Hollywood: Women Over 25 Don’t Like Sex
Oct 28, 2011
The latest issue of The New Yorker contains a profile on actress Anna Faris, who starred in The House Bunny, as well as having roles in the Scary Movie franchise, The Hot Chick, Take Me Home Tonight, and Lost In Translation. While the article is ostensibly about her upcoming movie, Whatâ€™s Your Number?, which tells the story of a woman who fears sheâ€™s slept with too many men, it also delves deep into Hollywoodâ€™s persistent misogyny.
Those of us waiting for a movie with a female character who has a high-powered job, isnâ€™t a psychotic bitch, isnâ€™t man obsessed, and who is smart, funny, and who (gasp!) has sex once in awhile, had better hunker down. It doesnâ€™t appear this mythological creature will make its debut in a Hollywood film any time soon.
According to the numerous actors, writers, directors and executives interviewed for the piece, here are the basic rules of the female movie character:
#1 A female lead has to be â€œadorable.â€ Being adorable means a woman either doesnâ€™t have a job or, if she does, has a nice non-threatening one, canâ€™t get a man, and isnâ€™t particularly sexually active. She cries a lot and knows everything is her fault. She tends to fall down, trip, bang her head on things, etc. In the article, a successful female screenwriter is quoted as saying, â€œTo make a woman adorable, you have to defeat her at the beginningâ€¦ abuse and break her, strip her of her dignityâ€¦ Itâ€™s as simple as making the girl cry fifteen minutes into the movie.â€
#2 A female lead cannot be sexually active. Sex is so verboten for women in movies that Anna Farisâ€™s character in The House Bunny, who was a used-up Playboy centerfold, was somehow, presto, made into a chaste den motherâ€”but still one who tottered around in spike-heels and pink baby doll dresses.
#3 Women cannot have sex and be funny. Farisâ€™s character in her comedy, Whatâ€™s Your Number?, which opens in September, has slept with 20 men. She then reads in a Marie Claire piece that this is the exact number of lovers that dooms a woman to never bagging a husband. (The optimal solution here would be to not reveal the amount of men youâ€™ve slept with, or to lie, but this is Hollywood.) In the New Yorker piece, Faris and the filmâ€™s director, Mark Mylod, watch a scene from the film. In it, Farisâ€™s character declares that sheâ€™s a â€œwhore,â€ and wants someone who will â€œappreciate thatâ€ about her. During a test screening, the audience laughed at the line, but the director remained wary. â€œYounger women lap up the nudity and sexual humor,â€ he was quoted as saying. â€œWomen over 25â€”some are worried by it.â€
Unclear is how the director (or anyone else for that matter) would know the birth dates of the women in the audience doing the guffawing.
#4 Female leads cannot have a career and a man. In Whatâ€™s Your Number? Farisâ€™s character has just lost her job. Other examples the article gives include Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada, who gives up her high-powered job to keep her man; and Renee Zellweger, who pines for her boss in Bridget Jones even after he ruins her career. While sports fanatic Cameron Diaz was the ultimate object of male obsession in Thereâ€™s Something About Mary, she was also a doctor. But we never see her working, or even talking about her career.
#5 Women must be klutzes. If a female lead is to be likable, she cannot have a sense of balance. â€œThe studio note is always more physical comedy,â€ Faris told The New Yorker. â€œWhich means more falling down.â€ She adds: â€œShe has to fall down first, and at the end she can be smart and crafty.â€
The article also delineates something called the Bechdel Test, created in 1985 by cartoonist Alison Bechdel and her friend Liz Wallace. This test, which examines movies for sexism, poses only three questions: Does a movie contain two or more female characters who have names? Do those characters talk to each other? And, if they do, do they discuss something other than a man? Not surprisingly, few movies pass the Bechdel Test.
Yet what about the successful female-driven movies with characters that often have jobs, can be either funny or smart or raunchy (sometimes all three), and even, on occasion, are less than virginal? The article points to movies like Sex and the City, Juno, Julie & Julia, The House Bunny, Mean Girls, Easy A, Somethingâ€™s Got to Give and Itâ€™s Complicated.
â€œStudio executives think these moviesâ€™ success is a one-off every time,â€ Nancy Meyers, who wrote and directed Somethingâ€™s Got to Give and Itâ€™s Complicated, is quoted as saying. â€œTheyâ€™ll say, â€˜One of the big reasons that worked is because Jack [Nicholson] was in it.â€™ â€
Funny how that never goes the other way. Can you imagine a studio exec saying, â€œPart of the reason Knocked Up worked is because Katherine was in itâ€?
One top studio executive summed it up with candid, if depressing and scary, frankness: â€œThe decision to make movies is mostly made by men, and if men donâ€™t have to make movies about women they wonâ€™t.â€
But there is a simple solution to all of this: men may make the movies, but women donâ€™t have to go to see them.