Women On Film – The Week In Women, March 6, 2009 – MaryAnn Johanson

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Whether we’re presented naked as eye candy for leering male eyes or served up as the hacked-up leftovers of a crazed slasher, women-as-meat is still on the cinematic menu.

NUDE NOT NUDE. Remember that Vanity Fair cover from two years back, the one featuring a buck-naked Scarlett Johansson and a buck-naked Keira Knightley being leered at by openly homosexual superstar designer Tom Ford? Well, Vanity Fair has apparently decided that it wasn’t enough to treat women like meat. Now, it’s highlighting Hollywood’s deeply and ridiculously unfair double standard about men’s and women’s bodies with a new “naked” photo shoot:

The ludicrous ineptitude of this “parody” knows no bounds. As Salon.com’s Rebecca Traister so aptly decrees:

Rebecca Traister: All this silliness does is amplify the point that men can become famous in Hollywood, and famous enough to be photographed by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair, without having bodies that you want to see unclothed. There is not a similar path to success for Hollywood’s women.

Salon.com’s women reiterate that–although men insist this is the case–women actually love seeing attractive men butt naked or, for that matter, full frontal. For, in addition to observations that “the guys would have to be nude and buff here for this to be even remotely comparable to the Johansson/Knightley cover,” another consensus emerges from those bright gals at Salon.com:

Sarah Hepola: OK, but honestly? I would like to see Paul Rudd unclothed.

Lynn Harris: I was thinking the same thing, sistah friend!

Yeah, me, too–or three.

NOT NUDE FOR ME, NUDE FOR THEE. Speaking of knuckle-dragging ideas about women: Is it really shocking news that high porn consumption and political conservatism are in bed with each other? Well, that’s the conclusion of a recent Harvard Business School study, as reported in New Scientist:

Those states that do consume the most porn tend to be more conservative and religious than states with lower levels of consumption, the study finds.

“Some of the people who are most outraged turn out to be consumers of the very things they claimed to be outraged by,” Edelman says.

Hey, Harvard, this is hardly news. Porn–particularly of the online variety that’s looked at in this study–depicts very backward concepts of women not as sexual beings in their own right, but as submissive receptacles for male sexual desire. Of course those very same men who don’t accept women as political, cultural, and social equals will be more interested in porn that reflects their attitudes towards women.

SO JUST WHAT DO WOMEN WANT, ANYWAY? Kim Voynar, our sister AWFJ member at Movie City News, looks at how women approach cinematic violence, in the context of the R-rated comic-book movie Watchmen, but what she’s really exploring is how women might feel about seeing ourselves onscreen as merely disposable victims, as opposed to seeing ourselves as more complicated participants in or observers of violence:

The question of whether women will stay away from a film like Watchmen just because of its violence intrigues me. Are women just more discerning than men with regard to the context in which the violence in a movie takes place? Does the type of violence matter? There’s a big difference for me between the violence in the Saw and Hostel films versus the violence in, say, Hancock, Iron Man or The Dark Knight, or even Silence of the Lambs and The Cell. There’s a difference between violence within a reasonable context and violence for the sake of thrill, between a violent film that’s smart and has something to say and violent film that’s little more than masochistic rubbernecking at blood-spatter-gore. What’s a reasonable context? For starters, something more to the storyline than “attractive, scantily clad young girl with ample bosoms becomes target of psycho for no particular reason. Lots of blood, sexual torture, and other fun sociopathic serial killer methodologies ensue.”

So here’s a Voynaristic tip for filmmakers: Don’t treat women as pieces of meat. It’s always just as easy as that.

MANY A TRUTH: I just discovered this wonderful tidbit from the best source of satirical news on the Net, The Onion:

HOLLYWOOD, CA—A steady stream of indistinguishable, uniformly beautiful actresses brought excitement and joy to millions of Americans Sunday by donning similarly glamorous dresses that hugged their identical figures and marching past television cameras at consistent intervals. Nielsen ratings revealed more than half the country was transfixed by the procession of loose curls, white teeth, and vapid over-the-shoulder glances by each of the 100 percent transposable starlets.

Clearly, this was inspired by the parade of interchangeable fembots at the annual slew of awards shows. As with everything The Onion peels, I laugh and cry at the same time.

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Movies Opening Today: It’s all about masked vigilantes this week. Watchmen, the long-awaited cinematic adaptation of the classic graphic novel, hits the screens today, and everyone else is staying out of its way. But though superhero movies are typically dominated by male characters, there are a few females of note here. Carla Gugino plays Sally Jupiter, aka “Silk Spectre,” a 1940s-era caped crime fighter, and Malin Ackerman plays her daughter, Laurie, aka “Silk Spectre II,” who is conflicted about her mother’s legacy but dons her own cape again in the 1980s. It’s not a major theme of the story, but the movie does touch on the trouble these women face — from their own crime-fighting colleagues, who are supposedly the “good guys” — in such the testosterone-soaked world of “superheroes.”

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MaryAnn Johanson

MaryAnn Johanson is a freelance writer on film, TV, DVD, and pop culture from New York City and now based in London. She is the webmaster and sole critic at FlickFilosopher.com, which debuted in 1997 and is now one of the most popular, most respected, and longest-running movie-related sites on the Internet. Her film reviews also appear in a variety of alternative-weekly newspapers across the U.S. Johanson is one of only a few film critics who is a member of The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (the Webby organization), an invitation-only, 500-member body of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities. She is also a member of the Online Film Critics Society. She has appeared as a cultural commentator on BBC Radio, LBC-London, and on local radio programs across North America, and she served as a judge at the first Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Film Festival at the 2003 I-Con, the largest SF convention on the East Coast. She is the author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride, and is an award-winning screenwriter. Read Johanson's recent articles below. For her AWFJ.org archive, type "MaryAnn Johanson" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).