There are no “men’s movies”!

linda hamilton

Ever notice how the media never talks about “men’s movies”?  They talk about “women’s movies” or “African-American movies” or “gay movies.”  They’ll say “this weekend there’s a woman’s movie opening.” Or “this is a chick flick starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway.”   But you’ll never hear them say, “This weekend there are nine men’s movies opening,” or “There’s a great men’s movie opening this weekend starring Robert De Niro.”

That’s because they’re (pretty much) all men’s movies!  They note the exceptions, not the rule.

You never hear people say, “There’s a dozen men’s football games this weekend.”  Or “stay tuned for news on the men’s NBA finals.”  Like sports and politics and most of the corporate world, movies usually take place in the world of men.  They tell men’s stories, sometimes about men in sports and politics and the corporate world.

If a “woman’s movie” gets greenlighted, then it’s going to be watched like a hawk, and if it doesn’t do well at the box office?  Then Mr. Movie Executive Soup Nazi says, “No more Women’s Movies for you!” (Such as mentioned by Nikki Finke: “Warner Bros president of production Jeff Robinov has made a new decree that ‘We are no longer doing movies with women in the lead’.”)

What are “women’s movies”?  That’s a crapshoot.  Many movies demeaning or pejorative to women are considered “women’s movies.”   Often they’re written and/or directed by men with a man’s POV and still called “women’s movies.”  Sometimes women write and/or direct “women’s movies” that aren’t at all empowering to women.  Sometimes this is because they’ve changed it to get funding or support or actors, or because they’ve bought into the same story lines they’ve seen since childhood.

In the Land of Women,” written and directed by Jon Kasden, stars many actresses, but don’t be fooled.  Adam Brody plays the wise and grounded center for the messed up storm of women around him, including Meg Ryan, Kristen Stewart and Olympia Dukakis.  This is more like “A Wise Man in the Land of Effed Up Women.”  Of course Brody is supposed to be confused and hurt, which is why he left home to visit his grandmother, Olympia, but compared to these women, he’s a rocket scientist.  Maybe a better title: “In the Land of the Blind, the One-Eyed Man is King.”  The one-eyed Brody graces these women with his (in)sight and fades out by the time the credits roll.  Women should love it, right?

Well, how about “He’s Just Not That Into You,” which makes clear that all women want to do is get a man or marry a man or complain about men when they’re not successful at either, which is their own darn fault.  How about Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson in Bride Wars, where it’s revealed women are really catty MBs (Mean B*tches) whose wedding locations trump their friendship?   There’s always The Upside of Anger, where Joan Allen is a faithless MB who doubts her HGG (Helluva Great Guy) husband.

What a conundrum!  Why are women not flocking to these “Women’s Movies”?!

What does a woman have to do to get a decent, at least entertaining if not empowering movie around here?  Hmmm… best not answer that.

MotH: Most movies are a man’s view of a man in a man’s world, where only men are brave, courageous, wise and heroic.  In the world of movies there might not be so many brave, courageous, wise and heroic women to choose from, but in the real world, there are many:  Rosa Parks, Rachel Carson, Joan of Arc, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Sally Ride, Sojourner Truth, Amelia Earhart, Clara Barton, Florence Nightingale, Barbara Jordan, Helen Keller and Anne Frank, for starters.  

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13 responses to “There are no “men’s movies”!

  1. As a guy who grew up with Ellen Ripley, Sarah Conner and Buffy… I don’t think it’s that us guys don’t want to see powerful women, but you’re always going to be faced with a serious problem when e.g. you write a scene, in which a woman saves a male lead’s ass. William Goldman wrote about it in “Which Lie Did I tell?”. The problem you’re having? Your male star’s ego. There is no way, I repeat, no way that somebody like Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, Denzel Washington or Will Smith will allow to get that red carpet glory being taken away from them. There are only a handful of directors powerful enough to get away with writing a strong female lead and make it count. And it is very sad that the best female action hero is still Ripley from Aliens, which was made 23 (!) years ago.

    I also blame actresses, though. They mostly line up for really stupid roles (I’m not talking about the bread & butter actresses, hey, girl’s gotta eat… uh, pay for next boob enhancement). I’m talking stars and starlet(tes). Yeah, Rachel McAdams in Sherlock Holmes = Salma Hayek in Wild West West = Megan Fox in Jonah Hex = girls look really good in corsets, don’t they (and don’t get me wrong, they DO), but that alone makes them… well, kind of mundane.

    Just once, just one time, I’d like to have the female lead save the guy, and have him look at her and go, “thanks for saving my ass.”

    “Well, it’s a nice ass. Now, MOVE!”

    • I hope you’re a writer, because I think that’s a great line for a female lead. Hilarious.

      And I agree, the male ego rules in Hollywood – but not just the actors’. It starts with the (mostly male) writers, and then the (mostly male) producers and directors who approve the scripts and change the scripts to their liking, or the liking of their (inevitably) male leads.

      But there are leading men who will play second fiddle and come off looking good – like Harrison Ford in Working Girl, which is my favorite Harrison Ford role. Granted, Mike Nichols threw in his male-fantasy scenes like Melanie Griffith vacuuming in lingerie and heels, but still. And I’m sure there are many more, like, um, er, well, hmmm… I can’t think of them right now…

      And agreed, women line up for a vast array of “stupid roles” – but there’s not much else out there. If you look at the few reviews I’ve posted, some ostensibly empowering roles are not – at all. Like Joan Allen’s thankless completely dis-empowering role in The Upside of Anger.

      But yeah, that’s a helluva line and I’d like to see it, too.

      Thanks for the comment.

  2. Yes, I’m a writer (published one, too).

    Now, why does admitting that always feel like “Hi, I’m Thomas and I’m a (insert your addiction here)holic?”.

    I don’t think, though, that the portrayal of women is inherently linked to what’s between the writer’s legs. I threw up in my mouth when I saw Megan Fox doing what was essentially a moving Maxim shoot in Transformers 2. You know, where she is introduced, and the first thing we see is her in daisy dukes, hunched over a bike, with her ass out? And again, it’s not that I don’t love sexy women, I do. I’m a guy. What made me throw up in my mouth was the fact that IT MADE NO SENSE FOR THE STORY. It was just, “here you go, look at that, masturbate a bit, will ya?”.

    I did give kudos for Fox when she spoke up about it, then I took the same kudos back when she went “oh, well, that’s how it is. We’re walking tits”.

    I think it comes down to what you like (and then it comes down to how much power you have to fight it through to the end). In my adopted home country (I’m half German/British), we have numerous TV shows that star powerful women, more so than in the US. We do have a lot of that Ugly Betty soap shit as well, but well… strangely enough, a lot of women are watching that. Never did quite understand that particular audience. Never will understand the Twilight fans, either, because I believe Stephenie Meyer single-handedly put back women’s rights by roughly 100 years.

    Anyway, the point when you’re writing is to stop seeing women as women. you may go “wha?” now, but here’s the thing. Stop seeing them as women. See them as PEOPLE. As persons. Too often, and it may just be because it is cinematic shorthand (but I do not think so), writers write women as defined by their roles in conjunction with their societal place, or their romantic place, or their family place.

    When a woman is successful, she “must” automatically be a bitch. Take Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. She is a meanie. Sorry, she is. But imagine for a moment that she’s got a dick. Same behaviour. But a man. And most people would go, well, he is the boss and blah blah blah, that’s normal. And what about Anne Hathaway’s character? Does she rise to the top, because she is a good, hard worker? No. Of course not. She “realises” at the last moment (don’t they always?) that love, the right man and blah blah blah trumps it all. This is what I dislike about the crop of movies coming out these days. It’s all about KNOWING YOUR PLACE. Got to know your place, can only be happy when you got the middle class dream thing, don’t look at the man behind the screen…

    When you write, and this goes for men and women alike, first look at your characters as people, not as a gender. Switch it around. Can your Jason Bourne be a woman? Of course! Now, think about it. What if the woman is the secret agent, and she has a family, and her job puts her husband and kids into danger (let’s make the husband a nice guy, a good professional, too, like, I don’t know, an accountant or a sales person, just give him a nice, normal job). Wouldn’t it be fun to see how a woman would tear up the town for once? To see somebody do the same thing as Liam Neeson did in Taken?

    How far would a woman go to protect her loved ones? Knowing my own mother, I’d see a hell of a lot further than Neeson ever did.

    • These are great comments and I agree. Really appreciate hearing your reaction re Megan Fox as not making sense for the story – exactly. This happens so often in movies, where it pulls me out of the story because it’s so obviously a commercial break for the director’s latest fantasy.

      As for women speaking up about it, well, Hollywood doesn’t allow it – I wrote a post about Katherine Heigl speaking up about Knocked Up and getting crucified for it.

      Agree it’s about how much power you have to fight it – but even some women with power are so instilled by the Hollywood male story ethic they still align with it, I believe sometimes for reasons like getting support, funds or greenlighting, and sometimes unwittingly. Like Julie Delpy, who I think is terrific, but when she got the money to write, direct and act in her own movie – 2 Days in Paris – she still follows male movie conventions, where Adam Goldberg is the Long-Suffering Helluva Great Guy and she’s a pill. Modesty, perhaps, but still. Urghhhh!

      Yes, Stephanie Meyers has set entire generations of young girls/young women/women back 100 years, unfortunately. I point out in another post that Joss Whedon wrote far more empowering women in his Buffy series.

      Also agree that you write the character not as gender specific necessarily but as a person – like Ripley in Aliens. And agreed, too, that there’s the old double standard, where a woman is a beyotch while a man is firm and knows what he wants. (It’s why Martha Stewart landed in jail – sheeshka.) And yes, it annoyed me so much when Anne Hathaway’s character got almost no support from her boyfriend in a position that was clearly life-changing (and assistants in so many jobs are similarly put upon, but it gets their foot in the proverbial door), and has to give it up to be the good girl, etc.

      And yes, women can take on these over-the-top leading man roles, and have on the rare occasion they’re given the chance. Besides those I list under the Compass/Kudos page like Aliens or Terminator, I was thinking Shane Black did it to some degree with Geena Davis in The Long Kiss Goodnight – where she’s a housewife with amnesia who suddenly remembers her tough past – but I can’t remember how it ends – I think she goes back to her family life, so perhaps not a great example. Though kudos to Shane Black for writing a strong kick-ass woman heroine.

      Yes, I’d love to see a woman tear up the town – a woman that was strong, not a beyotch. And a woman/mother in Liam Neeson’s role in Taken? That would be terrific. I think you should (clearly) write it!

  3. Oh, I forgot two things.

    1) Don’t fuck with the Mama Lion. Ever.

    2) Briefly back again to Megan Fox in Transformers 2. Her entire story arc, her entire reason for existing in the damn movie is so that she can get Indian Beef to tell her “I love you”. That’s it! She has no other reason for BEING THERE. Worst. Writing. Ever!

    And it could have been easily fixed, too. All that would have been needed? A few lines of dialogue here and there, and I would have given Fox a scene at the end battle, where she is the one enabling Indian Beef to get to Optimus Prime in time, like this…instead of that stupid exchange between Beef and his parents, this is what it should have been.

    ALL AROUND THEM, the PILLARS EXPLODE. BUMBLE BEE takes the WORST of it, protecting the COUPLE UNDERNEATH HIM. Go CLOSE ON THEM. They’re TIRED. They’re WEARY. They’re HURT.

    OPTIMUS PRIME’S BODY is still TOO FAR AWAY. They’ll NEVER MAKE IT. Not unless one of them DRAWS THE ATTACKER’S FIRE.

    Fox: “Go –”

    Beouf: “Not without you! I’m not going to leave you here, I’m not this is crazy, you’ll never — I’m — I love you!”

    FOX SMILES. Give it that almost ROGUISH SMILE of Han Solo in Empire Strikes Back. This is it. The final stand. She LOOKS UP at him. Her turn now —

    Fox: “– I know.”

    And she KISSES HIM, lets him GO, then, up at BUMBLE BEE —

    Fox: “Bee!”

    BEE knows. From his RADIO-VOICE come the first tunes of the GUANO APES’ “You Can’t Stop Me” as both FOX and BEE start their RUN —

    — and the VOICE BECOMES the SOUNDTRAC, the HARD RIFFS RISE to —

    Soundtrack: “You can’t stop me!”

    • 1) Re the Mama Lion – great.

      2) Excellent! And exactly re Megan Fox’s lame story arc. There’s something I think Jamie Lee Curtis said in a LA Times Calendar section article 10 or so years ago, something about being tired of showing up on page 7 of a screenplay so the male lead has someone to screw on page 70. That’s how so many writers and directors (and male leads) think.

      And yes – CLEARLY you should write this – you have the humanity for it – maybe for Ridley Scott – I hear he’s still interested in scripts with strong women leads.

  4. Hm. Yes, I should write it LOL. Now that conversation has given me an idea for a movie (and if somebody ever asks writers how they get their ideas… it’s things like these. Sometimes they’re for sale at the USED IDEAS store in the London Westend, but for obvious reasons I cannot disclose its actual location). I am currently shopping a TV pilot around, with lots of strong professional women, called The Cage (Cage is the slang term used by journos for the city desk), and it’s, hm, it’s All the President’s Men meets The West Wing —

    — incidentally, The West Wing had a kick-ass professional woman in it, with Allison Janey’s C.J. Craig —

    — and it’s based on the notion of, if you have Woodward and Bernstein, why the hell can’t one be a woman and not be a retard (female journos are often bimbos or bitches in fiction)

    But yeah, I even got a title for such an idea. COVER. It would be — in Hollywood speak — The 3 Days of the Condor meets Taken, and it’d be about a female CIA analyst who is in London (one should never set a good action flick in the US, the cities are not designed well enough for running and driving anymore), has been there for quite a while, has an English husband and a kid — and she’s the one with the cover. LOL.

    Why, thank you :P

    • Crikey, Thomas – those are two fantastic ideas, both the TV pilot and the movie. So the TV pilot is written (hope you hear something soon) – and you’re starting on the movie script today?! :-)

      And that USED IDEAS store is where? (though i have way too many ideas and too little time, i’d be open for a quick flight across the pond for their end-of-year clearance sale. Or a peek in their RARE IDEAS room.)

  5. And I again, I forgot something.

    Re: Jamie Lee Curtis. It’s funny you should mention her, because I wrote one of the female roles in The Cage specifically with her in my mind.

  6. Hmmm… I wonder if you can get the script to her agent? Or any of the agents of the women you have in mind?

  7. Yeah, I started last night by putting the movie “on my board” and start writing down the parameters of the characters for myself, so thank you and damn you, because I still need to finish my novel LOL and now I have this, too :D

    Only one woman that immediately popped into my head to play it: Kate Winslet. I love Kate Winslet. Hands down the best actress of her generation.

    • Ack! Didn’t see your comment – sorry for the delay. Great to hear about your screenplay, which may one day be a novel – AND your novel, which may one day be a screenplay, n’est-ce pas? (See what I did there? It’s mushroomed to four projects!)

      And no doubt great minds think alike – my favorite actress, hands down, is Kate Winslet (I see her as the lead in a novel I wrote) – so must agree, she’d be amazing!

  8. If you like to read the opening 17 minutes of what our discussion here caused… shoot me an email at TGerhardt@the-word-factory.com

    It’s quite a strong opening, and one I hope will make the character likeable to the audience.

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