where are the women at the movies?

These pages have been filled of late with posts about how, as a father, I can raise a son who treats women with compassion and dignity and respect. As a writer I’m almost ready to move on from the subject and focus elsewhere for a time. Almost.

This morning I read Alyssa discussing Linda Holmes’ piece on the rarity of movies about and by women, and I have to say, I was shocked to learn that, even were I inclined to do so (and I’m not since my son is 3 weeks old), I could not take my son to a movie that featured a story about a woman.

“I want to stress this again: In many, many parts of the country right now, if you want to go to see a movie in the theater and see a current movie about a woman — any story about any woman that isn’t a documentary or a cartoon — you can’t. You cannot,” Holmes wrote. “There are not any. You cannot take yourself to one, take your friend to one, take your daughter to one. There are not any.”

You should read Alyssa’s full piece on how this threatens a generation of tremendous actresses on the rise (anything that threatens Jennifer Lawrence is unacceptable), as stories about women are all but absent from our screens.

But here, I have to take a second to say: holy mackers this is a bad situation. If we men take seriously the threat posed to women by our masculinity-dominated culture, then one very simple and powerful way to implement change is to expose our sons to powerful stories about women. To craft in the imagination of our young men images and ideas and values of strong and smart and varied and fully-actualized females.

A well told story can change one’s life forever. I know this; I’ve experienced it. Imagination is the realm where we determine how we will encounter the world, how we will interact with that which we know and that which we do not know. We tell our children parables and lessons and we read fantasy books and  we see films and plays and cartoons that create in our minds the necessary interactive capacity to becomes citizens of the world.

How can we expect our young boys to consider the fullness of the girls in their classroom, if they are not experiencing stories of females that can inspire their imagination? Alongside Iron Man and Captain Kirk and Lebron James and Albert Einstein, we must provide Elektra and Buffy Summers and Abby Wambach and Marie Curie. Not doing so will lead to the continuation of the male-dominated cultural problems that we all face (more on this forthcoming), while robbing young men of inspirational stories and potential heroes.

For the record, I love superhero and science-fiction movies, and stories about masculine themes, etc. Of course I do. And so will my son. But he will also know, and hopefully love, the imaginative vision of the other sex. He will be much worse off if he does not experience all the stories contributed to our imaginations, not currently playing in our theaters. Be they movies directed by women of psychotic murderers, or directed by men of a girl’s search for her transformed parents. These stories cannot be generalized or easily cast aside, and they represent the epic spaces of Julie Taymor and Mary Harron, and the intimate spaces of Nora Ephron and Mira Nair.

Chihiro, from Spirited Away, Frida Kahlo from Frida, Patrick Bateman from American Psycho.


3 responses to “where are the women at the movies?

  1. This post made me think. Can this really be true? I’m scrambling right now to think of any women’s movies out right now, but fear you’re right. I hope that situation is remedied soon. There have been many good ones in the past. Sounds like we’re overdue for another.

    • Indeed, it’s very difficult to believe that this could possibly be the case. And in major cities its often easy to find exceptions. But in most theaters around the country, there are no female-centric films. It’s an incredibly unfortunate situation. At the 20-screen multiplex not far from me in St. Paul there is only 1 film that would qualify, The Heat.
      which happens to star 2 of the most powerful women in movies.

  2. Very true, and like you mentioned, it’s not only about the actresses but filmmakers that are missing as well. I can only name maybe one or two female filmmakers/producers.. and one of them is doing independent films. Hey, as long as they can put out a great plot, movie, etc., I think there should be a larger need for more women in the production side of the industry.

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