Wednesday, June 5, 2013

This Is Not for You

I wrote and polished the below as a brief essay for a website like The Mary Sue or Jezebel, but neither responded to my queries. Before it gets too out of date, I want at least a minuscule audience to enjoy it. Et voila.

This Is Not for You

I think I'm done with spectacle movies.

You could also call these types of movies "blockbusters" or "summer movies" or "Baystravaganzas" or "movies where you just turn your brain off and enjoy the explosions." But because this demographic has kind of Voltroned in recent years to include superhero movies, sci-fi epics, resurrected franchises from the 80s, movies made from popular books, and other odds and ends, I'm just going to call them spectacle movies.

The last one I saw was Star Trek Into Darkness, and that's mostly why I think I've had enough. Rob Bricken over at io9 said it all about the incoherent plot, but I do have to add that of all the dudetacular spectacle movies I've seen in the past couple of years, this one was the most stunningly noninclusive. STID’s version of the future contains more white men than my average day in 2013. Even in the background, at meetings, they couldn't toss in a few extras of different races or genders? Really?

I'm tired of turning off my brain for these movies, but more than that, I'm tired of turning off my gender. More and more, I don't see where I belong in popular film. I am obviously supposed to identify with the central male character(s), but I don't, because I’m not male. I can't identify with most of the, uh, central? female characters, because they are nearly always sketches at best and cardboard stereotypes at worst. Recently, Iron Man 3 has been getting points for passing the Bechdel test. That's nice, but it's an outlier, and still not anything close to about the women in it. The big movies of late have told me, loudly and clearly, that they were not made for me.
One of these things is not like the others

I've come to the conclusion that many well-meaning men just don't get this. They don't see how the default setting in spectacle movies is for their eyes and their attitudes. (It took a film degree for me to see this.) They don't see that women are required to get over the hump of our gender in order to enjoy the piece, and men are not. I'm not talking about women not enjoying explosions or Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as much as men do. A friendly but ill-comprehending man will say, well, of course STID doesn't pass the Bechdel test. It's about a starship crew mostly composed of men. That is precisely the point, I say. All the movies are about groups mostly composed of men.

Where are our spectacle movies? Where can women go to turn their brains off? Jezebel recently put together this revealing chart, showing how romantic comedies have vanished as superhero movies have bloomed. (I place this at the feet of the Farrelly brothers, for dudeifying rom-coms to the point where they're too vulgar and insulting for women to withstand, but that's really beside the point.) I never liked rom-coms much to begin with; they seemed to be about women who somewhat resembled me without really being for us. No mainstream movie about women has really felt right to me until Bridesmaids, and even that had the whiff of Apatow about it in places.

Coming soon are Man of Steel, which has Amy Adams going for it, but otherwise...; World War Z, in which Brad Pitt evidently ditches his wife to go fight zombies; The Lone Ranger, which has a disposable woman or two in it but seems to be largely about Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, and their respective hats; The Wolverine, which is by my count the fifth major release in fifteen years focused on one of the most hypermasculine characters in all of geekdom; and that took me to the end of July, where I got depressed and gave up.

Remember Hanna? A 2011 action movie starring Saoirse Ronan as a kickass girl fighting against a powerful woman? Yeah, not many people went to see it. It had far fewer plot problems than STID, and much more interesting hand-to-hand action sequences, but it came and went with hardly a whisper at the box office. I wish even half the women who unwillingly went to The Hangover II that year had seen Hanna instead. They might have seen someone they could actually identify with instead of feeling shut out.

Me? I'm done. I'll see Man of Steel because Zack Snyder's attitude toward women interests me (I could talk about Sucker Punch all day), but the next time a Star Trek movie comes around, I think I'll stay home and watch my DVDs of Voyager. Janeway could've taught Kirk a thing or two.

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