So here's the news. Women across the country really wanted to see He's Just Not That Into You even though it got rotten reviews across the board. 80% of the audience was women, and 60% of the audience was over 25. As someone who thinks about women's films and the women's market the success of a movie like this (which I did not see and am not very interested in seeing) gives me pause.
I was expecting the film to make at least $20 million. Think about it. It opened on over 3,000 screens. Had a high profile cast. Had a lot of marketing behind it. Smartly opened right before Valentine's Day when women in relationships and not in relationships are pondering the state of their relationships or lack thereof.
But it beat all expectations and made $27 million beating The Pink Panther 2 (which looked bad), the new thriller Push and last week's box office champ Taken.
All week writers have been talking about how these types of chick flicks are regressive and are setting women back, and many (mostly guys) have asked why women would be interested in these types of films. I've been quoted in a bunch of pieces talking about the lack of women writers and directors and my desire to see different types of movies with stronger female characters.
I really don't see these early 2009 films on the same continuum with Sex and the City and Mamma Mia. I just don't. Sex and the City had romance and a wedding, but to me, the film was about the friendship between the women. Mamma Mia also had romance and a wedding but, to me, it was a mother-daughter love story. What's different about Mamma Mia and Sex is that the women are seen from a place of strength, not a place of weakness. Maybe it's the age of the women that gives them more substance.
I remember that both Sex and the City and Mamma Mia got a bunch of pretty shitty reviews too. I remember when Sex opened that people were making fun of Sarah Jessica Parker's face. I remember people writing that Meryl Streep has ruined her career for appearing in Mamma Mia.
But I don't remember people saying that women were stupid for going to see these movies. They called us shallow and materialistic but I don't remember being called stupid. While I don't have any interest in seeing Bride Wars and He's Not Into You, I don't agree with the name calling and think it needs to stop.
Just because you see a stupid movie doesn't make you stupid. Did anyone call the people (both men and women) who went to see Paul Blart Mall Cop stupid? That movies got pretty bad reviews too. It's not my type of movie but it seems that it's OK for guys to act stupid, yet, there is this accepted, nasty misogynistic tone that pervades the criticism of movies targeted at women. Long time movie critic Peter Travers puts it this way in Rolling Stone: "Are women desperate or just desperately stupid? This is the misogynist question at the core of He's Just Not That Into You, a women-bashing tract disguised as a chick flick."
The facts are clear. Women do direct less than 6% of the films and write only 10%. But I'm not letting women off the hook. We (me too) are complicit in this problem. When we go and see these films and make them successes that means that Hollywood will make more of them. That's law #1 of Hollywood.
I blame the system for these films. Women writers have credits on all these films (and Drew Barrymore produced He's Just Not That Into You) including the upcoming Confessions of a Shopaholic. Everyone needs a job and if the only movies that get made in Hollywood that you can make any money on are chick flicks you're going to take the gig. Let me tell you, principles don't pay the rent or mortgage even if we wish they would.
I blame the system for these films. I blame a system that perpetuates stereotypes on a regular basis. I wish that a film like Frozen River could get on 3,000 screen but struggles to keep 100. I wish that women would have other choices in their multiplexes beyond He's Just Not That Into You. I wish that people would stop calling women stupid for going to a movie.
H/T The Rope of Silicon