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Nov 04 2009

All Old Movies Still Suck

Of all the classic film genres I love to hate, I love to hate none more fervently than the mid-century sex farce. Mid-century sex farces suck.

As you know, by “mid-century sex farce,” I of course mean “bogus fucking misogynist fantasy crap.” And no classic film is more mid-century-sex-farcical than the one I watched the other day on the Turner Classic Movie channel. The flick to which I allude is so bogusly fucking misogynistical, they might as well have called it “How To Murder Your Wife.”

Oh wait, they did call it “How To Murder Your Wife.”

“Bring The Little Woman…Maybe She’ll Die Laughing!” The tagline was apparently written by somebody who thinks women should just get a sense of humor, already, about wife-murdering. Quoth an IMDB commenter who accurately articulates the enduring popularity of this fantasy:

A friend of a friend is one of those femi-nutzis. She hates this movie with a passion & proceeded to tell me why in a lengthy boring diatribe. After I woke from my slumber, (as femi-nutzis are prone to lull one to sleep with their “blah blah blahs”) I took it upon myself to get the movie as soon as possible. I was never offended by the alleged “sexism”: Why shouldn’t women be capable to take a men’s joke with humor?

The premise of this mind-bogglingly sexist 1965 Jack Lemmon comedy: the hero, a louche, martini-drinking playboy whose fabulous Manhattan bachelor pad comes equipped with Terry-Thomas as one of those droll and doting English valet sidekicks, wakes up to find that he got shitfaced and married Virna Lisi, the Italian beauty queen who jumped out of a cake at last night’s debauch. Lemmon is horrified by this fuck-up, since matrimony means an abrupt end to his with-it Hefneriffic swingertopia. Lemmon and Terry-Thomas spend the rest of the movie enmeshed in unfunny comedic hijinx related to springing Lemmon from the disastrous legal contract requiring him to be waited on hand and foot by a non-English-speaking sex goddess who worships him, cooks for him, and puts out 24/7. The hijinx include, it will not surprise you to learn, a plot to murder Virna Lisi.

Note: filmmakers who want to get maximum gyrations out of their non-English-speaking Italian bombshell actresses should take a hint from this movie: whatever you do, don’t write a translator into the script, or add subtitles, or your bitch won’t be able to wigglingly pantomime everything, such as how her clothes got stolen at the International Miss Jugs pageant. Having her clothes get stolen is pretty ingenious, too, since it means she can spend the rest of the first act naked under a shiny black plastic raincoat.

A waxy yellow build-up of sexist clichés — the battle-axe mother-in-law, the hen-pecked husband best friend — culminates in a courtroom scene in which Lemmon’s character beats the titular murder rap by postulating to the court that the essential emasculating nature of women justifies killing them, and that if they let him off the hook they’ll be striking a blow for American Male Justice everywhere. Lemmon’s speech:

Too long has the American man allowed himself to be bullied, coddled, and mothered, and tyrannized, and in general meant to feel like a feeble-minded idiot by the female of the species. Do you realize the power that you have in your hand here today? If one man – just one man – can stick his wife in the goop from the gloppitta-gloppitta machine, and get away with it! Whoa-ho-ho, boy, we’ve got it made. We have got it made. All of us.

Then, of course, Virna Lisi turns out not to have been murdered after all. They live, if you can stand it, happily ever after, because Virna Lisi is a bimbo, and still adores Jack Lemmon, even though he has humiliated her, drugged her, and spent a whole movie trying to get rid of her.

How this movie could pass for comedy, even in 1965, is beyond any sane person’s comprehension. “How To Murder Your Wife” is too ugly to pass for satire, and too mean-spirited and vulgar to rise even to the level of curious sociological artifact. It’s just a tarnished, tasteless old relic from that pervy rumpus-room interlude in honky dude American history — the period just after June Cleaver’s heyday and just before 2nd wave feminism — when stylish boozing, accessorizing, and womanizing was considered a sophisticated art form. It is unlikely that this glittering Rat Packian lifestyle actually existed anywhere but in movies and the pages of Playboy, but it nevertheless foreshadowed today’s mainstream Porn Nation.

This picture is so over-the-top hateful that even TCM’s host was moved to remark, in a sad and wistful tone, that it’s the kind of film that just wouldn’t get made today. Normally these TCM hosts are matter-of-fact about the female sexprops that parade with perfect cadence through the dude movies they show. Their idea of a feminist film is “The Women,” in which a bunch of rich white housewives sit around gossiping in a beauty parlor about their husbands’ mistresses. So it’s really saying something when a TCM dude actually quasi-acknowledges that one of their beloved classics might fail to delight women audiences today. That “How To Murder Your Wife” is 128 minutes of uninterrupted hate speech, however, does not prevent TCM from airing it. And on a Saturday afternoon, too, guaranteeing maximum exposure to two groups who can least tolerate it: invalids, who are already sick enough, and impressionable youths, whom it will scar for life.

In other words, blah blah blah.

94 comments

1 ping

  1. notalady

    This explains for me the experiences my beautiful-for-a-living friend is having. Was a condensed version of this perhaps shown as a filmstrip to sixth graders as part of sex-ed class?

    Also, your adjective coining is off the hook today. Yee haw!

  2. Felicity

    It wouldn’t surprise me if this *did* get made today, tbh.

  3. Felicity

    “Too long has the American man allowed himself to be bullied, coddled, and mothered, and tyrannized, and in general meant to feel like a feeble-minded idiot by the female of the species. Do you realize the power that you have in your hand here today? If one man – just one man – can stick his wife in the goop from the gloppitta-gloppitta machine, and get away with it! Whoa-ho-ho, boy, we’ve got it made. We have got it made. All of us. ”

    Ooo maybe this explains a lot.

  4. buttercup

    You’re a dab hand at blamey movie reviews, Jill. Well done!

  5. Larkspur

    Love With The Proper Stranger was made in 1963. It starred Natalie Wood and Steve McQueen, and I liked it. I haven’t seen it for years, but I’m wondering if it holds up, and I think it might. It might mitigate the nasty taste of “How To Murder Your Wife”.

    (In case I screwed up the link, the movie is “Love With The Proper Stranger”.)

  6. Pantsuit Sally

    How is it that women got the reputation for being emotional and prone to overreacting when a man compares a woman to a perpetrator of genocide merely because she takes issue with blatant (not “alleged”) sexism in a movie?

    “Lemmon and Terry-Thomas spend the rest of the movie enmeshed in unfunny comedic hijinx related to springing Lemmon from the disastrous legal contract requiring him to be waited on hand and foot by a non-English-speaking sex goddess who worships him, cooks for him, and puts out 24/7.”

    Seriously, if marriage was such a prison, why didn’t Lemmon’s character just get divorced? Back then, women didn’t have nearly as many protections in divorce cases as they do now (not that current protections are necessarily adequate). Or why didn’t he just continue with his swingin’ playboy lifestyle, so he could have sex with as many beautiful women as he wanted AND have a live-in maid/concubine? It’s not like anyone who mattered (read: men) would have judged him for it. Oh, wait- such a plot twist would have eliminated the opportunity for a puffed-up speech about how hard teh menz have it, what with their fantasy-come-true wives expecting them to exercise fidelity and treat them as human beings instead of inflatable dolls.

  7. Narya

    That speech is straight out of early-1960s Playboy, actually. There was a guy (whose name I am blocking) who wrote these incredible, hate-filled screeds. (It wasn’t Hefner himself; his stuff was sexist, patronizing, and full of essentialist dogma, but not hate-filled, per se.)

    And, in reality, much of that crap is straight out of the American Freudians of the late 1940s, and much of it was published in magazines for women, so Playboy isn’t uniquely sexist. (Of course not, it being a patriarchy and all.)

  8. norbizness

    Next up: Why “The Happening” was not, in fact, happening.

  9. Husca

    The IMDB reviews are hilarious:

    “This is not a film for feminists. It takes a dim view at the effect of domestication on Lemmon (and his lawyer, a hysterically funny Eddie Mayehoff). But I point out that before the end Lemmon does admit he misses the domestication.”
    (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058212/)

    Feminists these days are so freaking domestic! It’s little known that Rebecca Walker’s landmark “I am the Third Wave” concluded with a call to arms for all women to feed, clean, adore and pleasure their husbands.

  10. ladiesbane

    TCM should have followed it with La Reine Margot: Virna Lisi plays Catherine de Medici, who successfully used murder as a way to remove unwanted social obligations. Hilarity did not ensue.

  11. Stella

    This is all I have to say: http://static.screenweek.it/2008/11/6/virna-lisi.jpg

  12. rootlesscosmo

    One of the ways groups on top stay that way is by hollering nonstop about how pushed-around and oppressed they are, with the actually subordinate groups doing the oppressing. Feminists = Nazis! (Look, see the crowds of men being loaded onto boxcars headed to the death camp?) Public option = Stalinism! (See all those right wing talk show hosts being sent to the Gulag?) New movies that suck are different in style from old movies that suck–less nudge-nudge, more explicit pornulated raunch–but not all that different in substance.

  13. Kelly

    Feminists = Nazis! (Look, see the crowds of men being loaded onto boxcars headed to the death camp?) Public option = Stalinism!

    Hell hath no fury like entitlement scorned.

    Seriously, if marriage was such a prison, why didn’t Lemmon’s character just get divorced?

    “Listen, Charles. She’s in love so she’s never going to agree to a divorce. So we’re left with only one choice…murder.”

    Ack.

  14. Butters

    This movie sounds terrible. Thank you for the warning, as I might have been tempted to watch it to test my feminist humourfulness.

    However, some old movies are good IMO. What do you think about The Children’s Hour?

  15. Samantha

    Oh good lard, I too saw this particular sex-farce on TCM! Or, rather, I started it but found it so stiltingly dull and insulting that I fell asleep on my cherry red chaise just after the sex-ay, sex-ay black-patent-leather coated mannequin is “murdered.” Super-fucking-yawn.

  16. humanbein

    This movie is worse than even “The Quiet Man” or Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” for outright misogyny, because the despicable thing we call a “female” is so completely represented as an object that she doesn’t even speak our language. Men delight in this movie precisely because it brings into the cold light of day many of the precise reasons why they hate women so much. Women are sexy. Women are subhuman, and want to trick men into marrying them, which is imprisoning men. The degradation of women is so complete that they are actually untouchables; contact with whom degrades men from their lofty status.

    It’s almost as if these men were seeking to give us a textbook example on the exact meaning of objectification. The female character is as close to an object as you can get without being inanimate. She even exists outside of society she is so inhuman. She has no friends, no context in his world at all.

    TCM has taught me, over and over, the arc of the descent of the cultural representation of the female from human being to object. Since patriarchy is a cultural construct, movies reflect the way our culture views women, and during World War II a shift took place that was so profound that it’s hard to understand why it wasn’t noticed at the time. Women went from smart, witty, rounded characters to cardboard props portrayed as outright stupid and with no thoughts except for love and marriage almost over night.

    The last great woman’s movie I saw on TCM was a Fay Wray vehicle called – get this! “Ann Carver’s Profession”. While I know as well as anyone that there is no such thing as a feminist movie, this movie is almost the opposite. Fay plays a woman who marries her college football playing boyfriend and they try to make a normal life together. But she gets an opportunity to work as a lawyer, which she has a degree for, and he works as an architect. Soon she is incredibly successful at it because she is so smart and accomplished, and her natural desire for success takes her further and further, while the husband gamely goes along, slightly jealous of her success. Because his career is a success, too, just not as spectacular as his brilliant wife’s.

    As the NYTimes movie review of this movie said at the time, it’s just another of the many, many films about a woman excelling at her career while her shlub husband struggles with the idea that his wife is better than him. But that’s precisely my point: There used to be a whole genre of films about this very idea in the early 1930s. This film deals with the problem in a realistic and skillful way. It presents it as a problem between two people who love each other and have less and less in common with each other rather than a threat to male privilege. I was shocked at how little a part the idea that women working is wrong played in this movie – it was the lack of the man’s success rather than the wrongness of the woman working that was the focus. Even though it ends, as usual, with her retiring to make a home for him, her superiority is still unquestioned. It’s positioned as a sacrifice she makes, not as her natural place.

    This whole genre of movies is as dead today as it was when they made “How To Murder Your Wife” is it not?

  17. Julie

    Dear Jill,

    Thank You.

  18. AlanSmithee

    I seriously doubt that impressionable youths are watching old sexist movies on TCM. In all probability, they’re far too busy playing Grand Theft Auto.

  19. Samantha

    Speaking of old movies, Jill, if you have any thoughts on “Adam’s Rib” (Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy) I’d love to hear them, particularly on the butt slap scene.

  20. Larkspur

    Sometimes the old movies aren’t so bad, as long as you turn the TV off about five or ten minutes before the end. “My Fair Lady” is like that.

  21. Shopstewardess

    I remember seeing this film on TV at about aged 12 or so. I recognised in the Jack Lemmon character’s situation at the beginning of the film what I wanted for myself: financial independence, a great place to live in an interesting locale, no-one I had to answer to.

    Reader, I made it.

  22. Mo

    The one I remember watching as a wee girl on Movies for a Sunday Afternoon (a.k.a Misogyny for Impressionable Minds) was McLintock! a John Wayne swagger-fest in which Stefanie Powers’s character gets spanked by her husband. Her father (Wayne) is ever so obliging to help him by offering a cast iron coal shovel to use instead of his hand.

    The film ends in veritable hilarity as Wayne chases Maureen O’Hara through the middle of a western town while the town’s entire population chases after to watch. Her petticoat gets ripped off, she gets dunked in a horse trough, and thrown out of several windows and sold out by several women along the way before Wayne eventually catches up to her, pulls her over his knee and spanks her (with another cast iron coal shovel which the son-in-law now obligingly supplies, har! har!) in front of the whole town while she screams and thrashes, an observer shouts: “My father would be proud of you!” and the town just cracks the heck up.

    She eventually is thrown to the ground, the shovel is given back to the son-in-law because he’s going to need it and Wayne takes off in a horse and buggy while O’Hara proclaims that he can’t get rid of her that easily and chases the buggy down. The last scene is shot a distance to the intimate silhouette of the oh-so-happy couple in the window of their ranch as you hear him checking to make sure she’s duly obedient in the aftermath of the spanking and them embracing as the lights go out.

    It may well have been the moment I became a feminist.

    The interwebs tells me that the movie featured the spanking on the poster and carried the tagline: “Wallops the daylights out of every western you’ve ever seen!”

  23. Marilyn

    *sigh*

  24. humanbein

    I just want to remind some of us and inform others that Andrea Dworkin’s Intercourse does exactly the same horrifying analysis on some of the great writers of world literature. It’s all right there on the printed page, on the silver screen, as obvious as “Murder Your Wife” and even worse, and yet still 99% of the world will insist that men don’t hate women, despite the huge amount of unequivocal proof.

  25. magriff

    Good point, humanbein.

  26. madeleine

    Not completely off topic and too good anyway to keep for myself, a quote from a book about the seventies, sung by demonstrators:

    Male chauvinist, you’d better be shakin’
    ’cause today’s pig is tomorrow’s bacon!

  27. Twobees

    As men went off to war, women went to work in their place. Lo and fucking behold the wheels didn’t fall off… turns out the women were every bit equal to the men at doing ‘mans’ work. End of the war comes and now the men need to get their women back into the kitchens, etc.

    Hollywood played it’s part by undermining any standing women had earned while they made the shit that kept the country going while the men were off fighting.

    Thanks humanbein for the reminder.

  28. Aries

    Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. The Proposal is out at Blockbuster and I like Sandra Bullock. It made me laugh out loud and the characters seemed rather endearing. Hence, romantic comedy. It had the expected plot line of royal bitch boss and sweet boy/assistant who lives to please her/is a martyr symbol for the whole male race (and has father issues). She becomes aware of how great a family is, he is still a sweet wimp, she can’t handle the guilt of using him and leaves. As she is cleaning out her office, he arrives and they kiss and it’s obviously happy ever after. However, the last line in the movie is from one of the male office mates, “Yeah, show her who’s boss.” WTF? It ruined the movie for me. I guess I missed the point.

  29. K

    Shopstewardess, Congratulations! And extra points for the Bronte allusion.

  30. Squiggy

    ‘I just want to remind some of us and inform others that Andrea Dworkin’s Intercourse does exactly the same horrifying analysis on some of the great writers of world literature.’

    humanbein, might you name a particular book or article wherein I could read Andrea Dworkin’s brilliance on the subject of intercourse? I’m imagining that it’s woven throughout her works but I’d love to mainline her thoughts on the subject from that which you (or other commenters) find the pithiest.

  31. Hedgepig

    Shopstewardess, the fact that you were 12 years old and already had worked out the Cinderella trap reminds me that I think I know what is required to effect the revolution. Girls must somehow attain feminist consciousness and realise the utter bullshit that is the instruction to “pair-bond with a male or your life is a failure” BEFORE they turn 18 and are legally allowed to do so.
    As so many of us blamers know, feminist consciousness is possible in later life, but if you’ve already committed yourself to relationships and/or have offspring it’s that much harder to actually live a feminist life. And it’s the living of the idea that will bring about revolution. So we should try to work out how to get the radfem message across to girls.
    First step: blow up Hollywood movie studios, purveyors of the Cinderella complex extraordinaires.
    Second step: blow up all televisions, ditto.
    Third step: blow up a lot of books, ditto.

    We’ve gotta get ‘em young. But how, how? In other words, blah blah blah.

  32. Kelly

    I remember seeing this film on TV at about aged 12 or so. I recognised in the Jack Lemmon character’s situation at the beginning of the film what I wanted for myself: financial independence, a great place to live in an interesting locale, no-one I had to answer to.

    Or as my mother told me at about 13 ‘become the man you want to marry’ (was that Steinem?).

  33. Citizen Jane

    Of all the patriarchal ideas that boggle my mind, one of the most boggling is the idea that marriage is something women strive to get into while men strive to resist. Marriage is an institution that was created and continuously maintained in societies where women had absolutely zero power, and becomes progressively less common as women get more liberated. Statistically, it is women who initiate divorce more often, despite the fact that financial independence is far more available to married men.

    Add on top of this that the patriarchal model for marriage means a woman submitting to a man, giving up her entire life to cook and clean for him and raise his children for him. So how in the hell do you get people going around talking like marriage is something men get suckered into at the benefit of women? How? Why is it that we don’t get an image of men who get married giving each other high fives to celebrate their studliness?

  34. nails

    Why the hell is this allowed on television but all the old racist cartoons are permanently banned from tv?

  35. Notorious Ph.D.

    @ Larkspur: “My Fair Lady” — oh my, yes. After growing up singing the soundtrack (we had *two* copies of the album), I finally watched it for the first time when it came on TV around Christmas one year. My girlfriends and I were enjoying the hell out of it while digesting a truly epic meal, and then, in the very last seconds, at the very last line — well, I won’t ruin the surprise, but we howled in protest.

    Thanks, patriarchy, for retroactively ruining my childhood.

  36. Miriam

    @Squiggy: “Intercourse” is the title of the book. It is a great place to start.

    I had the same experience with “My Fair Lady” one Thanksgiving. So distressing.

  37. humanbein

    @squiggy:

    http://www.amazon.com/Intercourse-Andrea-Dworkin/dp/0465017525/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257385930&sr=1-2

    If that link doesn’t work, simply go to the bookstore of your choice and order “Intercourse” by Andrea Dworkin. It’s currently in print again!

    I have to warn you, though. It’s a very bleak and horrifying book. She’s such an artful, brilliant writer, and the misogyny she quotes is so overt and undeniable, that it’s all just one sickening shock after another. Must reading for the strong stomached, though.

    I would like every male on the planet to be forced to read this book, especially all liberal males who insist on their privileges in despite being perfectly capable of knowing better.

    There’s an interesting chapter on the concept of virginity that is controversial even for feminists. Dworkin is amazing.

  38. Pinko Punko

    I saw that on the cable guide and was hoping you were biffing off somewhere and not in the presence of its damaging radiation.

    It was Saul Bass night the other night but I could stay up for the million hour Anatomy of a Murder who’s highpoint is the jazz score, the widescreen Michigan Upper Peninsula black and white cinematography, and a somewhat novel argument that a woman doesn’t deserve to be raped no matter what she is wearing. Other aspects of the film are less, shall we say, progressive. I wanted to see it again though. That night I only had time for the first 15 minutes of Vertigo and I find I am pretty obsessed with the music.

  39. Laughingrat

    Men really do hate us, huh. Sometimes I forget about that a little, and then someone posts a comment like the one from IMDb (or Lemmon’s speech, which is damn near indistinguishable from the comment).

    “The Women” is gut-churning. I’d sooner watch “The Penalty,” which is cheerfully honest about its misogyny and racism and has, at least, Lon Chaney.

  40. Squiggy

    @humanbein:

    Thanks! Link worked and I’ll have ‘Intercourse’ in a couple of days. This ‘Intercourse’ can’t possibly be more bleak and horrifying than the intercourse to which I’ve previously subjected myself.

    Incidentally, Amazon only had three copies left. Viva la advanced Feminism!

  41. Cortney

    “This picture is so over-the-top hateful that even TCM’s host was moved to remark, in a sad and wistful tone, that it’s the kind of film that just wouldn’t get made today.”

    Perhaps he is unfamiliar with “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell” which is in the exact same vein and was made just this year. Hmmm.

  42. Kelsey B.

    @Sqiggy: One of the most powerful pieces of writing that I have ever encountered is Dworkin’s essay/speech “I Want A Twenty-Four Hour Truce During Which There is No Rape,” found in her book “Letters from a War Zone.” I would suggest not reading it in a public place unless you’re OK with crying in front of strangers.

    @Laughingrat: Yes! It’s amazing how magnetic those old horror icons are, isn’t it? Personally, I find myself watching any trashy B-movie that has Bela Lugosi in it, regardless of how terrible.

    “How to Murder Your Wife” sounds like an unfunny, Bizarro World version of “Divorce Italian Style.”

  43. FW

    check this out: http://www.hulu.com/watch/45038/nanny-and-the-professor-the-masculine-feminine-mystique

    “Whether enslaved or liberated, woman is designed to drive men crazy”

    After I watched that I made a friend watch it, and then we talked about it for hours. We never could figure out what it was trying to tell us, something about feminism we think.

  44. Shelby

    Watching the morning show this morning, the usual good looking woman and bloke at the desk were there. They bring on the film reviewer who talks about “The Time Traveller’s Wife”. OK it is Australia. It’s probably been released everywhere else for about 10 years already, but that’s what I like about Australia. After reviewing it, “it’s ok but not great”, he says with gusto “it IS a chick flick”. My face turns red. Nobody argues or comments at all about this fucking bullshit comment which I guarantee you in 20 years time (maybe 30 years in Australia) will be declared politically incorrect speek and the ugly on the inside spermdonor fuck who declared it will be laughed at (by women) for his neanderthal views. Sadly Nigel will still guffaw with his mates at the awkardness of having to sit through such an alien abhorrence.

    I see so much creativity here. Not from me, obviously. But why can’t one of you or ten of you write a screenplay or ten. Art imitates life.

  45. Shelby

    Whoops. Of course I meant Life imitates Art.

  46. hero

    This is so bleakly depressing. Is being aware of the realities of the P ever anything but? Like, where’s Neo, or Nemo, or whateverthecrap Keanu’s trenchcoat’s name was, and his illusion pills? Wait! I don’t want the illusion pills! Hey, wait again! Maybe I do want them!

    Sometimes the best I can do for myself outside of a large bottle of intoxicant is to reread the posting guidelines for this blog, thus reminding myself that Jill/Twisty and brilliant prose still exist, which is like being in a boat on a shit lake. The lake doesn’t go away, but at least there’s a boat.

  47. Comrade PhysioProf

    The only movie I’ve ever seen that was any fucking good was Frederick Wiseman’s documentary, Titicut Follies. All that hollywood and “art film” crap sucks total ass. It always has, and it always will.

  48. Medbh

    I reviewed this last year and was similarly sickened by the smirking misogyny.

    http://dante-andthelobster.blogspot.com/search?q=How+to+Murder+Your+Wife

  49. SargassoSea

    Also, “The Bachelor Flat” (1962) with Terry-Thomas and Tuesday Weld wherein Terry-Thomas is literally chased, everywhere he goes by attractive bikinied women and Tuesday learns that being threatened with rape is what makes girls fall in love with boys.

    *heavy sigh*

  50. phio gistic

    You can find Dworkin’s ’24-hour truce’ here
    http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/WarZoneChaptIIIE.html

    And lots more here http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/

  51. yttik

    Old movies do suck, but things have not gotten better for women in Hollywood. In the olden days we had women screen writers and iconic characters like Mae West. Here in 2009 we’ve still never had an academy award for a woman as best director. Women may have actually gone backwards in the numbers participating behind the scenes. The roles for actresses have gotten very limited, too.

    The blatant misogyny of old movies is almost preferable because at least you can drag that crap out into the sunlight where everybody can see it.

  52. Jezebella

    You know, Shelby, we could each of us write a dozen brilliant feminist screenplays, but getting those screenplays financed, cast, made into films, and then distributed? Infinitesimal. Teeny. Nigh non-existent.

  53. Pantsuit Sally

    “So how in the hell do you get people going around talking like marriage is something men get suckered into at the benefit of women?”

    Because all those sacrifices women make in the name of servitude to their husbands pale in comparison to the monumental tragedy of a man sacrificing all that random sex with the beautiful women who are throwing themselves at him and chaining himself to one boring vagina for the rest of his life. Until the next bachelor party in his social circle. Or his next business trip. Or, you know, next Tuesday.

    All you need to know to get along in the P: infinite examples in pop culture in which the audience can sympathize with a female character’s murderer=perfectly reasonable, not misogynist; Andrea Dworkin asking men not to rape us=psycho castrating feminazi.

  54. Lewis

    The steady consumption of these types of movies and television shows puts some girls in a position of deciding that they can’t possibly be female, which isn’t a bad thing per se, but it can make living in this gender-binary culture hellish. It also puts those girls in a position to hate women. For some girls, the disconnect between how they see themselves and how women are presented in mass media leads to any number of individual expressions, many of them positive affirmations of the individual self and personal choices, but not always. I can only speak for myself by way of example (though I’ve known many other women with similar stories).

    In the sixties and seventies I watched all of this shit; I was avidly into movies, theater, and TV. I vividly remember that movie Mo describes and all those sex farces. And I decided that, whatever those creatures were, it had nothing to do with what I was. Thankfully, that led to some serious independence of mind and body (helped additionally because I was surrounded by just-as-bad male role models – I didn’t take to that side of the binary, either), but it also led me to despise women that presented as “feminine” for many years. Of course I adopted the male gaze while watching those movies (my “independence” was as relative to the power of the P as anyone’s), but I was also filled with sickening dread at the thought of being the one turned over someone’s knee or similarly humiliated.

    I turned that fear and loathing onto certain women (it was their fault, after all, and that would never happen to me). Feminism rescued me from believing any of that (and Jill keeps the reminders coming, thankfully), but the message never stops coming. These movies and shows have provided huge success for the P: girls and women doubting themselves and each other; hatred of the female self and others; disorientation around what it means to simply be human.

  55. norbizness

    Comrade: Apart from the fact that everything ever produced by humans has been complete baby elephant poo, could your opinion concerning Hollywood be tempered by being exposed to the fact that Burt Ward likes cats?

  56. minervaK

    Surely someone, somewhere, has remade this film with all the genders reversed?

  57. Comrade PhysioProf

    Given that I haven’t the faintest fucking clue who Burt Ward is, the answer is no.

  58. Larkspur

    Norby, you are too subtle for me, alas. I get that Burt Ward was Batman’s Robin, and I note that he is a co-founder of an organization that rescues Very Big Dogs. So the fact that he likes cats, too, inclines me to look upon him somewhat mildly.

    But I don’t think this is what you meant.

  59. FemDoc

    Mo, I agree with you about “McClintock!”. Even more concerning to me was the scene wherein John Wayne merrily supports his future son-in-law’s spanking of his (John Wayne’s, i.e., McClintock’s) adult daughter.

    John Wayne single-handedly screwed up several generations of boys, who have grown up with bizarre ideas of what makes a “man”.

    I never did think Jack Lemmon was funny or particularly talented. I can’t think of one movie in which he starred that I actually liked, including those stupid “Grumpy Old Men” movies with Walter Matthau, in which crinkled, impotent, ugly old men score with vivacious beauties Sophia Loren and Ann Margaret. Well, at least they weren’t co-starring with 30 year old “hotties”, which is the norm for Hollywood (see ANY recent movie with Sean Connery, who once remarked that it’s okay to hit a woman every once in a while to keep her in place).

    Then again, those “Grumpy Old Men” movies were made to reunite the original “Odd Couple”. Because, it’s like, SOOOO funny when a man is neat and clean and likes to cook, and gets thrown in with a slob. Wasn’t Lemmon also in that movie with Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe–where he had to dress in drag as a female musician to hide from mobsters? Perhaps “How to Murder Your Wife” was his way of trying to regain his “masculinity”. Too bad murdering women is the only way he could come up with.

  60. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Norbizness, in my flaming youth I spent a summer shoveling elephant poo for a school gardening project. (My disapproving mom always insisted on our doing something productive over summer vacation.) Elephant doodie a) is more useful than Hollywood’s combined output, and (b) bears a striking resemblance to cannon balls.

  61. speedbudget

    I clicked over on the TV show someone posted up there and was flabbergasted. Here they had a chance to show the world how a girl being able to something a boy can do won’t kill him, and instead they find a way for the girl to fail so the boy’s ego won’t be crushed so they can date.

    Are men really that insecure and immature? The men I’ve been around lately would actually be impressed that I can shoot better or hit a ball better than they. I’m sure there were some idiots in high school and college, but that was high school and college.

    Oh, and I loved at the end when the female professor is all, “How would you survive if you were a widow with three kids?” Cause he survived by hiring a magical lady to do all the magic lady stuff that he is completely incapable of doing! So funny. And it was even funnier that they had to have a sob story for the professor to make it okay that she is working.

  62. Jill

    re: check this out: http://www.hulu.com/watch/45038/nanny-and-the-professor-the-masculine-feminine-mystique

    The lone comment on this astonishing episode: “For a masochistic feminist such as myself, this is the BEST THING EVER!”

    The Nanny character’s ambiguous unknowable supernaturalness is irksome. Also her costume. She’s buttoned up to the neck, and has a virginal pink ribbon in her hair, but check out that sexy shirtwaist! I can only imagine what sort of painful corsetry they had to inflict on that poor actress to get her stuffed into that thing.

  63. Pulsar

    I have heard the term feminazi. I have never heard the term “femi-nutzi”. Sounds like an Italian pastry.

  64. CassieC

    I wonder if the makers and aficionados of these wife killing and wife beating movies realize just how breathtakingly pathetic they make men look. Not funny, not independent, not brave: just pathetic.

  65. Squiggy

    Dearest miriam, Kelsey B., humanbein & phio gistic,
    Thank you very much for the link-tastics. Reading Dworkin’s ’24 Hour Truce,’ is life-changing and life-affirming. I appreciate the effort you gave and the knowledge I gained.

  66. Pinko Punko

    I found Norbiz’s comment oddly compelling. Burt Ward and cats is like the ultimate trump card for any Magic-the-Gathering internet arbitrary one-upsmanship.

  67. FW

    re Nanny and Professor:

    It’s just all around baffling, but maybe some of the weirdness is explained by the fact that the opening credits say it’s “written” by a woman, Joanna Lee, BUT during the end credits we learn that 2 dudes, Arthur Alsberg and Don Nelson(Ozzie Nelson’s brother!), were “story editors” – that it was sort-of-almost supposed to be pro-feminist in an early 70s way, but then some anti-feminists got ahold of the script and ruthlessly twisted it into a mangled mess of odd at least makes some sort of sense.

  68. Kate Dino

    I would love to see the Blame Ray pointed at the oldies (the music of the 50′s and 60′s). OMG, I start rocking out to the infectious beat and then I make the mistake of listening to the lyrics … please, Spirit of Twisty, help me fortify myself.

  69. miss-crabby-pants

    I teach 10-year-olds and I try to make them aware of patriarchy/misogyny as often as I can without frightening them too, too much. We had to read a story that started with a little boy saying that he wanted to join the talent show to impress “the second prettiest girl in the class” since he was, after all, only average looking and the prettiest girl was “taken” anyway. I told the class that I almost chose to not read this story because it had attitudes in it that I didn’t approve of nor condone but that I thought we should read it and discuss those things instead. The girls – bless them – picked up on what bothered me right away and the boys – bless them – got it as soon as we began to talk about it. I worried for a few days about whether parents would come banging down my door, but none did. Now the story I hated to teach has become my favorite because I feel like I’m actually doing something to make the lives of future women (and men) potentially more humane, aware, and anti-patriarchy. One can hope, anyway.

  70. speedbudget

    FW: I suspect you’re right. It sucks you in, doesn’t it? You see the story setting up, and you think, YES! Francine rocks and will make that sniveling boy get over himself and YES! New Professor knows her shit and will be competent.

    And then it all blows up in your face in a sudden fashion.

    Boys always ruin nice things.

  71. yttik

    “I have never heard the term “femi-nutzi”. Sounds like an Italian pastry.”

    It sounds yummy, like something with ganache, nuts, and flaky pastry. I think I’ll give it a try.

  72. keshmeshi

    Speaking of lousy movies, I loathe Annie Get Your Gun. Frank Butler, according to all historical accounts, was duly impressed when Annie kicked his ass in their shooting competition and gladly stepped aside when her fame eclipsed his. The movie (and musical) completely rewrites history and turns Butler into yet another fragile male with an ego made of porcelain. The racism sucks too, but that was typical for the time. The unnecessary rewriting of history makes me see red.

  73. artdyke

    Do we count mid-70′s as old-movie time? The original 1975 version of “The Stepford Wives” is an utterly chilling and, dare I say it, thoroughly feminist critique of the patriarchy.

    The 2004 remake, however, made me want to end humanity. Clearly The Patriarchy, aghast at how “The Stepford Wives” could have made its way through the Hollywood machine, wanted to negate the original with the shittiest remake they could possibly imagine, completely reversing the spirit, intentions, ending, message, feel, tone, and genre of the original.

  74. Angry Annie

    The sad thing is I went to film school, top three, got a masters, won awards, made a kick ass first feature and was shot down by the industry at every turn. Had a big agent, tried to write screenplays featuring strong, dynamic, funny female leads.. Guess what? Couldn’t get them financed or made. Because all the big dudes won’t make them and the women that are executives are so scared of not making “money” the golden bullshit excuse, they would never champion anything that didn’t suck up to dude nation. I have spent the last fifteen years battling the system and its a fucking battle that won’t be won.

  75. Sally Sputnik

    “Burt Ward and cats is like the ultimate trump card for any Magic-the-Gathering internet arbitrary one-upsmanship.”

    What does this even mean? I am not a Dood so you might have to spell it out for me using Feminist English.

  76. Larkspur

    What Sally Sputnik said. Furthermore, I am willing to stipulate to being the least clued-in humanoid ever, and will agree in advance to being perpetually one-upped in any intertubez venue whatsoever.

    Now what is the frickin deal with Burt Ward and cats, and what? Now Donald Trump is involved? I don’t want to have to take this to arbitration.

    PS: Annie, no wonder you are Angry.

  77. Squiggy

    Angry Annie- Your awful experiences hit particularly hard here in Squiggyville. Headed back to NYC to see what I can do, and with whom I can collaborate, to move this thing forward. Film and writing is my forte and feminism is my passion. The idea that anyone, let alone an old lady, has a chance at chipping away at the Patriarchy is foolish and preposterous. I picture that scene in ‘Gandhi’ with a line of people getting clubbed one at a time and each, if they could still walk, went to the back of the line to be clubbed again.

  78. veganrampage zellyblu

    W. Somerset Maugham is Robert Osborne’s favorite writer. RO is the old white dude host of TCM and total asshole. He spoke about Maugham to Alec Baldwin who was co-hosting TCM. If you think about Maugham’s work every single female character is reprehensible in some way.
    Almost all those old films have sickening elements.
    In Casablanca, supposedly one of the greatest films ever made, Ilsa calls Dooley Wilson (Sam) a “boy”. Vomitous. At the end Rick parrots back everything Ilsa has been saying to him the entire film, yet “she can’t be any part of” his great work fighting the Nazi’s, when she has been doing it for years while he got drunk, fucked around and sulked. Still, Rick and the collaborating Raines characters are the emotional heroes of the film.
    I saw this film Jill speaks of on the TCM line-up and decided I was too delicate of mind that day to take it. I watched a nature show where F. Murray Abraham described a matriarchal herd of elephants as “hysterical” when a calf was born after 22 months of gestation.
    I then kicked the living shit out of my TV.
    Now I have nothing to watch misogynistic Netflix movies on. For what’s it is worth I review films on that site sometimes, and always mention the misogyny and racism when I see it, and I see plenty. Rarely do I see any one else even mentioning these subjects when reviewing even the most blatantly disgusting films.

  79. Kelsey B.

    @artdyke: The funny thing about the original “Stepford Wives” is that (according to the director, anyway) feminists absolutely loathed it when it first came out. Apparently, they thought that they were being made fun of, something that I never really understood as I would thoroughly assert the awesome blame-osity of that picture.

    I’ve never seen the remake, but I did happen to read a review of it that made me laugh (in a cold, mirthless manner):

    “If in 1975, the dark satire of “The Stepford Wives” had teeth, it’s because its message rang true: Many men would have been ecstatic to be married to a sexually willing robot. But in 2004, there are just not enough men like this to make the movie work, even as an exaggeration. Can anyone look at the intelligent, open face of Matthew Broderick, who plays Kidman’s husband, and believe, even for a second, that he’d prefer a placid zombie to a complicated woman? Could anyone believe he’d even consider it? It’s not possible. We’ve moved on.”

  80. Jezebella

    Oh, Kelsey, that review! “We’ve moved on.” REALLY? Bullshit. Just, bullshit. The laughter on my end is mirthless and bitter.

  81. Laughingrat

    Jezebella, Kelsey, why don’t you see sense and realize that we’re living in a post-Patriarchy? Time to put those aprons back on and bring your d00ds some martinis!

    Oh Christ on a cracker I actually sprained something typing that. I need a drink.

  82. Chai Latte

    ………

    …wow…..

    GLOPPITA GLOPPITA?! What in the name of Maud does that even MEAN?! It sounds like something you need a truckload of Comet to clean up.

    Oh wait. I think I can guess. And GROSS EW YUCK BLEH DISGUST PTOOEY. That’s my review.

    Hey, Blameteriat, I haz an idea: let’s find the writer(s), corner them and throw up on their shoes. All of us. Should make an impression, one would think.

    And now I am going to watch some “Tank Girl” before my head explodes.

  83. ladiesbane

    minervaK, the gender-reversal movie was (sort of) made: If a Man Answers starred Sandra Dee as a bride whose mother gives her a book (or pamphlet? — something) to help her achieve domestic bliss. The title is “How to Train Your Puppy,” and it applies to Bobby Darin as well as to canines. It worked for Sandra Dee’s mother. There may be a ghastly spanking scene when he finds out, but perhaps that was a different piece of work.

    (Picture the sublime mashup with The Twilight Zone, if Mumsy had given darling daughter a copy of “How to Serve Man.”)

  84. PandanCat

    If I wanted to serve a man, I’d cook up a bowl of Soylent Green!

    I was disappointed today to find out that a coworker who I thought was a proto-blamer is actually horrified that I dream of 2.5 cats rather 2.5 children behind my white picket fence. When I told of my reasons for not wanting to be an unpaid servant, she scoffed and replied that if more folks thought like me, everyone would stop getting married. Well, yeah, actually. That’s the idea.

    Someone hand me a spoon.

  85. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    “Can anyone look at the intelligent, open face of Matthew Broderick, who plays Kidman’s husband, and believe, even for a second, that he’d prefer a placid zombie to a complicated woman?”

    It’s my contention that almost every man on the planet would prefer a placid zombie.

    In the original, Katharine Ross’s robot features the transformation of her small breasts into what doods call “hooters” when they don’t think we’re listening. But that wasn’t the part that terrified me. It was her empty eye sockets. (The robot had come to murder Ms. Ross and steal her eyes, shit-oh-dear.)

    I read this book at the rather impressionable age of 15, and I believe it was at least part of why I never, ever wanted to get married. It was way too close to the reality of what men really want women to be for my comfort.

  86. yttik

    As to the remake of the Stepford wives, it was atrocious. At least in the old version it was chilling, a science fiction type of horror. In the remake it’s hard to tell the difference between a pornified, objectified, breathing woman and a robot and the men are flip about it. At least in the original they had the decency to portray it as a disturbing concept.

    One of my favorite old movies is Gaslight. At least she wins in the end. It’s pretty funny when she has her husband tied to a chair and a knife in her hand and he tries to appeal to her sanity. She reminds him he just spent the past year convincing her and everyone else that she was crazy which now makes her free to take no responsibility for her actions.

  87. copykatparis

    Angry Annie (and the others like her), please please please make those movies! Any way, any how, independently! We needs ‘em bad!

    Hmmm, there’s an idea: an independent Blamers Film/Production Co. Then maybe there’d be more films/TV that don’t induce nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and the usual symptoms brought on by the P.

  88. Angry Annie

    Lets make them.. Problem is I don’t know to many blamers with a million clams sitting around.. Do you? Not so many of us getting those Christmas wall street bonuses. The trouble is most of the smart people I know are also ethical which generally means they aren’t so rich. We need blamers with inherated cash!!! Someone else did the crime and they just had the benefit of being born female and enlightened. All for women as rich producers financing cool projects….

  89. Redhead

    Veganrampage, Robert Osborne may well be a total MCP,but you might want to read a bit of W Somerset Maugham, who was a gay man whom I consider to be a real feminist, especially for his time.

    Check out “The Colonel’s Lady”, a short story about a woman in a loveless marriage who falls for a younger man, they have a torrid affair and are madly in love, but he dies unexpectedly. She writes a long poem praising her younger lover’s looks and their love, commenting on her anguish but feeling that he was lucky to die in the full flush of passion, never having to undergo the sadness of having it fade with time, as so often happens. The book becomes a sensation (she publishes it privately in her maiden name-with her own money) and her husband lies when he tells her he’s read it, only to be embarrassed by one of his “fancy ladies” who describes the story to him…he later complains about the situation to a male lawyer acquaintance that men need a bit of action, but that women don’t care about sex-the lawyer’s response, “We only have men’s word for that” is one of the greatest lines in fiction, IMV.

    Most of Maugham’s work is in exactly that vein-few authors are more fair or supportive of women than he is. Most of the movies made from his books have sadly been infected with Hollywood and are sometimes disappointing, but not really representative of his work or personal attitudes, again IMV.

    Give him a try! IBTP

  90. julia

    I like this Blamatariat Production Co-operative idea. Yeah, we don’t have millions of dollars each, but a lot of us have a couple hundred, or a tenner, or a cool grand, and others of us have various skill sets, and yet more have word-of-mouth and friends who both blame and love films.
    Seriously, I am but a poor biologist, but I would totally kick into the pot. (Would this be a non-profit, tax deductible donation?)
    I mean this. Annie, this would be so awesome.

  91. Jezebella

    The making of a 501(c)(3) foundation, allowing all contributions to be tax deductible, is an enormous task. They don’t just spring fully formed from the brow of the indolent blamer, alas.

  92. Jezebella

    Julia, here are two orgs already dedicated to helping women make films:

    Women In Film at http://www.wif.org
    Black Women Film Preservation Project at http://www.blackwomenfilm.org

    No, they are not devoted to radfem filmmaking, but it’s a start.

  93. ew_nc

    As awful as the mid-century sex farce movies are, there is a current one that is just as bad. It could be a primer for patriarchal behavior. I’ve only seen the trailers, but those were enough to tear the ligaments of my obstrepal lobe. It’s called, fittingly enough, “The Ugly Truth”. It’s the classic “men and women are SO different” premise. In one charming scene, the guy schools the woman by telling her that a man’s maturation ends with potty-training. Well duh, we knew that. In another scene, he tells her that a woman should always be a combination of stripper and librarian. It’s quite unashamed in it’s misogyny, which in a way I guess is rather refreshing. At least they aren’t trying to pretend to regard women as anything but sex objects. However, the trailers still make me throw up in my mouth a bit.

  94. artdyke

    @Annie/julia: I do live in a house full of *extremely* talented recent film school grads willing to work for free on a project they believe in!

  1. Quote of the day: getting along in the Patriarchy « Anti-Porn Feminists

    [...] against women. trackback This quote of the day comes from commenter Pantsuit Sally, over at I Blame the Patriarchy; it comes in response to a critique of a misogynist 1960s film titled: “How To Murder Your [...]

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