Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Jealous women.

Jealousy is a trait which is much more widely accepted as a ‘natural’ female trait rather than male. Although the false report rate for rape is no higher than for any other crime, the finger of jealousy is often automatically pointed at rape victims. We, along with some members of the police force, are still using a phrase derived from a fictional play written in the 1600s as an explanation of women’s ‘natural’ disposition to be vengeful. "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned” is now fact. Law. Science. We can’t really have been raped, we can’t really dislike celebrity culture or pornography. Women can’t really be honest or have our own opinions - we all must just be jealous. You’re jealous, so we can ignore all of your problems now.

Even from an early age the jealousy of women is drilled into us through the form of a ‘moral’ educational tale. Cinderella’s ugly old step mother and sisters (remember that ugly is synonymous with evil) are so jealous of Cindy’s beauty, that they bully her into the life of a slave. The wicked old step mother of Snow White, upon learning she is no longer “the fairest of them all” is enraged with jealousy. She would rather kill her daughter than be ugly, since there is absolutely nothing worse than being ugly. If you’re female.

If you’re a male tramp however, you’re free to go and find a lady without being evil or jealous. If you’re a beast, a beauty will still woo you. If you’re hunch-backed, you needn’t worry either. So that's the immoral of the tale; women are either beautiful and good, or ugly-evil (synonymous) and jealous.


Thursday, 9 February 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I'm a big fan of this trilogy. Over a year ago I read all of the books and have watched all of the Swedish films. I'm not sure what I think of this remake though - although I haven't seen it.

I think I'm against seeing it on principle seeing that the original Swedish movie was only released 2 years before this Hollywood version. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest was barely out of cinemas when this version came along. It's clearly a remake for the sake of Hollywood-ising it (a la Psycho which was scene-for-scene remade). Shove in an American actress and James Bond and you've got yourself a much higher production value and draw a wider audience who maybe rejected the original film because of the subtitles and wanted to watch some celebrity actors they already recognised. Cashing in on the success of the trilogy before the original hype dies down? Almost certainly.
I think I just liked the original films so much that I don't see the point in watching a re-make two years later, before any changes in culture or history can mark any significant changes on its interpretation.

I love Lisbeth Salander, she's a real feminist heronie although it looks like the fact this book in Swedish was entitled Men who hate women, is a bit lost on the new audience. Just compare the two promotional posters for a start. I want to keep Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth in my mind - but by all means do try to persuade me based on the differences between the versions if anyone here has seen both of them?

(and if not, I question why?)

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Uni Lad misogyny is just "banter"

So I just heard about Uni Lad which is a misogynistic magazine and website for university "lads" teaching them to treat women (who they call "sluts") as sex objects. Usual articles for them consist of advice on how to hunt "vulnerable" students down for sex. They have just shut down their website due to complaints about a severely pro-rape article.

In the 'cleverly' titled article 'Sexual Mathematics' we are told that 75% of women are sluts, implying that women are automatically going to sleep with you. However if you're unlucky enough to meet one of those rare non-sluts the Uni Lad's are told to "think about this mathematical statistic: 85% of rape cases go unreported...That seems fairly good odds". They add a very funny 'joke' at the end just to make sure we know it's just 'banter' and that none of it's 79,000 Facebook fans are actually going to rape anyone: "Uni Lad does not condone rape without saying surprise".


Apart from that statistically, amongst those 79,000 fans there are going to be rapists. They might not even be aware they're rapists because of articles like this that are allowed to be printed through the rape myth that it's not 'real' rape unless you're attacked by a stranger at knife point in a dark alley. This myth encourages men to see acquaintance rape more as "convincing" women to sleep with them rather than real serious rape. Some of those Uni Lad fans will therefore think it's not really rape to get a woman drunk and force themselves on her, some of them will take this article seriously. Considering 1 in 6 women in the U.S are raped, each of those members statistically know several victims themselves.

A Twitter member (Sazza_Jay) complained on Uni Lad's Twitter page about the article and was asked in reply whether she was a "dyke". The official 'apology' from Uni Lad originally claimed that the article was intended as "banter". It's hard to take their 'apology' sincerely when they respond like this:

Facebook fans since have been posting misogynistic defences, victim -blaming and pro-rape 'jokes' in response. Rape apologists are citing "freedom of speech" which would not make racist or homophobic hate speech acceptable but somehow means sexist hate speech is fine. This reflects cultural beliefs that openly encourage and accept sexism. Racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic hate speech is illegal but sexist hate speech is not. Regurgitating Uni Lad's claim, anyone who objects to their misogynistic article must just be a "dyke" or "gay" with a "small dick". These ridiculous claims further enforce the expectation of men to go along with the 'joke' in order to be accepted by their peers. Through fear that they may not be a real 'bloke' otherwise. This completely disregards the fact that many rape victims are also male of course, another rape myth they're enforcing.

Link to Facebook comments.

But yeah, misogyny in the media doesn't really exist, it's just lads being lads. After all, they're programmed to be sex-obsessed so can't help themselves. It's just the way things are.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The femme fetale in modern film.

The femme fetale archetype featured prominently in the 40’s and 50’s classical genre of film noir. The fatal woman was the ‘love interest’ of the protagonist whose beauty and sexuality bestowed power over the male characters, often to a dangerous end. In Gilda (1946) the eponymous heroine (Rita Hayworth) uses her glamorous looks and sexuality for revenge; she publicly dances and flirts with other men to make Johnny (Glenn Ford) jealous. On the surface, Gilda’s sexuality bestows her with immense power which is able to affect the actions of the male characters. However, Gilda demonstrates that she can only use her appearance rather than intellect or physical power; she is dominated by male characters who physically punish her. The femme fetale’s power is signified as dangerous in film noir, it must be broken by the finale of the film through either repentance or death. At the end of Gilda, her display of sexuality is described by another character as “just an act” as Gilda’s return to her ‘innocent’ form is symbolised through her change of clothing and rejection of sexuality. In The Lady From Shanghai (1947), femme fatale Elsa (again Rita Hayworth) is shot dead during the ending sequence, as a punishment for her killing Grisby (Glenn Anders). The classical sexually ‘empowered’ woman therefore was seen as sinful, their sexual power taken away from them by the end of the film.

Laura Mulvey describes that in classical film, female characters are “the one, or rather the love or feat she inspires in the hero, or else the concern he feels for her, who makes him act the way he does. In herself the woman has not the slightest importance.” Despite the film being entitled Gilda, her importance lies in how she causes the men to act; Ballin fakes his own death because of her cheating while Johnny marries her for revenge. Mulvey demonstrates that the narrative structure of classical film is always controlled by a male protagonist who acts to forward the story, females as a result are given passive roles. Johnny is clearly presented as the protagonist from the first scene of the film which sets up his narrative goal, voice-over narration is also presented from his point-of-view. In contrast, very little information is communicated about Gilda, she is introduced merely as Ballin’s wife and described as his “property”. Gilda exerts her power through sexual displays; performing a strip tease and character traits such as flicking her hair. However these also function to present Gilda as an object of Mulvey’s “male gaze”. Her body is objectified through clothing, fragmentation and close-ups which are presented from the male characters point-of-view.

In modern film another interpretation of the femme fetale, the ‘sex goddess’, also appears. In Lara Croft: The Cradle of Life, (Bont, 2003) the female heroine is a similarly sexual, dangerous woman who uses her appearance for her own needs. She teases Terry (Gerard Butler) by kissing him to lure him into a feeling of security, allowing her to chain him up and interrogate him for information. However, in contrast to the classical femme fetale, Lara also uses her intellect to acquire information to find the hidden treasure; her dialogue details her extensive knowledge of Pharaohs and treasure maps which she uses to seek the treasure. Gilda wears typically ‘feminine’ clothing and lacks physical power but in contrast, Lara displays physical power, fighting using typically ‘masculine’ machine guns. Lara’s heavy use of guns indicates phallic undertones, escaping submission by metaphorically becoming the typical male hero. Lara rejects traditional female clothing such as lightly coloured dresses and skirts, opting for dark shorts or trousers that reveal her body, rejecting femininity while simultaneously symbolising her sexuality. The indication from both Cradle of Life and Gilda is that women who look and act feminine are submissive and lack power. In order to gain control, they must reject feminine norms and metaphorically become male through costume and characterisation.

Richard Gray describes that “in the first decade of the new millennium, representations of technology, pleasure and sexuality have intersected in films with female superheroes” (2011: 80). Here he describes that in modern films, female characters are sexualised but they can also be heroes. Although Gilda and Lara both use their sexuality for their own goals, in the modern film Cradle of Life Lara uses both ‘beauty and brains’ which reflects the cultural change of women’s independence between the 1940s ‘femme fetale’ and the 2000s ‘sex goddess’ superheroes. Similar representations of physically strong, sexualised ‘superhero’ women can be found in many modern films such as Charlie’s Angels (Nichol, 2000), Resident Evil (Anderson, 2002) Catwoman (Pitof, 2004), Aeon Flux (Kusama, 2005) and Elektra (Bowman, 2005.) Not only do the women of these films exert their sexual power like the classical femme fetale, but they are also smart and physically strong - rejecting typically ‘feminine’ traits which restrain the femme fetale. Additionally, Mulvey’s theory of a male character controlled narrative is disputed; the clear protagonists of these films are all women, however Richard Gray argues that this is for male audiences who like to watch sexualised 'unattainable' women rather than for female audiences who want to watch independent women. Like in classical film, Mulvey’s “male gaze” remains constant throughout modern film. Changes in censorship means that modern female characters are more overtly sexually objectified. As an addition to cinematographic techniques such as fragmentation that are used in both Gilda and Cradle of Life, Lara’s nude body is exposed in a sex scene and shower scene which are used as spectacle rather than for narrative importance.

The protagonists of modern ‘superheroine’ films all possess strikingly similar physical characteristics, wearing dark, tight and revealing costumes to strongly signify their ‘dangerous’ sexuality. Women’s success and power in film is still dependant on their appearance. While modern heroines are arguably more ‘empowered’ their success cannot be based purely on their merits and intellect. They have to possess sex appeal to gain physical power. The message here is that a woman’s worth still lies in her beauty and for both the classical femme fetale and modern sex goddess, only beautiful women can hold any power.

Adapted from a university dissertation written by Laura Connett, copyright 2011.