Monday, September 8, 2008

When Being a Woman Meant Something

I have been at a low boil for some time about the portrayal of women in movies. Blockbuster hits constantly reinforce the women as objects syndrome.

One recent offender is Iron Man. On the near completely male-dominated screen, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) stands out as a level-headed, competent secretary - a protege of the profession, really. Be astounded as she completes the most complicated and arduous tasks by following very detailed, step-by-step directions from a man.

(I will refrain from mentioning reporter Christine (Leslie Bibb), whose sole purpose on the screen is to display her ... well, let's just say it's not her cunning intellect.)

So I was pleasantly surprised when we watched Cranford last week. Cranford is a TV mini-series (made in 2007) based on Elizabeth Gaskell's novels, written in the 1850s. The series is about the lives and relationships of the residents of a small town in 1840s England. Women get a larger share of the screen time. But that's not as important as what that screen time shows. A variety of vices and virtues - town gossip, loose flirtations, and rigid propriety mixed with sincere compassion, neighborliness, strong wills, compentency in society and intellect - creates women of depth and diversity. Women who are actually like the women I know, and the woman I'm trying to become.

Okay. Okay. I know it's an unfair comparison. The men in Iron Man are nearly (though not quite) as flat and inestimable as the women. Victorian literature arguably pays more attention to character development than Marvel comics. The audience and expectations for each is completely different.

Still. It makes me wonder what ground we have gained in the last 150 years. Or lost.

1 comment:

Dawn said...

What we've gained is our understanding when women are portrayed in flat and/or sterotypical ways that they are in fact characters. And the ability to demand more by not going to those movies that don't portray us in real ways. So thanks for the heads up about the two movies you saw...we need more people to stand up and dish on stuff that just isn't appropriate or accurate or even a useful learning experience.