This and other important questions are raised by this 8-minute film we just discovered, Goodnight, Vagina, starring Cheryl Hines and Gary Cole. Reasons you should watch include the following lines: “I have a Bentley, so you know I’ve done this dozens of times.” And: “Your vagina died on the table.” Yep, there’s also a vagina funeral with a tiny coffin. We have a clip here; you can watch the whole thing here.
I’m not talking about romantic love, though he seems to do almost bafflingly well in that department, too. Here, I’m interested in something else: Funny female writers and filmmakers have tended, more often than random chance would dictate, to be strongly, obviously influenced by Allen, moreso than any other male auteur I can think of. Why would this be?
I’m talking, first and foremost, about Nora Ephron, one of Allen’s most direct, unapologetic cultural descendants. When Harry Met Sally is essentially trying, hoping to be a Woody Allen movie. It succeeded at this goal, of course, and transcended it, but it would have been happy — and rightfully so — being a very good Woody Allen imitation. From the dialogue to the uptown New York social circles it moves in to Meg Ryan’s wardrobe (what’s up, Annie Hall?), it’s a beyond-competent love letter to Allen. But I see traces of Allen in Tina Fey’s wordplay, Mindy Kaling’s zippy dialogue and surreal hijinks, Lena Dunham’s unflinching take on messy relationships and neuroses, and Elizabeth Meriwether’s quirky heroines and awkward sex scenes. (Last night, I re-watched the New Girl episode in which Jess and Nick try to have sex but fail because they shatter Schmidt’s fish tank. Brilliant.)
It’s strange to realize how much influence Allen has had on women-centric entertainment, given his own problematic relationship to women being played out over and over in a lot of his work. When he’s not reveling in the glories of much, much younger women, he’s fetishizing the whole lot of us, worshipping us to the point of unknowability. He basically invented the now well-known archetype of the manic pixie dream girl.
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.)
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.
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?
Or at least that’s what Celine claims in Before Midnight, the third installment in the Richard Linklater-directed series starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, which follows Celine and Jesse’s epic romance. That romance began in 1995’s Before Sunrise, when Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) are 20-somethings who meet on a train and decide to spend the night together wandering Vienna. They don’t exchange contact information, but agree to meet six months later.
In 2004’s Before Sunset, set nine years later, we catch up with them in Paris. Jesse is now a successful writer, and Celine works as an environmental activist. They never met as promised, though Jesse uses their night in Vienna as the plot for his bestselling novel. His book tour takes him to Paris, and that is how Celine finds him. They spend the film reconnecting, but there is a big obstacle – Jesse is married with a child. Unhappily married, but still. Nonetheless, as the film ends, they may get together.
The only really disconcerting part of “Frances Ha” (opening May 31, nationwide June 14) is that the filmmakers decided to shoot it in black and white. Not that there’s anything wrong with black and white; the shadows pop and even the bleakest landscapes look beautiful. It just kinda screams artsy pretension, especially since the film is mainly set in New York among 20-something hipsters.
But that’s not fair to this lovely little gem, directed by Noah Baumbach (“The Squid and the Whale”), nor are the inevitable comparisons to Lena Dunham’s “Girls” (though some of those might have been avoided by not casting Adam Driver in a supporting role).
Because “Frances Ha” is a great look at women’s friendships, particularly those intense bonds you form in your late teens/early 20s that, when they end, hurt far worse than any romance. [Read more...]
Gay marriage goes to the Supreme Court: The highest court’s ruling could lead to federalizing gay marriage — or not — by late spring or early summer, says The New Yorker.
More gay marriage: Meanwhile, same-sex couples started getting legally married in Washington State this weekend. And Jezebel has a piece by a woman who grew up with two moms.
Gwen and Gavin are our aspirational-couple heroes: They are never allowed to break up. Here is some video of them singing “Glycerine” on stage together, via The Frisky, to reassure you that they are still awesome and together.
Yeah, it’s important not to use “mankind” to refer to all humans: Even the scholars say so, io9 tells us. Seriously, it’s not that hard to make your language gender-inclusive, and it seems “silly” only when you’re one of the “man”s already included.
And yeah, we’re not about to suddenly call the internet a bastion of “niceness” either: We’re backing Jezebel on this one: Trolls live on.
OB-GYNs say the pill should be over-the-counter: We guess we’ll take the convenience factor even if it means we’d have to pay for it again. Especially after the fiasco our pharmacy experience was today. Self breaks down why OTC birth control would rule.
Another lady in charge of something major: The nation’s largest bank gets a new CFO, HuffPo reports.
10 Reasons Why Ryan Lochte Is America’s Sexiest Douchebag: Courtesy of Jezebel. We see that he’s super-hot, but we’re happy he isn’t totally our type, because, seriously.
Today in Lady Olympic News: America’s Missy Franklin breaks records and wins 200-meter backstroke, reports the LA Times.
We Do Love Rashida Jones: She talks about writing herself a better role in Celeste and Jesse Forever, via Feministing.
Bitch Goes Beyond Judy Blume: And we’re suckers for anything with Judy Blume in the name.