F-Bombing Hollywood

Wednesday morning commutes mean I get to listen to the Slate Culture Gabfest, one of my many podcast indulgences. The three gabbers regularly lead me on a roller coaster of incredible annoyance (how can they hate EVERY blockbuster movie!), endless gratitude (tipsybaker.com and their helpful curation  of the NYT), and self congratulations (I often feel so boheminan because of my taste in music).

Today, the gabbers gabbed about this amazing article on Jezebel, in which Manhola Dargis, one of the lead film critics at the New York Times, rails on Hollywood for being a totally sexist institution. The f-bomb flies, my friends, and it is something to behold. She says many important, poignant things, which I will let you enjoy in their raw form, but I do want to comment on this quote:

There’s a reason that women go to movies like Mamma Mia. It’s a terrible movie… but women are starved for representation of themselves. I go back to Spike Lee and She’s Gotta Have It. I remember going to see it at the Quad in New York, surrounded by a black audience. People are starved for representations of themselves.

Well, I’m not sure about the “terrible movie” part (Mama Mia is so campy! I felt so happy afterwards!), but I take her point. When I first started to identify as queer, I searched Netflix and the movie stores for any representations of lesbians. I watched several films that made me wonder if lesbians were perhaps the dorkiest, most saccharine group of people living on the planet. And even though these movies kind of made me hate myself, I still go back like a moth to the flame. Right now, for example, I am watching the L Word. It is terrible, but I can’t resist the urge to watch another episode.  There is a Canadian TV show about gay weddings. Also pretty terrible, awfully campy, and full of lesbian cliches. But. I. Can’t. Stop.

The problem with the lack of women in movies (or the lack of lesbians in movies), is that it flattens us all out. It is natural to seek representation in our culture. Thats what culture is all about — it helps you understand yourself through stories. But when I only see women as secondary to men in big, important movies, or relagated to prowly cougar status in a rom-com, it is hard not to internalize the message that those roles are the only ones for women in the world, not just in the movies.

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