AWFJ Women On Film – The Week In Women, September 18, 2008 – MaryAnn Johanson

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Is it “obsessive” to want to tell stories about women? Is it just plain paranoia to suspect that a beautiful but not anorexic woman could get fired from a TV show for not being thin enough? Is there reason to hope that things could be changing for women in entertainment?

OBSESSIVELY CONCERNED WITH HALF THE HUMAN SPECIES. Director Dario Argento, in an interview with Vice magazine, explained why women predominate in his films:

Seventy percent of my films feature a female protagonist. It’s because I am interested in women. I like their way of expressing themselves. I like their way of being actresses, which is different from being an actor. Actors are colder and shyer. They are more recalcitrant to letting go. But actresses let themselves go with much more enthusiasm. They enter the project much more easily, and they understand it more naturally. This is why I have used women so often—as protagonists, as victims, as assassins—in every possible role in my films.

All good. Nice to hear. But the way interviewer Tim Small framed the question struck me as less pleasant:

Women, in general, are central figures in many of your films. Can you tell me about this? Many critics have defined it as an obsession.

The more I reread this, the more enraged I get. Imagine the reverse:

Men, in general, are central figures in many of your films. Can you tell me about this? Many critics have defined it as an obsession.

If it’s “obsessive” that women are the central figures of so many of the films of a single filmmaker, what are we to make of the fact that most films by most filmmakers — particularly those who come out of Hollywood — are centered around men? Should we see that as something pathological?

FIRED FOR BEING TOO FAT? I mentioned recently the bizarre explanation for the firing of a female cast member of Saturday Night Live. And now comes the unexplanation for the firing of the other one. From People magazine via CNN:

Casey Wilson is laughing off reports that she was fired from “Saturday Night Live” for being too fat.

Earlier this week E! online reported that the curvy SNL star — who joined the cast in 2008 and spoofed celebrities such as Rachael Ray and Jennifer Aniston — got the boot after producers demanded that she lose 30 pounds over the summer and failed to do so.

A rep for the show tells PEOPLE, “there is absolutely no truth” to the reports.

Of course it’s not true. How could it possibly be true? Women in the American media culture are never punished for being too heavy. Just as male actors are applauded when they gain weight for a role, and just as male comics are considered even funnier the pudgier they are, women are celebrated and employed based on their innate talent and their hard work, not on their looks. What a silly suggestion.

GREEN PORNO, FEMALE ENERGY. AWFJ’s Jennifer Merin notes at that Isabella Rossellini’s charming series of environmentally focused shorts, Green Porno, is back for its third season:

In four new amusing and instructive spots, the ever delightful and seminally creative Rossellini transforms herself into an anchovy, squid, shrimp and elephant seal to show us the relationship between sex, eating and ecology.

The shorts are available free for your viewing pleasure at the Sundance Channel’s Web site. Check them out and see what wonderfully oddball things one female filmmaker is up to.

REASON TO HOPE. Monika Bartyzel at Cinematical doesn’t merely report on all the women who made spectacular showings at the Toronto Film Festival this year — she finds reason to keep her chin up:

It’s easy to get cynical being a woman writing about movies — writing over and over about the new prostitute projects in production, the crappy and formulaic rom-coms that never seem to end. But in the middle of this year’s fest, I’ve got a strange feeling burrowing into my gut: hope. Could this really be a sneak peek into the future? Might we see more solid, big buzzed-about films come from female directors and have female casts without them being niche films? I don’t want to amp up my hope and be disappointed, but the tide seems to be changing.

I hope Bartyzel is right. I try never to condemn any one film for being all about men or mostly about men, because I love men and I love watching men onscreen and of course there are indeed lots and lots of interesting stories to be told about men. But in the aggregate, it’s so exhausting and so dispiriting to see so few stories told about genuine, authentic women, or stories written by women, produced by women, and directed by women (whether those stories are about women or men). It would be nice to think that we’re on the verge of a renaissance for creative women in film.

OPENING THIS WEEK. Alas, this week we do have a movie written by a woman (Diablo Cody), directed by a woman (Karyn Kusama), starring women (Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox), and about female characters — that would be Jennifer’s Body — and it sucks. Not that I’m not all for women making crappy movies, but I refuse to support a crappy movie merely because women made it.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, written and directed by men, does feature a positive and very charming depiction of a female character — weathergirl Sam Sparks, voiced by Anna Faris — who learns that being yourself is always the right thing to do, cultural pressure to the contrary notwithstanding.

For the full rundown on this week’s releases, see the AWFJ’s regular coverage.

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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, 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 archive, type "MaryAnn Johanson" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).

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