Telling it like it is: The ugly truth about sexism (and ageism)

Posted in chick flick, journalism trends, media, movies, NYT, studios, Uncategorized by Diane on December 15, 2009

Manohla Dargis’s barbaric yawp about Hollywood went viral yesterday, and for good reason: The NYT critic let loose on rampant sexism in an interview with feminist-leaning Jezebel, spewing four-letter words with abandon. The interview made explicit that which her Sunday NYT essay on female directors suggested: She’s deeply pissed off about studios that repeatedly fail women in their choices of material and talent.

Among the many choice bits:

Working within the system has not worked. It has not helped women filmmakers or, even more important, you and me, women audiences, to have women in the studio system.

and a personal pet peeve — the constant surprise that women like seeing entertaining movies about women:

This, gee whiz, Sex and the City‘s a hit, Twilight, hmm, wonder what’s going on here. Maybe they should not be so surprised. In the trade press, women audiences are considered a niche. How is that even possible? We’re 51 percent of the audience.

It’s not just the trade press, either; this surprise seems to creep into consumer box office reports as well.

Dargis is equally scathing about the suggestion that she take it easy on films directed by women, calling the notion “incredibly insulting.” But mostly she hopes that Kathryn Bigelow (pictured above) wins the Oscar for directing “The Hurt Locker,” a muscular action movie.

Maybe then female studio execs will stop ghettoizing their director counterparts. Or not.

Even the brightest women can be depressingly sexist, I discovered in college, when I and classmate took a course in women writers at Mt. Holyoke. (Our alma mater, formerly all male, did not then offer similar coursework.) Much to my dismay, these students actually suggested that no man would be able to fully understand or appreciate classic works written by women. By extension, they were admitting they could never hope to fully understand the works by men. Never  mind empathy for another’s circumstance.

And this at a temple of women’s education and supposedly independent thought.

Also irksome, and by no means limited to Hollywood: Ageism. If anything, the recession seems to have revived the reflexive notion that all youth are necessarily better innovators than their elders. This is part of the tension in “Up in the Air,” and it’s certainly a factor in industries hit hard by the recession. Companies are desperate for answers at a confusing time; fresh takes are welcome, especially from those perceived as forward thinking by dint of their youth. (Clooney’s character lectures on the need to avoid baggage, but his boss considers his years in the field just that.)

Sadly, however, younger workers do not all share the ability to innovate, any more than age automatically confers wisdom. Nor does gender preclude ability to work in certain genres.

Not that that’s going to stop anyone from thinking that way.


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