Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Nine--count 'em! A Feminist Review from the UK

The Most Sexist & Misogynist Film of 2009 award goes to... NINE!
[image is from here]

Original location for what follows may be found here

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Nine. High on strippers, pointless imitations of arousal, and self indulgence.

I went to see the film Nine tonight with my friend Isobel. Unfortunately the best thing about it was the metre long strawberry roll-up sweet that I bought to eat, and then dropped on the floor. Don't get me wrong, it was sort of enjoyable. If it were possible for me to spend a few hours, brain off, merely appreciating breast-filled imagery, it would have been fine. It wasn't.

You can read the real reviews for a good plot summary, but in essence, it follows an oh-so-tortured Italian film director who tries to make a film, who for whatever reason can't sort himself out for long enough to write a script, who instead spends all his time fantasizing about/interacting with various women. As one other review pointed out, these women are all mothers or whores. Mostly just whores. The one exception to this is the main guy's wife, wonderfully acted by Marion Cotillard (whom I majorly bum, see her as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose). She sort of has a character, but it's another stereotype: the long suffering wife. At one point in the play a Catholic priest (there's a sort of irrelevant subplot involving priests and dialogs about not representing women as whores, which is then undercut by some line like 'oh we all love your films, even though we have to officially disapprove of them' - read: 'we all love the representation of women as sexual objects really, it's just that God officially says no') says something like 'look she's a proper catholic wife because she continually sacrifices herself'. Christ.

Let's examine the parts -

Daniel Day-Lewis - The main guy, the film director - tortured, can't write a play, boohoo, uses the female characters as emotional or sexual crutches upon which he projects his inner angst. I literally couldn't care less about his tribulations. He's basically a parasite. The only bit that made me happy was when his wife (finally!) left him.

Judy Dench - this really cool costume designer called Lily. She comes close, sometimes, to being a rounded character, but not that close. She's a mother figure, you know, she helps him out when he needs it. Because that's what women are for.

Marion Cotillard - the wife - suffers his infidelities for most of the film, good proper little wife. That's what wives are for isn't it. OH MY GOD, but when she leaves him, the song that she uses to demonstrate the fact that she's had enough and is going is A STRIPTEASE IN A BAR FULL OF RAUCOUS LEERING MEN WHO TEAR HER CLOTHES OFF, BECAUSE THAT'S HOW WOMEN BECOME EMPOWERED ISN'T IT. IF SHE AIN'T A WIFE SHE HAS TO BE A WHORE. THOSE ARE THE OPTIONS, ISN'T IT, UNTIL YOU BECOME A MOTHER. My blood literally boiled at this point.

Nicole Kidman - the leading lady - who at one point has a quasi-feminist line. Great, I thought, some sort of sentiment in this hideously misogynist film which is slightly less misogynist. He's telling her about the film, in which she is to play the muse to the main male character. She says, 'I'd rather be the man'. Which was a slightly redeeming line, I thought, but then unfortunately the rest of the conversation was obscured by a song about how she's in love with him. For no conceivable reason, because he's a massive creep.

Penelope Cruz - the mistress - one sacrificial object to be in 'love' with (the put-on-a-pedestal-wife) isn't enough for the massive creep. He cheats on his wife with Cruz; her part is literally just to be a sexual object. She is introduced in a song in which she writhes around in lingerie on some sort of big table. That apparently demonstrates her lust for him. The context of said song is that she's on the phone to him telling him how much she wants him, and I guess the fact that its in his imagination slightly justifies the fact that she's just grotesquely writhing around but, you know, when I imagine a woman being aroused for me (I'm sure it could happen), I imagine it in a way that sort of involves actual arousal for the other person. I guess sexual objects don't really have arousal themselves, they just imitate it for the arousal of others. If the point of this song was to demonstrate the massive creepiness of the main guy, it would have been a well-made point. Unfortunately I think it was just to give the heterosexual male viewers a bit of commercial sexiness to look at. Oh and to make the point that Cruz's character is a sexual object. It is such a shame to have a stellar actress play such a shit part.

Fergie - a beachside whore who the main guy pays to sexy-dance for him when he's a kid - I'm sort of surprised that more notice hasn't been given to the fact that this film contains pedophilia. I guess women aren't considered to be sexually threatening.

Sophie Loren - the mother - there is no point to this part, or the one above. Her part contributes in no way to anything. I would a million time rather have seen all the childhood flashback stuff removed (seeing him as a kid won't make me care about his problems) and have some of the female parts turned into real characters. Maybe Judy Dench could have had a love interest.

Kate Hudson - an American Vogue journalist who wants to sleep with the massive creep. Could have been an interesting part, instead shes's just represented as a sexual object.

Oh also, there's a chorus of scantily clad dancing women, for no particular reason other than that it presumably had the same when it was a musical. One of the most shocking things, actually, is that the director somehow persuaded so many wonderful actresses to play such two dimensional parts.

For all the main guy's flaws, for all the fact that he cheats on his wife, causes his mistress to try to kill herself, fucks around everyone around him, sucks the life out of other people, lies, is a despicable person, uses, abuses, is a creepy little leech, and so forth, he is still in the end represented as a hero who eventually makes the film he wanted to. It just makes me sick.

Apart from this, the film is very beautifully designed.
Posted by raytherah at 16:15


Julian Real said...

Brilliant review. Bravo!!!

(Imagine flowers tossed at your feet. Hopefully that will make up for the dropped strawberry roll-up sweet.)

Thank you so much for saying what I knew was the case, but didn't want to waste any money to find out AND be enraged at the same time. Your analysis hopefully will remind all readers who stop by here that this film, which ignores a reality called women-as-human beings, needs plenty of criticism in the sea of straight men's sexist arousal, I mean accolades. As Rufus Wainwright laments, Oh what a world it seems we live in/Straight man/Oh what a world we live in.

Yes, Marion Cotillard was fabulous in La Vie en Rose". (I surely hope you have seen the completely unrelated film, except by title: Ma Vie en Rose--fib if you must, but please tell me you've seen it!) As you note, what a waste of talent. This project should have died on Broadway and never found its way to Hollywood's silver screen. (I can't believe it won a Tony Award back then!) See Daniel Day Lewis in My Beautiful Laundrette (25 years old this year!) to get that stench of men's misogyny out of your clothes. In that film he plays a proper [gay] man.

Nine better not win any awards this season, or things may likely fly angrily at the screen of my television set. Well, to be honest, I'm not a violent person at all, but I do get enraged when I see misogyny being presented as sexy! fun! daring! cinematography, editing, writing, and directing. Shame on all those who took Federico Fellini’s autobiographical film , added a half inch, and came out with this. I will, in an fantastic act that doesn't involve sexxxualised women and 2D mommies, take that half inch and double it and go enjoy Hedwig instead of bothering with what I recommend we amusingly rename Nein.
6 January 2010 00:29



I too live in the UK and when I saw the poster for Nine my first thoughts were 'oh no not another misogynistic film portraying women as whores and the man as a 'stud!!' My second thought was if we believe individuals who engage in serial sexual relationships are 'sluts/whores' then the male lead is the real slut/whore.

But of course the male character played by Daniel Day-Lewis is a 'hero' whereas the women are all either 'whores' or 'saintly mothers!!'

Thank you Raytherah for publicly stating Nine is a misogynistic women-blaming film and that all the female characters are cardboard cutouts with all the characteristics women-hating males assert are 'common to women!'

We need more men willing to publicly disown such misogynistic women-hating films masquerading as entertainment. Because make no mistake this film is aimed at men since it portrays women as men's sexual service stations/men's sexualised dehumanised objects. Whilst feminists will undoubtedly condemn such women-hating propaganda, we know realistically that women's criticism is irrelevant since only men are human and considered capable of objective and unbiased analysis.

I am not surprised women-hating is now commonplace masquerading as 'male irony' or worse 'so-called feminist empowerment' when the media and mainstream film industry continues its unabated war on women - not forgetting that women of colour continue to be ignored and/or portrayed in misogynistic ways.

Who benefits? Why the powerful white males who continue to provide the financial backing in order that women-hating films such as Nine can be made with well-known male leads.

raytherah said...

Thank you so much Julian for your appreciation of my review and the comments you've left me! And thanks Jennifer, too. It's so encouraging to find people who also believe the things I believe to be self-evident.

In response to the other comment you made, Julian, I am glad that you clarified Dworkin's position on bestiality etc, I found those sections of the book surprising given that they were such short mentions, just at the end, and given the way they didn't appear to cohere with the rest of the book in the same way that the rest of the book cohered with itself. It makes much more sense the way you explained it.

I will try and read those other things you mentioned as soon as I get a chance - and get back to you.

Oh and also, I did read your review of Levy's foreword. The part I liked the most, actually, was your section on antifeminist tactics. I found it absolutely spot on, in particular point 6.

No! I have not seen Ma Vie en Rose and I've been meaning to watch it for ages. I literally LOVE Hedwig though.

It's a feminist review, by the way, not profeminist. Though I guess it being feminist makes it profeminist too? I agree that we need more men willing to publicly disown misogyny; one of the things I'm interested in at the moment is making men aware that feminism is for and about them too. What do you think about the relation between feminism and profeminism?

All the best.

Julian Real said...

Welcome over here, Raytherah!

You are most certainly welcome for the appreciation and comments--well deserved, I assure you.

You'll find this to be a place that will be most welcoming of critiques of misogyny!!

In response to the other comment you made, Julian, I am glad that you clarified Dworkin's position on bestiality etc, I found those sections of the book surprising given that they were such short mentions, just at the end, and given the way they didn't appear to cohere with the rest of the book in the same way that the rest of the book cohered with itself.

I agree, and can lead you to where she discusses this herself. If you can get this from a library, there's a book called Without Apology: Andrea Dworkin's Art and Politics (Westview Press, 1998).

She owns being unduly impacted by Freud, but I'll try and find the passage and make a separate post here about it, because that's one of about five main themes of criticism of her, unjust criticisms misused to try and distract people from all that she said that was so brilliant and spot on.

I can set up a discussion page for us, if you'd like, so our exchanges will be available to other men, and any women who might wish to follow along as well.

Thanks for your feedback on my piece on Ariel Levy's foreword to Intercourse (the latest edition, which I'm boycotting due to that foreword. For those who haven't read about this, I understand Levy's foreword to be deeply misogynistic towards Andrea, and I know with a fair degree of certainty that she would not have wanted that foreword in there at all).

It's a feminist review, by the way, not profeminist. Though I guess it being feminist makes it profeminist too?

I'll take this up in a separate post, as I don't know if I've really articulated much on that subject here, and now that you mention it, it seems odd that I haven't!!

But I changed the heading of the post a bit to reflect your own preferences there. (The short version of my choice is that here feminist = woman, and profeminist = man who is feminist in his values and practices, commitments and allegiances.

I agree that we need more men willing to publicly disown misogyny; one of the things I'm interested in at the moment is making men aware that feminism is for and about them too. What do you think about the relation between feminism and profeminism?

Ah, a very long conversation indeed, and one which I may also make into its own post.

Would that be all right with you? If I copy and paste these bits of your comment as a way to launch into these subjects more thoroughly here on this blog?

I may just be so brazen as to go ahead and do it, but if you have any objections, please let me know and I can change the intros. I tend to want conversations people read to be located in real interpersonal dynamics, reflecting actual concerns people have, rather than something I just suppose is a concern.

All the best to you as well. Let me know how you'd like to be addressed here. Is "Ray" what you most want to be called here and on your own blog?

raytherah said...

Hello again!

Not sure whether to reply here or further up. I enjoyed your discussion of feminism/profeminism, and I thought the concerns you raised were interesting. Where I come from there are so few self defining feminists (male, female or other) that I personally breathe sighs of relief whenever I meet someone who defines as feminist at all. I guess worries over male appropriation of the term become more pertinent when there are actually some male (pro)feminists.

Yes, my name is Ray, and I would love to discuss further with you. I'll read the book you recommended as soon as I get a chance. Let me know.

Julian Real said...

Hey Ray!

Welcome back.

I'll copy and paste your comment over to that post and discussion, because I want people who only read that post to see what you've said here.

I think that is so true, what you say. Except for within my own family of origin, in which no man has ever, ever considered himself pro-woman out loud, using any language to that effect, I have always been in community where there are men who manipulatively claim to be or who genuinely attempt to be "womanist" or "profeminist" or variations thereof.

I'm only sorry you're the only man you know who holds the values and practices you do.

Make yourself at home here, okay? Don't be a stranger.