Joyless New York Times movie critic Manohla Dargis took to the Sunday Arts & Leisure page to spoil yet another summer movie season by ranting about the alleged paucity of roles for women on film: “The Living Is Easy; The Women Are Missing.”
If you’re a woman who roared, snorted or sniggered at 'Bridesmaids,' if you like watching other women on screen, you should see it again. Because that hit comedy written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo and directed by Paul Feig, turns out to be one of the few occasions this summer when you can enjoy a movie about and with women released by a major studio. From now through August, American films will again be almost all male, almost all the time (the occasional decorative gal pal notwithstanding) as this year’s boys of summer -- the Green Lantern and Captain America, Conan the Barbarian and Conan O’Brien -- invade the multiplex, seizing media-entertainment minds and your dollars.
This is an update of the argument Dargis unleashed both on May 1 of this year and in the summer of 2008, when she slammed that year's crop of summer movies for the sin of featuring men as leads: “Iron Man, Batman, Big Angry Green Man -- to judge from the new popcorn season it seems as if Hollywood has realized that the best way to deal with its female troubles is to not have any, women, that is.”
It’s three years later, and only the titles have changed for Dargis:
Mind you there are a few high-profile girls and women here and there, including the title character of 'Bad Teacher,' with Cameron Diaz as the romance- and etiquette-challenged teacher who at one point washes a car in slow motion while wearing a midriff and hot pants. Evidently nothing says new motion picture entertainment better than a female movie star in Daisy Dukes bending over and sudsing a car as if she were in a 2005 Jessica Simpson music video.
Dargis singled out the new “Hangover” movie for its lack of female characters (she does realize the movie is about a bachelor party gone awry, right?).
Gleaning wisdom from box-office statistics is a risky game, subject to all manner of qualifications, and of course it’s completely vulgar for a critic to pay attention to such things. Yet it seems worth pointing out that as 'Hangover Part II' was holding on to its No. 2 slot, 'Bridesmaids' was keeping a grip on fifth position, having pulled in more than $100 million by its third week. Is there a lesson here for those big-studio executives who even now are reading the latest iteration of the three-men-and-a-monkey story (but no women) and believe that the current state of American cinema -- separate and unequal -- will continue to fly? Only time and those summer movies idling while they wait for their green light will tell.