Bullock and McCarthy bring it in ‘The Heat’

UnknownThere have been quite a few strong female cops on television in the last three decades. Cagney and Lacey, Olivia Benson, Jane Tennison, Kate Beckett, Jane Rizzoli. On film? Not so much. Yeah, you’ve got a few FBI agents, like Clarice Starling. And Gracie Hart. But cops? Well… And female buddy cop movies? Nope.

That’s why “The Heat,” starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, which opened last weekend, is such a nice change. More, please!

Of course, being a pioneer in the genre puts tons of pressure on film-makers Paul Feig (who directs) and Katie Dippold (who wrote the screenplay). Fail, and they represent all women cops on film ever, and everyone goes back to thinking they won’t sell.

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Where’s Wonder Woman?

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In this guest post, Andrew Daar makes a strong argument for a Wonder Woman movie.

It’s no secret that superhero films are all the rage right now.  Movies featuring characters whose popularity transcends their comic book origins – Superman, Batman, Spider-Man – make hundreds of millions of dollars in their opening weekends, while many films featuring characters less universally known are also drawing huge crowds.  Iron Man 3 earned almost $400 million in the United States alone, and The Avengers – which featured heroes who, prior to the release of their stand-alone films in the preceding years, had nowhere near the recognition of the likes of Superman or Spider-Man – was the highest grossing film of 2012.  But despite this popularity, one doesn’t even need two hands to count how many theatrically released superhero films have featured women in the starring role. (Of course, sadly, this lack of women at the center of films isn’t limited to the superhero genre.  NPR’s Linda Holmes points out that, right now, it is nearly impossible to find films in cinemas that feature women in the starring roles, and calculated that the number of showtimes in her area for Man of Steel was over six times greater than the number showtimes of all female-centric films combined.) And on top of that, there has yet to be a theatrical film featuring Wonder Woman, arguably the most iconic female superhero in existence.

What gives?  Why have there been so few movies starring female superheroes, and why hasn’t the female superhero received her own big screen adventure yet?  Superman has had six films, Batman has had seven. Recently, executives greenlit two additional Spider-Man films to add to his (soon-to-be) five.  Why can’t Wonder Woman or Ms. Marvel or Black Canary or Jessica Jones get a film of her own?  And why has every female superhero-centered film that has been made been a colossal let-down?  (No, that isn’t hyperbole.  As I will note later, literally every superhero movie that has a woman in the lead role has been pretty terrible.)

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Amy Schumer, Mindy Kaling, and the Evolution of Girl Humor

600x400_insideamyschumer2Given the early coverage before the debut of Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer this spring, I figured we were in for another dirty-girl comedian — Schumer was most often compared to Whitney Cummings and Sarah Silverman. I don’t dislike either of those ladies, but both of them, when at their best, retain the whiff of women trying to make it in a man’s comedy world. Of course, it is a man’s comedy world, and I can’t blame them, and I loooved every bit of the shock value of The Sarah Silverman Program. (I also happen to enjoy the show Cummings co-created, 2 Broke Girls. We won’t talk about Whitney.) Cummings and Silverman do the comedy equivalent of business women wearing hyper-masculine, shoulder-padded suits in the ’80s as they fought their way to boardroom levels: They made it in an astonishingly male-dominated profession by out-boying the boys.

Schumer and the also-rising talent Mindy Kaling represent a subtle shift, however, from Cummings and Silverman. They don’t shy away from indelicate topics like sex or body humor — because most modern women are a few steps beyond Jane Austen-style manners. But they don’t try to beat the guys at their own game, either. Kaling showed with her Fox sitcom The Mindy Project this season that she can do a killer awkward-shower-sex scene and poke elaborate fun at women’s love-hate relationship with romance. Schumer’s show, which is wrapping up its first season, takes a similarly female approach — not “female” humor like an eye-rolling Cathy comic strip, but humor that’s simply unique to a heterosexual person with a vagina coming of age during the early 2000s. She gives us a sketch on, for instance, “porn from a female point of view,” which shows mostly how ridiculous (and occasionally gross) sex is for women, all hairy chests coming at them and being slammed repeatedly from behind. This stands in stark contrast to those “porn for women” send-ups that show men with waxed chests doing housework. Because, ha ha, women have no desires beyond a clean house! Schumer acknowledges both female desire and the silliness of what we must endure to fulfill it. And don’t even get me started on the sketch about the guy who falls in love with her because of her terrible perm. You just need to see it.

In fact, you just need to see both The Mindy Project (now in summer reruns!) and Inside Amy Schumer. They both make great summer viewing.


The Feminism of ‘Soul Train’

35_soul train dancerTalented Friend of Sexy Feminist Lauren Rami drew this tremendous illustration of a Soul Train dancer (don’t you want to frame it and put it in some inspirational place in your apartment?) in homage to the women she loves to watch on the quintessential ’70s dance show. She wrote us a guest post about what inspired her.

I really, really love ’70s-era Soul Train. The powerful soul and funk music. The innovative, talented Soul Train Gang. The laid-back, effortlessly cool style. I’m fascinated by early seasons of the show for many reasons, but especially by how surprisingly feminist they were.

Now, I have no idea how women were being treated behind the scenes. While the cameras were rolling, though, the gender equality on that 1970s dance floor was remarkable. Dance moves weren’t gender-specific (the funky penguin didn’t discriminate), clothing was pretty unisex, and almost everyone danced independent of each other. No exploitation. No sexualization. Just people being together and expressing their love for music and dance. Unfortunately, this level playing field seemed to fade somewhere in the ’80s, after the onset of music videos…

The woman I’ve sketched above was a standout on one of my all-time favorite episodes, filmed in 1972. I don’t know her name, but I do know she was a dynamic, athletic, creative, and skilled performer. She was portrayed on the show as a dancer first and a woman second.

This illustration is my way of paying homage to the world Don Cornelius created in the early ’70s. Love, peace and soul.


Why Some Newsrooms Are Hotbeds of Sexism

witw-logoDiscussion of sexism in media has been heating up again — this time, it’s about the folks who bring us the news, not just how women are portrayed in said news. First we had that magazine cover that hailed a “new golden age” for print media, and featured only white male editors. Now we have a public pissing match between The New Republic and Politico over who’s slightly less sexist. The Daily Beast’s Women in the World investigates.


HBO’s ‘Love, Marilyn’ Gives Us a Thinking Sex Symbol

LoveMarilynAll hail Marilyn Monroe as the thinking girl’s icon trapped in a sex goddess’ body.

Feminists have long been fascinated by the life and death of the self-made siren, who came from nothing and became anything Hollywood wanted her to be so she could rise to fame. (Gloria Steinem wrote a book about her at the peak of her own notoriety as a women’s lib leader.) What Hollywood wanted, of course, was a sex symbol of mythic proportions, and it got just that from her. If it also wanted a source of endless material for years after her death, it got that, too: Reams of books have been written about her from every vantage point imaginable, from Steinem to Joyce Carol Oates to murder conspiracy theorists to Norman Mailer and the many men who admired her. Smash dedicated two ill-fated seasons to a fictional musical about her life. Michelle Williams, Ashley Judd, Mira Sorvino, and Madonna are among the many who have played the star in one way or another.

What’s well-covered territory feels fresh again in HBO’s new documentary, Love, Marilyn. I started watching it out of a sense of obligation, as a feminist and pop culture writer. But I came away feeling, for the first time, what it was like to be Marilyn, a sensation strangely absent from every other depiction I’ve ever seen. I loved Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn, but even that performance, which depicted her exquisite sadness and loneliness, still couldn’t convey to me why she was so sad and lonely. It also couldn’t show me how smart she was, and, perhaps more poignantly, how smart she wanted to be in a world that wouldn’t let her.

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‘Wolf of Wall Street’: Wither the Ladies?

Oh my goodness, did I swoon with the rest of the internet upon the release of the first Wolf of Wall Street trailer. DiCaprio being the actor I love! McConaughey being the comeback, rom-com-free McConaughey I love! Scorsese! That dancing, that monkey! Jokes, money flying, high drama, the inevitable crash you know has to come, etc. Please swoon with me if you haven’t already, or swoon again — you know you want to:

So here’s where I’m a downer about this: As soon as you come down off the sugar high of that kick-ass trailer, you realize that the only two women you see in this thing are objectified eye candy. Granted, you can tell that this reflects the sensibility of the world the film is depicting; you don’t come away thinking Scorsese is a massive misogynist as much as an unfortunately accurate chronicler of Wall Street. It’s the same problem Social Network had a few years ago, when one of its most shocking details was its lack of smart female characters, just as discussions about the lack of women in tech really took off.

And so I wonder: Is there a similarly rollicking, real-life story featuring mostly fascinating female characters that we’d like to see hit the big screen? Bling Ring seems like a start, of sorts — we don’t need the women to be admirable, since the men in these films (particularly Wolf of Wall Street) are hardly role models. Betsy Israel’s Bachelor Girl, about the history of single women, provides some prototypes. (I might even suggest the female writers of The Mary Tyler Moore Show featured in my book, Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted, if I wanted to be particularly bold.) I’m a fan of Jessica Mitford, a social activist and journalist in the ’40s and ’50s known as “the queen of the muckrakers.” I can’t believe there hasn’t been a huge, showy Dorothy Parker movie. But it’d be cool to see some more modern kick-ass women on the screen as well. Any ideas?


The She Hulk-Mary Tyler Moore Connection

411Nws28DOL._SY300_Marta Acosta, the author of  The She-Hulk Diariesguest blogs here about her heroines — She-Hulk and The Mary Tyler Moore Show‘s Mary Richards.

 

Sometimes we think we’re the only ones still crazy about an old television series. We channel surf and always stop when we see the images we love, listening to dialogue that still makes us laugh. The Husband says, “Haven’t you seen that before?” and I say, “Haven’t you seen documentaries about the Ottoman Empire before?” Because, really, no matter how many of those documentaries he’s seen, he’s never been able to explain the Ottoman Empire connection to footstools, so what exactly is the point? Okay, I’m going to get back to this in a minute.

When I began my novel The She-Hulk Diaries, based on the iconic Marvel character, writing about a snarky, sexy 6’7” green party girl superhero was easy as pie. (Theoretical pie because I have never mastered making a crust, which my pie-shop owning neighbor recently informed me is a genetic ability. But I digress.) She-Hulk, aka Shulky, is as big, bold, and badass as she wants to be. However, I struggled to find the authenticity in her human identity, Jennifer Walters, a highly-accomplished and painfully shy attorney. I was stepping into more than 30 years of She-Hulk canon, but most of it centered on Shulky and all of it was written by men. I wanted to give Jennifer Walters the attention she deserved.

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‘Tiger Eyes’ film a beautiful look at teen grief

imagesAs a teen in the ’80s, I remember two young adult novels that dealt just beautifully with the subject of grief. One was “A Ring of Endless Light” by Madeleine L’Engle, and the other was “Tiger Eyes” by Judy Blume.

When I found out last year that “Tiger Eyes” was being made into a movie, I was worried, because Hollywood usually screws over my favorite books. And it didn’t help that Disney had completely ruined “Ring” in 2002. Mischa Barton as Vicky? Jared Padalecki as Zachary? Unnecessary action plot involving romantic rivalry and dolphins in drift nets?

But I digress. Luckily, when it came to “Tiger Eyes,” Blume shares my concerns about Hollywood, and decided to not just co-write the screenplay for the first movie ever made from her works but also have her son Lawrence (her fellow screenwriter) direct. The result is a subtle and beautiful film that also does the novel justice.
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Our Favorite Women’s Memoirs

The Year of Magical Thinking

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There's nothing more feminist than a woman telling her own story in her own words, which is why we've rounded up some of the best women's memoirs of all time here. First up: Joan Didion's heartbreaking feminist books and the Year of Magical Thinking , which stuns us with its emotional honesty in recounting the year in which Didion lost her husband and her daughter. It's true magic is that despite its darkness, the book makes us ache for the kind of love Didion and her husband shared, even if that makes the loss all the more devastating. Click through for some of our other favorites.


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