Saturday, June 09, 2012

Fine Line

Added to my list of things to stop doing:  Reading Alyssa Rosenberg's blog.

Which is a shame, because I've come to like her blog very much.  Our interests and politics are quite similar and often I finish reading something of hers and come away thinking, "Huh, never saw it that way."

But the gender sorting is getting old, and the more I think about it, the more annoyed it makes me.  What do I mean by gender sorting?  This kind of thing:
I wonder if part of the challenge here is that while male action heroes are heightened version of ideals and traits men are already supposed to aspire to—strength, decisiveness, acting as protectors. If you’re going to put women in those roles, you’re both having female characters take on male-affiliated traits, and then heightening them.

And that raises the question of if action heroines are supposed to be role models, what, overall, are they supposed to model?
It's not a bad question, per se, but who said action heroes have to be role models?

I grew up with action heroes. Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones were among the first, but then I graduated to Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Van Damme, Bruce Willis, and even Steven Seagal. Seagal is a joke now, but there was a time when he was the penultimate bad ass. He broke bones!

And this is where I break from the didactic school of entertainment. I don't believe that stories must have some moral lesson. I don't believe characters must represent a certain population or demographic. I don't think an entertainment meant to idle away the hours must serve any other purpose aside from...entertaining. Part of the reason is that moralistic stories can be preachy, "representative" characters can be caricatures. The other part is that it's more interesting to leave room for interpretation.

Which is why I strenuously disagree with this:
...[M]ore thoughtful movies about what femininity brings to the table in fraught situations would make for more interesting storytelling, and more nuanced role models.
Maybe, but I think this all depends on how you define "more thoughtful" and "what femininity brings to the table."

In this case, it's just assumed that "femininity brings to the table" nothing but good things. Anything bad or undesirable...that's just the sexism talking. There's the "good" femininity, Hermione Granger for instance, and then there's the "bad" femininity of Kate Capshaw in Temple of Doom, shrieking and crying about getting dirty and breaking fingernails. To be "more thoughtful" means that you celebrate Hermione and sneer at Willie Scott, which I'd argue is actually less thoughtful, since it denies the reality of different personality types.

It's shocking, I know, but "bitchy" women really do exist in the wild. Last I checked, Jenna Jameson is a real person and was at one time a sex object. Is Madonna really a bitch, or is Madonna even real? Can a real woman be as trashy as Courtney Love or Lindsey Lohan? As airheaded as Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears? Obviously not, as those are not real women. [Eye roll.]

Humanity has a wide spectrum. Demanding one set of cliches over another isn't the sign of enlightenment.


One of the reasons why this topic has preoccupied my thoughts lately is that I'm toying with a story idea, a play actually, about a group of corrupt cops torturing a drug suspect. And every time I think about it, doing the work to flesh it out, there's this voice in the back of my mind saying, "Where are the women?" And it's not my enlightened non-sexist credibility speaking. It's more of a feeling that there's a bunch of sexist women who refuse to see anything male-oriented.

And that's sad.

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