AWFJ Women On Film – The Week In Women, April 17, 2009 – MaryAnn Johanson

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Michelle Rodriguez ain’t a lesbian, dammit (not that there’s anything wrong with that), 40 ain’t old, and date rape still ain’t funny.

MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ SPOILERS: Oh, damn, I hate to spoil movies, but I can’t ignore how Michelle Rodriguez — one of the kickass-iest bitches (that’s meant in the best possible way, I promise) on film these days has noted that the kickass bitches she’s playing on the big screen this year all have to die to complete an ostensibly satisfying story.

And then — as if to pour stinging lemon juice in the wound — she has constantly to dismiss rumors that she’s a lesbian. Not that there’s anything at all wrong with being a lesbian, of course, except that the “accusation” of such is typically comes with accusations that a gal ain’t appropriately feminine… for very narrow values of “feminine” (as in, perhaps, complaining that every kickass bitch a chick plays on film has to be killed to satisfy what Hollywood thinks mainstream audiences want).

It’d be nice if the rest of the world progressed into the 21st century.

SPEAKING OF JOINING THE 21ST CENTURY, PART II. The Cougar? Oh dear god, really? An “older” woman (and mother of four!) — all of 40 years old! — and a passel of “younger” men — some of whom are pushing 30! — are set up to “compete” in a “dating” “reality” show. And we’re supposed to swallow this as exciting, innovative entertainment? Not.

A 40-year-old man paired with a 28-year-old woman is so completely run of the mill that no one would even think to comment on it. But flip the genders, and it’s noteworthy? Not.

I’m banging my head against my desk. And is that just because I’ll be 40 in a few months? Not.

SPEAKING OF JOINING THE 21ST CENTURY, PART III. Spinster? I thought that word went out with stockings that were actually made of nylon. Apparently not. WENN at IMDB chooses that bizarrely, unpleasantly retro word to describe Scottish singer Susan Boyle, who “wowed” the world this week by having a pretty good singing voice — which she demonstrated on the British TV show Britain’s Got Talent — while simultaneously being not very pretty in a way that’s approved of by TV. I thought the Brits were a bit more open-minded about this kind of thing than Hollywood seems to be, but it appears that they. too, are corralled within limiting boudaries of perception. Cripes, it’s not like Susan Boyle is the Elephant Man…she’s just a bit plain and not supernaturally (or artificially) beautiful. But I guess that’s enough to startle many people into realizing that although a person’s not physically drop-dead gorgeous, they may still be worth paying attention to and command a high level of respect.

OBSERVING AND REPORTING. I want to acknowledge Kim Voynar’s (a fellow AWFJ member) calling me out, at Movie City News, for the way in which I characterized that scene in Observe and Report in last week’s The Week in Women. Kim noted that I wrote:

IS DATE RAPE FUNNY? That seems to be the big question of the day, because — yup — Seth Rogen’s character date-rapes Anna Faris’s character in Observe and Report, opening today

which is an accurate representation of my views on the scene — I think the Rogen character is clearly not intoxicated while the Farris character clearly is, which would, in a real-life situation, put the onus of responsibility on him. (Excepting, of course, that the whole point of the Rogen character is that he is clearly not a responsible adult.) But I appreciate and agree with Voynar’s examination of the nuances shown in reactions to that scene, particularly when she questions whether intoxication on the dude’s part should absolve him of responsibility just as — as many feminists seem to think — intoxication on her part absolves the chick of hers.

My point here is: This is not always a clear-cut matter. And if nothing else, this damn movie has sparked an unexpected debate on an important issue. So for all Observe and Report‘s faults the film has served as an intriguing instigator in getting people talking about a complicated issue. I feel safe in assuming that writer-director Jody Hill — a dude-Jody, not a chick-Jody — did not foresee this consciousness-raising response to his movie. But, what the hell, dude, congrats. Llive and learn.

OPENING THIS WEEK. It’s a seven day wasteland for meaningful matters concerning women in particular (not that we gals aren’t concerned with issues concerning us all), though not totally bereft of stuff worth watching. The goddess Helen Mirren’s bits in State of Play are almost beside the point, and could have been handled equally well by a male actor, but the interplay between Russell Crowe’s old-fashioned newspaper journalist and Rachel McAdams’ young, hungry new-media blogger are not only fascinating in themselves — particularly in how they do not degenerate into clichéd romance/bed play (not that Russell Crowe ain’t yummy… or McAdams, for that matter) — but also in an under-the-radar feminist way of a woman doing surprising, paradigm-busting things that startle a man out of his complacency while not alienating him as well. That Crowe’s older guy is not turned off by McAdams’ younger woman’s ways is a nice nod to the possibilities of the genders working together for a more inclusive, less constricted future.

But whatever appeal 17 Again and Crank: High Voltage have — and they’re both appealing, albeit in very different ways — women are almost absent from them except as sexual objects and/or helpmeets to men. The hell of that is that, as a feminist who loves men, I hate that I have to sound like I hate men when I complain that I’m tired of constantly seeing stories about men only. Isn’t it okay to love men and everything about their glorious, goofy selves while also wishing that women got to be glorious and goofy as well?

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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).