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07 March 2010

Art Imitating Life?

Where are the strong female characters in American cinema? The film Amelia (biographical film about Amelia Earhart) opened this weekend to less than enthusiastic reviews. Despite a strong cast, the film is described as “wooden.” American movie-goers seem to often reject strong intelligent female characters in favor of the scantily clad bad girl, the dependent subordinate mate, or the victim.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider opened number one at the box office in 2001 earning an astounding $48.2 million. Despite the lack of an intelligent plot or any memorable dialog, the film has earned more than $300 million to date. There isn’t much happening in this film other than Lara Croft in a series of sexy poses, scantily clad in latex, with a gun.

The movie An Officer and a Gentleman grossed $130 million in 1982. In my opinion, only a 14 year old with dreamy fantasies of living out the Cinderella/Prince Charming fairy tale could enjoy this film. Throughout the film two female friends conspire and connive to each “catch” a navy pilot husband. In the final scene the hero arrives in his naval dress white uniform to rescue his lover from the dingy factory where she works. He sweeps her up into his arms and carries her away, Prince Charming style, to the cheers and tears of all the other women workers. The scene is an insult to strong, independent, and intelligent women everywhere.

These films beg the question, “Does American film art imitate life for women in America?” Yes, to a degree, I think it does. There is a segment of the population that truly believes a woman’s place is behind (not beside) her man or in the kitchen. Remember when National Republican Congressional Committee Communications Director Ken Spain said that Nancy Pelosi, who is third in the line of succession to President of the United States of America, should be put in her place? Representative Pelosi responded that she is “in her place” as Speaker of the House. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) was more direct in her response to Mr. Spain’s sexist remark: “It’s evidence [Republicans] long for the days when a woman’s place was in the kitchen. Now a woman is third in line for the presidency… But it’s not surprising, coming from a party that’s 80 percent male and 100 percent white.” NRCC: Pelosi Should Be Put In Her Place by McChrystal Huffington Post Article by Rachel Weiner

Why doesn’t Hollywood produce more films with strong, intelligent female characters? “Because Hollywood will do whatever it takes to make money. They are not taking a principled stance against women. They just don’t see the audience as going there.” said writer, director Rod Lurie. Women & Film Washington Post Article by Ann Hornaday The busty, half naked, latex wearing bad girl makes money. The wimpy, stand by her man, character makes money. A smart, independent, adventurous, intelligent woman who can fly an airplane comes up “wooden.”

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