Archive | September, 2011

Romantic Comedies and the “women” who populate them…

29 Sep

This week’s New Yorker contains an awesome piece by Mindy Kaling called “Flick Chicks: a Guide to Women in the Movies.”

Because the romantic comedy remains the genre of choice for Kaling, she decided to produce a list of the prevailing archetypes:

1) The Klutz;

2) The Ethereal Weirdo;

3) The Woman Obsessed with her Career and No Fun;

4) The 42-year-old Mother of a 30-year-old Male Lead;

5) The Sassy Best Friend;

6) The Skinny Beautiful Woman who is Gluttonous and Disgusting;

7) The Woman who Works in an Art Gallery.

These types are pretty god-damned specific, but in my opinion they are extraordinarily spot-on. Her self-deprecation, sense of humour, and incisive critical abilities make me pine for a day when Mindy Kaling might write, star, and direct her own romantic comedy! And! Maybe it will be one where the female friends aren’t all super-skinny (except for the super fat one), they aren’t consumed with finding a man, and the final cut isn’t dependent on Judd Apatow.

Inspired, I decided to make my own list of archetypes; these types are not types per se, but actual Hollywood leading ladies, those who conform so much to type that citing their name and a brief description immediately evokes a back catalog of their films.

1) The Jennifer Aniston:

A rueful independent career woman loves her life–don’t get her wrong–but something is missing…a penis! Try as hard or as little as she can (she does run her own flower shop, design firm, catering company), the guys are all cads: they just don’t get her. But she keeps her chin up, her smile wan, and her hair fabulously layered…and she always gets her man!

2) The Jennifer Garner:

The girl that everybody loves…wait! she lives next door! Garner is appealing, and her slow-to-discover beauty emerges easily enough that the desperate loneliness that 30-something women face in romantic comedies (and real life!) almost feels funny! Given that she lives next door, sometimes it takes awhile for the man she loves to realize that his neighbor can be his lover, but it’s all in the journey, right?!

3) The Sarah Jessica Parker:

When SJP burst into fame with the ultimate serialized rom-com Sex and the City, her city-girl lonely artiste was sweet enough that its impossibilities remained irrelevant. Increasingly however, her roles appear smug, elitist and downright repellent. I Don’t Know How She Does It?!

She doesn’t.

4) The Leslie Mann:

Take a skinny body, a famous director-husband, and a willingness to play the shrewish girlfriend, wife, sidekick whenever asked, and you’ve got Leslie Mann! She’ll do anything: vomit all over Steve Carrell, ridicule the poor innocent Seth Rogan while emasculating Paul Rudd, and poop on a toilet!

5) The Cameron Diaz:

You’ll never hear much about her acting chops, but Diaz has the fortitude to possess many of Kaling’s archetypes in her film repertoire, she’s even played the klutz, the ethereal weirdo, and the skinny, beautiful woman who is gluttonous and disgusting all at the same time!

6) The Drew Barrymore:

The adorable, silly underdog that just happens to be so damned cute that you willfully forget her tendency to play the same character (the adorable, silly underdog) in every single movie since Poison Ivy.

7) The Reese Witherspoon:

Given her tendency to detour outside of the romantic-comedy–hence doing more than showing off that smiley blondeness of hers–it’s almost easy to forget her rom-com side. Reese is the girl that, outstanding perkiness aside, is actually smart, maternal, and that girl-next-door the main dude’s been wanting all along, only blonde. Not only that, but she’s super ambitious, loves chihuahuas, wears ugly Christmas sweaters, and sometimes comes back from the dead to repossess that swanky San Francisco apartment of hers.


Can girls riot?

10 Sep

I just saw Attack the Block, a new English film about a group of Council Estate friends who, in the middle of mugging a young neighborhood nurse, glimpse something furry, loud, and bright crash into the park. This sight quickly plunges the boys into a fast-paced, dangerous and deadly war with a band of blobs that just keep coming.

The battle forces the viewer to pick sides: the wannabe thugs vs. the malevolent aliens. It’s a no-brainer, particularly since the boys are led by the charismatic and beguiling Moses.

Although they like to rob and pillage, the depiction of the boys evolves into something more complicated; indeed, the socio-cultural critique of poverty, racism and the English class system hovers over the alien battles, becoming the most overt with the shot of Moses, hanging by the Union Jack from his council apartment. Determined to vanquish the aliens, he will use anything he’s got to protect the block.

This film got me to thinking quite a bit about the recent London (which quickly segued into many English cities) riots, and as the film has arrived so soon after those events it seems impossible not to think about them. So I started doing a little research, trying to determine just who was being highlighted in the images and coverage of the riots. And, just like in Attack the Block, a question arises: where’s the girls? It goes without saying that there were young women running, looting, and protesting alongside all the boys and men, but there were few glimpses of them.

Why is that? Does the sight or thought of a young woman engaged in such acts provoke too many feelings, rendering her inclusion just too complicated? Is it harder to condemn the riots when the “softening” presence of a girl shows up? Is it just too hard to believe that girls can be thugs too? Or were most of them too covered up with scarves, hats, and hoodies to determine the sex of the troublemaker?

According to the opinion piece listed above, it’s not just the culture-at-large that has a difficult time picturing, interpreting, and responding to girls acting out or illegally, the judicial system and penal institutions are generally set up to process, interact, and rehabilitate the male. This void in policy furthers a dearth of understanding, which in turn produces a negativity in terms of change and rehabilitation. Until the girl offender can be seen, she cannot be understood, and hence, nothing changes.