Jun 29 2009

All old movies suck

An “old movie” thread has been requested. Ask and ye shall receive.

Longtime blamers are well aware that, while recuperating from gory ankle reconstruction surgery a couple years ago — remember? Bert dug a hole, and I fell in it? — I became strangely fascinated by the Turner Classic Movie channel.

The Turner Classic Movie channel, in case you never heard of it, runs old movies 24 hours a day. Talkies, silents, the odd foreign film. The movies are given shallow introductions by an avuncular presenter who focuses primarily on the personalities of the film’s personnel, rather than offering any really useful critique. Initially I started watching TCM while I lay imprisoned on the living room couch because it is more or less commercial-free. It is more commercial-free than PBS, which, in addition to shilling for the megatheocorporatocracy, tends to run really long, tiresome commercials for itself featuring handsome, well-groomed children of all colors leaping through the air in slow-motion waving “PBS” signs, showing public broadcasting’s affluent honky audience how diverse they are. TCM, though not even remotely patriarchy-free, at least refrains from overt messages that purport to demonstrate Exxon-Mobil’s deep concern for the environment.

When I say that TCM is not even remotely patriarchy-free, I am not fucking kidding. I have yet to see a single film in their catalog that doesn’t throw a yacht party celebrating the mores of the culture of oppression. War movies, romantic comedies, films noir — even the iconoclastic films and the beloved classics — revolve around either a) the White Dude Experience or (somewhat less often), b) women who fail to conform to the mandates of White Dude Experience and get an educational smackdown. Turner Classic Movies is a great repository of stylized, idealized, heroifized patriarchy in action.

Recently on Kubrick night I watched (for the millionth time) “Dr Strangelove,” a gorgeous and funny film it is impossible not to admire despite the fact that the only woman in the whole thing is a Playboy centerfold. There are many reasons to admire it, such as the the opening sequence where war planes refuel in midair to a cheesy soundtrack, Peter Sellers in 3 roles, the verite-style battle sequence, and the fact that it is one of the few non-indie films ever made which does not contain the line “I don’t know what to believe anymore!” But it’s also one of the most phallo-centric things going, and at the end — after Slim Pickens has ridden the giant nuclear bomb penis that will destroy the earth — when Dr Strangelove describes a post-apocalyptic paradise involving a shit-ton of hot babes at the ready to service the survivors through the nuclear winter, I was primed to throw a boot at the movie delivery device.

My thesis is this: that the entire canon of 20th century cinema is misogynist, classist, racist, and is therefore impossible for the radical feminist to appreciate without cringing, throwing stuff, and blowing a lobe.

Here’s my favorite beef: the scene where a dude and a woman are running, running, and the virile dude is yanking the woman’s hand, dragging her pathetic terrified person along, and she falls because she’s wearing fucking high heels, and he picks her up and they continue running, running, him dragging her along like a wagonload of screaming mimis.

I also can’t stand it when actors yank horses’ mouths, which they all, without exception, do.

What chaps your hide, cinematically speaking?


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  1. Vera

    What chaps your hide, cinematically speaking?

    Every fucking thing.

  2. Jezebella

    The wedding-industrial complex and the soaring sappy music that signals “happily ever after” in every movie with a wedding, ever.

  3. headbang8

    Why are there so few women in Dr. Strangeglove? It is a satire on evil war-mongers. At the time, it was an exclusively male domain. Margaret Thatcher was not yet prime minister of Great Britain.

  4. Lindsey

    The only movie I’ve ever sat through on TCM was Arsenic and Old Lace, which featured spinster aunts. Whether this was an accurate representation of spinster-aunthood is open to debate.

  5. notalady

    The way when a dude wants a woman, he gets her. Stalking and manipulative ploys are always successful dating strategies for men. Resistance is futile, it only builds his passion and fuels his persistence. Eventually she realizes he is right for her after all, and submits to his superior love instincts. Male desire is unconditionally validated, women’s desire is unconditionally moot.

    Should a female character pursue a man with such persistence, however, it’s because she is completely psycho.

  6. Vera

    Should a female character pursue a man with such persistence, however, it’s because she is completely psycho.

    And deserves to die a lingering, horrible death while the audience cheers.

  7. schatze

    There is the cliche of the woman who is too frail to help even though her big hero is getting beaten up. Then there’s the ton of women in peril who never would hit a guy below the belt. That simply wouldn’t be fair.

  8. sonia

    I have to jump on the Rom-Com hatred wagon. I have an irrational fear that romantic movies are going to lodge in my brain (further) and convince/trap me that marriage is a good idea. Hollywood is the biggest offender when it comes to the lie of romantic bliss.
    Hex! Hex!

  9. Josquin

    The running-in-high-heels is certainly up there. The costuming requirements come to mind: no what what activity a woman is doing, whether it be cleaning the toilet, digging in the back yard, car work, whatever, she will ALWAYS wear a tight, low cut tank top under her casual clothes so that her breasts can be seen peeking out. Without fail. I think my strongest chapped hide experience is that the “hero’s’ burden to bear is often that his hot girlfriend or wife died a violent, painful, but still somehow erotic death. Forget about it from her point of view, the poor hero now has to go through life with a dark shadow over HIM because some other dude had his way with his girlfriend, in the most ultimate sense. (I didn’t write this very well. Sorry. In a hurry.)

  10. Matilde

    Did you know? The highest rated film in imdb’s top 250 titles only has one female character. Who’s given a screen time of maybe 20 seconds. In a sex scene. Before being shot to death.

    Noticed that five minutes ago. Fun coincidence.

  11. Lin-z

    Like Vera, pretty much every fucking thing pisses me off. But I hate most when I don’t expect to be pissed off (ha!) and get blindsided. Example: this week I watched “The muppets take manhattan” which sounds harmless. No. The film culminates in the muppets performing their plotless musical about Miss Piggy and Kermit getting married. In the middle of the movie, there is also a flashback by Miss Piggy where she sings about having all kinds of careers and being a “good mom too.” and I blew a lobe, as it were.

  12. MLH

    I hate it when they pair dinosaurs like Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood with women 40 years younger. Hate that.

    Or if the woman is somehow against the system in some way, she has to be killed off (Thelma & Louise)

    The woman always has to be HOTTT, of course, and 30 y.o. or younger. If you are over 30, woman gets relegated to the role of the mom. Even if the actor who plays the son is her age in real life. She is no longer fuckable, so she has to be the mom. Or grandmom.

    Or the fact that women are in most movies just an accessory to the main protagonist of the movie, which is the man. That’s why I like Almodovar movies, in many of his movies the woman is the main role; it’s about what she is going through and her problems… The guys are secondary.

  13. yttik

    “What chaps your hide, cinematically speaking?”

    “Heroic” and “romantic” rape scenes. I once watched some old movies with a lawyer friend of mine and she spoiled all the fun by continually quoting criminal codes. “That’s first degree rape, that’s simple assault, indecent liberties…”

    But the parts that I like are where she’s all tear streaked and sobbing while he clutches her arms, shakes her, and proclaims his undying love. That’s supposed to be relief and gratitude on her face, but it isn’t. It’s panic because she knows she’s now trapped forever, cooking eggs for this total loser, in some sort of twisted 50’s version of wifedom. Those scenes always make me laugh, perhaps because the fragile flower, rescued by love, sheltered forever, is such a patriarchal joke. I picture her raising children alone, working nights in some dive, trying to care for an alcoholic husband, basically being a rock that tries to hold the whole thing together. It’s the strength of women that is mocked in old movies and that can be kind of funny to those of us who know the truth.

  14. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    The fucking Disney princesses. And you can’t get away from ’em.

  15. Sniper

    I can’t watch a single second of The Philadelphia Story without feeling sick. The “haughty” women who insists on being treated as a human being is humiliated and brought down. It happens in a lot of movies, old and new, but The Philadelphia Story is such a grossly self-congratulatory example.

  16. Jezebella

    Ah, Sniper, yes: all variants of “Taming of the Shrew” get the stinkeye, forthwith.

  17. Cycles

    The 1940s face-mash that’s supposed to be a kiss.

  18. Solniger

    Thanks for mentioning the horses. Whenever I watch westerns and there is some sort of human conflict it always tears me up when I see the horses being shot, blugeoned, falling etc. A friend of mine doing film studies actually told me how they get horses to fall during battle scenes (I don’t now if this still happens with the new animal cruelty laws), but they would pull they’re front legs together in a noose as they were running. What sick mind thought it is okay to do that to an animal just to get an accurate short of a horse falling in battle? Gaah!

    Misoginy in TCM movies? Sure…I come from a tradition of cinema where women get violently raped and are then grateful when their rapist marries them, because y’know who else would. Blame!!

  19. Vinaigrette Girl

    All the helpless-woman films ever in existence; all the ones where women are always the vics; The Philadelphia Story; every Judy Garland film ever made.

    Turning to the one movie that didn’t chap my hide: Mikrocosmos; three years in the making, the story of insect life in a meadow in France, absolute perfection in closeup, including a classic sequence involving a dung-bettle. What more could one ask?

  20. R.

    If you want to see a good movie, I recommend ‘Away We Go’ which is now out in theaters. It’s wonderful at not romantic-comedy-ish

  21. givesgoodemail

    “What chaps your hide, cinematically speaking?”

    The sameness of plots, devices, and (particularly in the last 20 years) the sameness of characterizations and acting styles. They may have played detestably *-istic characters, but you would never mistake Cagny for Gable for Bogart for Scott.

    (Hmmm. An interesting brain drizzle–as opposed to “brain storm”–has occurred. While the roles that actors were given to play gave them latitude to create discernible characteristics, the actresses were rarely given such. What discerns Lamarr from Colbert from Loy?)

    BTW, it comes to anyone’s surprise that TCM–and all other movie channels–are rife with sexism, classism, and racism. Art, and in particularly entertainment “art”, is a reflection of the social matrix from whose forehead it springs.

  22. givesgoodemail

    Nuts! Last ‘graph should begin:

    “It comes to no one’s surprise…”

  23. Kauri

    What chaps my hide is a little-discussed sub-genre: where rape happens but is never discussed or acknowledged as such by anyone who has ever seen the film. I’m sure there are tons of old films like this, but two that really get me because they are supposed to be such cool films, beloved of hipster film freaks everywhere:

    Saturday Night Fever: the leading man’s girlfriend from the ‘hood who gets in his way, and is seen as a needy loser trying to hold him back, gets gang-raped in the back seat of a car by our hero’s two friends, and noone does a thing to help her (our hero is driving at the time). Then she just gets dumped at the side of the road. I didn’t see Saturday Night Fever until I was well into my 30s and couldn’t believe noone had ever mentioned this, ever. And now when I do mention it, people’s eyes kinda glaze over and they claim not to recall such a scene. Was I hallucinating? I have a fantasy about producing a film where that young woman, years later, hunts our hero down and brings him to justice. Always hoped I could get the original actors to play the same roles.

    Blade Runner, Director’s Cut: our hero chases his replicant girlfriend around his apartment until she “gives in”. In the original theatrical release it’s not really noticeable as rape because we have his voiceover explaining what’s going on, and it makes it seem sort of OK. But they removed the voiceover in the director’s cut and it is then exposed as very plainly a rape scene. But maybe it’s OK because she’s not really human. Except that goes against the point of the plot, which is that replicants *are* human.

    I’m sure there are others like this but can’t call them to mind just now.

  24. Carolyn

    I think my strongest chapped hide experience is that the “hero’s’ burden to bear is often that his hot girlfriend or wife died a violent, painful, but still somehow erotic death.

    Or mother–viz. new Star Trek movie. I’ve regretfully decided not to see it, even though I love sf spectaculars (you know what’s good? Dune–the good guys have funny foreign accents and the bad guys sound American, and there are women in it!).

  25. Val

    What a coincidence – I stopped by to visit the parental abode yesterday & they were watching Jane Russell’s cleavage – oops, I mean, that notorious 1943 film “The Outlaw”…
    [sorry, I’m not geek enough to embed a link]
    My mother was reminiscing about how SCANDALOUS it was (at the tender age of 12, she was forbidden from seeing it) – but we got a good laugh from the climactic chase scene! Doc’s Holliday’s horse Red was the best actor in this film…

  26. Sutton (simply)

    Two things in the movies always chap my hide:
    (1) The obligatory childbirth scene in old westerns–the baby pops out six months old. The woman smiles. After interminable minutes in which we are forced to watch her writhe and scream in pain. During which she is sometimes tied hands and feet to the bedposts. Do you think that was meant to be erotic?
    (2) The way the “heroine,” while being yanked through the jungle in her underwire pushup bra by the hero, is wearing perfect (if heavy) makeup and hasn’t a hair out of place on her freshly-shampooed head.

    Also, in settings rife with bugs, snakes, and other heartwarming nature crap, she’s wearing her shirt tied off under breasts and unbuttoned at the top, short sleeves, short pants, and white tennies, for gods’ sakes, without socks! No hat. And 99 times out of 100, she’s not covering their back-trail but whining–or worse–shrieking helplessly, giving their pursuers more cues to follow.

    To me, that’s all stupider than a big-city detective-type “heroine” in high heels. Although, with their undernourished bodies, spray-painted-on clothes, and the way they stand to make their boobs stick out at the males in the scene chaps my hide pretty badly also.

    I think that was more than two things, but hey. I can find so many things to criticize in one movie, never mind a whole genre, that I can hardly sit through one any more.

  27. Val

    Speaking of poor abused horses having their mouths yanked upon, it was a pleasure to watch the all-too-brief riding scenes in “Star Trek: Generations”; William Shatner can actually RIDE! (Watch Patrick Stewart flopping around in the saddle – that should answer anyone’s “Kirk v Picard” debate!)

  28. Laughingrat

    The quality-to-crap ratio seems to be higher in older movies, yielding (for me, anyway) a more pleasurable viewing experience and often a chance for richer analysis and dissection. In other words, it’s more fun for me to watch “classic” movies.

    Since I find most current cinema to be mostly ugly, stupid, and poorly-executed, and since current cinema is just as misogynist and patriarchal as older cinema, I’m gonna just pick the movies I enjoy watching more and then debunk the hell out of them.

  29. Laura F

    Just curious: have your read Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (1975)? If you haven’t, I think you’d like it. She’s the one who first proposed the idea of a “male gaze” as identified with the camera.

    Lots of work has been done in feminist film theory since then, obviously, but I still think that Mulvey’s initial approach is dead on and relevant for reading classic Hollywood film.

  30. Ari

    To be fair, the entire point of Dr. Strangelove is that it is a spoof. The phallic symbols and the ridiculousness of Dr. Strangelove’s speech is all very much intended. I think in this case Kubrick could very much have been making a rather pro-feminist point, if one squints and tilts one’s head.

    A film that really got to me lately was V for Vendetta. Kritics seemed to enjoy it. But the story was the usual: weakly woman is saved by brilliant man, she falls in love, and makes sure HIS genius plans are followed through. She basically exists to serve the man. Ugh.

  31. LisaB

    Animated kids’ movies MUST include romantic storylines, even though kids that age really don’t care much about relationships or love. I know that movies are trying to indoctrinate kids into the marriage paradigm, but still! We went to see that Monsters vs. Aliens movie not long ago, and I swear one of the monsters, who was like a slimy blob, was hitting on a jello fruit mold. Seriously! In the Madagascar sequel, one of the cartoon penguins is romantically attached to a dahsboard hula dancer. I am not kidding! AARRGGHHH!

  32. NeonOlive

    I cannot even watch movies that do not feature female characters. I don’t watch a lot of movies.
    What I have found to be better/less offensive are films made by women, specifically two Czech films: “Daisies” and “Fruit of Paradise.” They are from the 1960’s I think.

  33. Kelsey

    What chaps my hide about movies? I could write a damn book, but I’ll keep it brief. My number one peeve at the moment is films in which the wacky male lead and his zany dude sidekicks engage in hilarious highjinks while the stone foxxxy girlfriend looks on in an exasperated-but-mostly-charmed way (i.e., every comedy ever made).

    I think my most hated movie of all time would have to be Mike Leigh’s “Naked,” if only for the fact that it is concurrently so boring, so misogynist, and so critically lauded. Seriously, whatta turkey.

  34. Azundris

    Kauri, agree on Blade Runner. It’s a brilliant, brilliant movie in many ways, but even after telling myself, « a) she’s a replicant, and judging from the exposition (“stronger, faster,” etc. than humans) we may possibly deduce that she could throw him through a wall if provoked, and b) film noir aesthetic, » it was an uncomfortable scene.

  35. Bella Donna

    You know what gets me?

    Everyone is talking about how terrific Up is. The movie does have some good points to it. But…..(spoiler alert)

    The mythical creature that cannot be caught by man or dog or super high-tech trap?

    Is tamed by a boy who gives her (of course) chocolate……..


    I liked the Resident Evil series because the main character and hero is always a girl.

    I dislike that in the first movie she spends the whole time running about in a dang mini-dress and knee-high boots. At least they weren’t heels.

    I loved one particular scene in the second movie, where a woman is trapped by zombies, a dudley-dude rescues her from zombies, gives her a typical “You’re safe now because I’m here” smile, and promptly gets his face eaten by zombie dogs.

    Maybe it’s terrible, but I couldn’t stop giggling.

    Also, checking out any list of greatest movies of all time one comes to the realization that men have always controlled the entertainment industry.

  36. Pinko Punko

    I mentioned Queen Christina the other day because I found it interesting that the movie had to be about a completely singular and unique historically dead Queen to express concepts such as the independence and humanity of woman. It is the one old movie I have seen where, when Garbo utters the line about desiring to “be a woman” the entire subtext of the remark is NOT solely an embrace of patriarchy. One might imagine that she says the line meaning “human”, or at least that is how I heard it.

    I saw Notorious last night for likely the 15th time or so, and I had to groan as of course this was one of Jill’s instances where the heroine gets punched by the “hero.” This is one of my favorite films ever, and I see Grant’s character as a misogynist that ceases to be able to function because he psychologically chafes at the box his behavior is confined to regarding Bergman’s character. It is almost that he recognizes Bergman’s character is human and it does not compute. I know that I am choosing not to throw the character completely overboard because all of his actions can also be interpreted as shlong-driven.

  37. Denise

    What chaps my hide is a little-discussed sub-genre: where rape happens but is never discussed or acknowledged as such by anyone who has ever seen the film.

    How about 16 Candles, where the jock puts his super incredibly drunk girlfriend in the car with the nerd, tells her that the nerd is her boyfriend, and the nerd drives off in order to rape her in a parking lot.

    Then of course, when she wakes up the next morning from her drunken stupor, she is totally in love with the nerd. But before she can officially be dating him, she has to go be repentant towards the jock so they can break up amicably instead of him dumping her for cheating on him.

  38. Jezebella

    Carolyn, there’s nothing particularly erotic about Spock’s mother’s death in the new Star Trek movie. It’s actually rather quick and to the point. Winona Ryder is not only NOT pornified in the role, but made to look rather older and wrinklier than she is in real life. If that’s the only thing stopping you, then hie thee to the theater and see it on the big screen. It is a movie about dudes, featuring dudes, but nonetheless pretty damn satisfying.

  39. Dicey Venison

    What chaps my hide?
    The fat ugly chick who is so “hideous” and “un-fuckable”—but she has a “great personality” which, of course, nobody gives two shits about.
    But wait! She gets a make-over!
    NOW she’s socially-acceptable, fuckable, and no longer intimidating.
    She gets The Guy—usually some sociopathic schlub as her Grand Prize for submitting to the dictates of Fascion.


  40. Carolyn

    Well it’s not the erotic part I’m objecting to here, but the fact that a woman is used as a plot device to motivate the hero (and I understand Uhura is used in the same way). THAT chaps my hide–women who are only in movies (or any type of story) to provide the real true people/dudes with motivation to act.

  41. Jenny from IL

    “What chaps your hide, cinematically speaking?”

    When the lone chick in the movie miraculously ends up fighting the lone chick villain, sexy cat fight ensues.

  42. slade

    Since just about every movie has something in it that bugs me, the one that stands out as bugging me the least was last years ‘Revolutionary Road.’

    Kate Winslet and DiCaprio starred in this.

    I wished for a different ending…

    Any others see it?

  43. The Menstruator

    Clearly the Seth Rogen movies are just sickly and low. All of the movies that make fun of rape and play it off like sexual abuse is hilarious.
    however… anyone see Rosario Dawson in the descent?
    Spoiler here: She is raped by a nice white guy (ha, like that exists) but she certainly, um… prevails in the um… END!!!

  44. shegonzo

    Main chafes: Every movie where the terrified woman victim is about to become a bad guy’s fuck salad, somehow gets a hold of a weapon (i.e. gun, knife) and simply CAN’T bring her delicate, helpless self to use it, choosing instead to stand there crying and holding said weapon in shaking hands until said bad guy manfully (if evilly) plucks it from her helpless hands and has his way with her. Oh, FUUUUCK that pisses me off every single time.
    Agrees w/that stupid goddamn Bladerunner rape scene-grrrr!

    Also, every wife looking like a fucking Playboy centerfold while married to a fat, apparently mentally disabled dude.

    I re-watched Dr. Strangelove too, but came away with the thought that all that misogynistic/phallic imagery and dialog was meant to be taken as satire and further evisceration of the entire phallo-military-industrial-complex that was the movie.

    love ya, Twisty!

  45. niki

    I barf uncontrollably in the presence of romance movies (such as ‘He’s just not that into you’, or ‘Keep trying ya big desperate loser’) because at all times, the sole goal of the female character is to snare a man. Snare a man, snare a man, snare a man. Without the constant practice of aforementioned snaring, you might as well just shoot yourself in the head as far as romance movies are concerned. Do men ever work to snare a woman? Maybe, sometimes. However, if the man tries and loses, you die. Or get ugly. Or your new lover kills you. Or ad nauseum.

  46. Gnatalby

    If I never saw another “edgy” rape scene in a movie, it would be too soon.

    I hate that men and women can’t be friends in movies, particularly when it’s a woman and her gay friend– nearly always she secretly has a thing for him, despite the fact that I have never met a woman with a gay male best friend who harbors romantic feelings for him.

    The pornification of lesbians bothers me, as do the chaste bro hugs of gay men in lieu of real romantic expression.

  47. CLD

    …him dragging her along like a wagonload of screaming mimis.

    “Screaming mimis” has just become my most favorite metaphor. I laugh hysterically every time I read that line now.

    I’m sick of the man-child movies where men who wear skid-marked skivvies and never clean up after themselves learn to suddenly grow up thanks to some poor woman who forces them to be an adult. Think “Knocked Up”.

  48. verona

    There’s not enough female spaceship captains. Aside from Sigourney Weaver in Aliens, women don’t have much of a place in sci fi unless they’re just there as a plot device. Princess Lea doesn’t count because she was sassy but she didn’t get to do as many cool things as Han and Luke.

    Starbuck from the new Battlestar Galactica series is my favorite female scifi character, even though I hated her sometimes.

  49. Marilyn

    Wow, this isn’t an easy thread to jump into, but I feel I must. As a film critic who looks at films from their very beginnings in the 19th century, it is impossible for me to blanketly condemn films for misogyny. That it exists in a great many movies, I unhappily acknowledge. That it’s there for a purpose–to transmit the culture of patriarchy to each succeeding generation through the pleasantly subtle propaganda of entertainment–cannot be questioned. However, there are quite a few films, particularly from what we call the pre-Code period (1930-1933), that are strongly feminist.

    Take Barbara Stanwyck in “Baby Face” (1933). He has been pimped out by her father–and she hates and abuses him for it. She’s no blushing victim; in fact, she uses her appeal to ruthlessly get to the top. You may abhor the use of her “feminine wiles” in this way, but I read so much more into it than just sex. Here’s a woman who, after being abused, decides to take control by any means necessary. She’s quite a character.

    Norma Shearer is fantastically carnal in “The Divorcee” (1930), a strong woman freeing herself from the chains of marriage and pursuing her own agenda and pleasure.

    Or “Sylvia Scarlett” (1935), a gender-bending film starring Katharine Hepburn. Gay director George Cukor blurred sexual identity so beautifully that this film seems positively modern.

    The ratings on IMDb reflect the obsessions of what we call fanboys–the adolescent boys and men who want to watch action movies. Those ratings are rigged by boys who have little else to do than to keep voting for a film to push it into the top #250. Ignore them. They don’t reflect the tastes or interests of the wide, wide film-going audience.

    What disturbs me is that the periodic opening of films to the real lives of women (1920s, when many women held power in Hollywood), 1930s, 1970s, close and become more oppressive than before. I count “Pretty Woman” as my pick for the most film ever made.

  50. enflared

    Won’t somebody think of the children? In all seriousness, young children and babies who cry on camera are NOT acting.

  51. blondie

    Saturday Night Fever: the leading man’s girlfriend from the ‘hood who gets in his way, and is seen as a needy loser trying to hold him back, gets gang-raped in the back seat of a car by our hero’s two friends, and noone does a thing to help her (our hero is driving at the time). Then she just gets dumped at the side of the road. I didn’t see Saturday Night Fever until I was well into my 30s and couldn’t believe noone had ever mentioned this, ever. And now when I do mention it, people’s eyes kinda glaze over and they claim not to recall such a scene. Was I hallucinating?

    I just recently noticed this, too! I had seen only bits and pieces of the movie, and when i saw the full cut version recently, I was shocked. Shocked that there is this rape in the movie, and shocked that no one ever mentions it.


    cruelty to animals — I cringe trying to watch old movies because I’m concerned about what happened to the poor animals before the ASPCA became involved

    cruelty to children — how are they really makin’ ’em cry; how long are they having to work; and do they have any normalcy in their lives

    age mismatch — while people don’t have to be the same ages to fall in love, it’s quite coincidental how younger women frequently fall for much older male stars in movies

    disappearing women actors — as women age, they seem to gradually vanish from the movies

    amazing good looks — most people in the movies are uniformly thin, even-featured, and attractive, with good hair and tans, not particularly representative of the world around us

  52. pacific-cali

    Clint Eastwood’s movies bother me because there is a rape in every movie this man does. Even his “funny” movies depict rapes and/or attempted rapes.
    But there is an even sicker element to it: Clint’s character’s are always revenge-motivated, except in the case of rape. The character only hunts down the rapist if he has also committed a crime against a man. Oh the rapist might get menaced a little, but the “hero” never deems the sexual brutalization of a woman alone significant enough to warrant the kind of bloodbath he readily unleashes on, say, robbers.
    There is always some creepy insinuation that the woman probably had it coming because she had committed some offense like lying to a man, for instance, or talking back to a man. It’s a sick device for instructing women and titillating men.

    I’m glad you mentioned the treatment of horses in film. I can’t stand the way horses are always made to run at absolutely top speed -in nearly every scene. Makes me ill to see them driven like machines.

  53. alan

    Until it felt a little too ridiculous i used to continually mention to my girlfriend about the blatantly demeaning things happening inside of old rom-com movies (which she has a lot of). It was absurd because she seemed to know the ins and outs of its obnoxious precedents yet the times I thought to register a “how is any of this okay?!” kind of complaint I’d just get an amused deflection as if my naivete was cute’n’endearing. As if their obviously ridiculous quality *makes* them okay because they’re such goofball visions with strict formulas that it becomes a game with rules and expectations that one would pull out of the closet to enjoy rather than anything that could have a message someone would take seriously.
    I dont think that excuses it, just rationalizes continuing some grotesque snowball of awful stories by trained shills who can sell themselves, but oh well. I also like other movies with similarly unreal crap inside so I decide to stop going into fits about the drink we drink.

    Until she puts on “The Women”. I just try not to throw bits of dinner at the screen. in addition to probably one of the first references to women-over-30 being “Cougars”, the quarter-hour fashion advertisement, and watching women trying to tear each other apart over the men that are doing the cheating, what are the splendiferous closing lines as the orchesta swells in enlightened triumph?

    Sylvia Fowler: Mary Haines, don’t you have any pride?
    Mary Haines: No pride at all. That’s a luxury a woman in love can’t afford!

    I’m not sure if the play it was based on was meant to be more satirical/sarcastic, but here it’s so beyond the pale that it makes todays oppression-as-empowerment rationales even more depressing in how it’s evolved to be nearly invisible. It’ll make the helplessly stupefying “Magnificent Obsession” seem comically benign.

    I also have to echo the sentiments about Blade Runner. I Hadn’t seen that movie for years until last month.
    *that* scene was one of those fork-at-the-mouth moments of “er, what”. I wanted to call someone and yell at them about it.

  54. Jill

    “To be fair, the entire point of Dr. Strangelove is that it is a spoof. The phallic symbols and the ridiculousness of Dr. Strangelove’s speech is all very much intended. I think in this case Kubrick could very much have been making a rather pro-feminist point, if one squints and tilts one’s head.”

    The spoofality of Dr Strangelove is not lost on me, it may shock you to learn. But the spinster aunt tires of the dudely convention where women gotta take it in the gut for the joke. This is a dude movie, made by a dude, about dudes, for dudes. Kubrick is joking with the bomb-dick, but dick jokes are the unsophisticated, culturally-approved purview of juvenile dudes, and can be construed as “pro-feminist” only in some fantasy dude-planet where feminists are all strippers. It’s not an anti-misogyny movie (if one even exists, I’ll eat the fried cricket appetizer at La Condesa), it’s an anti-war movie — also the exclusive purview of dudes, war is itself the exclusive purview of dudes. Like all Kubrick films, Dr S contains a reverence for the undisputed omnipotence of the Peen.

    War, by the way, is only seen as the exlusive purview of dudes when the point of view is dudely. Women are overwhelmingly the casualties of wars. Any anti-war movie without any women in it is lying.

  55. tinfoil hattie

    Hmm, so many choices. The running-in-heels scenario, the tight-skirt-no-matter-what-the-woman’s-job-is scenario, the “isn’t rape sorta fun & romantic scenario” – all excellent examples.

    I also hate how big and clean everyone’s fucking house is. No fucking way.

    My hide is chapped raw by the storyline in which the hero, once his woman/property is raped or beaten or killed by another man, goes on a violent rampage to get justice.

    Finally: how every hetero sex scene shows the man ON TOP, even if the woman climbs on top of him first (of course he rolls over and pins her, a la WWF), because Real Men Fuck From the Top. I can’t even address “Penis in vagina, penis in vagina” as the default sexual choice, without taking to my bed with a cold towel over my eyes.

  56. humanbein

    I agree somewhat with Marilyn – the pre-code era, even most of the 1930s – were full of films that represented a woman’s point of view far more strongly than films of the forties through the late sixties. I see the woman’s film as going on a huge nosedive and hitting a low point in the early sixties. There are always exceptions, but that’s a trend that I would find hard to deny.

    These movies might have presented a woman’s point of view, and were often written by women, rarely but sometimes directed by women, but they were hardly feminist material. Women’s oppression, if acknowledged at all, is usually solved by true love, and is always solved by giving into the patriarchal ideals of subordinate womanhood, even in Baby Face, where she basically just learns to work her sex class status to her advantage.

    Nothing is perfect, but it’s still a little thrilling to hear tiny bits of feminist longing to be free from oppression in these pre-code movies. I think it’s slightly less oppressive to have things even acknowledged, even if they are always defeated by the status quo, rather than to simply hear absolute male hegemony from start to finish.

  57. Lexie

    Ok, this is a TV example I just saw the other day, but I’ve seen it in many movies as well.

    I was watching “My Three Sons” just for kicks, and the oldest son, Robbie’s new bride moves in to the house because they are too poor to live on their own yet. So, she gets to share a room with her young, incompetent emotional clutz of a husband, next door is his two teenaged younger brothers, across the hall is her patriarchal all-knowing father in law, and then there is the old, crotchety bastard Uncle Charley yelling at everyone every five minutes.

    She can’t make food in the kitchen because Uncle Charley is in control of the Galley, the teenage boys tease her about keeping her feminine things in the bathroom and of course, taking too long to get ready, her bras get displayed out in the backyard, and she never has a minute alone. So she cries a lot.

    The good ol’ menfolk have a “serious talk” about why she cries so much, and rather than maybe have a fuck of empathy for her having to transition into this house full of insensitive men, they come to the conclusion that she cries because she is a woman and that’s what women do. Women are emotional and they just have to put up with that and not take it personally.

    So I hate the meme in movies and TV that women are just emotional. There is no reason to pay any mind to it, they couldn’t possibly be crying for a real, justified reason that might mean a guy might need to change his behavior or take her complaints seriously, it has nothing to do with them. Its just how women are.

  58. Marilyn

    Just a word on the Dr. Strangelove discussion – I think Stanley Kubrick is a masterful filmmaker, one of my favorites for the big topics he tackles, but he is a very sexist filmmaker. He really never figured out the woman’s point of view, though his last semi-failure, “Eyes Wide Shut,” shows how a man goes apeshit when he finds out his wife is not his property. Too bad he died before the scales completely fell from his eyes.

    Humanbein – I can’t argue your point about “Baby Face,” but contend that Stanwyck subverted the stock character of the proto femme fatale and made a genuinely feminist character despite the limitations of her ability to rise on the content of her character.

    Postwar cinema was designed to put women back at home so the men could come back to work. The 50s were designed to lock the home tight as a drum. The 60s were a desperate attempt to keep domesticity looking good – it failed.

  59. Holly

    I think I hate the Magic Pregnancy the most of all. For instance, look at the third Pirates of the Caribbean (no, don’t). The girl has sex with the guy once before he’s off for 7 years, but thank goodness she got knocked up! In the absence of the man, she needs SOMETHING to keep her in her place!!!

  60. Christina

    Speaking of rape/assault scenes that go completely unnoticed and/or are accepted as perfectly wonderful parts of the plot, I recently watched the film “M*A*S*H” for the first time. The majority of the film is funny likable dudes reacting against military life, the draft, etc. in various irreverent ways. These parts were enjoyable. However, somewhere in the middle of the film, an uptight female officer is, I don’t know, ‘taught a lesson’ or something by having her naked body exposed unwillingly to the entire hospital. That’s not okay. Why did anyone think that was okay? After that incident she becomes more mellow and un-strict, like some good ol’ sexual humiliation was all she needed to ‘loosen up.’ What the flipping fuck. It ruined an otherwise very good movie.

  61. rootlesscosmo

    Should a female character pursue a man with such persistence, however, it’s because she is completely psycho.

    And the guy–I’m thinking Cary Grant in “Bringing Up Baby”–is an un-manly man.

    A recommendation: Agnes Varda’s “The Gleaners and I” (French title: “Les Glâneurs et la Glâneuse.” The sequence about how her hands have aged–she was in her 70’s when she made this–is beautiful in all kinds of ways.

    And two books: Molly Haskell’s “From Reverence to Rape” and Jeanine Basinger’s “A Woman’s View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women, 1930-1960.” Basinger gives a name to the familiar montage sequence (there’s one in “Casablanca”) in which the male and female leads are giddy with new-found love, driving in an open car, watching a horse race or strolling through the 1939 World’s Fair, dancing at a swank supper club: she calls it the Happy Interlude and of course its function in the screenplay is to make a contrast with the inevitable heartbreak. After you read her book you start watching for it and sure enough, there it is, almost every time.

  62. Cycles

    Car-driving scenes where the driver stares at the passenger for an inordinate amount of time instead of keeping his eyes on the damn road. It’s distracting. Won’t someone please think of the stray dogs and armadillos?

  63. Marilyn

    I like Haskell’s book a lot, but it is a bit dated now, and I disagree with her about a few films. I also recommend this documentary: Complicated Women

  64. Gnatalby

    I think I hate the Magic Pregnancy the most of all.

    Oh, that reminds me. I hate the convenient miscarriage.

    Our heroine gets accidentally pregnant and faces The Most Heartbreaking Choice. She chooses to keep the baby, and then, conveniently, has a miscarriage.

    Thus she is saved from being inconvenienced by a baby, but it still a Good Person who Wouldn’t Do That.

  65. MarianK

    I think most of my beefs have been covered. But just two more …

    Beef # 1 – In old films, the woman/love interest is rarely ever a someone, but a someone’s daughter – the someone being the male mentor of the male protagonist. If it’s a western, she’s the fort commander’s daughter; if it’s a science fiction, she’s the professor/scientist’s daughter; if it’s a crime film, she’s the police chief’s daughter … and so on.

    Of course, the second-tier woman/love interest is usually the mistress of the evil dude that the male protagonist has to defeat while winning the love of the someone’s daughter.

    Sometimes, she might even be given a career of sorts – albeit a scarlet one. If it’s a western, she runs the saloon; if it’s a science fiction, she runs the megalomaniac’s dastardly training complex to take over world; if it’s a gangster film, she runs one of Mr Big’s nightclubs … and so on.

    Of course, she always falls for the protagonist dude, and it’s always unrequited, despite her being far more interesting than the someone’s daughter. This inevitably brings about her downfall/death.

    Beef # 2 – For 100 years, women have only ever comprised between 2% and 6% of filmmakers worldwide and this statistic still holds.


    How on earth can the human condition of one half of the world’s population ever be preserved for future generations while this most disgusting of inequalities is barely ever even remarked on, let alone addressed?

  66. nails

    Ari – the end of V for Vandetta says that anyone could do what the dude does in the movie so I wasn’t as bothered. They had a heartwarming story of lesbians being persecuted by society too. So I didn’t think it was that bad.

    The menstruator- the descent was actually a good movie about women who go spelunking, rosario dawson wasn’t in it (the only dude in it dies abruptly). The women in the descent are more beauty 2K compliant than in real life women but the movie does not make a point of it or do the weird revealing clothes trope that others have mentioned.

    What chaps my hide is when a woman gets beat up in a movie she always has an itty bitty mark on the side of her forehead as an injury afterwards. It is there and small so it doesn’t detract away from her visual appeal after being injured. Gross.

  67. Amananta

    Mu current annoyance with old – and new – movies is the controlling no-fun wife/mother stereotype, who just won’t let the poor guy have any fun. For all that men run the world they seem to have a delusion, that they frequently present in movies, of the henpecked husband. Usually by the end of the movie the heroic guy must prove his manhood by breaking free of her shrew-harridan clutches, preserving the “natural” order of things, and everyone is happy as the controlling woman is put in her place. Grrrrr.


    1) the OBVIOUSLY gorgeous woman who wears glasses and sensible clothing who OMG!!!! is REEEELY BEAUTIFUL when she becomes more Patriarchy-compliant!!!

    2) EVerything everyone else said

    3) Especially strong women who become helpless idots in the presence of the Hero (Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, anyone?)

  69. Unree

    Everything everyone else said, plus the sheer lack of dialogue allotted to women characters. The number of words that women have uttered in Hollywood films over the last 82 years of talkies has been, in my rough estimate, 20% of the total. If that. Which may be a lower percentage than that of the dollars paid to female versus male actors. Blegh. IB-you-know.

  70. Kathan

    “How about 16 Candles, where the jock puts his super incredibly drunk girlfriend in the car with the nerd, tells her that the nerd is her boyfriend, and the nerd drives off in order to rape her in a parking lot.”

    Yea! And this supposedly “good guy” jock laughs about it, and goes off to find Molly Ringwald. Because that’s what his girlfriend deserves! Rape! Serves her right! Awful scene that is completely glossed over and justified in the movie.

  71. Vibrating_Liz

    Here’s what I hate: Strong Female Characters. Especially the ones that serve as Role Models. Yup. Because the underlying message is really: “See? Individual women CAN stand up to & overcome the Patriarchy. And if YOU can’t, why it’s only because you’re just not strong, beautiful, sexy, smart, brave, talented, magic, athletic, successful, ambitious, determined, or whatever enough. Therefore let this Strong Female Character serve as your Role Model. Maybe she’ll even inspire a total loser like you to just TRY HARDER. Because really, it’s not the system that’s flawed. It’s YOU.”

    Also I hate when people in movies wake up in the morning, leap out of bed (hair & makeup intact) and rush off on their various adventures without ever having to pee. I mean, FFS! First thing in the damn morning? Drives me nuts.

  72. slythwolf

    Every fucking movie ever made about how cute and romantic it is when some dude stalks a woman, and how when she says she doesn’t like it it always eventually turns out that she had made a Terrible Mistake and the dude is her One True Love or some bullshit. This new thing coming out with Jennifer Aniston, “The Manager” or some shit? Is probably the most overt example I’ve seen.

  73. ruby

    Men never ever ever cook or clean anything or care for children in films or on television without it being pointed out and either a) said man is applauded for his surprising talent at domesticity and/or b) said man’s appointed female slave is incapacitated in some way.

    I loved Will Smith in that poor-single-dad-works-hard-and-gets-rich film, except that if it had happened to a woman it would not have been remarkable or unusual enough to have been made into a film, and the woman would never have been hired. It’s just another day in the life.

    Don’t even get me started on the fact that in ALL of the childrens movies the mom is dead or nonexistant.

  74. Mortisha

    Argggh – you’ve set me off. I really have a hard time watching westerns. I HATE the way some actors yank around horse’s mouths – especially for dramatic effect –you know the fast turn, etc. It is such a bloody habit and seems de rigueur for actors in westerns to copy. Damn I just want to pick up a riding crop and sort the bastards out. If own those horses I’d make them ride the horses bitless or not at all. And soft rubbery fake spurs if they are needed for the costume. Think maybe some actors need to wear a bit for a while to find out how it feels –they are not handle bars!. Phew –need a lie down now.

    That said there are some actors today that can actually ride – Viggo Mortensen comes to mind – what a relief to be able to watch a movie and not be distracted by the horse abuse.

    Squealing, weepy, wimpy women piss me off too, in the movies and in real life. I like the broads with attitude roles –Katherine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, Bette Davis

  75. Unree

    Of all the hide-chapping conditions, the only one that has gotten better in recent years is male vs. female nudity. Roles, salaries, plot lines, time onscreen, professional opportunities, etc. for women in Hollywood are as unfair in 2009 as they have ever been, but the human body parts now exposed include more than just women’s breasts.

    This development has run parallel to porn getting much worse–more brutal and degrading. Wonder what’s going on here. Nothing good, I suspect.

  76. Puffin

    Too few movies involving Kathy Bates. Too many movies involving Clint Eastwood.

  77. JATower

    I hate movie scenes in which it’s raining. Sometimes it’s a plot device, sometimes it sets the mood, but just as often it’s because the sexay female is wearing a white shirt.

    For instance, the part in Castaway where Helen Hunt walks into the rain when Tom Hanks comes to her house in the middle of the night. It felt like I was reading Robinson Crusoe, turned the page, and BAM! Someone had slipped a porn mag centerfold in the middle of the text.

  78. Mirisin

    One of many examples of why I almost can’t see some movies anymore:

    In Coraline the book a normal girl is doing what normal girls do, alone, with woods and a big old house to explore. Suddenly everything gets weird and she saves the day with her own wit and courage. It’s a girl story with a girl hero and a girl’s point of view, even if it was written by a dude. Totally Awesome. I think Gaiman wrote it for his daughter, and coincidentally he has also written other short stories about how Hollywood will take your original story and patriarch-ize it with a raped and crazy heroine or a male hero instead of a female. He has also written sexist horseshit, but enough about this dude, back to my point:

    Cut to the movie! She’s given a male friend who saves the day when she is paralyzed by her feminine weakness of fear. Yep. That’s right.

    There was never a male friend in the book, in fact, she was the one and only protagonist. But hey, that’s because what about teh menz? They need someone to identify with too! We can’t have a girl saving the day!

    I don’t know where in the process this all went wrong but IBTP. Chaps. My. Hide.

  79. no fun

    You know what I hate about movies? The fact that a friend gave me this challenge almost a decade ago, and I don’t think I’ve seen a single movie since then that fit the bill.

    Name a movie where the protagonist is an adult woman, and she ends up
    1. Alive and healthy
    2. Happy
    3. Not in love

  80. Shelby

    What really busts my chops are movies and tv shows where a couple divorces and the evil woman and the nice man go to court. He is always portrayed as unjustly losing out on the house and money that HE alone worked for and losing custody of HIS children while the bitch whore wife gets everything. Lip curling bullshit to the nth degree.

    I saw Hotel for Dogs the other day. A kiddies movie for fuck’s sake.

    Ugly fat white (the comedy relief) 12 year old boy pulls good looking white 12 year old boy aside and says (referring to the two 12 year old girls he is with) “Dude which one is yours? You can’t have both of them.” Fat boy then sidles up to the cute black 12 year old girl and starts to sexually harrass her. Phunny or what?

  81. Dauphine

    “Name a movie where the protagonist is an adult woman, and she ends up
    1. Alive and healthy
    2. Happy
    3. Not in love”

    Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is the only one I can think of, and Nausicaa is pretty young, but pretty much an adult.

    What’s even more amazing (in the “what the fuck” way) is how few movies pass the Bechdel Test (there must be more than one female character; they must talk to each other; about something other than a man).

  82. Puffin

    Name a movie where the protagonist is an adult woman, and she ends up
    1. Alive and healthy
    2. Happy
    3. Not in love

    I was all about to shout “Hard Candy!” but you got me on the adult woman thing. Damn. “Go Fish” doesn’t work on account of the in love part, although it gets points for having no men in the entire movie. I think “Descent” fits though, no wait, hard to say that Rosario Dawson’s character ends up happy. Maybe?

    Good god, I just did a search for “feminist movies” and one of the first lists it links to includes such misogynistic gems as: A League of Their Own, She’s Gotta Have It, and Mildred Pierce. Mildred FUCKING Pierce! A feminist movie! The final scene of that movie is a male savior leading a demoralized Mildred away from the police station she landed herself in on account of her independent ways while a couple of ladies are on their literal hands and knees scrubbing the floor with brushes and mop buckets.

  83. Nicolien

    Other than almost everything mentioned above (including Saturday Night Fever which I only saw recently and I was SHOCKED that, with a scene like that rape-scene, everybody acts as if it’s an innocent ‘disco-film’…)

    What really chaps my hide is that EVERY TIME there is a woman working, she’s either young and single or, more likely, a single mom. NEVER does she come home after a long day of work to find her husband cooking dinner or something. (Example: the police-woman in ‘The Valley of Elah.’) It’s like: wait, we have a female with children, and she’s working. Why would that be? Obviously she has no husband, otherwise she’d be at home taking care of them… Plus it gives the male protagonist the opportunity to come to her house and play instant-dad to her kids. Bonus!
    Drives me nuts.

  84. Carolyn

    Ah, Mirisin, I was thinking about going to see Coraline…but thanks for warning me, anyway.

  85. Blamerella

    Nearly every baby born in a film is a boy. Apparently the very idea of a non-bepenised baby being born is too unbearable to be seen by movie audiences more than once every 3 decades or so. On the rare occasions they allow the birth of a female infant to slip past the censors, it must be accompanied by an overwrought demonstration on the part of the father that he is Not. Dissapointed.

    Also, though this is not generally an issue with older movies but – sex scenes. Every woman in a movie has multiple simulated earth-shattering orgasms within a nano-second of of her skirt being lifted, her back being thrown against a wall, and the simulated sausage being slipped to her. Which is convenient because the clitoris is presumed to be non-existent in Hollywood. Let’s not even get into how that common film scenario perpetuates rape culture, shall we/

  86. Mirisin

    To be fair, Carolyn, the rest of the book is decently faithful with beautiful imagery and the boy only shows up in the beginning and to save the day at the end, but it still made me puke. I don’t want the artistic imagery to be overshadowed by this bad and probably bullied decision. I work in film and animation, so I know how this stuff happens even if I am not positive where this went wrong in production (I need to write a paper or make a movie or something on Focus Groups, The Midwest, and The P), but it makes me sick every time I see it. I think someone else already made that movie though and it was called This Film is Not Yet Rated ( http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/this_film_is_not_yet_rated/ ). Still, notice that the marketing machine has had it’s grasping fingers on this movie as well, high brow though it may be, as the seared ass-flesh of some nubile young thing practically jumps off the cover. No doubt it is disguised as satire, but it’s still B2K compliant lady-parts.

    Also, I have seen movies that meet the three criteria mentioned above, but they all contain young girls and not women, or girls on the cusp of being women.

  87. Metal Guru

    I’m with Mirisin; there’s nothing more infuriating than seeing a girl-centric film ruined because some people seem to think no one will watch a movie about girl heroes. Another example: Ella Enchanted, a book about a girl who has been cursed with the “gift” of unconditional obedience. She goes on a lot of fun, wacky adventures and at the end manages to get rid of her curse and become her own person again. When I was ten, I thought it was the coolest book ever written.

    Someone decided to make a Disney movie version of it a few years back, though, and they totally ruined everything charming or feminist-ish about it. In the book, Ella is an accomplished linguist who uses her wits to save herself. Movie Ella gets a handsome prince to save her, a wacky male sidekick to keep her out of trouble, and a wise-cracking magic book (that speaks with the voice of an older, upper-class white dude, natch!) to tell her what to do. Book Ella rids herself of her curse through her own strength of will; Movie Ella kisses the handsome prince and her problems magically disappear! I saw the movie once about five years ago, and I still get pissed off every time I think about it.

  88. minervaK

    Oh, man.

    1. Female characters being referred to uniformly as ‘the girl.’ Even by the supposedly enlightened and sympathetic cops who are coming to her rescue, and even — argh, the irony — by other female characters.

    2. ‘Tough’ female characters who look like supermodels, yet are able to disable a 200-pound sumo wrestler wielding a semi-automatic weapon with a single kick to the chest.

    3. Screaming. Every time something scary happens, there MUST be a woman nearby, and she MUST scream bloody murder at the top of her lungs. Bonus points if she throws herself bodily on a man afterward.

    4. Female cops, attorneys, and other professionals who are dressed to show more tits and ass than a stripper, while the men in the same profession/scene are actually dressed for their jobs.

    There are so many more, but the lobe tires. I shall return.

  89. minervaK

    just thought of another one:

    5. Female characters using their ‘feminine wiles’ to get out of a sticky situation or otherwise bend men to their will. When will we see a man doing this? That, I would pay for.

  90. Clara Sabell

    The catfight is completely despicable and would rate highly on my list of peeves but I reserve an acute level of vehement rage for the non-comeback. A woman is made the butt of a sexist joke or is belittled or blatantly discriminated against or called bitch or shrew or gal or some other patronising euphemism or the ‘classic’ movie equivalent of prostitute. Her response is to huff or raise an eyebrow or cry but she’s rarely given the verbiage by the writers to counter-attack.

  91. Lindsey

    The female lead being constantly exasperated by the situation/male that she has to deal with and being totally boring, contrasted with her much more interesting “quirky” friend who doesn’t get enough screen time and is strangely not considered as desirable. Zooey Deschanel is almost always the quirky friend.

    It also pisses me off when the B2K compliant female character is so stupid as to be mentally impared/disabled and yet still the lead males want to peen her. So incredibly grim.


    1. Alive and healthy
    2. Happy
    3. Not in love

    Although not the protagonist, Jennifer Garner’s character in Juno ends up alive, happy and divorced/separated. She may be left holding the baby but she did choose single motherhood and not get condemned for it.

  92. SargassoSea

    1) Flicks which are supposed to be about women but are written and directed by men (Margot at the Wedding. Pah-tooey.)

    2) Being the only female boom operator in Hollywood in like 50 years and having all the dudes on every. single. set assuming that the only reason I have the job is because I’m fucking the mixer.

  93. Sophie

    Re Saturday Night Fever: also chaps my hide massively that this harrowing and intelligent film about class has been absorbed into the collective unconscious as ‘that funny disco film where Travolta does the silly dancing’. But I’m pretty sure (and I haven’t seen it in a while but I have seen it several times) that the rape scene is very uncomfortable as the guys in the front seats are torn between knowing that what’s happening is wrong and not wanting to go against the gang of dude friends who are the closest thing they have to family and security; their ensuing guilt and the suicide of the woman who was raped (by jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge in a piece of bridge-and-tunnel symbolism) is the main plot driver for the rest of the film as everyone reconsiders their gang/nihilistic ways and tries to improve their lives. I mean, I’m not saying that makes it OK to allow a rape to happen in the back of your car, but it’s a bit unfair to imply that her rape is just thrown away as if it was all OK.

  94. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Ever since the last five minutes of “Looking for Mr. Goodbar”, rape scenes make me vomit.

  95. Femdoc

    Watched the John Wayne/Maureen O’Hara “classic” “McClintock!” one night with my husband and 11 year old son, and had to explain to my son why stalking one’s half-naked wife through town, with hundreds of laughing townsfolk bringing up the rear, and then SPANKING one’s disobedient wife in front of them was neither funny, nor romantic.

    There is also nothing romantic or sexy about Scarlett O’Hara being carried off to her bedroom kicking and screaming by a drunk and obnoxious Rhett Butler in the “classic”, “Gone with the Wind”…but, of course, she is shown satisfied and smirking the next morning, so I guess the lesson is that women “really want it”.

    Oh, I could go on…ARGH!!!

  96. Femdoc

    BTW–nofun, what about “Private Benjamin”? She winds up walking away from her own wedding, content to leave the asshole she was going to marry and just be on her own. As a former army officer myself, the misogyny of the military is not lost on me, but I thought overall that movie ended well.

  97. Sophie

    Nope, I got it wrong – just looked up the plot on Wikipedia and it’s a dude who dies. So fuck ’em.

  98. madeleine

    MinervaK: the screaming indeed. Never, ever, ever would a man scream in a movie, while in real life it’s about 50/50.
    Alive, healthy, happy (?), not in love: Alexa, the protagonist of Alien vs. Predator. Of course she only ends up that way because of behaving like a real warrior. She even doesn’t scream. Somehow I cannot see a white woman being given such a role. Also the types of extraterrestrials are totally misogynistic: the brave warrior Predators saving humanity from the slimy, breeding, obviously female Aliens.

  99. speedbudget

    I have nothing to add except you all nailed it. I know why I don’t go to the movies anymore.

  100. Silence

    Pretty much every complaint I have against old movies has already been voiced, so instead I’ll leave you all with a movie recommendation: “The Triplets of Belleville.” This little-known animated gem has an old woman protagonist. She rescues her kidnapped grandson with the help of three other old ladies, the triplets of the title. She’s clever, resourceful, and determined and never once needs a man to support her. Soothing stuff for the feminist soul.

  101. No fun

    Yeah Lindsey, I thought of Juno too for the alive/happy/not in love question, but Juno herself is in love.

    Superficially, I think Alien kind of fits the bill – Ripley is alive, physically unharmed, not in love, and presumably happy to have made it. She’s also one of the more competent characters in the movie. On the other hand, I think mental harm ought to count and she has even odds of PTSD.

    Worse, the plot makes it clear that Ripley’s company manipulated her ship into picking up the alien, with full knowledge of the likely result. It’s a pretty sad statement if all that women in movies have to be happy about is that one of them was the lone survivor after the Patriarchy sent her entire ship to be eaten.

  102. Laughingrat

    Marilyn–while both the print and the film versions of Complicated Women are interesting, Mick LaSalle is a fairly vicious misogynist. He reveals his true colors when discussing Mae West, criticizing her not for her writing, acting, or characterizations, but for being “chunky” and “mannish,” and referring to her as too butch to be a convincing female. His vitriol on the subject was, shall we say, “objectively nauseating.” (Yes, I’ve been reading old posts at IBTP, why do you ask?)

    Mick LaSalle lost all cred with me at that point. Apparently “strong” women are all kinds of okay with him, but only as long as they’re compliant with patriarchal beauty standards, and only as long as they’re not too aggressive in their sexuality.

  103. Marilyn

    A film that is around right now (though you’ll have to look for it) is Seraphine, about an almost forgotten French painter. The lack of publicity and knowledge about this film in the States is more proof that the entertainment industry wants to bury stories of real women doing real things. Try to find it.

    For others, check these out (many available on DVD):

    Secret Ballot
    Snow (might be hard to find, but worth the effort)
    I Spit on Your Grave/A Question of Silence
    Time to Die (might be hard to find, but great vision of old women)

    That’ll get you started.

  104. Jill

    “There is also nothing romantic or sexy about Scarlett O’Hara being carried off to her bedroom kicking and screaming by a drunk and obnoxious Rhett Butler in the “classic”, “Gone with the Wind”…but, of course, she is shown satisfied and smirking the next morning, so I guess the lesson is that women “really want it”.”

    The best thing about this repellent movie is the Carol Burnett parody.

  105. FlameWriting

    “Name a movie where the protagonist is an adult woman, and she ends up
    1. Alive and healthy
    2. Happy
    3. Not in love”

    Waitress? It pisses me off in other ways but I think it fulfils the above criteria. It may even pass the Bechdel Test.

  106. Marilyn

    Name a movie where the protagonist is an adult woman, and she ends up
    1. Alive and healthy
    2. Happy
    3. Not in love”

    Come Early Morning (not entirely happy, but on her way)
    Georgy Girl – In love with a baby, I guess, for whom she uses and loses a guy.

  107. B. Dagger Lee

    A woman’s got to do a lot of wading through neck-high shit with some heavy-duty Ignoring Goggles to get her story on.

  108. Marilyn

    Laughingrat – I have only seen the doc, which I thought did a good summary. I’m sure you’re right. Many men have trouble with Mae West, probably more today than in her time, because women’s bodies have become a HUGE battlefield for patriarchy. I still think the doc is worth a look as a starting point. The bigger problem is that little work has been done to forward feminist analysis and much more importantly, action in changing the movie industry’s images and messages. Ironically, Iran has one of the most feminist film industries in the world. How that is possible there and not here still bewilders me.

  109. Karen

    “What chaps your hide, cinematically speaking?”
    Lack of verisimilitude!!! I offer four examples.

    1. Toothpaste. How is it that film stars can photogenically brush their teeth and spit a teaspoon at most afterwards, when everyone knows even a modicum of toothpaste and a slight moistening of the brush produces a mouthful of peppermint froth making one like unto a rabid dog?
    2. Shaving cream. Every dude in movie land apparently shaves with a fresh towel draped around his neck, and should he be interrupted mid-shave – as he surprisingly often is – he will simply wipe unused shaving cream from his face with said towel – without rinsing! Gah!
    3. Post-scene door sliding. Always a woman here: there’s a dramatic scene, she slams the door after her departing love-interest, then leans against the door and slides to the floor, weeping. Seriously, does anyone in real life do this? Don’t you at least hit your comfy bed or couch to indulge your tears?
    4. Missing-object-empty-space-touching. Character notices absence of object, well foreshadowed by handling or extreme close-up of said object in previous scenes, and, as if not believing evidence of own eyes, touches the spot where the object previously sat/hung/existed. Directing fail.

    And: “I also hate how big and clean everyone’s fucking house is. No fucking way.” Yes, what Tinfoil Hattie said.
    And: “Car-driving scenes where the driver stares at the passenger for an inordinate amount of time instead of keeping his eyes on the damn road.” Hear hear, Cycles.

  110. Casey

    Name a movie where the protagonist is an adult woman, and she ends up
    1. Alive and healthy
    2. Happy
    3. Not in love

    Shirley Valentine. Granted, there’s ambiguity at the end as to whether she’ll end back up with the butthead hub she abandoned for a solo life in Greece, but given the overall arc of the film, it’s easy to assume that she doesn’t go back to him. Basically, he’s coming to her for approval rather than the other way around.

    My peeves, aside from everything mentioned already: women playing mothers of male actors just a few years younger. Because lard knows there are no actually older actresses out there. Apparently it’s better to make up a hot chick to look old than it is to have an actual postmenopausal woman stinking up the screen.

    Also, the arc of stories where the male protagonist is an emotionally stunted, selfish moron who makes some tiny, insignificant change to his outlook or behavior and gets a gold star, the girl, and everything his heart desires in the end. Oh, wait. That’s pretty much all “relationship” movies.

    The only movie I recommend to anyone these days is “Hoodwinked,” because the girl is not in love with anyone and her grandma is a cookie-baking extreme athlete, which appeals to me for some reason. Also, the singing goat delights me. Although, actually, now that I think about it, Andy Dick is in that movie. And his character makes a joke about prison rape. So never mind.

    Gah. Movies suck.

  111. Smeleanor

    One of my biggest disappointments in films and television is the lack of healthy female friendships.

    Also, thanks for the heads up about Coraline. I can’t believe they did that. I hate that the experiences of boys and men are considered universally appealing because male = human, but girl’s and women’s experiences are niche market women only stuff.

  112. Marilyn

    Bullshit on a stick about one of our greatest female directors.

  113. MLH

    Oh, yes, Marilyn, I love Julia. Good movie.

  114. Laughingrat

    Yeah, the doc is a lot of fun as well as being really informative. I still kinda want to kick Mick LaSalle, but if one can get through that chapter, the rest of the book is, admittedly, not too toxic. :-P

    Have you seen Simon Louvish’s bio of Mae West? It’s pretty interesting stuff.

  115. Marilyn

    Laughingrat – I think so, but I don’t remember it exactly. Indication that it’s time for a rewatch. Mae West was a great woman in film. We need more like her again.

  116. Carolyn in Baltimore

    A few things –

    Kubrick – one of the most misogynist directors ever. 2001, Clockwork Orange, need I say more?

    Training my boys on Bond – Dudes my age were brought up on Bond – the paradigm for male fantasy. I am working on that by watching the Connery films with my kids and explaning at each instance that it is still rape if the woman falls in love after being coerced, and BTW you don’t love your rapist, ever. Then we can talk about healthy ways to relate to women.

  117. yttik

    Old movies do suck, but new movies suck too. In a way I prefer women like Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, or Katharine Hepburn to the young actresses of today and the roles we put them in. I think Hollywood of old was pretty bad, but I believe we may have actually managed to go backwards even further.

  118. Ermingarde

    That the hero manhandles the heroine–puts his hands around her neck, throws her downstairs, shakes her, etc–because he is frustrated with her uppitiness and she finds this romantic–he cares! and falls for him and his take-charge manliness, and then is a good girl ever after, the uppitiness is cured.

  119. BMS

    chapper: “MILF”

  120. Julia

    Seriously – if you’re running for your life and you’re not wearing sneakers, kick off your gol-danged shoes!!

  121. Solniger

    anyone else annoyed by Sofia Coppola’s female characters? I can’t stand her movies because of the helpless, delicate, troubled, (blonde?), doomed, female protagonists. yikes!

  122. Margaret

    Pretty darn good: Fargo, with Frances McDormond as the kick-ass police chief who solves the crimes.

    Sucks big time: Tin Cup, because the former golf star turns into a drunken loser whose game is turned around by Rene Russo playing his psychologist – and he gets the girl even though at the end of the movie he’s still a drunken loser. The only thing that changed is his golf game.

    How to Make an American Quilt, because the star Winona Ryder decides to marry a creepy stalker. Needing time to think about the future of the relationship with her fiance, she goes to visit her family. He shows up uninvited. I guess that supposed to mean he really cared about her – I saw him as a total creep and a stalker. She decides to stay with him. A sad end. It had the fatalistic feel of preaching to women that this is as good as it gets and that a woman should be glad to marry a guy who’s willing to follow her around even though he doesn’t really do much for her.

  123. Julia

    Also chafes:

    Men of various physiques and levels of hawtness populate films in most if not all kinds of roles, but if a woman is not at least 8/10 on the patriarchally-approved hawtness scale, she’s a figure of fun. And God forbid she should be heavy.

    And any time there’s a smart nerdy girl in a film, like in a science/forensics/engineering/astrophsyics lab … don’t get me started. I’m hot as hell, and I work in a lab, and don’t nobody who work in a lab come in wearing fuck-me pumps and a Victoria’s Secret skirt suit. We also tend not to do our hair in a sexxxy style when we go to work, because we work in freaking LABS.

    E.g. the Muppets, although I love me some muppets, there are nine male characters for every female character. Because males are default, dontcha know, and if we had more female muppets it’d be, like, for girls. Ew.

    If someone is chasing you, for heaven’s sake don’t go UP the fire escape. Are you crazy? Run the fuck into Wal-Mart or some well-lighted place full of big cranky grandmas!

    Also, one time I watched the original “Alfie” with Michael Caine. My entire brain is still scarred from that ninety minutes. I have to squirt this special brain-salve into my ears once a week to this day, or the thought of it would make my obstreporal lobe hemorrhage.

  124. muchell (mesaventure)

    Lots of my peeves elucidated in this thread, so I’ll mention one that’s trivial, but really blows my lobes:

    When women go to bed in full makeup…as though it’s verboten to be non beauty-compliant when one is fucking sleeping. It happens all the time, though one imagines these patriarchal waifs follow the dictates of beauty magazines which call for washing ones face with at least five products at least twice a day.

    Of course, I sometimes fall asleep without washing my face, and sometimes it has makeup on it, too, but I never see any Hollywood heroines doing so for the same reasons. If anyone has seen a movie in which a woman smokes pot late at night while watching TV, then stuffs her face until she falls asleep–comfortable, happy, not giving two shits about what may or may not be smeared on her face–then please let me know.

  125. Jill

    “Alfie” oh my god. Whenever I see that one pop up in “Coming Attractions” I book a flight to Obstreperon and have them strap me into the most comfortable hammock ever made, with a pitcher of margs on a nearby table and a view of peacocks strolling through a garden.

    Another one is that early Liza Minelli — what the fuck is the name of it? It’s theme song is “Come Saturday Morning”– some supposed coming-of-age dealio where she chases this total prick college dude, snares him even though he’s just not that into her, and is blown away when she finds out he’s just not that into her. Smackdown, bitch!

  126. Julia

    “Love Story” chafes my hide similarly to Alfie as well, what with the sexism and the classism. Shudder. Think happy thoughts.

  127. Katherine

    A small peeve I suppose, in the great scheme of things, but most often not noticed and therefore very insidious:

    if a bomb goes off, or a car crashes, or some other random physical peril occurs, the male character will ALWAYS shield the female character. This is entirely regardless of the status of the two characters relative to each other.

    It’s the same pernicious assumption (of male leadership and “protection”) that has the male character leading the female one by the elbow – across roads, through doors, whatever. Note to filmmakers – I do not require male help to physically move around my environment in normal and banal ways.

  128. Joanne

    1. Alive and healthy
    2. Happy
    3. Not in love

    Kill Bill? This has to be one of my favourite films. I loved it from the moment she beat up the rapist. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever cheered on a heroine throughout the whole film, and although the title contains a male name, the plot is completely centred on the many female characters.

  129. Jezebella

    Unrelated to gender, but chafing nonetheless: I HATE IT when people outrun fire & exploding things. Sometimes they get “thrown clear by the blast” and inevitably get up with a few scratches, maybe a torn blouse, and a bit of rubble to brush off. Stupid. Science-related movie errors could probably fill another eleventy-hundred posts.

    Oooh, and I hate it when somebody hangs up on somebody else (on a landline) and there’s an immediate dial tone to indicate the hang-up. I don’t know, it just bugs me.

    You know what doesn’t bug me? Carol Burnett as Scarlett O’Hara. I started laughing before I even clicked the Youtube link.

  130. Elizabeth

    Name a movie where the protagonist is an adult woman, and she ends up alive and healthy, happy, not in love:

    Kill Bill vol 2
    The Net
    A League of Their Own*

    *If widowed women who loved their Nigels count
    **Jen is a supporting role but I think her and her television mother deserve honorable mention here.

    Also regards to sickening rape scenes in movies – The Revenge of The Nerds is a horrid offender in my book. *puke*

  131. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Jill, is it “The Sterile Cuckoo”?

  132. PG

    Seriously – if you’re running for your life and you’re not wearing sneakers, kick off your gol-danged shoes!!

    Actually, having run in four-inch heels before (to catch a bus), I’d say it’s a fair bet that you’d rather keep your shoes on in unknown territory to avoid stepping on glass, etc. So a woman running in heels in movies bothers me less (in terms of verisimilitude; IBTP for fashion that makes women more vulnerable) if she didn’t know she was going to have a bad day.

    However, it drives me nuts when a kick-ass heroine/femme police officer/investigating reporter goes into a situation where it’s very predictable that she’ll have to do some running and she’s wearing stupid shoes.

  133. Jill

    “Jill, is it “The Sterile Cuckoo”?”

    Why yes. Yes it is. Thank you for saving me a time-consuming Google click! That was driving me nuts.

  134. Elizabeth

    I think that this blog post is relevant to the discussion.


  135. minervaK

    6. The implicit understanding that an adult male raping a little boy is exponentially worse than a grown male raping a little girl. If he rapes a little girl, AT LEAST HE’S HETEROSEXUAL, and the little girl is going to be having sex with men in a few years anyway, and really, aren’t rape and sex THE SAME THING? He’s doing her a favor.

    7. The fact that almost every mainstream film these days seems to feature a fully-nude woman, but The Penis rarely makes an appearance. Why is it less obscene to see a woman’s vagina than a man’s penis?

  136. Laughingrat

    Incidentally, it was nifty to see the Bechdel test mentioned here, several times no less. I only learned about it myself a week or so ago when someone on a blogging platform created a community centered around discussing it:


    Thought I’d share the link in case anyone here also has an ID over there. I haven’t had much of a chance to check the comm out, so I don’t know whether there’s any really advanced patriarchy-blaming going on, but it’s a pleasant surprise that sexism in movies is at least on the radar for a few people.

    Another pleasant surprise? The amount of patriarchy-blaming going on in some of the better fandom communities. At the risk of detouring this thread I will not elaborate, but let me just say that it’s been great to see.

  137. auntieintellectual

    Maybe they’re not technically “old,” but the entire Star Wars universe can go hang.

    I know we’re supposed to blame the patriarchy and not individuals, but I’m holding George Lucas personally responsible for a series that repeatedly mentions “negotiations,” yet never shows a single conflict resolved by anything other than fighting.

  138. Lu

    This is so trivial, but it really bugs me when a man takes off his jacket and drapes it around the (thin, dainty, shivering) shoulders of his date. You know what, dude? If it’s cold for me, it’s cold for you. Keep your clothes on; I’ll live.

  139. Rupert Mickelthwaite

    1. movies about Superheroes — foolishly endured THREE hours of brooding inanity that was Batman: The Dark Knight. What infantile impulse in the man brain craves these endless explorations of the magical powered man in lycra saving a sort-of New York City from creep dudes? You also get damsel in distress, dead mother, heaps of wealth, acerbic Brit servant, etc etc

    2. playing a nutjob = “great actor”. See anything by Dinero, Pacino, and the late Heath Ledger as Clown in Batman. Try playing a believable, complex human being for f’s sake. Acting like a nutjob is not that difficult for a thespian. The same goes for Johnny Depp’s string of “bizarro” charax.

    3. hero attends three therapy sessions, cries once in an intense session with dudely therapist, and is thereby “cured” of what ails him. Ordinary People, the Matt Damon-Ben Affleck Oscar movie tripe, etc.

  140. xochitl

    “Name a movie where the protagonist is an adult woman, and she ends up
    1. Alive and healthy
    2. Happy
    3. Not in love”

    It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but I’m pretty sure Volver with Penelope Cruz fits the bill.

    The original Stepford Wives movie is as close to an anti-misogyny movie as I can think of. When one of the women asks a man why they are murdering the women, he answers, “because we can.” That pretty much explains why men do any and all of the shitty things they do under patriarchy.

    I also heard that the female character in Monsters v Aliens rejects her boyfriend and conventional beauty in favor of a life of adventure, friendship and do-goodery as a monster. monster.

  141. Casey

    Oh, I forgot one: makeover scenes. Because the wimmens, what really pivots their plot is shopping, hair and makeup. Especially if it can be done with a perky, bland pop song blaring over any and all actual talking or decisionmaking.

  142. slythwolf

    Alive, happy, not in love: Dolores Van Cartier (Whoopi Goldberg) in Sister Act. A movie about women, friendship, and music. As a bonus there’s really not a whole hell of a lot of religion in it for being set in a convent. Women from different walks of life learn not to judge each other for their choices, and to respect each other’s life experience and wisdom.

  143. Chai Latte

    Joanne: I love “Kill Bill” too! Here’s why:

    1. The heroine dresses sensibly at all times. Pants, sneakers, clothes that YOU CAN ACTUALLY FIGHT IN.

    2. The female characters’ fights are not played to be sexy–they are genuine disputes of honor, not fucking catfights. That right there is huge. As most of Hollywood seems to think honor and integrity are solely male traits, for this to happen in such a popular film is a big deal to me.

    3. The heroine is able to acknowledge that her ex loves her in his creepy twisted way, but that doesn’t stop her from dong what has to be done to ensure the safety of herself and her daughter.

    4. The gruesome beatdown of the two rapists. This should happen in all Tarantine films from now on. Like Red Apple, it can be his new trademark. Just a thought.

    …I totally want to check out Seraphine now. It sounds incredible!

  144. Cranky Old Coot

    Or the complete erasure of the female.
    Jurassic Park

    They had just spent 5-10 minutes stating how all the dinosaur clones were FEMALES (including a “cutesy” joke by Jeff Goldberg asking how did they know, did they look up the dino’s skirts (ha,ha sexual harassment,yuk,yuk!)). Then when they’re menaced by the big bad snarly Tyranosaurus Rex (sp?) at the jeeps in the rain Sam Neill says:
    “Don’t move. HE can’t see you if you stand perfectly still.”
    I guess such a big ,powerful beast couldn’t possibly be female.

    I saw The Sniper the other day a crime drama from 1952 that regurgitated the old psychiatric bull about the mother being responsible for a serial killer targeting women.

  145. copykatparis

    Damn, where do I begin??? How about standing back and watching your buddies get bashed and doing NOTHING about it except shriek or look shocked? I gotta say though, at least Karen Allen in the 1st Raiders of the Lost Ark drank yak drivers under the table in HER OWN PLACE 9which she then of course lost), weilded a frying pan against a would-be kidnapper… but the P got scared and made her properly subservient.

    Oh, and THE WORSE? That new “Hangover” movie. YAAARRRRG! IBTP.

    And thehatorlegacy.com now bookmarked!

  146. Uppity

    Birth scenes, every single one.
    Never is a woman more whiny, shrill and pathetic. She panics, she screams, she’s desperate for Doctor Man to save her! If she’s sassy she may swear. She will be placed in the stranded beetle position and manned up with football style pep-talk. She will be ordered to push when Doctor Man, or for the lack Taxi Driver Man, deems it time. She will scream some more and pop out a 25 lb child smeared with strawberry jam and cream cheese. She will then cry and thank The Man who happened to be between her legs at the time for saving her life. Because that’s how women give birth, of course.
    Guaranteed to make me apoplectic.

  147. Spiders

    The anti-feminist backlash rhetoric that came out of just about every popular movie made in the 1980s.

    1.Lots of normal successful businesswomen morph into violent foamy-mouthed stalkers if they don’t have a baby by age 36.

    2.Women over 30 talk about NOTHING else but how miserable they are because they chose a career over a husband.

    3.Feminism fucked women up and now we’re all paying the price.

    4.All single women are on the verge of a mental breakdown.

    …and the way this shite has shaped the new generation’s understanding of feminism.

  148. Tanya

    I really hate the manly man who has sex with females that want more from him than just sex. The one example that I can think of is Iron Man. The protagonist, Tony Stark, has sex with a super-hot female reporter and then forgets her name. Because he has sex with so many hot females that it’s a completely unremarkable event in his life.

    But does a woman ever have one-night stand sex and then forget the name of the dude that did the pronging? Of course not, because women do not have casual sex. It is always meaningful and romantic when women have sex and they always pine after a man after she has had sex with him. She never forgets his name.

    Could you imagine Hollywood creating a movie called Iron Woman with a protagonist called Teena Stark that is a girl genius that has random flings with random men and then forgetting their names? Of course not!

  149. Gayle


    That scene in M*A*S*H pissed me off. That and the way she was demeaned as “Hot Lips.” They didn’t like her choice of boyfriend so they get back at her by mocking her relentlessly and then stripping her.

    One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest also taught the hated female lead a “lesson” by stripping her. I don’t know what the lesson was exactly (Be nice to us or we’ll strip you?) but it certainly reduces/ humiliates the woman. That movie is so woman-hating it deserves its own post.

    Another movie that features a rape no one talks about is Animal House. The John Belushi character literally flies into a woman’s room by a rope and drags her off. This is after the scene where he climbs up to her window and watches her undress. It’s all okay though because it’s a comedy and as we learn in the final jokey credits the two get married and he becomes a Senator. Har de har!

  150. Volly

    “Makeover” endings, such as Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club and Lindsay Crouse in Slapshot.

    It’s like somebody took away my 5-alarm chili and replaced it with Beech-nut.

  151. Ziodyne

    A lot of things piss me off, but my personal hot button is the Dead/Ill Mother, whether she already died or she dies on screen. It’s usually nothing more than a cheap and stupid way of evoking pathos, and it’s really common.

  152. norbizness

    Answering No Fun’s challenge above, it seems the further back in history you go, especially with art and European films, the more likely you are to find examples: Bergman’s Persona, Antonioni’s L’Eclisse, Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits, Altman’s 3 Women. Even Varda herself violates the rule in her best movies (in love in Cleo From 5 to 7, and dead/unhappy in Vagabond).

  153. Volly

    Audrey Hepburn (as a blind woman) held her own quite admirably against Alan Arkin in “Wait Until Dark.” Honorable mention to Julie Herrod as Gloria!!

    Only the incredibly patronizing attitude of Efrem Zimbalist Jr. mars this film, but mercifully, his appearances are brief.

  154. Lauren O

    I don’t think it’s been mentioned here yet, but my favorite is when the woman is crying and the man comes to hug her and comfort her. She continues her hysterics, pushing him away with ineffective pawings and slaps, and then suddenly gives in and collapses into his embrace. Because of course her crying is always ridiculous and unwarranted, and all she needed was a man comforting (restraining?) her to realize the error of her ways and feel better. Even way before my feminist awakening I would watch those scenes and go, “Oh come ON.”

  155. jrav

    thanks, marilyn, for the perspective. Although old movies (and when I say old, I mean 30s and 40s) definitely had issues, I think many, possibly most, current movies ha e more issues. Old movies didn’t disguise misogyny and sexism. Today movies have the “guise” of a modern woman, but the issues are ridiculous. Frankly, all current rom coms SUCK. They make me want to throw things. The women, 27 dresses, all this shit makes me sick to my stomach. The women they portray are not women I know. Katherine Hepburn is my all-time favorite. Smart. Demanding. Political. She was unpopular for those thkgs, but she made it work. Anyone seen Stage Door? Sure, it has issues, but boy howdy, it also has women talking, feminine community. Plus, films were so dependent on dialogue. Lots, not All but lots of movies today are lazy. These new asinine boy comedies are absolutely disgusting and not funny.

    I could go on and on and on… Fun discussion.

  156. rjeenah

    What about the “manic pixie dream girl”? She’s zany, she’s wacky,and she exists only to help the male lead realize Something Important about his own life and has no motivation of her own (Streissand in What’s Up Doc, Griffith in Something Wild)

    As far as movies in which a woman ends up alive, happy, not in love, I can think of Jennifer Connelly in Labyrinth or Reese Witherspoon in Pleasantville, but they’re not really quite adults, just teenagers. I hate movies and rarely watch them, though.

    Also, I wouldn’t recommend The Triplets of Belleville unless you’re into animal cruelty and female characters whose sole motivation is to help a man.

  157. another voice

    I hate that feminism ruined everything meme too. I think 13 going on 30 is an egregious example. Erase all of that independence and get me into a pink house w/ a controlling husband and passel of kids – stat!

  158. Annie O.

    Where else can you see a film focused on 3 generations of female martial artists?

    HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS, directed by Yimou Zhang
    take-off somewhat on Tiger/Dragon but has a nice added twist: a matriachal, knife-throwing group

    Most wonderful scene: a member of the group slips from wanting to make love to his former lover to trying to rape her. A knife is thrown into his back by one of the head matriarchs and he is reminded in no uncertain terms that rape is not tolerated. He apologizes profusely, shamed, and retreats.

    As life should be!

  159. MariaS

    The Hathor Legacy post about why the mainstream western film industry ignores women demonstrates clearly that patriarchy trumps capitalism (as does white supremacy, heteronormativity and any other social hierarchy). It is more important to preserve and serve the reigning social systems of dominance than it is to make the logical leap to thinking, wait, surely I could make more money by NOT deliberately trying to exclude half of humanity from buying my product.

    Here are more Hathor Legacy posts on the same subject: Why discriminate if it doesn’t profit? and The blockbuster mentality and the invisible audience. The comments on the second one debate

    There’s a comment in the last one that reminds me of something else! The trailer voice-over man – (I’m sure there can’t be more than a couple of them, they always sound the same). Anyone EVER remember seeing any trailers with a woman doing the authoritative voice-over?

    Another: From the readers: Hollywood fears boys learning that women are people

    Finally: On quitting film:

    “If all Hollywood needed were more people who think like you and me, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. There are plenty of Hollywood insiders (including white men) who want change, who want to make movies about fascinating people who aren’t white men. The problem is that too many people involved in the very collaborative process of film buy into the belief that the audience won’t accept anything but white men’s stories, and there’s a vicious cycle preventing the industry from taking the next step … [I]f you make enough movies featuring people other than white men doing the same interesting things white men have been allowed to do in film, those movies become normal, and then the idea that people other than white men can be interesting becomes normal. Yes, some of the audience will be seeing the movie for the same ugly reasons that virulent white racists enjoy watching African-American sports figures or misogynists enjoy screwing women, but eventually you’ll have a whole generation of kids who doesn’t remember when only white men had stories. What will that generation produce in its art and its politics? What will its women and “minorities” achieve?”(emphasis mine)

    The comment discussion branches off to explore the fallacy of the “if you don’t like it then make your own film (or whatever)” argument and its variations, illuminating the economic realities of film-making, and discussing the class privilege needed to get anywhere in most creative careers.

    By the way, Jennifer Kesler of The Hathor Legacy has another excellent blog, Blind Privilege, that examines different kinds of privilege but is especially insightful about class. It’s gone a long while till now without new posts, and it is well worth reading back through the archives.

  160. MariaS

    Darn, I didn’t finish the last sentence in my second paragraph: “The comments on the second one debate … “. What I was going to say was that, in that comment thread the argument that it’s really the audience’s fault for the male-centric, misogynist movies and that if we all just boycotted the crappy movies the powers-that-be would make better films is raised and then neatly dissected by other commenters, for example.

    “What we are saying is that they are powerful, priveleged, white men living in a culture considers male and white as the default, and working among mostly other powerful, privileged, white men like themselves. This tends to create a very self-centered view of the world, even if one is not naturally all that self-centered.”

  161. SargassoSea

    Ah, yes, The Sterile Cuckoo. Ugh. And how I’d hoped to forget.

  162. ElizaN

    What gets me the most is when male actors play individuals, while female actors play Woman. So, you know, basically every movie. I like The Education of Shelby Knox, a documentary about a teen activist.

  163. Marilyn

    Jrav – Thanks, and I quite agree. Today’s movies are MUCH worse because the sexism is a more subtle in many cases, and the actresses have gotten skinnier and more conventionally pretty. There is no room for older actresses or actresses with interesting faces anymore. We live in very restricted times in physical terms and the scripts are pathetic at best, reflecting the complete lack of imagination in Hollywood.

    MariaS – I recently posted a trailer for a film called “Bossa Nova,” a really good rom com that doesn’t fall into all the usual cliches, that had a female announcer. One of my regular commenters made a note of it because of its rarity. She does a great job, so it’s hard to understand the lack of female voiceovers except as the usual studio preference for the “voice of God” coming from a man.

  164. phiogistic

    Not a movie, but I got a smile recently watching a documentary on the new Doctor Who series. Catherine Tate, who plays the ‘companion’ Donna Noble, had a scene where she has to sneak up and whack a bad alien on his “Achilles Heel” which is conveniently located on the back of his neck. She said the script originally called for her character to hit him with a (presumably high-heeled) shoe, but “…since I only wear trainers [sneakers] they had to give me a hammer.”

  165. Marguerite

    Old movies are misogynist, classist and racist?

    No shit.

    The mistreatment of horses, on the other hand, seems obvious to me but not, apparently, to people who have not dealt with horses.

  166. Elizabeth

    Also 9 to 5. Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda wind up happy, healthy alive and not in love. Dolly Parton is happy, healthy, and alive but still in love with her husband, which is only a minor plot point and she was in love with him at the start of the movie.

  167. Donna Samoyloff

    A sidebar to the Turner Classic Movies rant: my rant, my very own.

    Us Canadians are pretty much un-armed Americans with healthcare. Especially in the big-ish cities (I’m in Toronto), there isn’t much which differentiates Canadian from American culture — but Canadians tend to promote and be proud of what differences do exist. I guess this rant is more of the same.

    Having become nocturnal since my guy dumped me by e-mail after 35 years of marriage, I watch movies and BBC World a lot.

    What I’ve noticed since BBC World hooked itself up with PBS is:

    — Presenters time their text to fit into PBS patterns of commercials. BBC news channels run without commercials: they must keep a lot of fluffy filler on hand to fill the gaps.
    — BBC reporters are still way beyond being mere talking heads, but nowadays those presenters must think about teleprompter timing, rather than about what they just want to say. I’m pretty sure that BBC on-camera reporters still have some control over text, but I’m willing to bet that it’s less than they had even last year.
    — BBC types have started to anthropomorphize the stock market the way CNN has for decades. Ironic, in that its strongest, most knowledgeable reporters on financial matters are women.
    — Having admired the BBC’s commitment to having women reporting “on the ground” AND in front of the camera for years and years, I’m concerned that the sands have shifted: some BBC stringer who is female gets hauled in, in Iran, and it’s a lead story for weeks; another stringer who isn’t gets tortured, suffers rendition twice, cannot communicate with his employer, friends or family for half a year and the story dies in a day. Both stringers are photogenic, y’know what I’m sayin’?

    What does this have to do with Turner Classic Movies, you ask?

    I blame the patriarchy. Just as movies get made to be mainstream/malestream (and labelling something a “Chick Flick” is The Kiss-O-Death), so too is the last faint hope of international news broadcasting changing for the worse as it falls victim to US influences. God knows I don’t mean influences like you,

  168. Beck

    The Quiet Man, which probably fits into the “Taming of the Shrew” category. We all know that sequence towards the end where John Wayne forcefully drags Maureen O’Hara through a field dotted with sheep droppings, while the whole town watches and cheers him on, and an old woman offers a stick “to beat the lovely lady with”. O’Hara’s reaction when the deplorable scene plays out is equally mind blowing.

    I really want to love this film, but goddammit that scene makes me want to break things. And I’m certain I’ve watched this very same scene in various different forms in a hundred movies.

  169. Lu

    The mistreatment of horses, on the other hand, seems obvious to me but not, apparently, to people who have not dealt with horses.

    Also “no shit.” If we haven’t dealt with horses (which evidently makes us inferior), it’s to be expected that we don’t recognize certain kinds of mistreatment. And your point?

  170. larkspur

    Yeah, Volly, Wait Until Dark isn’t bad, but I remember seeing it in the theater when it first came out, and there’s this ridiculous little trick that Efrem Zimbalist Jr. does (I think he asks her to walk to him and it’s supposed to be so heart-warming because she’s not just a poor helpless blind lady any more yay! but jeez, dude, she’s just been through hell, you’re supposed to be her husband and purportedly her best friend, and a best friend would skip the lame empowering ritual and lend a damn hand) and when he did it, the whole theater burst into derisive laughter. Just for a bit. Didn’t ruin the movie.

    Chaptastic: like Spinning Liz mentioned, there’s got to be some effort in the mundane transitions, like from sound asleep to out the door. I remember I watched part of a TV show one time, Charmed, and Petunia or Phlox or whichever sister was shown luxuriating in a big bed with a boyfriend, sheets tossed this way and that, and apparently they’ve had this wonderfully debauched weekend, which is great, but now it’s Monday morning and OMG she might be late to work. But the dialog continues while she ducks behind a door to pull on some clothes and then she’s out the door to her receptionist job. Ugh. Not in my universe. No peeing, no hurried shower, just sexity sexity sex with no annoying reality.

    Like when Ally Sheedy gives the nerd her panties so he can win the bet with his friends (obviously he’s supposed to have charmed the pants off her, and it’s a trophy), and she just hands ’em over, and I swear it made me feel like an unnatural girl-woman, because I would totally want to check my panties first, because sometimes, when I wear panties and take them off later, they are not completely pristine. It’s kind of why I wear them.

    I don’t need newsreel versimilitudosity, but just a suggestion now and then would be helpful in anchoring us as real human people with real human bodies. Because, see, in so many other situations, we’re made to believe that our bodily bodies are just way too leaky and physical and gross. But you can get whiplash trying to orient yourself to the fantasy of angelic noncorporeal perfection. Who am I?

    I think it was in Jeanine Basinger’s book, referenced earlier, that I read how some of those earlier “women’s films” were supposed to work, or could be imagined to work, in a subversive way. The woman character ends up in the safe patriarchal embrace of love and normalcy – even though everything up to that has been an adventure that sometimes seemed like she’d escape it all. So what the ending really is is something you could lift right out. It pays its patriarchal bloodmoney with the ending, but in your mind, you just lift out the ending and dream your own.

    Thelma and Louise die, yes. But they kept driving. That was kind of satisfying.

    An Unmarried Woman with Jill Clayburgh, is one I haven’t seen in a long time, but as I recall, she walks away from a very charming and handsome guy who’d like to enwife her.

    Working Girl sucks, and I have ranted about it before, because Sigourney Weaver’s character isn’t simply outmaneuvered, she’s pulverized and humiliated.

    American Gigolo is far from feminist, but it’s not as misogynist as you’d imagine, and when I saw it in the theater, Richard Gere was full frontal nude at one point, and it was not an action scene. He was just nude. Elegantly and pensively bare-nekkid.

    Truly Madly Deeply doesn’t qualify for being chap-free, because there’s love at the end. But it all other respects it is a satisfying movie with real true honest characters.

  171. Elizabeth

    Name a movie where the protagonist is an adult woman, and she ends up
    1. Alive and healthy
    2. Happy
    3. Not in love

    I was discussing this with someone else and a lot of the movies that past this test don’t pass the Bechdel test. Tomb Raider (and the sequel), X-Files, The Net.

  172. iiii

    Name a movie where the protagonist is an adult woman, and she ends up
    1. Alive and healthy
    2. Happy
    3. Not in love


    West Side Story fails on the “happy” part, but at least Maria (unlike Juliet) survives.

  173. orlando

    We could do a whole category called “Movies Where Rape/Sexual Abuse Goes Unnoticed”. Saturday Night Fever and Revenge of the Nerds would lead the charge, but don’t forget that the highly lauded The Piano would be right there with them. (Do you think The Piano and Revenge of the Nerds have ever been categorised together before?)

    Where’s Private Benjamin when you need her?

  174. larkspur

    Oh and another thing: after scenes in which either or both male and female persons experience big physical violence, and the make-up artists have gone crazy with the face bruises and gore, the actors somehow retain full mobility of their facial features, and sometimes even kiss each other without even wincing. Please! You could film me right after an important trip to the darn dentist and I’d talk funny without even being damaged or in pain.

    I get it that it’s a kind of artistic license to have people dropping down unconsious from one smack on the head (and then waking up soon after with no post-concussion syndrome, or without even barfing immediately), or to have important characters get shot in the shoulder and be okay within a few scenes, but it gets redonkulous.

    Ooh! I just remembered Atlantic City with Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon. Not gonna summarize, but they become friends, sort of, even though he (an old guy) lusted after her (a young woman) initially. And there’s a scene in which bad guys jump them and Susan gets knocked down, and Burt gets knocked down and is hideously embarrassed because he meant to rescue her. And Susan? She’s not in on his rescue fantasy, she’s just acting like a human being, and gets to her feet and comes over to him asking if he’s okay.

    As I recall, Susan ends up alive and healthy, either happy or in plausible pursuit of happiness, and not in love. Burt’s in love, though, but with a woman in his age range, and don’t they make a handsome, stately sort of couple. Sigh. The Atlantic Ocean was different then.

  175. MarianK

    Someone early on mentioned how people in movies never seem to need to have a pee first thing in the morning.This got me thinking about urinating in movies. In old Hollywood, even pre-Code, movies never even mentioned the word ‘toilet’, let alone ever depicted anybody using one.

    Then, after the lifting of the Code and the so-called sexual revolution, we’ve had about 3 decades now of having to watch men in movies forever pissing up a storm. I mean … they piss and they piss and they piss. There seems to be no end to the types of men’s pissing scenes that get written into films.

    One of these is the urinal scene, where a group of men have an incredibly long, often very tense conversation while doing a few surreptitious figure-8s over the wall tiles. It’s very common in political thrillers and gangster flicks – the latter often using it as the scene for a hit.

    Then there’s the drunken-guys-by-the-roadside pisser scene, usually common to coming-of-age and/or road movies, where a bunch of guys make all kinds of lewd and loud while turning the nation’s highways into a sodden mess.

    And then there’s the indie buddy flick, which prefers to have men pissing more meaningful ways, like when the live-in or ex- is telling a guy he’s an emotional dyslexic or when thinking about how he can’t relate to his father – often just before he notices he’s going bald.

    Perhaps all that pissing men do in films is a metaphor for self-realisation or is it just to give them something to do with their hands?

    And as for women pissing in films … does anyone recall ever seeing this? I can only recall two instances and both films were made by women – Kate Winslet wetting herself in the Australian outback in Jane Campion’s Holy Smoke, and Sean Young in some flick whose name I can’t recall, except that it was made by Lizzie Borden.

    Which makes me wonder what do men have against women pissing in films? Does it make us too human or something?

  176. BMS

    Women urinating in films – Jane Fonda in Fun With Dick and Jane.

    Her character and Dick are having an animated conversation in their bedroom. She storms into the adjoining bathroom, whips down her drawers, sits down, and pees, all while continuing said animated conversation. If I recall, Dick follows her into the bathroom, still talking, like nothing unusual is happening (at least not with her peeing).

    And all shot head to toe, with the bathroom doorway in the center 1/3 of the screen.

    Kinda startled me when I was a young teen.

  177. larkspur

    Women peeing on film. I recall that in one film, Melanie Griffiths plopped herself down on the toilet and peed, blotting herself tidily with a square of TP. I don’t remember the movie. She played an eccentric girl on the lam, and her companion was a a very conventional manly man who was greatly disconcerted by her willingness to pee without closing the door, and without shame.

    Then there was a film from the UK called A Letter To Brezhnev: it was odd, but charming. Two young women protagonists hit the bars one evening, and converse as they visit the loo. No neat square of TP, just a casual drip dry.

    A movie I didn’t see, with Sandra Bullock, is called (I think) Two Weeks Notice, and I read somewhere that much of the humor comes from her Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms, with instances of loud off-screen pooping. I shouldn’t comment on a movie I haven’t seen, but it kinda sounds like a Taming of the Shrew sort of device: a way to “humanize” the female lead via humiliation. Perhaps I won’t rent it some time. Again. (And correct me if I have this wrong. But don’t tell me to watch it.)

    I don’t need to see the evidence. It’s just so tiresome to never see natural physicality. You will get mussed if you hide out in a cave for a few days, or ride a horse (respectfully) across the dusty countryside, and your makeup will show it. That’s one of the reasons I liked Aliens, despite the “Bitch!” theme: Ripley and the young marine, Vasquez, got all dirty and sweaty and they weren’t at all concerned with couture or maquillage, no no no.

  178. coathangrrr

    Princess Lea doesn’t count because she was sassy but she didn’t get to do as many cool things as Han and Luke.

    What?! She killed Jabba the Hutt with the chain he used to oppress her. She was also the one that snuck out the plans to the Death Star and didn’t give in to Darth Vader, something no one else managed to do. There are serious problems with Star Wars, but Leia is a total bad ass.

  179. Sophie

    Luke would never have even survived the first half of A New Hope if Leia hadn’t been there to get his ass out of the Death Star. She rocks. No excuse for the rest of the Star Wars universe being Patriarchy Inc though, I mean c’mon George, you could have ONE female member of the Jedi Council without the fanboys abandoning you. But I digress. Women pissing in films: Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut.

  180. Spiders

    Kate Hudson sat on the toilet for a full on pee shot in Almost Famous, which is not a bad movie btw.

    That Fun With Dick and Jane scene freaked me out as a kid, too. Had never seen anything quite like it.

  181. Lindsey

    Non-compliance with reality: how easily things tear. Clothes fall off at the lightest touch, necklaces can be pulled free without unclasping. Does not happen.

    The therapist in Shortbus ends the movie happy as she’s just had her first orgasm and (I think) separating from her partner to pursue other sexual avenues. There is a lot of real, live action sex though, including gay male sex.

    On topic of peeing, how about number 2? Or do movie men not shit either? I can think of Charlotte in Sex and the City movie losing bowel control after too much pudding but no peeing scenes.

  182. Mau de Katt

    This is a sub-category to the “romantic rape” theme I’ve noticed the past couple decades — how the more vicious a rape is portrayed, the more the background music is sweet and romantic. I reached my overload (damn near physical expression of my deep and intense nausea) with some rape-n-revenge made-for-TV movie that starts with The Heroine being brutally raped by a stalker, all while Sting’s “Fields of Barley” plays on. If it had been a one-shot, I could have (maybe… ok, not) excused the director for the “juxtaposition of opposites to make a point about the Brutality Of It All,” but this was the culmination of a trope that had been going on relentlessly and dare I say mandatorily for several years now. So, in this movie, it was nothing more than the most blatant titillation disguised as “Horror of Contrasting Opposites” that I’d seen to that date. It didn’t even try to be arty, it just hid behind the flimsiest of arty masks.

    But my biggest pet peeve of all, the one that will send me into a Soapboxing Blaming Rage, is the Fatal Female Flaw: how in almost any movie that portrays a strong female character, whether she be Lead, Companion, or Villain, if she is portrayed as strong enough to actually threaten the dudes in the audience, she is always shown to have some stupidly pathetic flaw — the stronger she is, the more ridiculous the flaw — to knock her back down into her Proper Feminine Inferior Place. And it’s not portrayed as a human flaw, reasonably applicable to any male or female character who is in this particular role in this particular story, it is one associated only with The Stereotypically Weakling Wimmins.

    This happens almost all the time, but the example I always use, because it was SOO very blatant and absurd, was in Conan the Destroyer. Grace Jones is a tough-ass bitch who will do as she wills and take what she pleases (even lecturing the virginal helpless female lead that that is what a woman should do when she finds a man she wants). Yes, she is rescued from death by Conan. But, so were several male sidekicks just before her; it’s a standard “Gather The Sidekicks For The Big Adventure” trope. Yes, she is defeated when she challenges Conan one-on-one. But, Conan is supposed to defeat everyone, even the Humongo Manly Man Sidekick who betrays him. All ths sidekicks are supposed to be less strong than The Hero — it’s disgustingly macho, but it’s equal-opportunity, and Jones’s character doesn’t fight like a weakling. However, when they get into an underground tunnel, *gasp* a RAT suddenly appears, squeaking, and this Tough Take-No-Shit Barbarian Warrior screams like the proverbial little girl, backs against the wall, and jabs ineffectually at the rat with her quarterstaff. Even the Needs-Protection Spoiled Virginal Maiden looks at her in disbelief.


    And Meh.

  183. slythwolf

    Well, sometimes necklaces come off without unclasping. Or maybe I just always have the cheap necklaces whose jump rings never close properly.

    The only time anyone ever poops in the movies, as far as I can tell, is in gross-out comedies. Then it’s always diarrhea.

  184. slythwolf

    Oh–or if it’s a baby, and there has to be Comedy about how men don’t know how to handle dirty diapers.

  185. slythwolf

    I mean c’mon George, you could have ONE female member of the Jedi Council without the fanboys abandoning you.

    If I’m not much mistaken, there was. One female member. Should have been 50% at least.

  186. pyramus

    Another candidate for the alive-and-healthy-and-happy-and-not-in-love pool is My Best Friend’s Wedding, and yes, it is a rom-com, and yes, the plot consists mostly of Julia Roberts trying to destroy the relationship of her best friend and his fiancée so that she can have him, so not really what you’d call progressive. But at the end she finally discovers that the world doesn’t revolve around her and that other people deserve to be happy too, and ends up blissfully dancing at the wedding with her second-best friend (also a guy). It doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, but it could have been a whole lot worse than it is.

    Oh, and as for the post-scene door-sliding: in Return To Me, David Duchovny leans back against a door and then collapses in a sobbing heap on the floor (understandably, since his accomplished, gorgeous, ethically faultless wife has just died in a car accident, which you might describe as a permanent breakup), so there is actually at least one movie in which a guy does this.

  187. MarilynJean

    I completely agree with the points about peeing and going to bed in makeup. Yes! All such good observations. I hate that in most movies, especially current ones, the minority/gay/fat/other friend is always the loyal sidekick that helps the pretty/thin/athletic/handsome/white lead character in pursuit of whatever they are pursuing. It’s like an “Other” can’t have romantic interests, save the day or have their own problems. There are so many examples, but recent movies that remind me of this are Sex in the City movie, where OSCAR-WINNING Jennifer Hudson plays second fiddle to Sarah Jessica Parker, and He’s Just Not That Into You (or whatever it’s called) with Drew Barrymore. I believed that had gays of color playing comic relief roles. Oh, and any 80s/90s movie with Richard Gere and Hector Elizondo produced by Gary Marshall. Hector, an accomplished Latino actor, is always there to assist Richard Gere in his romantic endeavors. Morgan Freeman also comes to mind.

  188. Shira

    There’s a scene in Babel where the American female lead gets her husband to lift her up to piss when she’s shot and ends up stranded without medical care.

    Speaking of the Bechdel movie test, I was explaining it to someone the other day, when this dude overhears me, storms in, and announces that “Sex sells.” I asked what that had to do with the lack of female conversations, he goes, “Well are they talking about sex? Otherwise it’s not interesting.”

    I’m just so glad he was there to set me straight.

  189. Kristen

    I’m not sure I agree with the notion that “old movies” as a whole, especially popular ones, are more misogynistic than their contemporary counterparts. Racist, certainly, and of course the two are usually entwined, and I would not debate that. BUT, I love the women in Howard Hawks movies, for example–at least they have wit, verbal dexterity, personal power, and are not portrayed as mere ass. Katherine Hepburn had some arguably great roles in this respect, and she and Cary Grant did some interesting gender bending in a couple of films (“Sylvia Scarlett,” “Bringing up Baby…”) In fact, old CG allowed himself to be the more conventionally “feminine” object of the camera in quite a few films,and more the damsel in distress than his biologically female compatriots, esp. pre-WW II, and even then he did “I Was A Male War Bride,” which at least raises some questions. Can’t say the same about the mind-numbing idiocy that others have brought up such as “He’s Just Not…” etc. (though I can’t bear to see these films and have only seen trailers, so I really have no right to take a stance on them). I’m not arguing that these films escape a patriarchal context or ideology, just that some of them are a bit more questioning of the status quo than others. I know this is not the popular view here at IBTP, and of course the horrifically disturbing paradigms everyone raises are emblematic of the usual case. But, just sayin’–it’s not as if there’s been linear progress since the birth of cinema, and I know you don’t think there has been, but I don’t know that “old movies” are always the worst offenders or that TCM offers a full spectrum of offerings.

  190. Kristen

    P.S. Just read Marilyn’s comment–she also mentions “SS” and made a similar (and clearer) case–yeah, what she said.

  191. norbizness

    I am also disappointed by the lack of development in Meschach Taylor’s character between Mannequins 1 and 2.

  192. MarianK

    I agree with Kristen about the gender bending of ‘I Was a Male War Bride’ – the Ann Sheridan character rode the bike through most of the movie and Cary Grant sat in the sidecar! She was very much the ‘male’ iconoclast of the film, although I seem to remember there was the obligatory scene where she collapses in a blubbering mess over something. There was another film Grant did about the same time called ‘Every Girl Should Be Married’ – which strongly questioned the convention of men always having to do the asking and women having to wait around to be asked.

    Actually, those few short post-war years were a bit of a liberal golden age, before the HUAA struck and the 50s backlash set in. Movies like Pinky, the Boy with Green Hair, Adams Rib, Gentlemen’s Agreement and Letter to Three Wives all questioned the status quo, despite still being products of their times.

    Also, I’d recommend one very interesting film from Lucille Ball’s early career, called ‘Beauty for the Asking’ (1939). It’s directed by a man but co-written by a woman and is a surprisingly feminist take on the old love triangle formula. Also, a lot of Dorothy Arzner’s work, one of the only women directors working in Hollywood’s golden years. She made some fantastically intelligent films, especially about marriage, my favourite being ‘Merrily We Go to Hell’.

  193. Erzebeth

    “And as for women pissing in films … does anyone recall ever seeing this?”

    Melanie Griffith in “Something Wild”. It was the first time I was seeing that in a movie, so it was quite a shock.

    As for TV, we saw Starbuck take a pee in an episode of “Battlestar Galactica”.

  194. Fluff_

    I really can’t stand the use of women as perpetual subordinates. You will never see a male assistant or secretary in movies. Apparently fetching coffee and saying “Your three o’clock is in the lobby, sir” requires ovaries and low-cut blouses.

  195. Felicity

    Whenever a culture realises it has a powerful medium to represent women, specifically how they should be in comparison to penis holders it jumps at the chance. Church, The bible, marriage, fashion..

    The media today is the most obvious medium – it tells us norms, reaches everyone on the planet connecting our norms and we can hardly get away from it. So women suffer hugely by the media as God- laid- down rules for women aren’t having the affect they once had in the era of the bible.

    The film industry back when got over- enthusiastic about how they could force everyone to deep throat the norms for women again..

    Personally I too would prefer a book/ film with NO women. But then that’s obvious, no mention of women, no alienation of female reader. The only time men seem to write about women is to prove something about us or create some grand hypothesis about our state. We can never just be characters that represent half the human population at large, we have to be representations of that ‘other’ the author makes us consider.

    If you think about every viewpoint given to us from birth representing us as ‘other’, we naturally associate ‘human’ with men, and learn to distrust each other.

    Men are only happy when there’s a powerful medium to appease their desperation to prove the inferiority and ‘otherness’ of women.

  196. Nolabelfits

    How about “Manny and LO?” Lo takes a squat piss on the lawn of a model home.

    No male characters of any substance in that movie. (Directed by Lisa Kreuger) If you haven’t seen it, its about two sisters, aged 11 and 16 (Scarlett JOhansson and Aleksa Pallandino) who run away from foster care and kidnap a store clerk (Mary Kay Place) to help with LO’s pregnancy. Good movie, therefore, not exactly a mainstream offering. No men to save the day and they end up happy in the end.

    I also enjoyed “Freeway” with Reese Witherspoon.

  197. Annie O.

    MarianK: I thought your pissing post deserved a check so I googled “women peeing in film”. MY BAD. I couldn’t bring myself to follow one link!

    But I like the idea. Especially because I never knew of any decent way to pee until into my 20’s when a friend showed me her way (turned my life around, was so much easier!). And later I read how lots n lots of women pee outside before the Boston Marathon…(a sight to behold for sure!)

    It would be very cool to have a film with women peeing. Maybe even onto a target, like that one crazy “this is what a feminist looks like” Ms. magazine cover!

  198. Squiggy

    Annie O.- “But I like the idea. Especially because I never knew of any decent way to pee until into my 20’s when a friend showed me her way (turned my life around, was so much easier!)”
    Do tell! Please enlighten us!

  199. Notorious Ph.D.

    I know I’m far to far down the queue for most people to read, but I wanted to pass on a three-question film test for feminists, as seen in the comments thread of another blog:

    1. Is there more than one woman with a speaking role in the film?

    2. If so, do these two (or more, if there be) women talk to each other?

    3. If so, do they talk about anything besides men, shopping, or their bodies?

    “Yes” to all three does not mean it’s an *actively* feminist film, but it’s more likely to be one that acknowledges women as full human beings.

    And in this vein, may I suggest that the recent movie “Sunshine Cleaners” does just that. The movie is okay, rather than great, but at least it doesn’t seem to tacitly endorse the patriarchy.

  200. Unree

    Notorious, that test (slightly modified from the original version so as not to honor shopping flicks) has been occupying much of this thread. People have shared its varying names and discussed it. That “queue” you didn’t read covered most of your point.

  201. Kelsey

    I always interpreted Kubrick films as critiques of masculine baloney, and therefore delightful for radical feminism. He makes films in genres targeted at dudes and then shows dudes for what they are and what they do under patriarchy.

  202. Frumious B.

    Woman peeing, woman forgetting name of one night stand AND woman masturbating in bathtub – Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down. Not so feminist, though. Distinctly Obstreperal lobe blowing. Creepy stalker kidnaps hot lady, ties her to bed, coerces/convinces her to fuck him, whereupon she remembers that oh, yes, she did fuck him that one time before. Then she falls in love with him. Bleh.

    The best way I know to pee outside without hitting your shoes: find two things near each other. Sit on one, put your feet up on the other. Let ‘er rip.

  203. Hezbella

    To disparage Stanley Kubrick for his brazen and over-the-top use of phallic images to highlight the absurd, testosterone driven insanity of the era’s hot-headed cold warriors bent on world domination, or to bemoan the lack of women in this world of cigar chomping men engaged in a planetary pissing contest is missing the point of the film altogether. Hopefully, for your sake, the brain trust that came up with the idea of coloring black and white films will take it a step further and use advances in digital technology to insert steely-jawed women in sensible footwear into “questionable” films like Dr Strangelove. This will surely spare future viewers of this cold war satire the discomfiture of interpreting symbolism.

  204. angie

    Name a movie where the protagonist is an adult woman, and she ends up
    1. Alive and healthy
    2. Happy
    3. Not in love

    Three of my favorite Almodovar films end this way: “All About My Mother” “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” & “Volver.” As someone mentioned upthread, many (not all) of Almodovar’s films are centered around strong women.

  205. Spiders

    How could I forget the best pee scene ever? One of the female actors in The Full Monty peed standing up at a urinal.

    I think we’re onto a new idea for a coffee table book here.

  206. veganrampage

    I had an entire screed, a diatribe if you will, carefully penned and meticulously researched for this topic, but I shit-canned the whole idea when the monstrosity known as “The Women” (1939), played on the self same channel Ms. Faster had mentioned in her post.

    Possibly the worst line from quite probably the most misogynist masterwork of it’s time-

    “Living alone has its compensations. It’s wonderful to be able to stretch out in bed like a swastika.”

    From the play by Clare Booth Luce
    Directed by George Cukor

    Anita Loos
    Jane Martin > Screenplay

    F. Scott Fitzgerald
    Donald Odgen Stewart > Screenplay (Un-credited)

    Now, I wonder which genius actually wrote these words, I mean put them together, picked them out, then chose to place one after the other after the other after the other, etc., and so on.

    And who okayed these words? Many, many people. 1939. 1939? 1939! ALL the Nuremberg Laws were enacted by then. The Holocaust (Okay, Americans didn’t as a whole realize the full extent at this time but they knew the shit had hit the fan for the Jews, and the Homos, and many other groups nobody gives a flying fuck about) and World War II was well underway. Just not for the US of A.

    Under what guidelines, set of rules, or parameters of fucking sanity is this funny- I’d like to know?

    Fuck all of the above-Twice.

    “Ninotchka” (1939) is on TCM now directed by Ernst Lubitsch (who escaped Nazi Germany). Garbo says lines to Melvyn Douglas who plays a Count, that are supposed to be hysterically funny in their wrongness. She is wrong because she is a communist, see? And the capitalists are, of course, right about everything, natch. So when Garbo tells Douglas he isn’t really attractive, it’s because he has “superior earning power” it’s a real knee slapper. That stuff ain’t true, get it? Cuz we Amerikans get it all right all the time, especially patriarchy and the rules about men and women, ya know? It’s amazing how many stupid things she says that are smart. Prescient. Relevant. Valid. Dumb bitch.

    So it was a diatribe after all. *shrugs, yawns.*

  207. Isabel

    “A New Leaf” directed by (and starring) Elaine May.

    Very charming 1970 film, with wonderful performances by Elane May and Walter Matthau.

    best part is: In the end playboy finally falls for ‘diamond in the rough’ nerdy female. And she doesn’t undergo a makeover or anything.

    Although I haven’t really analyzed it – it may be totally offensive on other fronts. But I don’t thnk so and I love Elaine May (she plays a botanist in the movie).

  208. Sophie

    Christina Applegate wees in a urinal in ‘The Sweetest Thing’ – I don’t know why, since there’s a cubicle with a toilet right next to it.

  209. Val

    Well, I’m not too shy to explain how I pee standing up (since I have to do it out on trail while entreating my horse to STAND STILL & not pull me off-balance!): peel down tights & underwear to knee level; half-squatting position w/tail facing back*; sweet relief!
    *the secret to missing one’s shoes is to arch your back as if you were flipping your tailbone towards the sky

  210. Sophie

    Back on topic for a while, the Star Wars diversion made me remember another thing that chaps my hide: the assumption made by every male I know that I am some kind of freak because I’ve never seen Return of the Jedi. They’ve never seen Grease, or Dirty Dancing, or The Breakfast Club, or any of the other films that I and my girlfriends watched over and over as kids, but the film for BOYS* is apparently a massively important piece of popular culture that everyone should have seen.

    * Sorry about the block capitals. I wanted emphasis and I don’t know how to do italics. Happy to be instructed.

  211. Isabel

    My interpretation of A new Leaf was apparently superficial, perhaps influenced by the fact that the happy ending was not what the director intended…from a February 14th 2006 Village Voice article by J. Hoberman:

    All four May features will be showing this weekend (along with the reclusive filmmaker herself) at the Walter Reade. Taken as a sustained utterance, they are an ongoing and largely unprecedented comic riff on the abjectness of women and the idiocy of men. Each, however, has its own particular formal brilliance. A New Leaf (1971), which May wrote, directed, and stars in, is a devastating feminist psychodrama concealed as amiable dark comedy. Enacting her own dithering incompetence, the filmmaker plays an heiress with an unlikely fondness for Mogen David spritzers, wooed and won by Walter Matthau’s penniless WASP and would-be bluebeard. (May sued her studio when they recut the movie to save her character’s life.)

  212. Notorious Ph.D.

    @ Unree — apologies, then, for the duplication. Just checking in after a long trip without internet access.

  213. Carolyn in Baltimore

    Alive happy and Not in Love:

    Private Benjamin ! (Although most of the movie was pretty sexist)

  214. Jill

    “To disparage Stanley Kubrick for his brazen and over-the-top use of phallic images to highlight the absurd, testosterone driven insanity of the era’s hot-headed cold warriors bent on world domination, or to bemoan the lack of women in this world of cigar chomping men engaged in a planetary pissing contest is missing the point of the film altogether. Hopefully, for your sake, the brain trust that came up with the idea of coloring black and white films will take it a step further and use advances in digital technology to insert steely-jawed women in sensible footwear into “questionable” films like Dr Strangelove. This will surely spare future viewers of this cold war satire the discomfiture of interpreting symbolism.

    It is not missing the point to observe that the imagery Kubrick uses to critique nuclear warrists (or to effect a comic send-up of violent rape in that Clockwork Orange scene where the old cat woman is bludgeoned to death with a giant plastic dick, or to explicate middle-aged male lust in Lolita by portraying the titular character as a nubile cipher) is an imagery indigenous to male cinematic language.

    And you make erroneous assumptions about the metal used in the compostion of my jaw.

  215. Cute Bruiser

    Actually, in The Full Monty, I believe she pees on the WALL. I tuned into that movie just in time for that scene and was so surprised that I watched the whole thing.

  216. polly sytrene

    Almost every “classic” film ever made. Casablanca, Citizen Kane etc etc etc blah blah de blah blah. Just unwatchable and boring. Give me Mamma Mia any time, at least it’s got Abba.

  217. Hedgepig

    “steely-jawed women in sensible footwear”

    Another bit of imagery indigenous to male cinematic language.

  218. Shopstewardess

    One thing not I think mentioned (although in over 200 posts I may well have missed it) is the frequency with which women actors in Hollywood are expected to play prostituted women, and given awards for it. It seems to apply just as much or more in modern films as in older ones. It would be interesting for instance to do a count of Oscar winners/nominations to see what proportion are for playing prostituted women – two fairly recent examples that come to mind are Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger.

    My suspicion is that sleazebag Hollywood men like to see rich, successful, beautiful and (sometimes) powerful women play prostitutes because in the sleazebags’ tiny little minds, it puts those women on a level where they might have a chance.

    Re peeing standing up – the trick is to untangle the labia first (a quick “alongsides” rub with forefingers in opposite motion should do the trick), then the stream goes where you want it to. Foxglove leaves (poisonous, mind, so be carefull) make good paper.

  219. Pinko Punko

    Please do not ever watch Separate Tables unless under extreme jaundice of eye or when one’s lobe has been entirely fortified with massive obstreperal insulation.

  220. Squiggy

    Shopstewardess thrilled me on two counts:

    First when she wrote “It would be interesting for instance to do a count of Oscar winners/nominations to see what proportion are for playing prostituted women – two fairly recent examples that come to mind are Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger.” I’d like to add to that recent count, Mira Sorvino for “Mighty Aphrodite,” 1995.

    Second, when she gave practical advice for the standing pee.

    All the comments here for the successful standing pee have edified my technique and improved my pee-cred greatly. Thanks.

  221. MarianK

    Re female Oscar winners/nominations playing prostitutes, one definitive list is here:


    It gives 21 instances in all!! Out of 81 years of Oscars – this makes the odds 1 in 4. Un-friggin-believable!

    Another odd but interesting statistic given is that 4 female Oscar winners have played mutes – Jane Wyman, Patty Duke, Marly Matlin and Holly Hunter.

    Unfortunately, there were no stats on how many females have won Oscars for onscreen urinating.

  222. oldfeminist

    Women who don’t have periods, or at least don’t have any menstrual paraphernalia in their homes or in their purses.

    Women whose PMS turns them into literal monsters, monsters who coincidentally only attack and punish men.

  223. Shopstewardess

    MarianK, thank you for finding a site which confirmed my prejudices!

    Fascinatingly, the site gives 25 nominations and 21 wins for playing prostitutes, and 14 nominations but only 2 wins for playing nuns.

    Guess we now have statistics which demonstrate the realities of the virgin/whore divide in Hollywood.

  224. PandanCat

    I’m not a real movie person. I’m not a movie person at all. A recent Thai movie that was otherwise okay drove me nuts with an attempted rape scene, though. The main character, the daughter of a warrior queen and an armored, bow-wielding badass herself, is sleeping in a pirate cave. When the other main character (a mentally disturbed shaman) tries to rape her (mistaking her for his long-dead wife) all she can do is flutter her hands and go ‘oh! oh! oh!’ Only the intervention of the dashing, loyal admiral saves her from catastrophe. WTF? We’re supposed to believe that she knows how to shoot apples but can’t fight back against an emaciated, hallucinating drifter? The real historical character would have broken his scrawny neck with her thumbs.

    Re: Peeing. Isn’t there a peeing scene in Volver? I think it’s the only movie I saw when I was back in the US a couple years ago. I do remember a frank toilet scene, too.

  225. Ermingarde

    Selma Hayek pees onscreen in Fools Rush In. Wonderful idea for a coffee table book! I would buy it.

  226. Spiders

    So Hollywood likes it’s women silent but very sexually available. What a surprise.

  227. Occasional Expositor

    The scene where the women are peeing standing up in The Full Monty is there to show how “emasculated” the men are (I think it actually takes place in a men’s bathroom, which is why Our Hero sees it). That film was about the poor, sad men who are rendered testicle-less when the women in their lives do masculine things, like earn money. This then leads to the unnatural peeing dealio.

    Movie gripes: I hate how all action films come down in the end to a fist fight between two men. They could be living 10,000 years in the future and have spent most of the film firing laser cannons at each other from 4 light-years away, but there will be some ultimate muy macho in-person ass-kicking 10 minutes before the end of the film.

  228. Cranky Old Coot

    Name a movie where the protagonist is an adult woman, and she ends up
    1. Alive and healthy
    2. Happy
    3. Not in love

    How about Patricia Neal in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). She realizes what a barfbag Hugh Marlowe is in about 5 seconds flat and dumps his sorry ass without going through the standard Hollywood cliche of agonizing over it for half the movie and berating herself for being uncaring or selfish (blah,blah,blah). This after she tells him that Klaatu the space alien told her all his plans and Hugh looks contemptuously at her and practically says “Why would ANYONE important say ANYTHING important to a MERE WOMAN like you?” and then tops it off with that patriarchal punchline that the only thing a GIRL cares about is her studly alphamale getting his “picture in all the newspapers.” Hey, she single-handedly saves the planet from the ravishes of Gort

  229. Wm T Sherman

    What a strange misreading of Dr. Strangelove. Everything about it that you say you did not like was being lampooned by the film.

  230. Sophie

    Not sure why commenters are making such a complicated affair out of peeing standing up. When I need to pee au naturel I just squat a bit, hold my clothes out of the way and let rip. It never goes on my shoes unless I’m very drunk and therefore unsteady. If wearing a long skirt, I use it as a tent for some privacy; that never gets wet either. Perhaps I am an anatomical anomaly.

  231. Jill

    “What a strange misreading of Dr. Strangelove. Everything about it that you say you did not like was being lampooned by the film.”

    As an anti-war film it is flawed, regardless of its masterful dudely lampoonery, because its perspective is exclusively dudely. And supposed work of art or philosophy or politics which ignores the existence of women is flawed. Like Marxism.

    I don’t see what’s so hard to grasp about that concept.

    I suppose “Fight Club” is a feminist movie, too?

  232. norbizness

    I don’t think Dr. Strangelove is an anti-war film, it’s a lampooning of all those Cold Warisms like mutually assured destruction, gaps, the fact that foreign policy was being dictated by loons like Curtis LeMay, etc.

    Paths of Glory is more of a straight anti-war film, but it must be similarly flawed because of the non-existence of women soldiers in WWI trench warfare. I would have argued it was flawed because of some bad acting by secondary actors, overacting by Kirk Douglas, and intermittently corny dialogue, but hey…

  233. beethovenqueen

    will see if I can embed a movie of quality here:

  234. beethovenqueen

    could not embed :(

    ok, here’s the link to “the Girls of Alaska”:


  235. MarianK


    Absolutely ditto about Patricia Neal in Day the Earth Stood Still! In addition to her passing all 3 criteria, the filmmakers are to be commended for keeping the relationship between her and Klaatu to one of mutual respect and not going for any of that star-crossed sexual tension stuff.

    I’ve also always been intrigued by the fact that as a working mother she chose a boarding house lifestyle, which meant she didn’t have to cook or clean, and there were plenty of people around to keep an eye on her son when she wanted some time to herself. She was none of the usual bunch of cliches Hollywood always reserved for young widows – tired, isolated, downtrodden and devoted, and SOoo in need of a man to take care of her and be a dad to her son.


    Actually, much of the theme of Fight Club IS a mirror image of feminism. I haven’t watched it right through, but from what I have seen, the film seems to explore the dark side of masculinity in much the same way that feminism does with femininity and the beauty myth. The mutual SELF harm these guys inflict on themselves in some perverse quest to feel real as men is a similar psychology to female self-mutilation and eating disorders. At least, that’s my take on it.

  236. moodygirl


    I actually agree about Fight Club. I used it (the film) when I was teaching a madness-themed writing class to college freshman a few years back. My recollection is now imperfect but as well as I can recall, my interpretation was that the Edward Norton/Brad Pitt character(s) felt emasculated by their empty consumerist existence (and of course, the association of women with consumerism goes back to roughly the dawn of consumerism as we know it)–as the Brad Pitt character says, (rough quote from memory) “We’re a generation of men raised by women [goes on to blame everything on this fact].” Unable to feel anything, Ed Norton’s character starts going to support groups for diseases he doesn’t have (but pretends to); these support group meetings, filled as they are with weeping, pathologized male specimens, enable Norton to feel and even cry, yet the pathological (and seemingly feminine) nature of these meetings is represented by Meatloaf’s character, who has been doubly emasculated when the treatment for his testicular cancer has caused him to develop man-boobs. Thus, the support group habit proves ultimately inadequate, and the menz begin fighting each other, then blowing shit up, to reclaim their apocryphal lost masculinity; in what you might call the film’s axial event, Norton’s schizophrenic alter ego blows up his condo, ushering him into the uber-masculine underground and destroying in the process a yin-yang table representing not emasculation but balance between the (heteronormative) genders. Eventually, however, Norton and (hopefully) the viewer eventually realize that the rules of Fight Club are analogous to those of American consumer society in their restrictiveness (“Fight Club [rather than work] became the reason to cut your hair short or to clip your fingernails”) while far surpassing it in sheer senseless destruction.

    I’m forgetting a lot of details, and I do agree that on a cursory viewing, the film appears to articulate a need for a return to some sort of bullshit primal masculinity (and I think more than a few of my male students were a bit shocked to hear otherwise). However, I do think it is ultimately a feminist film in that it directly engages gender roles and dismisses stereotypical masculine desires (for fighting, destruction, sex without responsibility, militarism, etc.) as juvenile and destructive.

    Compare with Dr. Strangelove, which, while clearly satirical, is just as clearly dude-centric. Even the bit at the end, where they discuss how the only people who will be spared the nuclear apocalypse will be men who perform essential functions and hot women with whom they can propagate the species, while seeming to approach feminist critique, I think ultimately fails in presenting women as a part of the spoils of war for corrupt leaders rather than individuals with agency. Kubrick was in my opinion one of the most brilliant filmmakers ever to have his head straight up his ass for his entire career, but I can appreciate how he unironically tries to critique manifestations of dudeliness without ever considering doing so in other than a totally dude-centric manner, even when it meant removing nuance from his original source material. Great stuff for feminist film critique, though.

    I’m also really glad to see the critique of phallus-pissing above. That is my goddamn pet movie peeve of recent years, bar none.

  237. xochitl


    Your male students’ interpretation of the movie as a glorification of male violence is affirmed by the writer of Fight Club in these interviews:



    Here’s my favorite quote from the first interview:

    “There’s a reason men don’t read, and it’s because books don’t serve men. It’s time we produce books that serve men.”

  238. wiggles

    I saw a good one last night. Phoebe in Wonderland. The Bechdel rule applies, and the main character, though a girl of about elevenish, ends up happy, healthy, and not in love. She has some kind of CPD and the only thing that makes her feel okay is doing a school play of “Alice in Wonderland” with a female drama teacher who actually encourages kids to think for themselves.

    A specific chafer:
    The thing where a shiny black car pulls up to a curb, the door opens, and sexy trumpet music plays as a sexy woman’s sexily high-heeled foot steps sexily out of the car and onto the sidewalk. Done to death, that one. It’s usually immediately followed by a toe-to-head pan of said sexy lady, so you can slowly take in all her sexiness.

  239. wiggles

    “steely-jawed women in sensible footwear”

    That’d make a cool-ass band name!

  240. C. Atrox

    In the late 60s and early 70s, it certainly seems there was a growing awareness of women as self-possessed, articulate, and strong, even if the movies aren’t quite perfect from a feminist perspective.

    I think of Robert Altman’s “Three Women”. Also “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” where Julie Christie (yes, I know, a prostitute!) has complete control over the men around her. And then there are two films by Hal Ashby – “Harold and Maude” and “Coming Home”, with very strong female characters.

    Someone above did mention Agnes Varda, the great French director, as someone who has brought a complex reading to women in cinema. But I would also dare to suggest that Ingmar Bergman did the same thing, especially if you look at “Persona”.

  241. MarianK

    Some thoughts re Moodygirl/xochtl on Fight Club.

    ‘“There’s a reason men don’t read, and it’s because books don’t serve men. It’s time we produce books that serve men.”’ [Chuck Palahniuk]

    Try walking into any library, kiddo! The blind ignorance of these kinds of statements from supposedly thinking men never cease to amaze me. They’re made from behind a screen of centuries of invisible entitlement that surrounds every aspect of their being.

    To give Chuckie the benefit of the doubt, he probably means that ‘books don’t address masculinity’. If so, then why can’t he make an effort at some gender political nuance. After all, he’s IS a writer using gendered themes.

    Actually, this quote of CP’s from xochtl’s second interview link is my fave:

    ‘People need to be broken and rebuilt, and to have scars to prove it. It’s a time when we’re acknowledging this need, and finding ways to fulfill it other than just buying stuff.’

    Which sort of gets back to Moody’s and my comments on Fight Club and feminism. I think FC is an UNINTENTIONAL feminist film – in that it sets out to redeem male violence but, instead, inadvertently plumbs the depths of male masochism.

    Unlike female masochism, which is inextricably linked to the social construct of women’s desirability to men and devotion to children, male masochism is bound up in men’s need to please the patriarchal establishment from which they derive their dominant status. The essentially male domains of war, sport and business all demand a certain quota of ‘sacrificial’ damage to men’s bodies, minds and lives – which is why they are imbued with so much heroism … and why Hollywood makes so many movies about them.

  242. brblamer

    Alive, happy and not in love: Showgirls.

    Peeing on film: Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut, Ashley Olsen in New York Minute. Another Kidman vehicle, Margot at the Wedding has Jennifer Jason Leigh defecating in her underwear out of frustration.

    One problem in teen movies that hasn’t been mentioned is the complete abandon of “real”(i.e. sexualized) teenage female characteres favoring “pure” and/or magical ones. Aquamarine, although lovely in how it represents friendship among young girls (to the point of they both giving up on a boy in order to remain friends), does so by demonizing older girls wich are all evil, sexualized(fallen) and interchangeable. In 17 Again, a dad goes back in time, enrolls in his kids school, destroys his daughter relationship while pimping out his dorky son to the popular girl. He lectures in class about abstention, the dangers of sex education and why you shouldn’t be a slut. The girls all pleasantly follow him because he’s so goddamn dreamy.

  243. vejoaronda

    In terms of 1) Alive and healthy 2) Happy 3) and not in love for an adult women, Jackie Brown fares very well. The interplay between the Cherry and Jackie is quite unique for an otherwise straightforward crime film, especially when you consider their age and race. There is though, an entirely gratuitous murder of a whining blond that I guess was intended for laughs? Now that I’m reading the wikipedia summary, though, it says Jackie asks Cherry to come with her? Didn’t remember that, I thought she just took the money and ran. Pandagon has an interesting take on Tarantino:

    You can’t ignore the first two Alien films. I don’t get No Fun’s point about the first one – these are exactly the type of films we want, ones which realistically portray patriarchy and protagonists overcoming it. I think the second one is truly remarkable – there are two competent males in the whole movie, and one’s a robot. The other men are alternately portrayed as cowardly, bumbling, and conniving, and all of them die (even the robot!). There’s one other trash-talking female trooper who gets the biggest gun. I also disagree with the notion that the aliens themselves are highly feminine – although they got sleeker as the years went on they were intentionally designed to be a nightmarish amalgam of all sorts of sexual imagery, female and male. I haven’t seen the later ones and although I’ve heard they’re awful I gather the last one revolves around them needing to clone Ripley because she’s the only one who can beat the aliens.

    To the Star Trek defenders, Ryder playing Quinto’s mom is ridiculous – I think I read she’s only three years older. While her death wasn’t sexualized I thought it was pretty bizarre/abrupt/entirely unnecessary except for Quinto’s motivation. Interestingly, however, the more prototypically jockular male doesn’t end up with a woman.

    Sorry if someone’s already posted this, I haven’t been through the whole thread, feministing on favorite movies:

  244. Fenix

    Re: Fight Club movie

    A friend and accredited patriarchy-blamer once pointed out to me that the dude who brings down all the man-shit, Tyler, is also the schizo unreality dude–masculinity as mental illness. And in the end there’s only one cure for it: death.

    This one little node of meaning shouldn’t be taken out of context when considering the rest of the dudely hatepuke in the film, but it does provide an amusing bomb to drop on some dude who loves the movie for how manly it is.

  245. Patty M.

    I’m coming in late on this.

    In the movie “MASH” where the Hot Lips character (who is a strong controlling woman and must be punished – ho hum) is taking a shower and someone rigs it to open leaving her naked body exposed to everyone in the camp. As she runs for cover, everyone whoops and hollers. The presentation is seemingly innocent, but it sent a chill up my spine. It felt like a rape scene.

  246. Jason W.

    At first I thought you were joking Jill, until I read your comments. Well, this sweeping dismissal is almost frighteningly inconsiderate and ignorant.

    My thesis is this: that the entire canon of 20th century cinema is misogynist, classist, racist, and is therefore impossible for the radical feminist to appreciate without cringing, throwing stuff, and blowing a lobe.

    I don’t think there is a “canon” so to speak. If there is one, people would probably pin the AFI list, which has been put into question by Jonathan Rosenbaum and others. Well I hope you do research because it would be massive. So far you’ve experienced everything TCM has to offer, which is classic Hollywood movies, I assume. Now you’re gonna have to look at movies made across the globe, at varying level of budgets and exposure and so forth (and not just fiction filmmaking, but non-fiction and even experimental) to support this assertion that one hundred years of cinema is sexist, racist and impossible for someone with an ideological bent such as yours to appreciate (I would hope it would show strong analysis, like attention not just to a film’s content, but form as well and what they signify). No doubt a lot the films of the past suffer from the lack of multicultural or progressive views on race, gender and class but it is simply not fair to fault something for its lack of a radical feminist perspective, especially when a film shows no sign of being concerned with such issues. It’s like hunting and killing something that’s not even there to begin with.

    Maybe you would like to restate your thesis and say that those classic Hollywood films by big name directors (Welles, Ford, Hitchcock, Hawks, Wilder, et. al.) fail the race/gender/class test case for awesome cinema.

    Also, do you have any more examples besides Dr. Strangelove?

  247. nails

    Going to Palahnuik for fight club interpretation is a very bad idea. The ending is different in the book and he admits that the movie is better than his book. Not only that, but his book Stranger Than Fiction does nothing but reveal to you that he glues anecdotes together really well and thats what his writing is about. He doesn’t really have all this deep political whatnot going on as a goal. Anyone who has read his books knows that they are extremely repetative and that he absolutely fails to present a realistic narrator other than Jack, he just gets transported to a different story for books like Choke and Survivor.

    A lot of fight club was based off of some dudes wrestling groups and how weirdly self destructive they all were in order to be masculine. I don’t know how that could be interpreted into being a good thing, they are all hurting themselves and others to fit in. I felt like the longer portion of the story about fight club repeated the pattern of buying/doing stuff to feel “complete” with an awful cost. All the consumerist stuff was bad but Tyler’s way was bad too. He was clearly a pathogenic force.

  248. MarianK

    Jason W.

    ‘… it is simply not fair to fault something for its lack of a radical feminist perspective, especially when a film shows no sign of being concerned with such issues.’

    This is all very mature and objective of you, except for one little thing you’ve overlooked – this is a feminist website.

    On a feminist website, it’s extremely fair to fault something – anything – for its lack of a feminist perspective … radical, moderate or otherwise. That’s what feminists do – they inject a feminist perspective into aspects of our culture.

    In fact, you’re falling into your own trap. You’re finding fault with a blog commentary that ‘shows no sign of being concerned with such [film] issues’ as you describe – content, form, global perspectives, budget etc.

    If you want to discuss issues like these, go to one of the many thousands of platforms that enable you to do so – film sites, cinematic literature, university film courses, film festivals etc – that are all too happy to discuss by far the most influential art form of the last 100 years (95% of which was made by men), with absolutely no reference whatsoever to feminist perspectives.

  249. Felicity

    Hi Jason,

    We’re intelligent radical blamers. We sense the ‘how dare you woman’ tone in the first sentence (or word if it’s ‘I’), and don’t bother to read the rest. We usually don’t have to as posts like yours get binned.

  250. Jezebella

    I do so enjoy the natterings of self-important, authoritarian, supercilious dudes who begin sentences “Maybe you would like to restate your thesis…” in a blog comment. On SOMEONE ELSE’S BLOG. The world is not your classroom, wannabe professor guy. I note that he also gave us all assigned movie-watching, because we’re too dumb to unnerstand that there are movies not on TCM.

  251. Spiders

    Jason, sweetheart, until you have been a woman living in and watching movies in a male-dominated society, then you simply do not have the capacity to appreciate the perspective of a woman living in and watching movies in a male-dominated society. The experts on issues of oppression are those who are oppressed. All you can do really is shutup listen and learn from us; you have NOTHING to teach us.

  252. Kristel

    Yes, “helpless woman” movies. And ones where the hero has to avenge his brutally murdered wife and chile.
    Anything starring Sean Connery.
    One old movie I DO like is “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, two heroines who row mostly about money.

  253. K

    A woman peeing on film: Maria Schneider in Last tango in Paris.

  254. Andy

    One of the reasons I hate old movies, especially black and white movies from the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s is that they look they were shot on an extremely low budget. They rarely filmed somewhere outside on location…almost all scenes take place inside an obvious Hollywood studio with boring lighting. Also, they also seem to all start with opening credits with the same orchestral instrumental music…I swear all the music sounds the same! Nothing dark, dreary, or exciting! Just a lot of strings and trumpets playing. It’s like every musical score was just a copy of the previous one, unlike today where there is much more variety with the music. Also, the editing was based on very long takes, where the same shot of someone talking would last 30 seconds to 2 minutes, without a cut to someone else’s face or putting the camera in a different position. Today it is rare for any cut to last longer than about 10 seconds. Doing these long takes over and over again bores the viewer, and makes the scene feel much longer than it really is. The stories are also mostly boring, as they were not allowed to delve into interesting topics involving anything “impure” like violence, sex, politics, drugs, or any other vice in human nature.

  255. Jill

    Andy reveals a remarkably unsophisticated grasp of the cinematic arts.

  256. Laughingrat

    Andy reveals a remarkably unsophisticated grasp of cinematic history, too. Ever read a damn book, Andy? There are many fine books about film history at your local library. I recommend them, although books take longer than ten seconds to read and are therefore automatically “boring.”

    I wonder if this guy ever actually watched a movie made before 1960. I wonder if this guy is really just a troll. Maybe I’ll go watch something by Fritz Lang instead of feeding him–something like “Spies,” which has lots of interesting editing, racy themes, on-location filming, unusual sets, and variety in camera angles and lighting. Of course it’s a silent, so even though it has all the things that Andy insists all old movies lack, it is still boring, because Andy would have to actually read in order to get what was going on.

  257. Sam

    Name a movie where the protagonist is an adult woman, and she ends up
    1. Alive and healthy
    2. Happy
    3. Not in love

    Year of the Dog

  258. roesmoker

    re: Women going to sleep/waking up with full makeup – peeves me too, and now there’s new “Maybelline(tm) SuperStay” 24-hour makeup! Because gawd forbid there be a single second of the day or night when TEH MENZ could be terrified by how haggard and awful we must really look under that mask of chemicals.

    When I saw that commercial I thought, “There’s an IBTP post in the making.”

    I have so many movie peeves (old and new) I can’t even list them all. Luckily y’all got most of them for me above.

  259. Ann

    The level of ignorance found in the original piece and the comments that followed it is absolutely astonishing.

  260. Parker

    I totally agree. Especially with the commenter who mentioned ‘The Philadelphia Story’ – I consider it to be a horror film really: http://fnweep.wordpress.com/2010/03/23/the-philadelphia-story/

  261. EJ

    The original post and the comments that followed are beyond ridiculous not to mention ignorant, are you people for real? WTF??!!

  1. Jacqueline Hill as Sandy Lavery in The Comedy Man (1964) « Jacqueline Hill

    […] intellectual relationship”. Creepy? You decide. I will simply link you to this fine blog post, “All Old Movies Suck”, over at I Blame The Patriarchy. Share this:MoreLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

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