Thursday, February 28, 2008

Violence and Sexism In Hollywood: What's a Progressive Pacificist Woman to Watch?

Violence abounds...

Our whole family watched the Oscars Sunday night, as we usually do, even though we hadn't seen most of the movies nominated. What a depressing group of nominated films! For someone who does not enjoy watching violent movies, I'm disappointed with many of the top nominees.

Years ago after one of my miscarriages and a bout of depression, we rented some forgettable movie about hit men, having read good reviews of it. We watched the first 5 minutes before turning it off. I walked out of a showing on "Tommy" when I was in college because of the scene when Tommy's mom (or babysitter--can't remember?) uses a hot iron on him for punishment.

So is it just me, or is anyone else less than enchanted by the titles and content of this year's top Oscar contenders? I have read rave reviews of many of these movies, but the plots are not exciting me or drawing me to the movies. I want to see "Michael Clayton," "Juno," and "Atonement," and many other movies that did not make the best picture list...such as "Into the Wild," "In the Valley of Elah," "Charlie Wilson's War," "Away from Her," "Persepolis," "I'm Not There," "The Savages," and so on...but I am not drawn to "No Country for Old Men" or "There Will Be Blood." Even though I love Johnny Depp and Viggo Mortensen (from Lord of the Rings days), I don't know if I could sit through "Sweeney Todd" or "Eastern Promises." My time is too valuable to sit through brutal violence. I have appreciated much of what the Coen brothers have produced in the past, but I just don't think I can stomach the violence. Why have some of our most highly acclaimed and lauded films this year had to be so violent?

Then we come to the sexism and misogyny...

Don't even get me started on the lack of meaningful roles for women in the cinema, or the fact that every single director who has ever won Best Director has been a man. Did anyone notice the progression of white male faces in the slide shows of previous best directors? Ang Lee was the lone exception. I live in hope that one day the movies will start reflecting women's lives in a more realistic way. Here's an article listing some of the most misogynistic movies in the past decade...

Until Hollywood catches up with real women's lives, we are stuck with the virgin or the whore: paper caricatures of weak, spineless women, or evil career women on the other side.

On a positive note, I did see a delightful independent film this week on my sickbed (yes, I'm still sick with the flu!) is called "Quinceanara," and it's about the Mexican-American rite of passage for 15-year-old girls. The movie was delightful...showing a positive depiction of a young Mexican-American girl who was a strong character despite living in a heavily patriarchal culture.

Another movie I enjoyed this year that pokes fun of the princess culture and fairy tale idea that a woman will get married and live happily ever after over having a career is, surprisingly, "Enchanted." I enjoyed that movie and would happily see it again. Yes, there was an evil stepmother, but she was played by the wonderful Susan Sarandon, with bite!

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