I am not sorry to see 2018 draw to a close. It was a rough year—personally, politically, cinematically. So many ultra-violent movies came out this year (Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Venom, The First Purge, Halloween, The Nun, etc.) and Hollywood’s portrayals of women are still very damaging (i.e. predominantly objectified and sexualized). The majority of top grossing movies still portray men as heroes and women as eye candy for men—in spite of the #MeToo movement (and everything else). Female characters still appear less clothed than men, are routinely silenced and are still being abducted, murdered, disrespected, demeaned and humiliated. Movies that did not show women being continually sexualized and harmed tended to belong to the family genre (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Peter Rabbit, A Wrinkle in Time, Mary Poppins Returns, Paddington 2).
Our slowly evolving societies have not had much effect on cinema. Moreover, although many men recognize that there is a problem they do not seem interested in discussing it and changing things. Indeed, the impression I have had is that men feel threatened and seem fine with maintaining the status quo. I thought the movie Suffragette (2015), even though it is set in 1912, accurately reflects men and women’s attitudes towards women’s place in society (i.e. women are oppressed and desire equality and men are unwilling to treat women as their equals).
Due to illness I did not make it to the theatre as much as I would have liked. Besides, assessing what came out this year was not really a priority because I will be including few movies from 2018 in my upcoming book. Accessing the occasional new release through Netflix or my amazing cable plan was enough to provide a sample of what filmmakers produced this year.
I have high hopes for 2019. As our societies evolve and more women filmmakers take their place behind the camera we should see better things on the big screen. On this New Year's Eve I am hopeful... and especially excited to share my new book this year. Wishing everyone peace and love (and great movies) in 2019!
© 2018 Alline Cormier
The action movie Die Hard (1988, US$139 million at the worldwide box office) appears in many favourite Christmas movie lists—not mine. True, it is set at Christmas, but it is hardly in the same class as A Christmas Carol (any version) or It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). For one thing, there is swearing throughout (e.g. Bruce Willis says mother*cker at least three times) and it includes a hostage situation, explosions and many people being killed (mainly shot, including in the head). The best thing I can say about Die Hard is that it passes the Bechdel test in the first few minutes—this is a test that serves as an indicator of the active presence of women in movies—and Willis admits he was a jerk (as a husband) and wasn’t supportive enough of his wife. Both of those things are actually pretty rare, even now. What is most curious about this 'Christmas movie' is that it sexualizes women: a bare-breasted woman lying on a desk in her workplace so that she can have sex with a male co-worker is manhandled by armed men; and a wall is decorated with pictures of topless women. Willis walks past them three times, so there is no chance of missing them. Because of this sexualization (and all the violence), and in spite of the sets' Christmas decorations and the Christmassy soundtrack, I don't include Die Hard in my holiday relaxation plans. A movie doesn't need to end with a child talking about everyone being blessed by god or angels getting their wings to be classified as a Christmas movie but is it too much to ask that it be devoid of topless women and pictures of topless women?
© 2018 Alline Cormier
If you enjoy watching women being killed Happy Death Day (2017) is the movie for you! Women are shown being killed 12 times (murdered in 10 cases and two are hit by a bus), a woman commits suicide and a woman dies in her sleep (after being poisoned). Women are shown chased, stabbed (with knives but also broken glass), shot, hit with a baseball bat, poisoned, kicked out a second storey window... one dies in a car explosion. Moreover, the settings for these deaths are varied enough for even the most demanding misogynist: they are killed in their room, at a party, in a fountain, in a hospital and on the highway. Even the suicide scene does not disappoint. Whereas characters typically hang themselves in a room with a relatively low ceiling and do not drop more than a metre or two at most the young woman who hangs herself in Happy Death Day does it in a bell tower, jumping several storeys to her death.
The language used in Happy Death Day is also telling. Women are called a b*tch eight times, 'whore' or 'ho' three times, 'slut' twice, as well as wench and dumbass. They are likened to cat ladies, and the adjectives used to describe them are far from flattering (e.g. sneaky, crazy, cheap, dumb, clumsy).
As if the deaths and language were not enough there is the sexualization of women and antagonism between women. For instance, and for no good reason, the lead female character walks through her campus naked in one scene. She also has an antagonistic relationship with the two other lead females (i.e. her roommate and her sorority sister). The message conveyed by the filmmakers is that women do not naturally get along.
After analysing over 460 mainstream movies for my upcoming 750-page book on the sexualization of women in media I am no stranger to sexist portrayals of women and movies full of misogyny. Still, Happy Death Day is evidence that an escalation has occurred (and it made US$125 million at the worldwide box office!). Personally, I wish writer Scott Lobdell and director Christopher Landon would find a new day job.
© 2018 Alline Cormier