Men Are in Trouble and Hollywood Wants to Help – The New York Times

Posted: December 23, 2019 at 10:45 am


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The easy camaraderie of the two men in Once Upon a Time evokes that in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the buddy movie that topped the box office in 1969. It also helped usher in a cinematic gender shift that by 1974 found Molly Haskell sounding a bleak, familiar alarm in her book From Reverence to Rape. Seen from a womans point of view, she wrote, the past decade with its covert misogyny (Lolita) and abusive male violence (Straw Dogs, et al.), had been the most disheartening in screen history. Although female performers had delivered memorable turns, she argued, even their great roles embraced stereotypes.

Icebergs, zombies and ballbreakers, Haskell wrote. Thats what little girls of the 60s and 70s are made of. She connected the demise of womens onscreen prominence with the end of the old studio system and its image-making machinery. Actresses may have had more freedom, but they no longer had the power that great female stars had commanded. (The end of the industrys self-censoring Production Code, which was replaced by the rating system in 1968, also meant actresses could be sexualized more graphically.) Yet even as the old system disappeared, Hollywood remained and remains hooked on old forms and ideas, which is why it has such trouble expressing the real-world changes affecting its audience, including shifting gender roles.

Feminism had an impact on Hollywood, whatever the industrys reluctance. But its no surprise that an industry long dominated by men has resisted sharing power with women. In the decades since Haskell sent out her warning, the industry has rationalized, and normalized, its discrimination with every possible excuse: the market, fan demand, creative vision. It invested in male-driven blockbusters (from Jaws to Avengers), elevated boy geniuses and hired male hacks over qualified women. It still does. Some male filmmakers themselves liberated, perhaps by feminist mothers and partners make stories with gentle, sensitive men who are already good dads and thoughtful spouses, and who can share, care and cry. At times, as in bromances, they outsource traditional femininity to men.

As men got in touch with their feelings onscreen (or not), it sometimes seemed that the mainstream industry with its male geniuses, brotherhoods, bad boys and superheroes came close to abandoning women. Things have recently improved because women have spoken out, as high-profile movies from and about women suggest. Men are listening. That much seems evident from this years male crisis movies, even if men often appear most interested in working on their issues and their feelings in stories about masculinity. For all the male introspection, though, our movies still love heroic and villainous men, spirited and supportive ladies the majority white along with simple moralizing and tidy, exultant endings. As Ford v Ferrari reminds us, the movies still love stories about men who change the world while women wait.

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Men Are in Trouble and Hollywood Wants to Help - The New York Times

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December 23rd, 2019 at 10:45 am

Posted in Self-Awareness