The Lizzie Bennet Diaries isn’t just about white people. A fair amount of supporting characters - Charlotte and Maria Lu, Bing and Caroline Lee, and Fitz William - are people of color. Charlotte and Maria even had their own side story in the brief “Maria of the Lu” series sponsored by Collins & Collins. None of their characters are included as “token minorities,” either; they all have distinct personalities and are entertaining in different ways. Much like the world did not spin off of its axis when the creators of Elementary cast an Asian woman as Dr. Watson, the planets stayed in alignment when The Lizzie Bennet Diaries made Colonel Fitzwilliam gay and black.
I realize Evie isn’t supposed to be likeable, that we’re meant to roll our eyes at her upper-class privilege and displays of affection toward her husband’s mysterious younger brother, that maybe we’re even supposed to feel a tiny bit sorry for her. But I despise one-dimensional women characters onscreen, and Evie is just that, a collection of simplistic tropes used to move the narrative forward: a bad wife, a bad mother, a bad boss (like, aren’t you even going to look for your missing housekeeper?), and a bad niece-in-law (Aunt Gin needs to talk to you alone for a reason, you idiot.) Her obliviousness to everything happening around her doesn’t read as the dissociated or even unstable response of a wife in mourning; it reads as the selfish and feigned cluelessness of a generally awful person.
What Gigli is trying to say as a film eludes me. However, what the film is actually saying is blatantly obvious. Ben Affleck is so unlikeable that the movie only serves to show that lesbians will be turned straight by being in the company of any man, no matter what a piece of shit he may be. This is conservative heteronormative dogma (Dogma - yet another Ben Affleck flick). Luckily, Gigli is universally thought to suck, and hopefully some measure of that perceived suckitude has to do with the inane, unrealistic, chemistry-free romance between a hot lesbian and the King of the Jackasses.
Hester is a woman craving life and passion but who is, of course, bound by duty; a plot that might seem overly familiar in its use, but because of its frequency we should consider the sad truth of its existence and representation as a struggle for many women. The Hours, Stephen Daldry’s excellent film (story by Michael Cunningham) about four women, presents the same familiar situation of the restlessness and searching for something more that was and is such a huge part of the female experience. It even put me in mind of Bette Friendan’s The Feminine Mystique and everything that she tried to piece together and understand about the frustration and extreme sense of duty that many women have felt throughout the years.
Today in my never ending quest for breathing room I stumbled upon @bitchflicks weekly twitter chat. It was one of the most inspiring discussions on film and the film industry that I’ve been involved with in a while. It also marked one of the few times in my life , that I have had about film and…
And Meredith Salenger is absolutely terrific as Natty Gann. Even feminist-in-training Young Robin recognized some of the problems with the “tomboy” character archetype: that the way for a girl to be cool was for to not be “girly.” What’s remarkable about the character Natty Gann as written by Jeanne Rosenberg and played by Salenger is that her personality is just that–her personality, given even rougher edges by the hard circumstances of her life. Her toughness isn’t meant to make her any less of a “real girl.” Natty struggles to be accepted as equal to adults, rather than equal to the boys. When Harry tells her, “You’re a real woman of the world, kid” we know she’s earned the respect she seeks.
I would suggest that everyone do a little Wikipedia search for ‘female hysteria’ because it’s some of the most entertaining and offbeat information I’ve ever heard. Doctors and midwives used to ‘massage’ women into orgasms (yes, male doctors and female midwives—how’s that for Victorian homoeroticism) to help with their anxiety, loss of appetite and even insomnia. During this period, it seems hard to believe that no one started some sort of morality campaign against the doctors who were pleasuring their wives in the name of science, but there you have it, folks. The fact that the entire European and American medical establishment willfully ignored the obvious logical conclusions about female sexuality (you know, that women like, need and enjoy sex just as much as men do) is both tragic and hilarious at the same time.
I often talk about how I want to see more female-fronted films, created by female filmmakers, including women of color on-screen and behind the camera. I want complex, strong, intelligent, resilient, vulnerable, flawed women characters. I want more realistic depictions of love: tender, supportive yet complicated. I want my films to make a social statement if possible. In Ava Duvernay’s award-winning, poignant and evocative film Middle of Nowhere, she masterfully displays all of the above.
Eve’s Bayou, Kasi Lemmons’s 1997 debut as a screenwriter and director, should be seen by every movie lover, every filmmaker, every storyteller. It’s a nearly perfect narrative feat, but it only generated minor waves among film critics upon its release (although Roger Ebert did name it his Best Film of 1997), and failed to garner mainstream awards nominations (it did better at the Independent Spirit Awards and NAACP Image Awards). In the intervening sixteen years I would have expected it to build up a huge following and status as a cult classic, but it is, at best, remembered as “a contemporary classic in black cinema.”