AWFJ Women On Film – The Week In Women, October 23, 2009 – MaryAnn Johanson

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It’s hip to have no hips, gay vampires are totally ruining everything for straight guys, help out a gal filmmaker, and

IT’S HIP TO HAVE NO HIPS. I’ve stayed away from the fracas over the Ralph Lauren Photoshop disaster, which reduced first one and then a second already skeletally slim model to something out of a sideshow freak exhibit

because, even though unrealistic expectations about women’s bodies are a Hollywood stock in trade, it didn’t actually touch on matters of film or television. But now it looks like the same impossible ideals have, at least, invaded the advertising for the new NBC series Trauma. When I first saw this billboard in Manhattan’s Times Square:

I thought it was interesting how the image showed the scene from the perspective of the victim lying on the ground, being attended by one of the paramedics the show is about. And I liked how her body has been altered digitally to make her head seem disproportionately large, as if, perhaps, to emphasize the urgency of whatever she’s calling out. (We might assume she’s demanding more help.) It makes sense that she might loom that way in the eyes of the person she’s rendering aid and comfort to.

But then I realized that the other ads in the series — which are also on billboards in Times Square (all three appear as well in other places around New York City) — do not treat their male subjects in the same way:

Their bodies have not been digitally distorted, and they appear properly proportioned. Why alter the woman’s body but not the men’s? Your guess is as good as mine. I’d hate to think that were I ever to need the assistance of a paramedic in a life-or-death situation, she wouldn’t be too weak from lack of food to do her job because she’s under the mistaken impression that her job requires her to look like a Bratz doll while the guys get to be brawny like G.I. Joe.

(Trauma images grabbed from James Hibberd’s The Live Feed.)

WHAT DO WOMEN WANT? GAY VAMPIRES. Esquire’s Stephen Marche has it all figured out:

Forget everything you’ve read about vampires so far. The current bloodsucking trend, achieving maximum ferocity in November with the release of the sequel to Twilight, isn’t about outsiders or immigrants or religion or even AIDS, as critics and bloggers have argued ad nauseam these past few months. There’s a much better, simpler, more obvious explanation: Vampires have overwhelmed pop culture because young straight women want to have sex with gay men. Not all young straight women, of course, but many, if not most, of them.

Nice of Marche to not lump all women into his strange fantasy — just “many, if not most” of us. But we have to worry, because, you know, this is a “carnal crisis.”

I tried to stop my sniggering at this point, tried to stop myself from thinking this is merely some sour grapes on the part of a young man who ain’t gettin’ any cuz he ain’t a gay vampire, and what’s a straight, nonbloodsucking fella gotta do to get some action? I chided myself for being unfair and unkind and making assumptions based on the petulance of his prose. But then I kept reading, and now I don’t think I’m that far off the mark in my suspicions:

Edward, the romantic hero of the Twilight series, is a sweet, screwed-up high school kid, and at the beginning of his relationship with Bella, she is attracted to him because he is strange, beautiful, and seemingly repulsed by her. This exact scenario happened several times in my high school between straight girls and gay guys who either hadn’t figured out they were gay or were still in the closet.

See? If only all those girls weren’t obsessed with gay vampires, they could have been hanging out with Marche! But he’s just an ordinary not-gay dude, so no one pays attention to him.

A hilarious P.S.: Marche also wrote the lament for Esquire “Where Have All the Loose Women Gone?” Won’t someone think of the horny boys?

HOW NOT TO GIVE A COMPLIMENT. Jill at Feministe notes that some of the press coverage of the upcoming film Precious has been rather disturbing:

What I don’t love is the media narrative about the film and about [star Gabby] Sidibe. Luckily, she seems like she can handle it, and has been critical of attempts to cast her as the ugly duckling turned swan: “They try to paint the picture that I was this downtrodden, ugly girl who was unpopular in school and in life, and then I got this role and now I’m awesome,” says the actress. “But the truth is that I’ve been awesome, and then I got this role.”

Gabby Sidibe is also fat, and that’s something that the media, and even the director of Precious, can’t seem to get over.

She then goes on to highlight a quote from director Lee Daniels in New York Magazine:

She is unequivocally comfortable in her body, in a very bizarre way. Either she’s in a state of denial or she’s so elevated that she’s on another level. I had no doubt in my mind that she had four or five boyfriends, easily.

Ugh. The condescension dripping from that comment is appalling. And this is from a champion for this young actress, not a detractor. Imagine what he’d say if he didn’t like her…

FEMALE FILMMAKER SEEKS HELP TO MAKE A FILM ABOUT A WOMAN. The blog Finding Ada, dedicated to women in technology, posts an appeal:

Film maker Rosemarie Reed is putting together a feature-length film on Ada Byron Lovelace, called Byron and Babbage: A Calculating Story, and needs your help (especially if you’re in the United States.)

The film will be based on Ada’s letters and is, as Rosemarie describes it, “a documentary with some dramatic readings”.

Lovelace was an extraordinary woman — it’s hard to believe there hasn’t already been a film about her. How can we help?

Rosemarie needs letters of support from people who have been influenced in some way by Ada and who are willing to help publicise the film, be a part of the interactive website, perhaps show the film, or contribute in any other way.

Rosemarie says, “I need letters from people stating how important a film like Ada is and how they through their networks can help to publicize the film. It would be great if the women have organizations they work or belong to. If they are software developers or computer experts, this would be great. It would be best if they were Americans, as the NSF (National Science Foundation) is American.”

If you’re not American, letters would still be useful of course! The deadline is the end of October.

Please write to:

Rosemarie Reed

On the Road Productions International, Inc.

310 Greenwich Street, 21F

New York, NY 10013

Reed can also be reached by email.

More information on the project is available at Finding Ada.

OPENING THIS WEEK. Ah, Lars von Trier’s Antichrist finally gets a release in North America this weekend, and so we finally get a chance to see for ourselves whether this tale of a woman who sexually mutilates herself (and her husband) over her own sexual guilt is, in fact, as screechingly anti-woman a movie as we’ve seen. (Hint: Yes, it is.)

At least we have the lovely Amelia to balance it out. I’m in the minority, but I love the film for how unapologetic it is in its depiction of a woman who was the hero of her own life.

I wish I liked Motherhood — aboout Uma Thurman as a frazzled Manhattan stay-at-home mom — more, but for all that it keeps insisting it’s about a passionate woman, the movie never really lets us see that.

See the AWFJ’s regular weekly rundown of new releases for more.

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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).