Susan Wloszczyna on marketing girls’ images

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Almost all the attempts to reach the female tween audience at the movies haven’t caught on of late, from The Babysitter’s Club to Traveling Pants. They just don’t speak to young girls as much as they do marketing concerns.

I’m all for realistic images of complex young girls dealing with real issues in life. But the makers of Nancy Drew missed a great opportunity to update a heroine for the ages by making her feel like she stepped out of a ’50s family sitcom. Good intentions alone don’t often equal good movies.

And don’t get me started on all the fantasy films coming out that want to empower young girls. The Golden Compass looks like it has possibilities, but those girls in Narnia — as well as the boys — left me as cold as the snow that blanketed Aslan’s kingdom. Me, if I were 12 years old, I would be dreaming of being the White Witch when I grew up!

And Bratz? Ugh. Sounds like a recruitment video for the Pussy Cat Dolls.

But if TV can give us somebody as wonderfully well-rounded as Ugly Betty, why can’t the movies? Watching all the episodes of “Freaks & Geeks” back to back in preparation for “Knocked Up” coverage reminded me how heartbreakingly real Linda Cardellini was as Lindsay, the brain who refused to be pegged. As talented as she is, she has not gotten a tenth as good of a part since in the movies.

Even the bad girl on that show was explored with depth and sympathy.

Movies used to know how to give us intriguing good girls to root for, cry over and relate to. Remember those John Hughes’ films where the females were on par if not more interesting than the males. Sure, the films had their ridiculous elements but those girls always felt real to me in how they expressed themselves and dealt with choices in life. Still, I would have ditched that that not-so-pretty in pink dress myself.

Cameron Crowe was a pro at getting girls right in Ridgemont High and Say Anything. And flat-out comedies could do better by young girls, too. Maybe we as a society are more protective of underage females than males. Where is the gender switch version of Superbad? Heck where is the gender-switch version of Wedding Crashers?

Instead we get The Devil Wears Prada, which basically says you can’t be happy if you are a successful publisher like Meryl Streep. And even though your chef boyfriend seems able to pursue his career goals without compromise, you can’t keep a job that you enjoy and are really good at if you have to give up some of your private time.

The independent film world is far from perfect. too. It often is too busy wallowing in the pain and sorrow of adolescence a la Thirteen to bother to show us a more well-rounded portrait. One of the reasons Little Miss Sunshine was such a joy is that Olive did it her way and managed to triumph with her family beside her. She didn’t win the pageant, but she was a winner. And I and many others related big time.

It will be interesting to see how the Hardy Boys fare given that Ben Stiller and Tom Cruise are in the roles. It might be foolhardy to re-envision the boy sleuths as adults. But I bet they won’t be boring.

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a contributor for the online awards site Gold Derby and is an Oscar expert for Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.