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die hard is a xmas movie | by maryann johanson

more men I am officially tired of being asked to sympathize with in movies

bigshortmen

UPDATED!

Another year, another slate of films dominated by all the things that men do. While there were some great stories about women at the cinema in 2015 (though stay tuned: I noticed something suspicious about many of them, which I will write about soon), The Movies as a cultural monolith were dominated by men. So it felt like time to update my list of men I am tired of being asked to sympathize with. As the new additions — as well as the original list further below — demonstrate, there is almost nothing that men can do, think, or be that The Movies will not deem worthy of telling a story about.

Note: I didn’t necessarily hate all the films referenced here, and I quite liked a lot of them. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem that movies are overwhelmingly about men’s stories.

men walking up a mountain
men walking in the woods
men walking on Mars
men walking on tight ropes
men walking across bridges
men walking on battlefields
men buying other people’s mortgages
men betting against people’s mortgages
men selling computers
men who build superadvanced AIs in their own images
men who build superadvanced AIs so they can fuck them
men defying Hollywood
men defying the Church
men defying the NFL
men defying their own nations for the greater good, dammit
men surviving on the frontier
men surviving in the ’hood
men surviving as they are basically held prisoner in their own apartment
men surviving the Holocaust
men surviving on the ocean
men surviving their own brilliant minds
men talking about themselves
men talking about journalism
men talking about murder
men talking about the banality of evil
men debating other men
men hitting other men
men photographing other men
men making a name for themselves
men just trying to make music, dammit
men chasing manic pixie dream girls
men talking to dinosaurs
men building monsters
men fighting monsters
men hunting monsters
men who are monsters
men who are just there for another dude, man
men who kill women and think they should get away with it


PREVIOUS: 10.21.14

A motif that I noticed recurring during the just-wrapped London Film Festival has inspired me to add two more kinds of men whom I am tired of being asked to sympathize with:

men suffering for their art
men making other people suffer for their art

(Please note that my tiredness with how often these types of men appear in stories that ask us to feel for them does not automatically mean that I cannot feel for them, or that I didn’t end up enjoying their stories. It means only that I wish we would see as many stories about women doing these things whom male moviegoers would be expected to sympathize with.)


PREVIOUS: 03.02.14

I was already on edge before last night’s Oscars, when a recent viewing of The Great Beauty, nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, infuriated me with its pretentious bullshit. Pretentious bullshit is always bad enough, but this pretentious bullshit presumes that the viewer will be able to identify with — even if it’s to ultimately reject him — an old rich white man who’s jaded and bored with his decadent lifestyle, including nonstop partying (after which he goes home to his female housekeeper, who feeds him and makes sure he wakes up in time to get to his next party), attending strip clubs and discussing a performing woman like she’s livestock, and sleeping with more than one much younger woman.

And then The Great Beauty won that Oscar.

And then the Oscar producers figured it would be awesome to give us multiple montages celebrating “heroes” in movies: Superman, Indiana Jones, Frodo Baggins, T.E. Lawrence, Chief Martin fucking Brody, for Christ’s sake. And so on and so on and so on. Basically any man who’s done anything vaguely interesting in a movie. Which is all of them. (I loved the cut to a scowling Emma Watson in the audience after Harry Potter showed up in one of the montages; I could hear her thinking, Hey, Hermione Granger did some heroic stuff, too! But it’s not a great thing that women who are pissed off at not being adequately represented in Hollywood films is a punchline.)

Look. I know how to identify with and empathize with male protagonists in movies. I had to learn how to do that if I wanted to enjoy movies. But I’m so damn tired of this being a requirement for almost every movie I see.

I am tired of being asked to sympathize with men, and being offered the courtesy of the opposite — a movie with a female protagonist that men are expected to sympathize with — on only vanishingly rare occasions.

I am tired of how, every time I mention the lack of “strong” female protagonists, someone interrupts with “But Ripley!” Alien is 35 years old. Having to reach back across a third of a century for an example of a strong female protagonist is an indictment, not a defense.

I am already tired anticipating how “But Sandra Bullock in Gravity!” is going to replace “But Ripley!” and that a single movie will be, in the eyes of some, deemed sufficient representation of women starring in their own stories for the next third of a century.

These are all the sorts of men I am tired of being asked to sympathize with*:

old men
young men
rich men
poor men
sad men
happy men
men in love
lonely men
sadsack men
ugly and ignored men
handsome men
men who are a mess
men who are drunks and don’t want to change that
men who are drunks and struggle to overcome it
men who are sick and dying
men who are sick and getting well
men who have everything together
men who fuck younger women
men who fuck older women
men who fuck men and are conflicted about it
men who fuck men and are content with it
horny teenaged boys
men who are feuding with their brothers
men who are feuding with their fathers
men who are tight with their brothers
men who are tight with their fathers
men who are criminals
men who have been unjustly accused of crimes they did not commit
men who have been unjustly convicted of crimes they did not commit
men who have avoided a life of crime through sheer determination
men who are forced into a life of crime by desperate circumstance
men who are cops
men who are tight with their brother cops
men in the military
men who are tight with their brother soldiers
men whose careers are in a tailspin
men whose careers are going great
men just doing a job, dammit
men who go to strip clubs
men who patronize prostitutes
men who are lazy
men who are ambitious
men fighting the system
men perpetuating the system
men who are sensitive
men who are sensitive but unable to express themselves
men who are insensitive and have no problem expressing themselves
men who are married and miserable
men who are married and happy
men who are single and miserable
men who are single and happy
men who beat up women
men who rescue women
men who are just trying to do what’s right for their families, dammit
men who are pushing back against cultural conventions
men who have given in to cultural conventions
men fighting monsters
men fighting aliens
men who think they should police their daughters’ sexuality
men who think they should police their sisters’ sexuality
men who build great things
men who destroy great things
men with guns
men who wish they had guns
men who are deeply committed to martial arts
men who are deeply committed to religion
men who are deeply committed to their art
men just trying to survive in a harsh world
men having adventures
men who want to have adventures
men stuck in adventures they’d rather not be having
men just trying to get home
men in capes
men in robot suits
men in capes fighting men in capes
men in robot suits fighting men in robot suits
men in masks
men in masks fighting men in masks
men in masks fighting men in capes
men in robot suits fighting men in masks
men in capes fighting men in robot suits
men who sacrifice everything for the people they love
men who sacrifice everything for the places they love
men who sacrifice everything for the ideals they cherish

In her acceptance speech for her Best Actress win for Blue Jasmine last night, Cate Blanchett said this about movies about women: “People want to see them, and in fact, they make money. The world is round, people.” Exactly. It’s time to come out of the Dark Ages, Hollywood, when it comes to movies about women.

*not an exhaustive list — feel free to add your own in comments!


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