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Posts Tagged ‘twilight’

I have been so bad about blogging lately, which is in part due to the fact that I have a big paper due soon, and I’ve been desperately trying not to procrastinate. The procrastination has won over, however, especially after I saw this article.  Written by Manohla Dargis, one of the NY Times film critics (and, I admit, my least favorite NY Times critic), this article discusses the lack of opportunities for female directors in Hollywood.  She cites to some pretty depressing statistics, not the least of which is that in the 81 years of the Academy Awards, only 3 women have been nominated for best director. (!!) None of them won. Organizations like The Women’s Media Center and the blog Women and Hollywood are vigilant about tracking these statistics.

It’s hard to know why women have fared so badly in Hollywood in the last few decades, though any business that refers to its creations as product cannot, by definition, have much imagination. The vogue for comics and superheroes has generally forced women to sigh and squeal on the sidelines. Even the so-called independent sector, with its ostensibly different players and values, hasn’t been much better, as we know from all the female directors who have made a splash at the Sundance Film Festival only to disappear. New digital technologies and the Internet have leveled the field — though usually it seems as if it’s sheer grit that pushes filmmakers like Kelly Reichardt (“Wendy and Lucy”) along the hard road from idea to distribution.

I recently wrote a law review article that discusses the idea of digital technology and its democratizing potential. (Soon to be published…) I think there’s a lot to be said for the fact that more women are starting to use new (cheaper) digital technologies to create their own films without the backing of a studio. These films always tend to be more interesting anyway. But, I think it’s insane that the studios haven’t caught on to the fact that women go see movies. And, many women are interested in more than cheesy romantic comedies. I enjoy rom-coms as much as the next girl, but I personally feel so refreshed when I go see a movie like Whip It! or Bright Star. Not to mention that it would be nice for younger girls to see role models on the screen, rather than just Bella and her dysfunctional relationship with Edward. (Sorry, at this point I feel like a Twilight reference is obligatory).  I could go on and on about the blatant discrimination that happens in Hollywood, but I’ll spare you.

What I would like to say, however, is that this year there has been a whole slew of films that are directed by women and are starring women. And, many of these movies are not your typical rom-coms (see Bright Star, Coco Avant Chanel, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Julie & Julia). Many of these movies and directors are getting Oscar buzz, but predictably, male-driven films like Up in the Air and Avatar threaten to pull ahead and woo the Academy with quirky style or crazy special effects (respectively).  Bright Star, Coco Avant Chanel, and Julie & Julia, I think, are the best three movies that I have seen all year. I am not advocating for the Academy to give the best director award to a woman, just because she’s a woman, but I think they should at least take it into account. And, this year seems to be the perfect year to do it. I also hope that the studios will get their heads out of the ground (to be kind) and look at how many both financially and critically successful films came out this year that were led by women. Next year, I hope to see even more…

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I saw “New Moon” last night, and I was surprised to discover that the movie was even worse than my expectations.  Bella seems to have no convictions and just falls for the guy who pays her the most attention. Meanwhile Edward seems to be using her for his own edification.  Sure, the movie centers around a female protagonist, but she is far from a good role model for teenage girls. Kate Harding at Salon explains why much better than I can, so I’ll leave you with a few quotes:

The marketing campaign for the movie pits “Team Edward” (the vampire) against “Team Jacob” (the werewolf), but as Carmen D. Siering wrote in Ms., “few young readers ask, ‘Why not Team Bella?'” That’s because the whole point of Bella’s existence is earning the suffocating love of supernatural hotties; even if you think her obsessive devotion to Edward might waver in the face of were-love, you know you’re never going to see her throw them both over to stand on her own two feet. (In fact, given that her only noteworthy quirk is clumsiness, she can’t even be trusted to do that literally without male supervision.)

 I can appreciate the desire for an alternative to vicious social power games. But then, that reminds me of another favorite from twenty years ago, “Heathers,” which skewered mean girl culture (and certainly hit on the extremes of adolescent emotion) with brains, black humor, and a heroine who’s not sorry to see her manipulative, homicidal boyfriend blow up at the end. Maybe after worried parents have finished going through Simmons’ suggestions for discussing “Twilight,” they should try arranging a screening of that. The female protagonist swears, drinks, has sex and kills people, sure, but I’d still pick her as a better role model for teenaged girls than Bella Swan any day.

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Out of sheer curiosity, I watched “Twilight” this weekend. Although I do have a special place in my heart for young adult fiction, and I am truly obsessed with the Harry Potter series, I have not read any of the “Twilight” novels. I’ve never understood the allure of vampires, and watching the movie just confused me even more. I just don’t see why women and girls are so much more obsessed with Twlight than they are with your typical rom-com or tragic love-story.

It was incredibly hard for me to watch the movie without thinking about all the hidden messages about gender-roles and abstinence. The whole plot revolves around the fact that Edward (the sexy vampire played by Robert Pattinson) has to show self-restraint and not bite Bella (the angsty, beautiful human teenage girl), even though she desperately wants him to bite her so that she can be a vampire and be with him forever. All the dialogue is about self-control and how Edward does not want Bella to lose something so important (her life). To me, it is just so obvious that this is a metaphor for sex, and Edward’s self-restraint is what makes him so admirable. Honestly, I preferred the days of “Interview with the Vampire” where vampires weren’t showing any particular self-restraint (and Brad Pitt is much sexier than Robert Pattinson).

It’s not hard for me to accept the teenage-girl obsession with Twilight – after all, aren’t these obsessions a teenage rite-of-passage? What’s hard for me to understand is Twi-moms – women in their 30s and older who are obssessed with Twilight. This article suggests that Twilight is a form of nostalgia – a way for these women to re-live their innocent youths. All of this just continues to suggest that there is something wrong with sex, something wrong with growing older and losing some of that virginal, teenage innocence.  The article also points out that the Twilight novels are perhaps the first novels that many women have read from cover-to-cover in years. I’m all for reading, but this fact makes me very sad. Why does it take mediocre literature (Twilight, The DaVinci Code) to get people to sit down and read?

Finally, I think the Twilight phenomenon just further illustrates the dearth of intelligent films that are geared toward women. While my friend Lindsay made a good point that it is nice that “Twilight” was written and directed by women, I don’t want to have to turn to vampire films geared toward tweens to satisfy my craving for a romantic movie. I watched “Out of Africa” recently, and that sad (cinematically beautiful) story, about real live adult humans falling in love, and (gasp!) having sex, was much more satisfying than watching a glittering vampire and a teenage girl staring at each other melodramatically for two hours.

I will see “New Moon” (although certainly not on opening weekend), because I’m curious to see how this ridiculous story continues. But I’ll be the person sitting in the back silently wishing that he just bites her already and she becomes some totally bad-ass vampire.

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