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The Oscars? Men (not women)

February 19, 2015

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Oscar is a man. And the Oscars (i.e., the Academy Awards) feature men more (even though a human named Cheryl Boone Isaacs is now the president of the Academy). And for some years now, out of research conducted at San Diego State University, has come the Celluloid Ceiling Report showing men make more films and make more money from them than women have made or can make. The past year is worse than the previous year, the data in the annual reporting by Martha M. Lauzen show.

One film watcher has decided, therefore, that this year (2015) she will watch 52 films, one per week,[per her clarifying comment below] 365 new films, one per day, made not by men but by women. “Initially I was just going to do [my watching of] the films directed by a woman,” she says, “but then I realized the statistics for female screenwriters are abysmal.” In women-directed movies also written by women, there seems to be a difference that Marya E. Gates has begun to notice already when watching the films and noting how men can be presented in them: “men tend to be more intimate in films directed by women.”

What more will be seen in the 2015 movies women have made that this woman is watching?

And don’t we already know what most film viewers otherwise will see? How about this:

With its tendency to follow conventional themes, clichéd metaphors, given genres, and above all stereotypes of the female figure—[movies of 2015 are] hardly a satisfying source for tracing women’s “real” presence (or the presence of “real” women). Rather than evidence to their presence, [the film set of this present year] furnishes manifestations of their absence and erasure. There are ample ways by which women can be made to disappear from the [movies that represent] them. Woman’s absence is represented by procedures of silencing (woman is ideally mute or notoriously garrulous); stereotypization (woman is “good,” “bad,” “ugly,” etc.); abstraction (allegorical woman as concept without body); mythologization and dehumanizing (nymph, Medusa, Amazon, demon, beast); objectification (woman is a reified body without subjectivity or mind; she is matter, commodity, chattel, prize), and the like. It is the task of [2015 film] criticism to follow the varied ways in which women and concepts of gender are manipulated—fictionalized, fantasized, poeticized, metaphorized, narrativized, dramatized—in [the movies this year].

Closely related to the question of women’s presence/absence in [film making] is the issue of female voices. To what extent are those female voices captured within [movies] “authentic” and unmediated? Aren’t they muffled by male transmission? Don’t they serve the [screen writer’s and the director’]’s androcentric position? Female voices seem often to embody patriarchal “truths” about women’s speech (women abuse language by lying, quarreling, complaining, enticing, and so on). However, utterances of female protagonists help to reveal the limits of the androcentric logic that produced them. They indicate points from which the homotextual hegemonic monolith can be dismantled.

Well, the two paragraphs above are not my words. And to be fair, they aren’t about 2015 films, who Oscar is, or the ways women are and fail to be represented in movies this year. That is not an excerpt from “Modern Hollywood Filmmaking: Portrayal of Women.” Rather, it is a quotation of Tova Rosen from her “Medieval Hebrew Literature: Portrayal of Women.” I just wanted to think about how different things might be from one era to another, from one medium to another, from one year to the next. What on this day in 2016 might be different? Who is Oscar’s sister anyway?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 19, 2015 7:57 am

    Personally I can;t wait for more Hollywood movies directed and produced by women which depict female (yes FEMALE) leads in heroic roles where they risk life and limb (and killing many women along the way) to rescue some good looking man that she barely knows, but values greatly (more than her life even!) simply because he is a man….. and a man in peril!

    I want to see the musical themes reflect sympathetically on this man, so that his feelings are felt by the audience….. so that we CARE what happens to him. And I want the all action female lead to be depicted as virtually indestructible and bursting with agency, capable of doing anything against the most ridiculous odds – and without a single complaint (except in a humours Bruce Willis quip kind of way). If one of her would-be assassins is wearing the wrong kind of shirt or calls her bossy, I want the female lead to simply NOT CARE, because she is a strong and empowered lady and not some wretched whining feminist with a victim complex and a bunch of sexist demands (He for She).

    I want to see women so equal to men that they can be gunned down in droves in the background, just like men have been in thousands of movies for the last century, without the camera or music or direction showing any sympathy towards them. Then we will know that gender equality in the film industry has been achieved.

    I want to see women with agency! So much agency they are even willing to support men financially, practically and emotionally, and even at immense cost to themselves.

    Then – and only then – we might start to see more women in the real world taking on dangerous and arduous roles without complaint (and helping to lower the 95% male workplace death rate along the way). And we might start to see more women just getting on with life instead of complaining about every single real or imaginary injustice they claim exists in the world.

    So let’s NOT encourage more female directors and actresses, because that would be patronising and sexist. Let’s instead DARE them to better men at their own game and give us some powerful female characters who don’t need men to rescue or support them, and are able to be powerful and independent without carrying around a massive chip on their shoulder and turning every expression of agency into a gender political ‘statement’…. which again is just patronising and sexist.

  2. February 19, 2015 9:57 am

    “curiosetta”:

    You probably have to resort to sarcastic comments when a phallologocentric imagination is all you have, when you’re limited by the sort of masculinism that views women as envious of the male anatomy and females as merely botched males. Well, it’s a sad but common psychological reality that persons tend to become like the very ones they fear and hate; but it’s not necessary for you to assume that girls are mirror opposites of boys and can only (aspire) to be like them in every, little way. As you try to be clever, please watch yourself and your pseudonomic public disdain; it says much about your sexist mindset and ironically shows merely superficial uneducated thinking that demonstrates a “personal” need in you.

  3. February 19, 2015 11:31 am

    It’s actually EVERY film I watch this year, which I usually watch a new-to-me film a day, plus rewatches. so it will be 365 minimum.

  4. February 19, 2015 11:55 am

    Thank you very much, Cinemafanatic! Thank you, Ms. Marya E. Gates, not only for doing and sharing your helpful research every single day sometimes more than once but also for reading this post and clarifying the expansive scope of that work of yours! (I’ve noted your correction in an update of my post.)

    We’re following!

    A Year With Women by Marya E. Gates
    In 2015, every movie I watch (at home or in theaters) will either be written by, directed by, co-written by or co-directed by women. Places you can follow my project A Year With Women: http://cinema-fanatic.com/a-year-with-women/

  5. February 19, 2015 9:15 pm

    It is amazing how much that quote about women in medieval Hebrew literature applies to women in film.

  6. February 20, 2015 7:04 am

    Isn’t it? Sexist portrayals of women in “varied ways” seems unvaried through the ages.

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