Last week I ventured out to our local cinema with my family to see the new Spider-Man movie. I wasn’t particularly interested but the kid’s enjoyed it. These are the things you do for your kids.
In the pre-amble, as everyone opened their crisp packets and jostled in their seats, the preview for the movie “Late Night” came on. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s about a late night talk show host whose name is NOT Jimmy (played by Emma Thomspon rocking a blonde cropped hair-cut), and the new young female writer in the room (played by the irrepressible Mindy Kaling).
Thompson’s character is informed that she is being axed from the show at the end of the year, and she turns to her young new writer to help her keep her job. It looks funny, topical and potentially insightful about the transient and fickle nature of fame and celebrity, particularly around aging women.
Just as I leaned into my husband to whisper we should go see that, a man a few rows back yelled out “chick-flick!” in a derogatory, possibly even disgusted, but certainly not complementary, tone–accompanied, of course, by rumbling accord around the cinema.
Cue my temper.
***Rant disclaimer here*** Go no further if you think the guy was funny.
I scowled, said a few choice–not repeatable–words under my breath that made my husband smirk, but I didn’t express my desire to watch the film.
But the slight stuck.
Especially as the next two trailers rolled on. One, a war-movie about Australian soldiers in Vietnam, the other yet ANOTHER movie in the never-to-get-tired Fast and Furious franchise.
My blood turned sour. I whispered something else that can’t be repeated to my husband, along the lines of compensating for something, as the man behind guffawed in delight at the antics, car chases, token female, and all-round men-are-so-badass action of the F&F preview.
I seethed a little longer. I wanted desperately to yell back at the man behind me that these were ‘something that rhymes with chick-less flicks’ but my husband suggested that was a bad idea. So I didn’t.
There are so many why’s in this little vignette of my afternoon out at the cinema.
Why? Are films starring women, about women:
- Written off as “chick-flicks”
- Considered “less” than movies made to make men feel big
- Not for men?
Why? Are films predominantly starring men, about men:
- Seen as the litmus for normal
- Not considered: compensatory, vain, superficial, annoying, boring, devoid of substance… (I told you I was going to rant)
Why? Are women expected to watch films like the F&F franchise? (For that matter what is Idris Elba DOING in one of those films?)
Why? Are films about women’s experiences seen as niche?
This holds true for all areas of shared creativity: fiction, theatre, art, comedy.
I don’t watch the F&F franchise for many reasons–BUT I don’t openly ridicule (except today) men who do. It is so normal to see films for and about men that it’s a delight to see a movie that is about women’s lives beyond romance (that is, beyond their need to please men.) It’s also a delight to see it in a mainstream cinema.
To then have your experiences, interests, and concerns mocked in public and feel powerless to retaliate–partially from social conditioning and partially from the deep, depressing knowledge that it would only lead to more mocking and no change–is beyond frustrating. I have no idea if “Late Night” is a good movie or not. I have no idea if it is a light-hearted peace of fluff, or a comedic masterpiece, or just a bit fun. In the end the movie itself is irrelevant.
I’m tired of gun-toting, car-crashing ‘something that rhymes with chick-less flicks’ and want more variety in the stories out there.
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