Girls on Film is a weekly column that tackles anything and everything pertaining to women and cinema. It can be found here every Thursday night, and be sure to follow the Girls on Film Twitter Feed for additional femme-con.
As you’ve no doubt heard by now, a Michigan resident by the name of Sarah Deming filed a lawsuit against the distributors of Drive for misleading her with their trailer. She claims that it was marketed as a film similar to Fast Five, but wasn’t, and that it bore “very little similarity to a chase, or race action film, for reasons including but not limited to Drive having very little driving in the motion picture.”
If not for the crazy – that she actually thought this was another Fast and Furious, that she’s blaming a distributor for her inference about the film’s title (It’s about a stunt driver, so Drive; it’s not like it was called Sew.), that she is wary of trailers yet doesn’t bother reading a review site like Rotten Tomatoes, and that she wants it labeled as anti-Semitic – you can almost feel her pain. Marketing is pretty damned ridiculous these days, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to find films that try to mislead potential viewers to optimize the box office.
But if this was really about giving Hollywood a wake-up call about their progressive-dampening marketing techniques, any number of other films could be picked. Then, although the lawsuit would likely get thrown out of court, at least it would grab some “here, here!” type of arguments and publicity for the cause. Instead, this plays out like law led by flippant aggravation – someone without a soapbox or means to deal with her ire, who uses the court’s time to complain about a film that offered brains over boom.
It’s not even good aggravation. There are tons of films from 2011 that contain annoying elements that should be sued out of existence – especially in the world of women in film – ones that might be frivolous, but would also be a blessing to dashed expectations and the future of cinema if they could be eradicated by the law. I offer up my top ten offenders this year below. Chime in with yours in the comments.
10. The Moth Diaries – Wasted Use of Feminist Talent
This is a cheat since the film has only screened at two festivals thus far, but it’s so disappointing that its festival impact trumps waiting for its widespread release. Though vampire malaise has already set in, the thought of Mary Harron (the skilled filmmaker behind I Shot Andy Warhol and American Psycho) taking a stab at the theme was too irresistible to refuse. The film stoked high expectations and the hope of a great feminist slant to the drama, or at the very least, something more women-friendly and intellectually meaty than Twilight. Instead, the film played out in a way that made Bella seem strong and self-assured in comparison to the psychosis in Moth. (Though some scenes, like above, seem verrrry familiar.) This film could also work in a larger suit against the tendency to make the heroines of vampire stories total fools. If only…
9. Passion Play – Fetishizing Megan Fox
The film is obviously a passion project for writer/director Mitch Glazer, but it’s also a mess of a movie – one that even star Mickey Rourke labeled as “terrible.” This time, Megan Fox is double-fetishized. At every cinematic turn, she’s the object of desire, all stemming from those first steamy pictures of her sweaty, leaning over a car for Transformers. This time, it’s all about the male obsession with her form. Her wings are inconsequential as Rourke drools his way through an hour and a half of film, as she stands, forlornly, behind glass, while he fights carnies and gangsters for her, as she resigns herself to being the property of lecherous men. She’s really got no hope for happiness in a world where her trumpet-playing savior is just as creepy as her mobster captor. She’s there to be pretty, bouncing from man to man like a winged pinball without brains.
8. Friends with Benefits – Using Modern Ideas to Reinforce Old Dating Rules
Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake aren’t friends with benefits; they’re lovers with no strings attached, but that title was already taken by the other bumbling guy/Black Swan lady. And sadly, though the film struts itself out there like some forward idea of today’s romance, all progressive notions fly out the window as the film rolls on. Kunis is insecure, Timberlake is emotionally distant, she wants epic romance, he wants casual sex, and they’ll ultimately learn that they love each other and want to commit to each other like two good little lovers. Hollywood loves to keep progressive tendencies in their place. *cue sappy-assed music*
7. A Good Old Fashioned Orgy – Geek Dudes with Hot Girls
Yet again, goofy-looking funny men play goof-offs surrounded by sexy women who play their friends, wives, and lovers. Of course Jason Sudeikis’ Eric would want to have an orgy to bid adieu to his beloved summer home. He’s surrounded by women like Lake Bell, Leslie Bibb, Michelle Borth, Angela Sarafyan, and Lindsay Sloane. If the trend was reversed tomorrow, and sexy men were continually matched with non-model, awkward, more real women, there would be a lot of unhappy male moviegoers out there.
6. X-Men: First Class – January Jones and an Abundance of Victoria’s Secret Moments
It’s hard not to love a flick that sees James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender embody the likes of Professor X and Magneto. But First Class also serves up the double whammy where Emma Frost becomes bland cardboard in the miscast hands of January Jones, and her blank seduction -- mixed with a plethora of moments where every female star de-robes -- make some scenes seem more like a Victoria’s Secret commercial than a killer, cinematic geekfest. Having a few female stars in a superhero movie isn’t progressive when they all have to drop-trou to do it.
5. Red Riding Hood – Letting Catherine Hardwicke Direct Red Twilight Hood
Say what you will about Twilight, but Hardwicke managed to create a beautiful world for the sparkly, blunt-toothed vamps to run around in (even if she had no clue how to handle special effects). Unfortunately, she learned some action tricks (no cartoon running for these wolf-stricken saps) and decided to play out the same ol’ story: girl loves one boy and kinda likes another while wolves rule the forest and evil men (played by really talented actors) trounce around like they’re God. A lawsuit could be her voice of reason, pulling her back from the edge of teenage obsession and back to being a notable filmmaker.
4. I Don’t Know How She Does It – Women Who Can’t Handle it All with Nannies and Temptation
Wow! Sarah Jessica Parker has a great job, a loving husband, cute children, and a nanny to take care of them! I don’t know how she manages to work, love, and mother-with-help. Naturally, women can only handle one aspect of life, and since the kids are taken care of, either the job or the man have to go – especially since she’s feeling a little temptation in the workplace. Perhaps this lawsuit should happen … otherwise there will be an alien invasion where the invaders off all the women because they watched a lot of movies and deduced that estrogen meant hopeless incapability.
3. Something Borrowed – Self-Involved Friendship
The Bechdel Rule needs a cousin, a barometer for female friendship on the screen that gauges whether the women are friends, or dueling bloodsuckers devoid of humanity and compassion. This hideous romcom rests on the story that a shy girl is life-long friends with a self-involved, egotistical attention-grabber who is marrying the love of her life – the guy she was too chicken to express her feelings for. But oops, he dug her too and now the two have an affair behind the fashionable ogre’s back. This flick deserves punishment for its crimes against female friendship.
2. Just Go With It – Lying to Get Laid and the Mousy Glasses Girl
One of the strangest Hollywood habits is the one that pits an entire romantic comedy around the notions that an elaborate lie is the way to get the man or woman you’re craving. This time around, we not only have to stomach the condescension in the use of “just go with it” (which should be titled “I’m With Stupid,” or “Just Go with Stupid”), but the idea that a man would get his employee to play his wife, “hot” her up by getting her in fashion and taking off her glasses (as if Jennifer Aniston with specs is a wretched sight to behold), and pretend he has kids just to continue the lie through his potential future with a young woman. Lies do not equal love, and jerky players don't become new, worthy boyfriends in the frame of one film.
1. Sucker Punch – Titillation in Feminist Clothing
For crimes against feminism, Sucker Punch is already guilty as charged.