Trisha's Take: A feminist wish for the new decade

In one of his op-ed pieces, Entertainment Weekly‘s Owen Gleiberman declared that thanks to Twilight: New Moon, the age of Hollywood trying to placate only the 18 to 34-year old male demographic was over.

I am understandably torn about this.

I think it’s totally awesome that Hollywood is starting to take young women’s needs seriously when it comes to entertainment. The success of the High School Musical TV franchise was built on the yearnings of teenage girls, and those yearnings also lead to the silver screen debut of the franchise earning over $90 million in the U.S.

With New Moon earning over $142 million in its opening weekend and shattering the record previously held by the similarly age-range targeted The Dark Knight, it proves without a doubt that young women will flock to the movie theaters just as much as young men will.

My problem is that what the average teenage girl normally wants out of her entertainment isn’t very good, nor would any of it pass a Bechdel test because the average teenage girl is mostly concerned with teenage boys and whether or not they’ll think she’s pretty due to the demands of her raging hormones and the societal pressure surrounding her. There’s only so many different kinds of movies one can make that would appeal to this inner need, and I doubt you’ll see any of them on an American Film Institute Top 100 list or winning any major awards.

The feminist within me is warring with my inner critic, mostly because when I add in this report that women are taking on stronger roles in TV production and actually making good series that a wide audience wants to watch, it would almost make me think that an increase in female studio presidents or chairs or an increase in the ranks of female directors and screenwriters would mean that there would be a corresponding increase in the variety of stories for female characters in movies.

And that’s where I’d be wrong.

As reported by during a conversation they had with New York Times movie critic Manohla Dargis, the fact that women like Universal Pictures co-chair Donna Langley exist means absolutely nothing when you compare it to Hollywood’s total output over the last decade:

For me the most sobering thing of the last ten years is that there really was a point where four of the studios were run by women… and you would have thought that would lead to an uptick of women directors. I’m not saying I’ve done a systematic analysis, but it doesn’t look like it changed very much… Working within the system has not worked. It has not helped women filmmakers or, even more important, you and me, women audiences, to have women in the studio system. … I think the studio system as it exists now is a no-win situation for women filmmakers.

The sad thing is that this isn’t a fight that’s new to me. When I started writing for Sequential Tart in either 2000 or 2001, one of the things that impressed me about the group as a whole is that though the online comics ‘zine was–and still is!–written, edited, and published only by women, what a variety of tastes and styles we had!

The common refrain and what made me sad to leave Tart after I was hired at Wizard Entertainment was that our strength as a ‘zine and an arbiter of taste was our diversity in what we liked. Sure, there was a great propensity towards indie comics more than mainstream comics, but that’s because just like Hollywood, the majority of mainstream comics stories and characters in the U.S. haven’t been written by or created for women and girls since the industry began.

Thankfully, girls who want to read comics that reflect who they are as people can turn to Japanese manga to fill that void. There is no equivalent substitute for female film fans, and to answer the question why would probably entail me getting a sociology degree.

Yet, just as the fight goes on for female comics fans to be served entertainment by the Big Two that appeals to them without pandering or completely missing the point, one can hope that the second decade of the 21st century can start to turn things around for women who love movies.

Posted on January 28, 2010 at 06:52 by Trisha Lynn · Permalink
In: News

5 Responses

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  1. Written by lethalinterjection
    on 2010-01-28 at 16:12

    I thought Titanic proved that young women will flock to the theatres. But perhaps that was just because I was a teenage boy at the time and I felt like all of my female friends saw that movie more than once in theatres alone.
    Which is why I'm happy about Avatar taking the top spot. Mostly because I felt, from my perspective, that Titanic didn't really earn the spot as appeal to a niche market that would return to the theatres on multiple occasions to see the movie (admirable in a sense, but disappointing that it made for the top grossing). Avatar seems to have gotten a pretty broad audience.
    I haven't seen it myself, so I can't speak as to whether it is a better movie (although, my opinion of Titanic is pretty low*, so that wouldn't be a stretch).

    *Partially because it is very cliched and manipulative. I so would've rather prefered to see an ensemble cast piece, with several storylines regarding different aspects of those on the boat. It could've included the Jack/Rose story, but I wanted to see more.

  2. Written by Erin
    on 2010-01-28 at 21:34

    As a teenage girl who loved Knocked Up and 300, I'm kind of annoyed that Twilight and High School Musical are now symbols of my generation of girls. We like brainless action and bad sex humor just as much as boys, world!

  3. Written by Gordon McAlpin
    on 2010-01-28 at 21:37

    I don't remember any brainless action in Knocked Up, but the bad sex humor in 300 was the highlight of the film for me.

    ba dum bum

  4. Written by molnek
    on 2010-01-29 at 15:28

    Well I'd say the main reason it's easier for girl friendly comics to be made is because they're a lot cheaper to make than movies.
    I like to think of Twilight and highschool musical as another form of the action movie. It doesn't have to have amazing dialogue or plot it just has to have that entertainment value. In the case for men the obvious anwser to that is explosions and boobs. Whereas genuine emotion would be more to the female side. In both ways it's life without the complication of actually living which is nice every now and then. But hell I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy a good love story every now and then. There's always something good about two people finding each other.

  5. Written by air jordan 8
    on 2010-06-11 at 08:26

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