“For women, frump isn’t funny any longer. The new female comedian has to be the sexual aggressor, sexually provocative, dominant and successful," says entertainment expert Patrick Wanis. "Hollywood is now portraying women as the dominant force – the boss, the rescuer, the heroine, the hunter. Now women are being sexually provocative and sexually aggressive, rude and funny without the femininity or the class. Lucille Ball would never have played the aggressive, domineering nymphomaniac that Jennifer Aniston portrayed in ‘Horrible Bosses.’"
I, for one, think it's a good thing that Lucille Ball wasn't playing "aggressive, domineering nymphomaniac[s]." Are aggressive, domineering nymphomaniacs funny? Because I think most people will agree that Lucille Ball was funny. Also, everything I've heard points to Horrible Bosses being a terrible movie.
Last night, I went to see a screening of Miss Representation (those of you with cable TV should check it out on Oprah's network this evening). One of the concepts that this movie crystallized for me was that of "the fighting fuck-toy." The term was coined by Occidental College associate professor Caroline Heldman to describe the female heroes of action films who are supposedly empowered, but who are dressed and presented in a way more akin to inflatable dolls than powerful heroes (see Lara Croft, Catwoman, Charlie's Angels, et al). I don't remember who asked the question initially, but who would wear those outfits if they were planning on kicking butt and saving the world? Who in their right mind prefers to fight crime while wearing a push up bra and stilettos?
For me, it's yet another disheartening reminder that the thing I love (movies, film, television, comedy) is still very much a boy's club. It's a lot of why I burned out on production work a decade ago. I started out, fresh from film school, in 1992. I was going to change the world, or at least the film industry. My first mission was the electrical department. See, the electrical department is one of the most entrenched boys-only clubs in the production business. The next time you're at a movie or watching a DVD, stick around for the credits. Look to see if you see any female names under the headings of "Gaffer," "Grip," or "Electric." The IMDb page is less than complete, but even Miss Representation only had one or maybe two female grips listed. As a matter of fact, do you know what they call the head assistant in the Grip and Electric departments? "Best Boy." Seriously.
I have one single "grip" credit to my name: "Solstice" (which was a great crew to be on, BTW. I have very strong memories of the knowledgeable electrics being very willing to teach the novice grips). My next gig (whose name I have blocked out), I was a Production Assistant ("PA"). I showed up on the first day and was told to go make coffee. More recently, a month or so ago I volunteered to help Upright Citizens Brigade get UCBeast ready for opening night. I walked in to find the all-male crew hanging lights and painting walls. "I'm here to help!" I declared. They showed me to the vacuum cleaner.
In both of those cases I did what I was directed to do, but in both of those cases (and neither, sadly, were isolated incidents) I found it profoundly disheartening. UCB is one of the few (if not the only) places in comedy where being a woman doesn't mean I'm in the overwhelming minority. I'm well aware that I seem to have chosen yet another boy's club to try to break into.
And now FoxNews, that bastion of equality, has declared that it's a happy happy day, because the new Hollywood comediennes "all combine funny bones with bangin’ bodies." "Hollywood doesn’t want a woman that is not sexually enticing like Rosie [O'Donnell]," they declare (I'm guessing Rosie's not a virgin anymore, so presumably she's sexually enticing to someone). But my favorite quote has to be this one:
"People are realizing that you don’t have to have a penis to tell a joke about one."
Because it is all about the penis, right?