A revelation appeared while I was writing my review of Sleeping With Other People (2015), a review that has now turned into a discussion on a topic I literally stumbled on by accident. This is not a simple topic, it is not even an entertaining read because this is a serious view on the industry but most importantly, a critique towards the very women who complain about the lack of respect in the industry.
Yes, this is a critique towards women but before you reach for your torches and throw me under a bus, hear me out and be certain to consider this as a subjective comment towards a discovery that I think is actually interesting. Keep in mind, that we are all entitled to our own opinions and though mine won’t be something that everybody agrees with, I think there’s a hint of cruel reality in the midst of this post and I have no intention for it to be hateful, just observational.
Here’s the story: when I searched for information about Sleeping With Other People I landed on a piece of knowledge that made sense: it was written by Leslye Headland. In case you are not aware, Leslye Headland is the woman who wrote/directed Bachelorette – a movie I still hate and will continue to hate years from now. Luckily, Sleeping With Other People wasn’t as bad, but it still constituted as a movie where the female lead represented somebody I don’t necessarily want to aspire towards. This is a common pattern for me in most romantic comedies, such as The Other Woman, Bride Wars, What Happens in Vegas, No Strings Attached, The Ugly Truth, Bridesmaids, What to Expect When You Are Expecting, Confessions of a Shopaholic – all movies written, or co-written, by women.
Then, I decided to dig deeper and search out for the romantically driven movies I have liked over the years: Easy A, The Age of Adaline, 5 to 7, Crazy Stupid Love, About Time, The Notebook, Love Actually, Stuck In Love, Begin Again, (500) Days of Summer, In Your Eyes – all written by men! Granted, there are romantic movies that are written by women that I have loved but as I contemplated on this topic a little, I realized that the latest romantic comedies that I thoroughly enjoyed, and one of my favorite female leads in a romantic movie, were created by men. So how come men are able to write women that we should aspire towards, and women write characters that are annoyingly flawed and run after men as if they are the most important thing in the world? And how come a show entitled Girls, written by a woman, is about hate towards other female characters and showcasing that not caring about how you present yourself to the world, is somehow acceptable? And why would a female character wear a mesh shirt without a bra to a club and how in the world would that be something to aspire towards as a woman?
Sure, we live in a world where accepting you and who you are is a common motivational theme these days, but it doesn’t necessarily mean exposing yourself (there’s a right time and place for everything) or acting like a crazy person. But watching these romantic comedies were, for instance, a woman leaves right before he realizes he loves her and she runs back for him, is frustrating! That’s right, not the other way around, the woman does the running back, the woman leaves her newly created life behind to be with him! Maybe I’m overreacting but isn’t the whole movement nowadays about being strong, loving yourself and respecting other women? If so, why do these strong women in the film industry create female leads that are the opposite, women who feel like a man or a child completes them? Women, who set out to ruin other women’s weddings because they are bitter and hateful? Women who, and I’m sorry Nancy Meyers, can’t be successful in business as well as in their family life? Why?
We, us, women, we are capable of so much more! And yet, when the topic of feminism is raised in regards to Hollywood, I’m now thinking about those men, who, instead of women themselves, write inspirational female characters. Men, like J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz, who created Adaline – a woman who stayed true to herself, who was kind, who was smart and focused! There are exceptions, yes, I know there are but the mainstream romantic-comedies have a theme, and that theme is annoyance towards women created by women. And sorry, yes, even The Mindy Project has some annoyance in itself because Mindy doesn’t seem to have any female friends outside her work, and her only friend with a kid disappeared after season 1.. and that’s not okay. Women should write women they love to watch to strut their walk, and speak their mind. Women, who talk about literature and political issues among themselves without bringing men into their conversations. Women should write these women, because if men can do it, so could we and we could do it even better!
Anyway, this concludes my rant, and I’m all typed out by this point but I’m still hopeful. Yes, there are bad movies written about women out there, but I’m hopeful this will change and when it does, I’ll be right there, enjoying the hell out of some female empowerment created by women for the mainstream cinema!0
Yeah…I’m not so sure. I think the female characters written by men are richer because the men tend to idolize and fantasize about women. But women are much more hateful and mean towards each other than men are towards other men. I don’t get along with women well, actually. And when I do, with few female friends i have it’s never as well as I get along with men. Also I found Bridesmaids to pretty awesome because it took a very realistic approach – yes women supported each other but they were also jealous of each other. There are some good examples of sisterhood and female bonds in cinema – Fury Road comes to mind – but that seems like idea more than something I observed in reality. Bonds between actual sisters, that’s there. But females being 100% supportive of each other? I have yet to see that.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong about female characters discussing men. It doesn’t make them any less smart or successful just because they want to find someone. I recently saw Morning Glory which also had female character choose between job and a man and she chose the latter, though it was also because she created a new life for herself – perhaps if she left it she would be more successful but she chose to stay with the job and a man that made her happy.
It’s interesting, because when I would write a female character, I would try to write the best version of myself and it seems a little silly when all these female characters from women are anything but inspiring. Even in books written by women, the female characters sometimes come off as mean and they rarely have a good friendship with female characters. They always have issues and problems, but I guess that’s how women get along with each other.
I always got along with boys better than girls but now as I’m older, I see myself shifting from men to women. Sure, I would have less gray hair when it comes to women, and yes, I wouldn’t mind not saying something that would annoy a woman, but it’s less stressful in my age now than it was in high school. So I guess I’ve evolved a little, or they have, who knows.
About the women discussing men trend, it’s just another side effect on being a woman. And just as you mentioned Morning Glory, I’m reminded of The Devil Wears Prada ! She chose a man over her career as well but for different reasons than in the Sleeping With Other People. There she just packed her things and ran back to him. it felt weak and a little stupid. But it truly depends how you present that situation, which is fine in a long run but just wrong if it’s present weak.
This is a fascinating post. It seems odd that a woman would write a female character as being crazy. I blame Sex and the City for the trend of horrible female characters. I agree with Sati that male writers tend to write their ideal woman therefore the result is that they’re actually likeable whereas female writers tend to pile on too many flaws to their characters. There are exceptions but I can’t think of any off the top of my head!
You know, Sex and The City had lots of women behind the staff so I’m not surprised you might blame it. And again, as I answered Sati, I feel like I would want to create an ideal woman as well but I guess I can’t say I would if yet I haven’t. I guess it will be a mystery for a while before a trend appears or something.
Thanks for the comment!
This is a really fascinating piece. The idea of this theme of annoyance towards women created by women is a really troubling one to me, and I appreciated your thoughtful analysis of it here.