This week on The Spectator Film Podcast…
Legally Blonde (2001) 11.16.18
Players: Austin, Maxx
Commentary begins at: 33:03
— Notes —
- “Let’s Stop Calling Movies Feminist” by Anna Biller —- Here’s Anna Biller’s – director of The Love Witch (2016) – perceptive blog post about our tendency to crown movies as “feminist”; we’re not only frequently wrong, but also convolute and trivialize the discussion of actual feminist cinema in doing so, diminishing it’s potency. We relied upon Biller’s robust criteria for feminist cinema to frame our discussion of Legally Blonde, and while we’ll include a few relevant passages here, it’s no substitute for engaging with Biller’s cogent arguments directly – they speak for themselves. It’s also worth mentioning Anna’s Blog: Musings About Film and Culture has many other fascinating posts in which Anna discusses both her own work and film history at large. (Anna also seems to participate in the comments section frequently, which is pretty cool. Just sayin’…) Here are some passages that do a good job communicating the tone and approach of Anna’s post:
“To be feminist, a movie has to have the express purpose of educating its audience about social inequality between men and women (and, I would argue, not take pleasure in the voyeuristic degradation or destruction of women).”
“I sometimes see these absurd threads online with titles such as ‘Is Dario Argento a feminist or a misogynist?’ When I see discussions like this, I can only think that people are very confused about what feminism is. Misogyny is hatred of women; feminism is not love of women, it’s a political movement. Surely Argento, when creating a movie like SUSPIRIA (1977), was not conscious of being part of a political movement to bolster women’s freedom. He was, according to interviews, working out nightmare visions in his head. He was trying to create visceral cinema, and his cinema is powerful and has had a lasting impact on audiences; but not because it’s feminist.
“What does the audience think about when watching SUSPIRIA? Is it that they wish women had equal pay, equal representation in culture, were taken more seriously, had an easier time negotiating with men, suffered less sexual objectification and harassment? Are the female characters in it living in a meaningfully realistic world of gendered politics? Are men in it implicated for their violence, or for their unthinking privilege that they benefit from at the expense of women? And most importantly, do audiences viewing it suddenly understand how the world looks from the interior of a specifically female consciousness?”
“If critics are really that interested in discussing feminism in cinema, they should pay more attention to actual feminist movies. Otherwise, they are saying that they don’t care about feminism—they only care about giving male directors the label of feminist to legitimize the most violent and potentially controversial work. They are also saying that movies are fine the way they are, and that we don’t really need more women’s stories or perspectives. If all of the male fantasy movies out there are feminist, then feminism is doing great! Why hire female directors and writers? Since producers generally only care about the bottom dollar, ‘feminist’ to studios and producers has become a code word for ‘not misogynistic enough to tank at the box office.'”
“By using the word feminism so often and indiscriminately, we are erasing feminist discourse. The over-use of the word feminism has rendered it entirely meaningless as a serious political topic, making it easier and easier for everyone to think of it as just a trendy subject or a buzzword rather than the very fabric of women’s lives. This is an effective way to kill a political movement, and it’s working.”
- “Legally Blonde – Feminist Review and Analysis” by theroguefeminist — Here’s the link to a very thorough and engaging review of Legally Blonde by theroguefeminist on Tumblr (http://theroguefeminist.tumblr.com/). It’s unfortunate I found it after the recording, as it does a remarkable job articulating our discomfort at the film’s treatment of side characters in marginalized communities. This review confidently addresses Legally Blonde‘s strengths and weakness, and if you enjoyed reading it, theroguefeminist has lots of other posts discussing film/media waiting for you.