Two days ago, on Mother's Day, my son agreed to watch a movie full of women with me. I suggested a handful of movies and he picked Hidden Figures (2016), starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe. It's one of my favourite films because it has so much to offer female viewers. He had already seen it a few times and likes it but my husband hadn't. His interest in space exploration ensured his interest though, and it was a lovely evening. This is exactly the kind of movie men and boys need to watch more of. Below I've posted a clip to give you a glimpse if you haven't already seen it.
Happy belated Mother's Day!
Copyright © 2021 Alline Cormier
Today may be the last day of Women's History Month, but there is nothing stopping us from celebrating women's achievements next month, too!
I thought it was time to share a few more of the illustrations British cartoonist Stella Perrett created to help me promote my upcoming film guide. These beautiful illustrations bring me so much happiness, and I am hoping they will lift other women's spirits. These are very hard times for women and girls. Thankfully we have each other! Here are Stella's illustrations for Hidden Figures (2016), Little Women (2019) and Thelma & Louise (1991).
Copyright © 2021 Alline Cormier
This post contains spoilers.
In an earlier post (April 10, 2019) I wrote about Jaws (1975), The Shallows (2016) and The Meg (2018). Since then I have analysed 47 Meters Down (2017) and 47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2019), two more shark vs. humans movies. They merit discussion because a worrying escalation has occurred. Women in particular should be paying attention to the escalating misogyny in these movies. These five can all be considered horror movies, and they were all directed by men. There are similarities between them, but in terms of what they have to offer female viewers they were not created equal.
Jaws boasts just one named female character that appears throughout—Lorraine Gary as Ellen Brody, the lead male’s wife—and she makes it out alive. She is never in any danger, never hunted by a shark. Just one woman (Susan Backlinie) is chased by a shark in open water and killed and this scene is short. The Shallows, too, boasts just one significant female character (Blake Lively) but here she is the only character that appears throughout and the story revolves around her being relentlessly hunted by a shark while she is stuck on a rock in the ocean. So Gary fares better than Lively. In The Meg there are four significant female characters, and three of them make it out alive. It is lighter than The Shallows and much less agonizing to watch. 47 Meters Down (2017), released the year after The Shallows, has not one but two women trapped in open water, terrified of being killed by a shark (Mandy Moore and Claire Holt). Instead of being trapped on a rock they are trapped in an underwater cage in the ocean. One of the two is killed by a shark—in front of her sister—and the second barely makes it out alive. 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, released two years later, has not two but four females trapped underwater (in a very dark cave), terrified of being killed by a shark. Two of the four are killed by a shark (one ripped apart by two sharks) and the other two just barely make it out alive, after having each been grabbed by the waist by a great white shark. Of the five shark movies it is the most disturbing and misogynistic.
Whereas the director of Jaws (Steven Spielberg) lingered more on the male characters’ terror the directors of The Shallows, 47 Meters Down and 47 Meters Down: Uncaged (Jaume Collet-Serra for the former and Johannes Roberts for the two latter) lingered very little on their male characters’ terror. Their males, who play very small parts, are killed quickly and there is minimal focus on their terrified expressions. Their female characters’ terror, on the other hand, receives much attention for the lion’s share of their movie. It is also noteworthy that whereas the terrified females in The Shallows and 47 Meters Down are young women the terrified females in 47 Meters Down: Uncaged are teenage girls still in high school. They whimper, shriek, scream, cry… They are chased repeatedly, the camera focusing again and again on their bare legs. There are close-ups of their screaming faces and slow motion shots of their agonies. It would seem that Johannes Roberts took some kind of sick pleasure in their terror. Female viewers may find it torturous to watch. I certainly found it unenjoyable. Which brings me to this question: who did/would find this enjoyable? Who gets enjoyment out of seeing teenage girls sexualized (e.g. they sunbathe in bikinis), terrified and killed? One group comes to mind: men who consume child pornography.
It is a slim consolation that female characters get to act heroically in 47 Meters Down: Uncaged. The girls’ terror begins somewhere around the 30-35-minute mark and continues until the last 30 seconds or so of the movie. So for well over half of the movie female viewers are shown terrified girls, and after all that all we get is less than one peaceful minute at the very end. I would like to believe that this is not a frightening trend, that rather it is a coincidence, only observable in shark vs. humans movies. The trouble is that I have analysed over 750 films spanning a century of traditional cinema and I have observed an escalating misogyny elsewhere in film, perhaps most obviously in the horror genre. Women should take note of this. Misogyny on the big screen bodes ill for women. Also, if you’re in the mood for a woman in open water movie I recommend Adrift (2018); it has the most to offer female viewers.
Copyright © 2021 Alline Cormier
Earlier today I took a picture of a stack of my movies that have much to offer female viewers and it got me thinking about the movies I own that do not even pass the Bechdel test—a test that serves as an indicator of the active presence of women in movies. Passing this test should be ridiculously easy. All a movie needs is to have two named female characters that speak to each other about something besides a male. And yet, tons of movies fail this test, including critically acclaimed films and huge box office hits—including the movies pictured below. If it does not strike you as odd that no two women speak in a two-hour movie ask yourself this: how many movies can you name in which no two men ever speak? This is just one of the dozens of things I report on in my upcoming film guide for women.
Copyright © 2021 Alline Cormier
SPOILERS! If you don’t want the ending spoiled you should stop here.
The latest addition to the evil-b*tch-who-gets-punished club is Rosamund Pike in crime thriller I Care a Lot (2020), written and directed by J. Blakeson. Pike plays the lead female, an American legal guardian to the elderly, whom she robs blind after heartlessly depriving of their freedom. She is portrayed as such a selfish, self-serving and cruel person that viewers are led not to mind so much when a man spits in her face. After all, she is portrayed as a sort of monster, a threat to all, someone we would want to protect the elderly from—the type of person we want to protect ourselves from. Some viewers, while watching this, will likely be tempted to put legal mechanisms in place to ensure they retain control over their life. Pike’s character makes you want to take steps to avoid being vulnerable to her brand of predation. We are meant to dislike her immensely. Unfortunately, she is far from the first female character in a position of power/authority over other people to be portrayed as a horrible b*tch (e.g. Louise Fletcher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975)—and likely far from the last—which is why it wasn’t rocket science to predict what would happen to Pike.
The treatment reserved for horrible/evil b*tches in Hollywood movies is predictable. I’ve seen it numerous times in the course of analysing 750 feature films. There is little deviation from this misogynist path: a woman is portrayed as evil/horrible and then she is humiliated, physically harmed and oftentimes murdered. The moment I saw the man spit in Pike’s face I thought her chances of making it out alive were slim. And because she was portrayed as such a horrible person (‘evil b*tch’) she would likely be harmed before being murdered. Indeed, she is drugged, stuffed in the trunk of a car (abduction), punched in the face by a man (assault), while she is bound to a chair, a man puts a plastic bag over her head and tries to choke her to death (attempted murder), she is drugged again… and ultimately, a man shoots her dead (murder—the VAW really adds up in this one). Moreover, to scare her a woman she knows is murdered in her workplace and men break into her home and punch her girlfriend before trying to kill the girlfriend.
As I watched this woman (Pike) be harmed repeatedly—not to mention the harm that comes to four other women (I haven’t even touched on the treatment reserved for Dianne Wiest)—I wondered what purpose this all served. As a woman I got very little enjoyment out of this movie. Male viewers, especially those who hate women, are much better served here.
The other remarkable thing about Pike’s character is her strength and ambition. She is much stronger and more ambitious than most female characters and women would do well to note how these traits are portrayed: negatively. They are not positive traits here; they appear unnatural and abhorrent. Yet another thing I have seen far too often in mainstream movies (i.e. women’s strength and ambition portrayed negatively).
When I add it all up I come to the conclusion that I Care a Lot does not care about female viewers. If you took a pass on this one you would probably be doing yourself a kindness.
Copyright © 2021 Alline Cormier
I am overjoyed to announce that British political cartoonist Stella Perrett has created some illustrations for my upcoming film guide! Stella is very talented, and I cannot wait to share her wonderful illustrations. In the meantime here is a sneak peak.
Film guide update: I have managed to edit my 700-page guide down to 600 pages without losing a single film review (by deleting examples and details). Hopefully in the next couple of weeks I will be able to cut another 50 pages. Stay tuned!
Copyright © 2021 Alline Cormier
Happy New Year! Anno horribilis did not end a minute too soon, and I am very happy to welcome in 2021. I doubt 2020 will be remembered fondly by anyone. So here we are, those who survived, and here is my film guide for women update: I have cut 80 pages from my 700-page film guide without losing a single review—by cutting details and examples. The goal is still 550 pages. So far I have edited the following chapters: Action/Adventure, Biography/Historical Drama, Comedy, Crime, Drama, Family, Horror, Musical and Romance/Romantic Comedy. I started editing Science Fiction/Fantasy the other day and all I will have left after that will be Thriller/Mystery, War and Western. At the end of the month I will ask a few friends to have a look at it and then hopefully it will find its way onto bookshelves very soon.
Wishing you all the best in 2021 but especially more movies by female filmmakers and progressive portrayals and treatment of female characters!
Copyright © 2021 Alline Cormier
At the beginning of PG-rated Godmothered (2020) a fairy godmother named Eleanor (Jillian Bell) lives in the Motherland, which is populated exclusively by women (fairy godmothers). At the very end of the movie there is an animated scene in which Eleanor, now a fairy godmother teacher, addresses a group of young fairy godmother trainees in the Motherland. These trainees are under 10 years old and all wear dresses. They are all little girls except for one boy. We hear a very old fairy godmother say, “We weren’t just old. We’d become old-fashioned.” Then Eleanor says, “There are those who might say I had spent my whole life believing in fairy tales. Well, now I believe in them more than ever. It’s just that they come in all different shapes and sizes. Just like us.” At this point the camera focuses on four of the children, three girls and the boy. The message conveyed is that it is old-fashioned not to accept boys as girls and boys in female-only spaces. This inclusion in the movie constitutes a red flag because it is grooming. It encourages viewers to be comfortable with males in spaces intended for females. And we are seeing more and more of this in the woke name of ‘inclusivity’.
What is this boy doing in MOTHERland (a land clearly intended for females)? Where is Fatherland? Why can’t he just hang out there in his dress? Why aren’t men making room for him and accepting him just as he is? Why must women allow this male in their space? Why can’t women and girls have any spaces of their own? Why is it always women and girls who are obliged to make room for males who do not conform to regressive male sex role stereotypes?
This scene from Godmothered is grooming viewers to accept males in female spaces. It is grooming us to believe the lie that boys can be girls (and by extension that regressive sex stereotypes matter more than biology). He’s wearing a dress? He must be a girl! Put him in with the girls! In this scene Disney is pushing gender identity ideology on viewers. Each time Disney and other filmmakers show us males in spaces intended for females they are normalizing the loss of women’s sex-segregated spaces. The more times children (and adults) see these types of inclusions the more likely they are to ignore their own valid concerns about men in female-only spaces.
In Canada and the United Kingdom the authorities have been placing violent male sex offenders (men) who self-identify as women into women’s prisons and the result has been that women have been raped and sexually harassed by these men. There is a reason we have sex-segregated spaces (e.g. women’s prisons, rape shelters). It is not because all men pose a threat to females but rather because time has shown that the overwhelming majority of the sexual violence committed against females is perpetrated by men (SEE: crime statistics, any country). So Disney, stop grooming us to accept males in our sex-segregated spaces. There is nothing wrong with gays and men in dresses. But men need to make room for them in their own spaces. Quit telling females that it is our responsibility to make room for males. Women matter, and we have a right to our own Motherlands.
Copyright © 2020 Alline Cormier
I have been putting this off—so much to do, so little time, especially in December—but it is time to give a shoutout to Last Christmas (2019). Ask a group of men and women what their favourite Christmas movie is and chances are you will get very different answers. Many men will name Die Hard (1988) as a Christmas classic. Women are more likely to name Love Actually (2003). Most Christmas movies revolve around a man (or boy): It’s a Wonderful Life (1946, James Stewart), A Christmas Carol (1951, Alastair Sim), Die Hard (Bruce Willis), Scrooged (1988, Bill Murray), Home Alone (1990, Macaulay Culkin), The Santa Clause (1994, Tim Allen), Jingle All the Way (1996, Arnold Schwarzenegger), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000, Jim Carrey), Elf (2003, Will Ferrell), The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017, Dan Stevens), etc.
Very few Christmas movies revolve around women, and those that do have only been released recently. There is no long tradition in Hollywood of Christmas movies about a woman. Surprise, surprise. These ones do: The Holiday (2006, Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz), Noelle (2019, Anna Kendrick) and Last Christmas (2019). Although Little Women (2019) is not technically a Christmas movie it includes Christmas scenes and has the most to offer female viewers. Greta Gerwig wrote the screenplay for this version and directed it and I wrote about it earlier this year (SEE: post January 4, 2020).
Last Christmas is unique in that it revolves around one woman (Emilia Clarke). Not only that but there are several significant female characters (Michelle Yeoh, Emma Thompson, Lydia Leonard) and even women who have bit parts are named. It passes the Bechdel test in the first 10 minutes, and women speak throughout. It is also almost totally devoid of violence against women (VAW)—Clarke is shoved at one point—which cannot be said Die Hard (women’s lives are threatened). If you only have time for a couple of Christmas movies this year Last Christmas should be at the top of your list, right after Little Women. Emma Thompson and Bryony Kimmings wrote the screenplay and Thompson rarely (ever?) disappoints. If you think women matter then your movie picks should reflect that.
Copyright © 2020 Alline Cormier
In my last post I discussed half a dozen horror films that make it onto most lists of classic Halloween movies, beginning with Psycho (1960) and ending with Friday the 13th (1980). This brings me to the mid-80s as I am working down my list chronologically.
Number 7: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). It was written and directed by a man and is the story of two 15-year-old girls (Heather Langenkamp and Amanda Wyss) who are terrorized by a serial killer (Robert Englund) in California. Despite the lead females’ young age this movie contains sexualized violence—like all the horror classics I commented on in my last post. Amanda Wyss can be heard orgasming when she has sex with a young man (off-screen) and while Heather Langenkamp lies in a bath a man’s hand emerges from the water between her thighs. I could go on about the sexualization of these teenagers, but instead I am going to talk about some of the violence perpetrated against them because violence against women and girls (VAWG) is my main focus today. Both girls are chased and hunted by a man. Girls are: grabbed; attacked; pulled through a window; pulled under water in a bath by an invisible force; thrown against a wall, pulled up a wall and across a ceiling by an invisible force before being dropped from the ceiling head first; and dragged across a floor in a transparent plastic bag. Also noteworthy is the fact that the man who terrorizes and hunts these girls goes unpunished. This is one of Wes Craven’s early films. If we lived in a world where people actually cared about women this would have been the end of his career. But we live in misogynist societies, so instead this movie kicked off a franchise.
Number 8: Ghostbusters (1984), a comedy but still a Halloween classic. It was written and directed by men and is the story of three friends (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis) who study the paranormal and catch ghosts in New York City. Remember the man’s hand that emerges from Heather Langenkamp’s bathtub between her thighs in A Nightmare on Elm Street? Well, here a beast’s hand emerges from Sigourney Weaver’s armchair, between her legs, and grabs her. I am almost tempted to check with other movies that came out in 1984 to see if this was something that was trending at the time. Violence against women (VAW) is less of a problem in Ghostbusters than it is in other Halloween favourites. My guess is that the screenwriters, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, were more interested in having sex with women than punishing them. At any rate, there are only two attacks on women here and just one female is killed—a low number of incidents by horror film standards. Sexualization is a bigger issue. Women are sexualized throughout and based on the lead males’ interactions with women it is clear that the writers only consider women as potential sex partners, nothing more. These guys seem incapable of having a real friendship with a woman. We get a female ghost attending to Dan Aykroyd’s crotch, Annie Potts doing her office job in a black leather miniskirt, Sigourney Weaver undressing and coming on strong to Bill Murray, straddling him in bed, etc., and Slavitza Jovan appearing practically naked in high heels. And yet, this is likely the least objectionable of the Halloween favourites I am commenting on this month. Still, I would rather watch the Ghostbusters released in 2016; it has so much more to offer female viewers.
Number 9: Scream (1996). It was written and directed by men and is the story of an American teenager (Neve Campbell) who is terrorized by a serial killer, whom she suspects is her boyfriend (Skeet Ulrich), a year after her mother’s brutal murder. Here again teenage girls appear in states of undress and are hunted by psychotic males. Girls are chased, struck, stabbed, choked, knocked to the ground, punched, kicked and tackled, not to mention disembowelled and hung from a tree. A teenage boy bangs a girl’s head against the floor. In a garage a girl’s boyfriend traps her, cuts her arm, chases her then raises the garage door when she tries to escape through a cat door, thus breaking her neck. It merits repeating: her assailant is her boyfriend. This love fest for females was directed by Wes Craven. The fact that financing was secured for this film project is telling about Hollywood and the societies we live in. Think of all the women filmmakers who cannot get their film projects financed. There is only so much money to go around, and these are the projects that get financed. Some food for thought.
Number 10: Sleepy Hollow (1999). It was written and directed by men and is the story of a New York police constable (Johnny Depp) who falls in love with the daughter of a wealthy businessman while investigating gruesome murders committed by a headless horseman in a Dutch hamlet at the end of the 18th century. The young woman is played by Christina Ricci. Three women are beheaded. A fourth woman is nearly beheaded, but the attempt is thwarted. Another woman is placed in a metal box with a small hole at eye-level by her husband to die. Personally, I prefer the 1949 animated short Disney released as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I am far from the biggest Disney fan but at least in this short no women are beheaded or placed in metal boxes by their husband.
Number 11: It (2017). It was written and directed by men and is the story of an evil force that manifests itself as a clown (Bill Skarsgard) that goes around killing a town’s children. It is based on a novel by Stephen King, like The Shining (1980) and Carrie (1976), which I discussed in my last post. As in A Nightmare on Elm Street we get a teenage girl in a bath. She also undresses in front of a group of teenage boys and sunbathes in front of them in just a bra and panties while they sit around watching her. Sexualizing a teenage girl is a strike against it but, the violence perpetrated against her is especially disturbing. She is grabbed by the neck by a man (twice). She is abducted, assaulted and an attempt is made on her life (in at least two scenes) and an evil force pulls her head into her bathroom sink before projecting a stream of blood in her face. I wish I could say that Stephen King is unique in dreaming up these assaults on women and girls but in fact there are dozens of men just like him who can and have. The horror genre is full of misogyny.
Number 12: Halloween (2018). It was written and directed by men and is the story of an American (Jamie Lee Curtis), her daughter (Judy Greer) and granddaughter (Andi Matichak), who are stalked by an escaped serial killer who had previously been convicted and institutionalized. In film when a man is punished (e.g. incarcerated) for murdering women and girls the thing to do is have him escape. So the psychopath escapes to terrorize and murder more women—something we’ve never seen before in the genre (sarcasm)—and we get another one and three quarter hours of a man trying to kill women. Also, females are sexualized throughout, which is telling. Teenage girls appear in: nothing more than panties; a “sexy nurse” costume; cheerleader costumes; in a bra-like top, etc. We get a teenage girl being stabbed to death in her bedroom by her little brother; a woman is choked by a man who lifts her off the floor and breaks her neck; a second woman is bludgeoned to death by a man armed with a hammer; a man grabs a third woman by her hair and sticks a knife through her neck; and a man drags a girl across a floor by her leg before stabbing her to death. Males grab females, spy on them, break into their homes, grab them by the throat, push them out of second storey windows, throw them against walls, strike them with a poker and stab them to death. And one male character does all this killing. He is played by a boy and two men (James Jude Courtney and Nick Castle shared the role of the adult psychopath). This is the 11th instalment of the Halloween franchise. Take a moment to let that sink in: the 11th instalment!
It is worth noting that in all these movies an attempt is made to murder the lead female. Also noteworthy is the fact that females are sexualized in all these movies, that many of them contain sexualized violence against females and they are very popular with male audiences. More food for thought.
My upcoming film guide for women contains 500 feature film reviews. I look forward to sharing my findings about mainstream movies of the 20th and 21st centuries and what they have to offer female viewers.
Copyright © 2020 Alline Cormier