9 March 2010
When Kathryn Bigelow won her Oscar, the orchestra burst into a rendition of “I am Woman, Hear Me Roar.” My friends and I thrust our hands high in the sky from our position on the couch, thrilled that she’d won. And then I thought, “Wait.”
First, there’s the obvious fact that I now know the Helen Reddy song less for its 1970s feel-goodness than for the ironic 2006 Burger King version, which they call the “Manthem”:
Enlightened sexism, anyone? As Susan Douglas brilliantly defines it, this ethos follows the argument that “women have made plenty of progress because of feminism — ideed, full equality has allegedly been achieved. So now it’s okay, even amusing, to resurrect sexist stereotypes of girls and women.” Even better to resurrect funny caveman stereotypes of men who need hamburgers, Dockers, Old Spice, and Axe Body Spray to clarify their über-manliness and ironic sensibility. “Now that they ‘have it all,'” Douglas explains in the voice of the enlightened sexist, women and girls “should focus the bulk of their time and energy on being hot, pleasing men, competing with other women, and shopping.” Meanwhile, men can go primal — ironically, of course, but the effect is the same. As Kjerstin Johnson shows in a Bitch blog post, there’s even a fake-umentary about plummeting testosterone levels and the emasculinization of men in America. Ha ha!
I’m thrilled by Bigelow’s Oscar win. But in this cultural environment of enlightened sexism, it’s hardly a feminist triumph, as Helen Reddy might have desired. It’s all well and good for so many commentators to trumpet the fact that “The Hurt Locker” is a really good dude film (see? women can even direct good films that dudes want to see, not like chick flicks at all!) and that Bigelow has a knack not just for putting together great action scenes but finely-wrought interactions between men.
It’s all about the guys. Who can blame them, in this stifling environment of feminist control, for issuing such a long series of MANifestos and manthems? In the meantime, ladies, get back to the gym!
8 March 2010
I begin this blog on an auspicious day: The day after the first woman in the history of film has won an Oscar for best director (and best picture). Only four women in history have been nominated for this award. I liked the movie, although I found all the kow-towing to the military grating and politically restrictive. It’s a good film, not a great one.
Let’s bring up the obvious: Kathryn Bigelow is shit-hot. According to imdb.com, she’s only 1/2″ shy of six feet tall (which explains why she towered over all her stars). She’s fifty-eight and looks twenty years younger than her vile ex-husband, James Cameron — who was providentially seated directly behind her in the audience at the Oscars, and who is actually three years her junior. All of this is hugely satisfying.
So why do I feel ambivalent about this? It’s a little too close to The Onion’s brilliant take on women onscreen. “Women can do anything men can do on television,” the morning-show host chirps. “You can be sexy and tough. Sexy and smart. Sexy and professional.” You can be sexy and win an Academy Award for Best Director — just don’t expect the same award to go to someone who looks like, say, Kathy Bates or Gabourey Sidibe. Those women will still be given crap directing jobs for lite romantic comedies and “women’s films” about abusive husbands or children with leukemia. A woman has finally won Best Director at the Academy Awards — and I feel like I’m looking at one of those other female “firsts” early in the 20th century whose desire to be accepted by mainstream culture completely outshines their “first-ness.”