Still watching likely Oscar contender movies, and still thinking not only about the content of the movies themselves, but also the context.
I’ve gotten through many of the predicted “Best Picture/Best Director” movies – mostly, as I wrote about earlier, all about the dudes (even movies like Ma Rainey, that are ostensibly about women) – and am now working my way through the predicted “Best Actress/Best Supporting Actress” movies.
My main “context” observation?
The women’s stories that don’t seem to “merit” consideration for the “big” awards are quiet, personal, and intense, as opposed to the men’s stories that do “merit”consideration for the “big” awards. They are (mostly) Heroic Tales of Men Doing Big Things.
This, to me, begs (at least) two questions:
First, why are “Heroic Tales” the only ones that are considered to be Important Stories?
Pieces of a Woman deals with the devastating loss of a newborn and the repercussions for the mother and her nearest and dearest.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always addresses how difficult it can be to get the abortion care you need even in states where it hasn’t been legislated nearly out of existence. It also highlights the beauty and intensity of female friendship (and is one of the best cinematic treatments I’ve ever seen of how unrelentingly creepy and inappropriate adult men are towards teenage young women).
The 40 Year Old Version charts a woman reassessing her life as a milestone birthday approaches and using that as the inspiration to recapture something she loved – and was excellent at – as a young person. Bonus romance with a handsome younger man!
Nomadland tells the tale of a group of people we choose, as a culture, throw away, and how they make their way in the world after that.
Second, no women are heroes?
Confession time: I hated 2019’s “Harriet,” the biopic about Harriet Tubman. Why? Because while the film recognized her incredible courage and determination, it positioned her as some type of “holy fool” who heard the “voice of God” and followed it. It diminished her. I say no. She was a brilliant strategist who knew EXACTLY what she was doing (and happened to be religious). She was a hero, not some sort of possessed handmaid. So were/are lots of other women, some of whom I highlighted last week.
Both problems are reflective of the male gaze, male ways of viewing the world, and #OscarsSoMale (pop culture, too). Men’s stories are BIG, women’s stories are small. Men are HEROES, women are their adoring audiences (who make the copies and the coffee). Movies about men are IMPORTANT, movies about women are “chick flicks.”
Well, fuck that.
Women’s history month starts Monday, and I’m issuing a challenge to readers. Next month, watch women’s stories. Read women authors. Listen to women musicians. Seek out not just women’s history, but women heroes, actual and fictional. If we don’t pay attention to us, no one will.
Image of Wonder Woman found here.
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