Ironically, it was a scene with no men in it that reminded me how bored I am with movies about men.
OK, let's be more specific: I am super-bored with movies about all the straight white guys who, it sometimes seems, are the most important people in the world, if our film culture is to be believed.
The movie was "American Hustle" -- a triumph of style over substance if ever there was one, but that's for another day -- and the scene features Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence, both of whom just won the Golden Globe for their performances and could easily win Oscars too.
Adams and Lawrence have been circling each other for the whole movie. "American Hustle" is set at a delirious, souped-up pitch, and both women are aflame with intensity. Adams is playing this brilliant con artist, and Lawrence this mad-but-savvy wife. They're the kind of women who, in another movie or life or world, would be running their own show. But, of course, all they've got their minds on is Christian Bale -- the schlub who, despite his hideous hair and rather limited prospects, has managed to turn these two glorious specimens crazy over him. His landing of Adams, his mistress, is explained as essentially a meeting of the minds; how he got the much-younger Lawrence to wed him is less convincingly detailed.
So when Adams and Lawrence meet, the conversation they have is about nothing but Bale -- about who loves him more, about how much they hate each other. It is just about the only time in the movie that two women have a scene on their own, and it is full of venom and spite. (It should be added that although they agree on little, they both favor clothes that lean towards the very revealing.)
Now, both of these characters are far from the worst portrayals of women ever put on the screen. They're smart and funny and they take action. But you watch all of that narrow down to a small little pinpoint as the movie goes on, and then you find them in a bathroom, snarling at each other over a man who most assuredly does not deserve them. It was the sameness of the scene -- that feeling of droning predictability that took hold -- that soured me on "American Hustle."
It also got me thinking about how much more interested I would have been in the movie if the genders had simply been reversed. What if Christian Bale was Amy Adams' beautiful flame, and he got involved with Jennifer Lawrence the FBI agent, and Bradley Cooper was Adams' husband? That would have actually been an intriguing kind of film, rather than, ultimately, more of the same. Of course, such a thing would be seen as a kind of odd experiment, some trip to Bizarro World. Imagine a land where a 50-pounds-overweight two-bit con artist like Amy Adams could attract a gleaming and gorgeous Christian Bale, and his world revolved around her!
More broadly, I'm just tired of movie after movie about loser men and the brilliant women who melt down over them; of movie after movie that relentlessly privileges the male experience; of movies where all women seem to think about are men; tired (and this is not about "American Hustle" but about movies in general) of movies with a billion men and one woman in them. In the next two weeks, for instance, we will be treated to "The Monuments Men," which stars seven guys and Cate Blanchett.
And I'm also bored. It's boring to watch the same thing over and over again! Let's not even get into race (though, if I could return to the aforementioned "American Hustle" for a second, I think I saw three non-white people on the screen the whole time) or, God forbid, the idea that gay people should be seen as anything but best friends or award-winning roles for straight actors in prestige pictures.
These are hardly new thoughts. They have been expressed a million times through the decades. The Bechdel Test is rightfully revered, after all. But it's sometimes easy to forget -- especially if you're a man! -- just how much these things are signaled to us. (Take a look, for example, at this year's Oscar nominations: all men!)
And it's also easy to forget that it doesn't have to be this way. In a world where more and more women are directing and producing movies, and where television is as rich a haven for womens' stories as has ever existed in popular culture, and where even Disney is making feminist-ish things like "Frozen," why the hell do we have to settle for the rest of this crap?
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