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 slow to evolve societies have not had much effect on film. 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).
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. 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 for some reason. Although set at Christmas it definitely does not belong in the same genre as A Christmas Carol (any version) or It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). It is full of coarse language (e.g. Bruce Willis says motherf*cker at least three times) and includes a hostage situation, explosions and many people being killed (mainly shot, including in the head). Moreover, women are sexualized: 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 adorned with pictures of topless women. Willis walks past them three times, so there is no chance of missing them. Hardly very Christmassy. Die Hard is only a Christmas movie in the way that The Lion in Winter (1968) is a Christmas movie (i.e. they both take place over Christmas). The best thing that can be said about Die Hard is that it passes the Bechdel test--a test that serves as an indicator of the active presence of women in movies—in the first few minutes and Willis admits he was a jerk (as a husband) and was not supportive enough of his wife. Both of those things are actually pretty rare, even now. A movie does not 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
Happy Death Day (2017), a Blumhouse Productions horror movie, was directed by Christopher Landon and the screenplay was written by Scott Lobdell. It made US$125 million at the worldwide box office, which is noteworthy given that it appears to be a misogynist’s fantasy. Indeed, it is full of violence against women (VAW). Women are shown being killed 12 times (murdered in 10 cases and in two are hit by a bus), a woman commits suicide and a woman dies in her sleep (after being poisoned). Women are chased, stabbed (with knives, broken glass), shot, hit with a baseball bat, poisoned, kicked out a second storey window, one dies in a car explosion, etc. Moreover, the settings for these murders/deaths are varied: these women are killed in their room, at a party, in a fountain, in a hospital and on the highway. Even the suicide is violent and graphic. Unlike in Dr. Strangelove (1964), for example, where a man’s suicide is a gunshot heard behind a closed door, here the protagonist (Jessica Rothe) hangs herself in a bell tower, jumping several storeys to her death before our eyes.
The filmmakers’ inclusion of VAW is not the only indicator of misogyny. Also noteworthy are the language used in reference to women, the sexualization of women and the antagonism between women. The language in particular is 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). Language is very revealing about filmmakers. It tells us a lot about how well or poorly they think of women, which is why I take the time to shine a spotlight on the language used in reference to female characters, both women and girls.
As for the sexualization of women I will mention just one example: for no good reason the lead female walks through her campus naked. The antagonism between women, too, merits attention. Here Rothe has antagonistic relationships with the other two lead females (her roommate and another sorority sister). The absence of congenial relationships between women—even between sorority sisters—conveys the message that women do not naturally get along. Even though Hollywood has a long history of pitting women against each other it feels particularly regressive now, in 2018. Happy Death Day has next to nothing to offer female viewers, and it stands in a class apart—a class that should not exist. One wonders how Blumhouse Productions can be so successful when its output is so misogynist. I look forward to sharing my findings about the portrayals and treatment of women and girls in mainstream movies of the 20th and 21st centuries in my upcoming film guide for women.
© 2018 Alline Cormier