“Are you ready to be worshipped? Are you ready to be exalted?” This is how the MC welcomes the five, white, male, virile stars of Magic Mike to the stage. The MC acts as if she is talking to the audience but she’s not. The people who are ready to be worshipped and exalted here are the same ones who’ve been worshipped since the beginning of time. And one of them is called Big Dick Richie.
Show me a female stripper movie where the main characters are in control of their lives. Actually don’t. Even when both are stripped down, their personal power remains unequal.
And sometimes women/girls don’t appear at all. This seems to be especially true of films for children. I recommend this review of The Minions as a case in point. Not only are the three main characters male, all of them are male. I wish the film was unique in this regard.
On the silver screen, women continue to have predominantly two roles. If there is one woman, she is the sex object or the evil that needs to be subdued. Her function is to validate the dominance of the young, virile, usually white, male protagonist. If there are two women, they divide into the virginal mother/daughter or the wicked, experienced woman who is punished for her appetite.
I looked at the trailers of the big films of 2015 coming to a cinema near you and saw this pattern repeated ad nauseam. Vacation (Rusty takes his family on vacation) Mission Impossible, X-Men, Batman Vs Superman, Xmen, Immortals, Mad Max 4, and the interminable Terminator. That the film Joy has a female lead that turns her life around by developing the… Miracle Mop somehow brings me small comfort. Then there is Supergirl. A lovely do-gooder, she’s like a flying girl scout. If you hoped this would be the film to redress this imbalance, we get yet another reinforcement of the virgin/bitch split – and those are the two female leads in the film. The plot of Sisters starring the glorious, irreverent, satiricTina Fey – Amy Poehler duo looks like it turns on whether Amy gets a guy. This is based on the trailer. I’d love it if I was wrong.
A few weeks ago, I stood in LA, the home of Hollywood, opposite an advertisement for an upcoming comedy with five men standing together. I bet it’ll be funny but it also saddened me. In other spheres, men are starting to refuse to sit on all-male panels. I wondered when male actors will do the equivalent in film.
Even where a woman scores a token lead (Fast and Furious 7, The Avengers, Fantastic Four), the secondary roles remain inexplicably unbalanced. Take Bridge of Spies. It’s not out yet. This is based just on the trailer.
I’d love it, love it, love it if what I am about to say is wildly wrong. So, from the trailer, we can see it’s a drama. All the extras are men, and not just all the roles of the powerful, serious people. Every government official? Male. Nine judges on a panel? All male. A throng of reporters? Men. All the soldiers? It’s obvious. People standing on court house steps? 15 out of 17 are men. Petty? Perhaps. Infuriating it remains. That Tom Hanks has both a wife and a daughter at home to protect with his manly manliness does not redress this.
Tarontino’s Kill Bill 1 features some ferocious fighting between formidable women, including a 17 year old “schoolgirl” bodyguard, but my favorite scene is of the three piece band singing in the background in the restaurant. Tarontino chose a three woman band for this. Nice.
On a brighter note, Jenny’s Wedding, Inside Out and Suffragette, promise (again, from the trailers) to be a step in the right direction. I would hate, hate, hate to be wrong about that.
The old double standard where men are expected to be sexually assertive as a way of affirming their masculinity but ‘good’ women are required to be uninterested in sex is shifting. Magic Mike makes that clear. The five dancers in the film are there to strip dance for women. And while sexual freedom is an essential part of women’s liberation, I would still argue that a film with five male leads worshipped and exalted by a room of women, titillating as it might be, does nothing to redress the imbalance on our screens.
Next Saturday night, Jews read Eicha, a book of lamentations on the destruction of the temple. Jerusalem is described as an abject woman: degraded, alone, despised, filthy and a widow. In Biblical terms this means she is landless and powerless. She embodies subordination. How far have we come?