Friday, September 12, 2008

Same Old, Same Old: Racism, Misogyny, Ageism, and Heterosexism: all in one movie, or all in one movie review?

Roger Ebert, the long-time movie reviewer of ole "Siskel and Ebert" fame, has just released his review of a new feature length film called "The Women". The movie should be called "The Mostly Heterosexual, Mostly White, Mostly Class-Privileged Women With The Requisite Queer Character, This Time a Black Lesbian" but that's a critique for another time.

My beef is with Roger's review, more than of the film, which I have yet to see, and so can't even offer an opinion of it. Ebert seems a tad obsessed with this film being "all female", or is it the fact that it's lacking men?, as elsewhere on his website he asks: "Can you spot the only male in this movie?" So I guess we're not supposed to just appreciate and welcome the female actors and storyline, but be on the look-out for a cameo by a fleeting penis.

What irks me even more is this comment by Roger: "What a pleasure this movie is, showcasing actresses I've admired for a long time, all at the top of their form. Yes, they're older now, as are we all, but they look great, and know what they're doing." Well, we're not all "older now", as the film stars one actor who is all of thirteen; let's hope she's not yet hit the top of her acting game. And I doubt he's been admiring her for a long time, or, well, I hope he hasn't.

So, getting to the most sexist portion of his review: why do men ALWAYS say things about women's appearances like "they're older now, BUT they look great"? What, exactly, does "great" mean: not old? That they've had enough cosmetic facial surgery, but not too much? First, older women are older than younger women AND they look great. Age doesn't take away beauty; it adds more dimensions to it. And what's with the obsession about how great older or younger women appear, particularly to white heterosexual men who write movie reviews? This film's actors are whatever various ages they are (and they are various ages: a teenager performing in a film with women in their thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, and at least one woman in her eighties). And whether or not they are still lookin' great really ought to be entirely irrelevant. It would appear looks don't matter when we're dealing with white male actors who are "older." There's plenty of unattractive older male actors, and plenty of ugly-as-f*ck younger ones as well.

I'm not sure if the side-ad I saw will be up when you check out the page where Ebert gives his review, but right now on the right hand side there is a stupid thing, letting us all know the definition of "": noun- 1. the study of beautiful ladies. Note: this is not a synonym for older women. This misogynist horseshit is being brought to us by IGN.

IGN is a Video Gaming company. Go to their site and first among "Today's Top Stories" is the opportunity to learn more about their "babe of the day": Tera Patrick. (That's not the woman's birthname; they tell us what it is, but I'm not repeating here, in case she's harassed by those who stalk her). She is known, so the site tells us, for being in pornographic movies. They have a whole page about her love of videogames, managing to squeeze text on that subject in between a bountiful number of photographs of her appearing precisely the way corporate pornographers and pimps insist that women look. (You can also "rate her" physical appearance.)

In our liberal society, what if women choose not to look like that? In the "adult entertainment industry" the reply will likely be: "Sorry, honey, no paycheck for you." Yes, women have choices, but not to get paid well for all work, including working at cleaning up the spousal home, and the spouse's children, and the spouse's dirty clothes and dishes. Women, in North American and in Europe, don't have the choice to be considered beautiful BECAUSE they are older than fifty, not despite it. Because they are darker-skinned. Because they are butch lesbian. Sophia Loren is the standard of what constitutes an older beautiful woman--unmistakably white and "femme", for starters. And let's face it, most women don't look like Sophia Loren, including Sophia Loren.

But back to the film. The cast, of, um, old-but-still-beautiful women, is as follows:

Mary Haines: Meg Ryan (very white)
Sylvie Fowler: Annette Bening (white)
Crystal Allen: Eva Mendes (Latina)
Edie Cohen: Debra Messing (white)
Alex Fisher: Jada Pinkett Smith (African American)
Leah Miller: Bette Midler (white)
Catherine: Candice Bergen (very white)
Bailey: Carrie Fisher (white)
Maggie: Cloris Leachman (white)
Tanya: Debi Mazar (white, but "ethnic")
Molly Haines: India Ennenga (white)

Here's the blurb about the movie:
"Picturehouse presents a film written and directed by Diane English. Based on the play by Clare Booth Luce. Running time: 114 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for sex-related material, language, some drug use and brief smoking). Opening today at local theaters."

Apparently there are no requirements for warning the public about the level of heterosexism, misogyny, racism, classism, ableism, and ageism in a film. But at least we know there's some "brief smoking" and, well, "language". (So it's not a silent picture, I guess.)

Hey, I'm going to say right now: I'm looking forward to seeing this film A LOT. It has an intriguing cast, and by all accounts the performances are excellent.

And, well, I don't get to see enough U.S. movies with only women in them! "All male cast" Amairkin movies, though, are far more plentiful. See herefor a list of titles. Of those, I've only seen two (12 Angry Men, and My Dinner With Andre), as "all male cast" movies don't generally entertain me as they tend to contain lots of boy-violence. For a list of "All Female Cast" films, see here. "The Women" (this new version) will be the first film with an all-female cast. I wish there were more spaces, within and without cinema, for women to work without the fear and reality of men's violence--racist, ageist, misogynist, and heterosexist--against them.