Tuesday, March 16, 2010

one of my many feminist rants

Yesterday I wrote a very long, detailed feminist deconstruction of the movie Alice in Wonderland. It was great, but you'll have to take my word for it because it didn't "save." Which, technically, means that I probably got distracted, moved away from the computer and some little fingers experimented with the keys. Or something like that. I'm collecting clues to get to the bottom of it. So far I have tiny circles written in pen on the letters "F13" and "delete." I'll get back to you all on further developments as they come in.

The point of my blog yesterday was this: I'm tired of men (director Tim Burton) and women (screenplay writer Linda Woolverton) telling women "how to be awesome" today! I'm so tired of charming, sweet stories (Alice in Wonderland) taking on modern adaptations in the exact same way: making women be "awesome." As in, in order for them to have value, they have to be like men are, traditionally. They need to fight literal battles, be sexually provocative, and like what men like. If you like something traditionally female (marriage, having children specifically) the story will never, ever be about you. But you might get a cameo in the movie revealing that you are secretly jealous of the awesome woman, or just not as brave, smart, or self-aware as she is. And the movie won't leave you alone--they will pity you and use you as a cautionary tale until you're embarrassed to admit you would ever wanted any of those things. Pretty women are good, ugly women are evil. It's boring storytelling, it's lazy, and it's insulting. And it is the only message we have, or I seem to see, in modern pop culture.

There. I feel a little better. I got that out. Not exactly the literary prose I was looking for to express myself but, like most women, I'm tired. I'll let some of my sisters say it:

You don't have to be anti-man to be pro-woman. ~Jane Galvin Lewis

Men are taught to apologize for their weaknesses, women for their strengths. ~Lois Wyse

Instead of getting hard ourselves and trying to compete, women should try and give their best qualities to men - bring them softness, teach them how to cry. ~Joan Baez, "Sexism Seen but not Heard," Los Angeles Times, 1974

Feminism directly confronts the idea that one person or set of people [has] the right to impose definitions of reality on others. ~Liz Stanley and Sue Wise

All this pitting of sex against sex, of quality against quality; all this claiming of superiority and imputing of inferiority belong to the private-school stage of human existence where there are sides, and it is necessary for one side to beat another side. ~Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own, 1929

21 comments:

  1. So, do you think I'll like Alice in Wonderland?

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  2. You don't actually know me, but I am a big fan of yours--I loved Stalking Santa, and LRS (my husband is Cory, the guy who got LRS going at first), and am glad you've continued to blog over here. I hope you don't mind me jumping in here.

    I get so tired of this, too. Because, you know, intelligent and beautiful women would never *choose* to be wives and moms. We would never waste our intelligence on teaching our children, our beauty by settling for one man to love all our lives...

    Anyway, you got me thinking about Tim Burton movies, and my favorite of his is Big Fish. I'm curious what you think of the women in that movie. I think the wife in it is the ideal, and that marriage is cherished--probably a big part of why I loved that movie. It was refreshing to me to have a family lifestyle be celebrated.

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  3. I love Tim Burton, in general. Big Fish, Pee Wee Herman's Big Adventure, and Edward Scissorhands are completely original, delightful films. His adaptations, however, have generally fallen flat, in my opinion: Alice in Wonderland, Sleepy Hollow, and Charlie and the Choc. Factory.

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  4. Oooo I've been trying to teach our young women these things too! It's scary seeing the influence these kind of films have on young girls. (I might just read them this entry on Sunday during our lesson!)

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  5. I know you've blogged on a similar theme before, but again, let me just say: amen (not "amen" like it's the end of the discussion, because it's not, but "amen" like you're so right)

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  6. All things considered, you gotta admit, Xena The Warrior Princess has got it goin' on.

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  7. I hear what you're saying and I mostly agree. Nothing makes my blood boil more than the assumption that I was somehow "tricked" into the life I'm living.

    But. I think there are still a lot of stories being told that are sexist in the traditional way. I saw the movie Valentine's Day a couple weeks ago. Yes. It's exactly what you think it will be. Pretty dumb. But Jennifer Garner's character is admirable, family-oriented (she teaches 2nd grade kids, see, and wears a red cardigan). Her foil is Jessica Alba, career-oriented, in love with her BlackBerry (she wears a gray suit). The guy picks Jennifer. The audience is thrilled. Jennifer will make a great mother because she's a teacher and a nurturer.

    There are other story lines in the movie (it's like Love Actually that way) which fit into the female-as-male rant you're talking about.

    But I do think there's still quite a bit of Cinderella running through films, TV, pop culture in general.

    Neither approach is correct. And, truly, both bother me because they don't allow for the complexities of real life. But is it better to have more than one side represented even if it's wrong? I'm not sure.

    I've been thinking about this all day. Thank you!

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  8. That's a great point: neither extreme approach is correct. . .because "they don't allow for the complexities of real life." That makes me think about which films/tv/stories I really like and are drawn to, and what they have in common, which is authenticity. If the story is true, as in it's based in someone's actual experience, then it has more credibility in it for me because I can interpret the experience myself, regardless of whether I agree or "approve" of the message or not.

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  9. Yes, yes, and yes! Thank you for verbalizing what I've felt for years! You are the best!

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  10. I've been thinking of Rachel's comment that there are still "quite a bit of Cinderella running through films. . ." and I think that's true, only "Cinderella" is now, as in "Pretty Woman," a prostitute. That's our modern Cinderella.

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  11. That's why I love watching you perform, because your characters are all strong women-some funny, some crazy, some self-deprecating, some boorish, some bizarre, but all REAL. I love Lisa.

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  12. I've thought the same thing about movies before. That's usually when I pick up "Little Women" to feel better :-)

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  13. Maybe I'm crazy and don't really follow what you are saying, but I just saw and loved "Alice in Wonderland". I saw the jabberwocky as Alice's fears and insecurities and I was glad she slayed them, as only she could. I didn't see the adventure as anti-marriage but anti-living to please others that have their own selfish interests at heart. I agree with your assessment of the media's portrayal of women in general though. Unfortunately it panders to the lowest common denominator most times. "Young Victoria" sure was fabulous however! Talk about a strong woman figure! Loved it! Pro woman and pro marriage. I especially loved it when all the older men in a scene could hardly stand the fact that this young woman was their superior! Oh, how I loved that angst! Just a fun role reversal!
    I loved your quotes too!

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  14. Tim Burton creeps me out--I swear he's on drugs when he writes those things. Well written!

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  15. How did I miss this while watching Alice in Wonderland?

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  16. Two thoughts:
    a. Can't stop my girls from digging such obvious girl-in-box things like princesses, divas, sparkles and such.
    b. Check-out packaging girlhood by Sharon Lamb & Lyn Mikel Brown and tell me what you think

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