men find attractive in women even approaches what we see in pop culture?

Mo
Mo
Fri, Jul 18, 2008 6:55pm

It’s a conspiracy by the diet industry, because low self esteem makes us diet, and diets make us fat. Which makes them a lot of money. Honest. Actually, I have no idea, but I do wonder sometimes.

In my experience actively ignoring the messages and more importantly supporting friends in actively ignoring them seems to do wonders for the whole group. Of course I lucked out with friends who would rather talk about Lost or Star Wars than the latest diet tips, but I think our collective self esteem is much better for it. (And our guy friends like it because we all have *real* boobs because we all eat *real* food.) I don’t have a clue how to change Hollywood, but they aren’t invading my corner of the world if I can help it. *grr*

Our real standard as a culture should be “are we healthy” not “are we thin”. If you can run for a few blocks in a pinch without wheezing or stopping, then you’re probably better off than a lot of the toothpicks with “ideal bodies” out there. And if you can’t it’s a much healthier goal to aim for than loosing ten pounds or saving up for some botox.

Sorry for getting all preachy and long-winded, but I don’t think it’s said enough. Even during “issue” discussions like this one.

Apparently, “eye brightening” is makeup that’s supposed to help with dark circles? *shrug*

As for height, I’m 5’8″ and convinced it’s the perfect height. I’m short enough to wear heels without clunking my head on things, and tall enough to reach whatever is on the top shelf. That may be shorter than 5’9″, but I really don’t think one inch is enough to make a difference- Katie needs her head checked. But of course we all knew that long before this latest revelation…

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Fri, Jul 18, 2008 7:31pm

Of course I lucked out with friends who would rather talk about Lost or Star Wars than the latest diet tips

Me too. And I don’t read so-called women’s magazines (though I’ve worked at some of them, which were among my worst jobs ever). But it’s impossible to avoid seeing how limited a range of women we see. Certainly if you’re into movies or TV.

Our real standard as a culture should be “are we healthy” not “are we thin”.

Agreed. But this issue is so far beyond the “mere” one of weight. It’s about everything about women’s bodies.

Sara
Sara
Fri, Jul 18, 2008 8:27pm

In our U.S. colleges/universities there is a saying espoused by a high percentage of the females (and they think this is what they are to do, seriousl)–it’s called “effortless perfection.”

The boys might play intramurals if they want and work out at the gym (girls do too) but the boys can be slobs. The girls dress to the nines and the boys look like they just got out of bed.

Go to any U.S. university and hang out a while. You’ll see this. It’s a problem. Also, check out the parties or bars at night. Girls, dressed up and “effortlessly perfected”–or trying to appear that way–and no, the “hot” boys aren’t the “built” ones or even good-looking ones. They are judged in other ways that aren’t so great either, but they certainly don’t have this very sad idea that they are to be “effortlessly perfect.” The boys would laugh at that and say, forget that crap. I’ll won’t comb my hair, heck, I won’t even wash it, I’ll just put my hat on backward and head out to the college bars.

Sara
Sara
Fri, Jul 18, 2008 8:49pm

“Effortless perfection” doesn’t mean fashion only…really, that’s merely secondary. First and foremost it’s how a girl “looks”–perfect body (as has been described above with little variation), eating disorders to try to have that perfect body, lots of exercise to be tones and not have any flab, perfect skin, teeth, and so on. Even the “right” way to wax certain areas of the body. The intent/expectation is to achieve all of this “effortlessly.”

Mo
Mo
Fri, Jul 18, 2008 8:52pm

“But it’s impossible to avoid seeing how limited a range of women we see. Certainly if you’re into movies or TV.”

I know. They are out there if you look. I always am, so I do find some every now and again- I’ve always been drawn to strong female characters. That said, one of the main reasons I got into Doctor Who in the first place was that Rose was the first character who ever made me sit up and go “hey, that’s me!” even though she had way too much makeup and a somewhat different personality. (But she has one! Hooray!)

Probably my biggest hero at the moment is Daisy from Spaced (even if, ironically, she was always trying to work for a women’s magazine.;)) I read an interview with Jessica Hynes recently that just broke my heart: http://news.scotsman.com/entertainment/My-space-odyssey–Jessica.4228575.jp

‘So, why does Hynes always seem to get wife/mother roles rather than parts more in tune with Spaced? “There aren’t any out there,” she says. “I mean, I love acting and performing, and I love the fact that I wrote and designed Spaced for myself to perform, but I did naively think that afterwards I would get offered more parts like that. Then I realised there weren’t any. I’m not complaining. But you have to get out there and write stuff yourself.”‘

Hey, I’d gladly write something for her just for the sake of it even if there was no hope of it ever getting made. But then it dawned on me. I would need a plot. I have no blooming clue what a woman in her 30s or 40s does, apart from falling into one of the “wife and mother” vs. “career woman” ditches, neither of which interest me. Either way all I see firsthand is superwoman burnout. Come to think of it, I don’t even know what people my own age do. Since we all got out of college it’s either been settle down and get all domestic never to be heard from again or else go out and get drunk every night. Two more ditches I want nothing to do with.

So what else is there? When writers figure that out; when people figure that out, then there will be roles. When there are roles there will be a chance we’ll start seeing a wider range of women.

May that day come soon. *fingers crossed*

Mo
Mo
Fri, Jul 18, 2008 9:07pm

“In our U.S. colleges/universities there is a saying espoused by a high percentage of the females (and they think this is what they are to do, seriousl)–it’s called “effortless perfection.”

Wow. I can’t believe I’m saying this but thank goodness for cold weather that let us all dress like we were in primary at my school, then. Guys and girls equally were all for the rolled out of bed thing. It’s kind of hard to look nice when you need to fit long underwear under your clothes, plus there were all the layers of sweaters, mittens, hats, scarves… Freezing solid walking to class isn’t fun. Sure some people bothered with appearance (mostly first years) but one round of exams usually beat that out of them.

JoshB
JoshB
Fri, Jul 18, 2008 9:36pm

There are lots of flesh and blood men that are as buff as Hellboy, so red skin and horns notwithstanding, it is a realistic image. So even if I compromise and count James McAvoy as half a manly man that’s still 3 1/2 out of 5, with one being a cartoon where the question is irrelevant. I think my point stands :P

But can you tell me, in all honesty, that the full range of what men find attractive in women even approaches what we see in pop culture?

Well, I must admit, touché. However, pop culture does a somewhat better job of showing what men find most attractive, physically at least. After all, Hollywood is in the business of entertainment, not self-esteem.

P.S. Maryann, I usually agree with you, but I find disagreeing with you to be great fun.

Hdj
Hdj
Fri, Jul 18, 2008 9:52pm

Aderack, I guess you got it all solved, with the route best suited for weak men. Just dress up like a bunch of fruit loots wearing fishnets and tight pants. Whats next tutu’s and little pink short shorts. Ha, Being a skinny guy ain’t so bad, as a matter of fact, I’ve dated many woman taller then me, 5’9, 5’10,they never had any complaints. I guess you being 6’5ish, you have your routes too right? you can dress up like Lurch.

Sara
Sara
Fri, Jul 18, 2008 10:00pm

Mo,
Yes, perhaps colder weather helps but not sure where you went to college cause much the same stuff goes on in the colder climates of the U.S. (especially the Northeastern ones.)
I think you’ve hit on the answer to your question. Women need to write more–and in an authentic voice–and finding that voice in this culture is far from easy. It gets muffled, silenced but look what MaryAnn is doing–excellent example. We should all be writing something. Even if for just ourselves.
Your observations of the twenties does flow from what I described in the college years… seemingly right into traditional female roles (not challenging these roles or being creative about this at all) or continuing with the partying and gettting wasted. Yeah, avoid both ditches and find another.
Re: Supermom/woman–that’s what too many women think they’re supposed to be. Is there any reason (I can’t think of one) why a female in a household can’t negotiate with her spouse about childcare/chores, etc.? This, I truly do not get. Women who work “the double-shift” but have a spouse in the home? NO WAY! This is absurd.
And you say re: Hynes–that you have no idea what women who are 30 or 40 do (when you consider writing about scripts, etc.) Understandable, but how would you like to see them? What would they look like if all this cultural stuff was peeled away and they were not “invisible” and “silenced?”

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Sat, Jul 19, 2008 10:32am

I have no blooming clue what a woman in her 30s or 40s does, apart from falling into one of the “wife and mother” vs. “career woman” ditches… So what else is there? When writers figure that out; when people figure that out, then there will be roles.

But this is absurd! Most *men* do nothing but go to work and slave away at jobs they hate and then go home and veg out in front of the TV… and yet the movies and TV are *filled* with men doing interesting stuff! Of course we want to see movies/shows about people doing realistic things, that explore real problems that people deal with all the time (and actually *Spaced* is a great example of doing that in a very funny way), but we want fantasy, too!

But what do we get? Selma Blair has superpowers, but is she the protagonist of her own superhero story? No! She’s just the superhero’s girlfriend. Angelina Jolie is a kickass assassin, but is she the protagonist of her own hero’s-journey story? No! She’s just one of the hero’s teachers.

Why is it *Meet Dave* and not *Meet Mary*?

Why do women only get to be the heroes of their own stories when those stories are about finding a man? (*Sex and the City,* *Mamma Mia*)?

The best, most well-rounded story about a female in the theaters right now is *Kit Kittredge,* and she’s 11. But that’s kinda always the way things go for women: we’re smart and ambitious and aggressive and assertive until we hit adolescence, and then we lose it. Part of it is the body image thing we’ve been talking about here.

JoshB
JoshB
Sat, Jul 19, 2008 12:18pm

Why do women only get to be the heroes of their own stories when those stories are about finding a man?

Ahem…*cough*Ellen Ripley*cough*.

Don’t get me wrong, your point is well taken, but you still managed to get the single greatest hero of either gender in modern storytelling. And I would argue that Buffy Summers and Sarah Connor make a strong case for the two and three slots.

Maybe it’s because they’re women that they’re so cool, but I don’t think so.

Maddie
Maddie
Sat, Jul 19, 2008 1:37pm

JoshB, the fact that you had to go back to the 70s to find Ellen Ripley says more than I think you know. Furthermore, the part of Ripley was originally written for a man, and gendering doesn’t weigh heavily in on the story of Alien. It’s not until Aliens that suddenly she’s playing mummy, and it’s always been okay for women to be heroic if they’re doing it for the kids.

And actually, yes, part of what makes Ripley, Buffy Summers and Sarah Connor fantastic heroes IS their gender, because they’re playing against expectations – half the point of Buffy was that she was “the girl” from horror movies, the tiny blonde who got cornered in the alleyway and instead of being brutally murdered, turned around and kicked the crap out of the bad guy.

What you apparently haven’t noticed so far is that these are exceptions rather than the rule – you’ve pulled one from the 70s and two from the 90s, and I could name you fifty recognisable male heroic characters from that time span. I’ll bet you couldn’t do the same for female characters. No one is saying that there are never ever any fantastic heroic female characters. They’re saying that the significant majority of women in movies are wives and girlfriends to the fantastic heroic male characters, and that these heroines are the exception rather than the rule. Even if you want to argue for women “having” the “top three”, men having, say, ninety out of the “top hundred” heroic characters doesn’t even out.

And JoshB, I gotta tell you, you don’t win yourself any friends when you’re so unaware of your own privilege that you can’t be bothered to understand the frustrations of people who don’t have it. It’s as condescending and myopic for you to say that men have it “just as bad” as it would be for me to say that, in general, the portrayals of black people in popular culture are just as complex and heroic and interesting as they are of white people. There are always exceptions, and some of them are, arguably, more memorable than the rule, but they’re not the majority or even an equal division, and the exceptions don’t cancel out the rule.

You get to look at your gender being depicted onscreen constantly as complex and heroic and of first importance. Women don’t. Occasionally, we’re lucky. Mostly, not so much.

Sara
Sara
Sat, Jul 19, 2008 1:57pm

Thought this article might be of interest because it points to women’s status in society in general and reasons why we might see what is talked of above. Go to link if you’re interested in reading and especially pay attention to Nordic culture–something different is happening there, as in Rwanda now also.

Rigidly Male-Dominated Societies Are Violent; The U.S. Is No Different
http://www.alternet.org/reproductivejustice/90859

Until people (including progressives) stop thinking of “women’s issues”
secondary, the U.S. will continue on its path of poverty and war. (etc.)

Sara
Sara
Sat, Jul 19, 2008 2:06pm

I meant to add that the above article is written by Riane Eisler (whose work changed my life); she writes of partnership or dominator styles of operating in cultures. You won’t get partnership styles in a male-dominated culture (and we still live in one.)
She also wrote the book, The Chalice and the Blade, for anyone who is interested. That’s the book that made me see, in large part, why things are as they are and how they are perpetuated from generation to generation.

JoshB
JoshB
Sat, Jul 19, 2008 2:19pm

Maddie, I suppose I didn’t make my point clear. I absolutely concede that women, by and large, get relegated to passive, boring roles where men do not, and I lament that fact. I also think that’s a separate issue from the one of body image that started the thread. For you to dismiss what men go through on that front says more about what you can’t be bothered to understand than what I can’t.

I don’t doubt that there is a body image problem for women. I was trying to explain that I can relate, but also that I react to my own insecurities in a very different way. If you think that diminishes your own concerns then understand, that’s not my intention, but I’m not apologizing for trying to contribute a different perspective to the dialogue.

Now, on to hopefully happier conversation: I think what made those heroines great was character complexity. Sure, it was a thrill to watch the petite Buffy thrash an overconfident attacker the first time, but that alone certainly didn’t keep people coming back for seven seasons. To maybe offend some Alien fans, I think the best moment of the series came in Alien 3 during the scene where Lance Henriksen tries to convince Ripley to come with him. Three movies worth of character development for Ripley played out on Sigourney Weaver’s face. You could feel how badly she wanted to believe him. The courage and self-sacrifice she showed in that moment is not gender specific. Best. Hero. Ever.

Maddie
Maddie
Sat, Jul 19, 2008 2:48pm

JoshB, since I didn’t actually mention the question of male OR female body image, I’m not sure how you can extrapolate that I don’t understand or care about it. I was responding to your comments about female heroic leads.

That said, though, I tend to agree with MaryAnn that there is a lot more wiggle room in terms of the portrayal of attractiveness for men and that the bitchiness about women’s bodies is greater (spend two minutes on a message board in which discussing how some actress is looking on the beach in a bikini and you’ll see what I mean), but I’m well aware that body image in both sexes is increasingly appalling, and I don’t support it for anyone.

I do think, however, that your original comment amounted, not to “I understand how you feel, here’s how I feel that relates to it”, but “yeah, well, I suffer just as much, if not more, so quit your bitchin'”, when MaryAnn is quite correct – a larger range of men than women are presented as attractive, and there are much narrower standards for female beauty in Hollywood than male. If Kate Winslet is Hollywood’s idea of the female equivalent of Jack Black…well, you see what I mean. The actual female equivalent of Jack Black would not be cast opposite the male equivalent of Kate Winslet (unless it’s Hairspray, though I think Nikki Blonski is way cute, and that was the entire point of the movie), but Jack Blacks get Kate Winslets all the time. Of course, if you are outside even those standards, it probably feels very similar, and I don’t think it’s of help to anyone for beauty standards in either sex to be so rigid that all people can’t feel attractive.

I will agree with you that Buffy and Ripley are awesome, however.

JoshB
JoshB
Sat, Jul 19, 2008 3:00pm

I do think, however, that your original comment amounted, not to “I understand how you feel, here’s how I feel that relates to it”, but “yeah, well, I suffer just as much, if not more, so quit your bitchin'”

Then I did a lousy job expressing myself, and for that I do apologize.

I already conceded MaryAnn’s point, which is one of the joys of a good debate. I came away with a different perspective, and that is tremendously valuable.

I will agree with you that Buffy and Ripley are awesome, however.

Seriously.

Sara
Sara
Sat, Jul 19, 2008 3:25pm

In a male-dominated culture (and we might think we don’t live in one, but we do) then men can be much more however they want to be and women will have much more narrow roles. I think it’s terrible but it’s the water we swim in and the air we breathe. I think that there are many men and women who aren’t particularly conscious of this (of course if you’re starving yourself to get to a given weight so you’ll be “attractive” then there’s not much awareness or there is a buying into the cultural thinking. Which, granted, is difficult to not do if you’re a young female.)

Josh, I’ve had similar conversations (as are being had with you) with a good male friend of mine for a while. Interestingly, he was the one who sent the link to me above that I’d encourage you to take a look at.

Really it boils down most dramatically (for me) to what Mary Daly said, “When God is male, the male is God.” And God is male (no amount of apologetics from feminist theologians can get away from that fact–because it’s there in the texts in print and in the liturgies in print.)

When what we hold as the “Ultimate” is male (and female is totally unsuitable metaphor for the Ultimate) then what do we expect? I add the fact, too, that there’s not much thought that the “idea” of “God–He” (or even Goddess-She”) is a human construct to begin with. But the female part of the construct has been trappled on. Unfit. Defective. In need of perfecting for “use” by the dominant culture, not in any self-actualizing way for females. It’s messed up–out of balance. We live in a male-dominated culture and for some reason, for a lot of people, this doesn’t seem to be a problem. Because “males”–especially strong males– rescue (supposedly.)

Hdj
Hdj
Sat, Jul 19, 2008 3:41pm

yeah well too bad Buffy is only another perfect depiction of what woman oughta look like in Hollywood land. Only time we see ugly or fat girls in movies is if its a hot actress under ugly make up or a fat suit.
Buffy’s a character made by Joss W. , and who was to write the script for what ought to be a major female leading superhero movie, by the name of Wonder Woman. But he rather write the script for the nonchalant Firefox movie. I’m pretty sure if they ever get the Wonder Woman movie made there’d be less bitching about how theres not enough parts for woman.
And thats why I hate Buffy. Cause shes a major C word.
That show was like watching Tae Bo with corny costume work.

Anne-Kari
Anne-Kari
Sat, Jul 19, 2008 5:20pm

Whoa there, Hdj. First off, I’m not sure if you were referring to “Firefly” and/or “Serenity” in your post, and I’m equally unsure of what you meant by ‘nonchalant’.

And while I agree that the actress who played Buffy took a turn from reasonably physically dimensioned to painfully anorexic over the years, part of the character was that originally she was fairly superficial but rose to the challenge of a pretty daunting destiny and had to muddle through all the crap of being a teenage girl while doing it.

I do not know the details of why Wonder Woman ended up scrapped. But back to Buffy, I take issue with the whole ‘Cause shes a major C word’ comment. Where the hell did that come from?

OK, bottom line from my own view on all this: I loved “Buffy”, for all its flaws (and yes there were many). But having a 7-season tv program centered around a female lead who is a superhero is farily unique. I agree that Hollywood has a habit – nay, a stone-set pattern – of not casting women in leading roles, strong ones, and not casting actresses who are less than ‘perfect’ looking. It shouldn’t be about casting ‘ugly’ or ‘fat’ or whatever type of actress, it OUGHT to be about creating interesting strong roles for women and letting talent be the major force in the casting process.

And back to Firefly/Serenity. In terms of strong female characters, out of a team of 7/8 characters, we have the following:
1) A female mechanic who quite literally keeps the ship flying
2) A female former soldier who kicks major fucking ass whenever necessary (married to a much less ‘macho’ type, and yet the marriage works)
3) A female sex worker who in that “verse” is given some of the highest level of honor an respect – sooo not just some kind of what many would dismiss as a ‘whore’
4) A brilliant and singularly talented FEMALE who has been majorly screwed up by a totalitarian government and still manages to save the day. And the universe.

There is progress, and it is small, and a lot of it is limited to unusual and off-beat venues – and a lot of that is Whedon created. By no means perfect, but it’s a decent jumping off point.

Hdj
Hdj
Sat, Jul 19, 2008 6:40pm

Yeah well theres a difference from watching dudes kicking ass and watching woman kick ass. I find the ass beating fighting scenes in your beloved shows to be soft, and when the big girls strut there stuff in these shows its laughable. You call Whedon a stepping stone in female appearance. Well I say thats to bad, because the fight scenes are patronizing and unbelievable. I call that 7 seasons of flattering bullshit, plus I guess it makes it all worth the time to hope that Angel will take his shirt off. yeah that sure kept waiting for the next episode, that Angel character really erected my interest Ha!

Sara
Sara
Sat, Jul 19, 2008 6:44pm

Women’s roles that simply mimic traditional (and often very unhealthy) men’s roles don’t solve the issue at all. It worsens it, it seems.

Sara
Sara
Sat, Jul 19, 2008 6:54pm

Women also do things like take their husband’s name (is a female’s name not HER name to keep?) You can argue it’s her father’s name, but point is, guys wouldn’t rountinely and romantically wish to change their names when they get married to that of their wife.
Women, still today, when they get married are often “given away” by their fathers to their husbands and many women WANT this in the ceremony. It’s archaic.
Women don’t tend to negotiate for how the household/childcare work in a home will be fairly dealt with.
Women often don’t see their OWN work at home/with children as very worthy.
There isn’t nearly the solidarity between females as there is among males, yet females don’t seem to care about this for some reason.
Women often look to men to mirror themselves in our culture.
Not blaming women but I am saying it’s our responsibility to do things differently if we want to see change. Men aren’t going to do it. In fact, most men will keep on doing the same ole, same ole, because, frankly, it’s to their advantage (they think, even when it’s really not.)