Saturday, August 06, 2005
The New New Woman
One of my major turn offs and pet peeves about action movies (among others) today is that you always have the super buff female who's tougher than any man, as strong, as resilient, and as aggressive if not more so.
This article in WSJ online covers it for me.
This is a very different atmosphere from a few decades ago. In the 1980s, the entertainment industry served up plenty of physically aggressive women exacting retribution for violence inflicted upon them by men, but rarely were they men's physical equals. "The Burning Bed," for instance, gave us Farrah Fawcett as a wife who douses her abusive husband with gasoline and burns him to death. In the 1990s, "do-me feminists" added lipstick and libido to the mix, celebrating women's sexual freedom and occasionally placing women in the role of predators (Demi Moore in "Disclosure") or avengers (Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis in "Thelma and Louise")
Today "do-me feminism" has morphed into "pummel-me feminism," and it is not a surprise given our collective cultural insistence, despite the evidence, that women have equal physical potential--whether on the basketball court or in the bedroom. In her book "The Frailty Myth" (2000), for example, Colette Dowling described the "final stage of women's liberation." She argued that "by making themselves physically equal, women can at last make themselves free. The cover of her book featured the vein-bulging bicep of Ms. Dowling's mythical creature: the woman who had finally "closed the strength gap" with men and embraced "physical self-esteem."
I don't know why Hollywood thinks it is fun to watch girls act as men and get treated as such. I find it stomach turning.
posted by Mark Butterworth |
But these new girl-fight movies are unsatisfactory on another level--they are less entertaining. In old movies, women often outmaneuvered men, of course, but by outsmarting them, not out-boxing them. When Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant sparred in a screwball comedy, or Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire danced around each other in a musical, it was brain, not brawn, that led to feminine triumph. Today women are expected literally to beat men at their own game, becoming as physically aggressive and cavalier about violence as men are assumed to be. If this is empowerment, I'll take "Bringing Up Baby" over "Million Dollar Baby" any day.