Screen writer

Some­thing for the ladies? Send it back, says Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - OPINION -

More than a few crit­ics have noted that, de­spite fea­tur­ing three fe­male leads, use­less re­venge com­edy The Other Woman still man­ages to fail the Bechdel Test for gen­der bal­ance. Sadly, those char­ac­ters dis­cuss vir­tu­ally noth­ing but their feel­ings for arch-cad Niko­laj Coster-Wal­dau. Per­sonal val­i­da­tion can only come, it seems, from cud­dling a bloke or spik­ing his smoothie with oe­stro­gen.

All this is made more de­press­ing by the aware­ness that the film has been mar­keted al­most solely to women. A string of nags on Twit­ter urges re­spon­dents to con­sider who among their friends is the best dancer or dresser. A quiz invit­ing you to dis­cover which of the char­ac­ters you most re­sem­ble does not list Mr CosterWal­dau among the an­swers.

There’s no point pre­tend­ing that Hol­ly­wood doesn’t play to the de­mo­graph­ics. The “Woman’s Film” has been around since movies be­gan. But, over the last decade and half, that loose con­fig­u­ra­tion has taken a de­press­ingly grim dive into con­form­ity, self-abase­ment and ma­te­ri­al­ism.

The first two Brid­get Jones movies kick-started the re­ac­tionary shift by of­fer­ing as a role model a woman whose mood is de­ter­mined by shift­ing re­la­tion­ships with a shit (H Grant) and a bore (C Firth). Com­plete de­base­ment came with the truly hor­ri­ble Sex and the City films. Whereas the TV se­ries al­lowed its char­ac­ters some ca­reer ful­fil­ment, the hugely over­long, per­sis­tently racist films ar­gued that hap­pi­ness comes only through shop­ping and – here it is again – the at­ten­tion of de­sir­able chaps.

Whole gen­er­a­tions of right-on men who’d du­ti­fully read through Betty Friedan, Glo­ria Steinem and Kate Mil­lett came to the con­clu­sion that they’d got it wrong all along. Men are more use­ful to women than fish are to bi­cy­cles. In­deed, they seem to be es­sen­tial.

So what? Films aimed largely at men pro­mote the fetishi­sa­tion of firearms, the ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion of women and the tol­er­ance of Danny Dyer. Both sexes are treated like idiots. Right?

Well, it wasn’t al­ways this way. Con­sider Bette Davis, Bar­bara Stan­wyck, Katharine Hep­burn and Joan Craw­ford in the tough melo­dra­mas and sharp come­dies that il­lu­mi­nated the 1940s and 1950s. You did not, in All About Eve, catch Davis’s for­mi­da­ble Eve Chan­ning – or, for that mat­ter, Anne Bax­ter’s ruth­less Eve Har­ring­ton – pin­ing around like nin­nies over drippy men. Nor did they drone on end­lessly about over­priced shoes. They took life by the gul­let and stran­gled it.

What did for the main­stream Woman’s Film was not a kick­back against fem­i­nism or the af­ter­ef­fects of ladette cul­ture, but vul­gar cap­i­tal­ism. As anony­mous cor­po­ra­tions en­gulfed stu­dios, mid­dle­men de­manded eas­ily di­gestible projects aimed at eas­ily iden­ti­fi­able tar­get au­di­ences. Low­est com­mon de­nom­i­na­tors help that process.

Ladies and gen­tle­men (but mainly ladies) I give you The Other Woman.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.