12/19/2007 03:29 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Religious Bigotry's Biggest Ally

I was fascinated by the reaction of male film critics to The Golden Compass, an excellent fantasy film and an assault on religious authoritarianism. Could it be that most male film critics are religious bigots? This seemed unlikely. Yet there it was: female critics are almost unanimous in praising the film, while male critical responses are almost two to one unfavorable.

The answer, I finally realized, was simple: the film had a female protagonist. I've noticed this in the past: a great many males--including far too many film critics--have such fragile egos they think if they identify with a female protagonist for two hours their little willies will fall off. This issue tends to dominate film criticism.

Of course, the male critics had to find 'artistic' reasons for their dislike. It "doesn't flow quite right", it's "hard to follow", it's "loud" and "disjointed", it's "shallow and inchoate", there's "no sense of wonder", it "doesn't have heart". Several reviewers compared it unfavorably to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which, they implied, was not loud, hard to follow, disjointed, shallow, inchoate, but had heart and wonder and flowed perfectly. Anyone who actually saw the trilogy, as I did, can only laugh. Not that the trilogy didn't have some wonderful moments. But let's face it: most of all three films was taken up with the slaughtering of an unending supply of computer-generated Orcs. This seems to be what male critics mean by "heart" and "wonder".

The sad truth is, the main thing Rings had that Compass doesn't, was a whole slew of male protagonists. There was hardly a female to be seen.

This persistent bias in male film criticism perhaps explains why a film that doesn't have any comic book superheroes, shootouts, fistfights, or car chases--deals, in other words, with mature people in real-life situations--is stigmatized as a 'chick-flick'. Small wonder women are dominating college campuses these days, while men dominate soup kitchen lines.

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