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Who you callin' a bitch? - Grindhouse, the Mo Movie Measure, and comic book covers.

Lily Cain
Date: 2007-04-23 17:45
Subject: Grindhouse, the Mo Movie Measure, and comic book covers.
Security: Public
I saw Grindhouse a little while ago, and it's taken me some time to get my thoughts together enough to write about it. What finally got me thinking clearly about it, though, were two discussions with male friends.

The second half of Grindhouse, Death Proof, is an action/slasher movie with the heroes a group of female friends. And a good half of the movie was women just spending time together, talking, gossiping, laughing. The film was very much female-centered; we were not, as in most slasher movies, meant to empathize or identify with the male killer.

I can't even express how strongly that affected me.

There's this set of criteria I use to evaluate movies, called the Mo Movie Measure, after the character in Alison Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For that it came from (by way of Ampersand). The criteria are as follows:

1) There is more than one named female character, and
2) they talk to each other at some point in the movie...
3) ...about something other than a man.

It's shocking how few movies meet these criteria. A lot of movies will meet the first one, or even the first two, but it's rare that they meet all three. Neither of the two Pirates of the Caribbean movies, for instance, met even the first one (if I recall correctly). The Lord of the Rings movies met the first one, but not the second. (Sidenote: did you know The Hobbit doesn't have a single female character?) After Hours, a Scorcese movie I watched with a friend Saturday night, met the first two, but not the third.

But Death Proof met all three. Easily. Which surprised and delighted me. (The first half of Grindhouse, Planet Terror, met all three as well, but just barely.)

Anyway, I say it's shocking how few movies meet these criteria. But not everyone thinks so. I was discussing this with a male friend of mine on Saturday, and he expressed disbelief that I would use these criteria to evaluate a movie. "That's like saying every movie should have ponies in it," he said.

What?!?

I didn't even know where to start with that one. Eventually I got myself together enough to say, "Okay, replace 'female' with 'male' and 'man' with 'woman', and think of a single movie that DOESN'T fit the criteria." Once I put it that way, he understood that well-developed female characters are not analogous to ponies.

But seriously. What the fuck?

On a related note, Ragnell recently wrote a great post about this cover:



Ragnell writes of her reaction to this cover:

So a picture of the traditional version, where the man is standing and radiating power while the woman is on her knees clinging to his leg can be offputting because at first glance my mind wants to identify with the female position. But the male character is the stronger in such a picture. He's the one we're meant to empathize with while the girl is the throwaway. So there's a little bit of distancing that has to happen. I have to ignore the gender difference to identify with the stronger character. Something is lost, and I see the art through a filter. I've seen tons of poses like this, with the woman wrapped around the man's leg, and they've never struck me as a good pose.

But looking at this cover the power hit me right away. There was no distance, there was no filter between me as a viewer and the stronger character. I got the full effect of the picture.

Its hard to describe, but when I saw it my heart felt a little lighter in my chest, my cheeks felt warmer and the corners of my mouth turned up in a smile. I think I may have stood a little taller in the store.


This is exactly how I feel when watching a movie where woman are central and centered, like Death Proof. No, it wasn't perfect, particularly from a feminist standpoint. And I wouldn't really call Quentin Tarantino a feminist, either. But that feeling is so rare that I value it highly when it arises.

I mentioned another conversation I had with a male friend, this one about both Death Proof and that cover. He expressed distaste for both, saying they were cheesy because they drew too much attention to "female empowerment", and thus undermined the cause of female equality by making it seem like something unusual.

I was really pissed off. Of course they seem unusual. They're unusual because of male dominance. And they won't be normal until we end male dominance, part of which means creating stronger images of women in the media.

It just sounded to me like the typical male "concerns" about feminism, how we're "hurting our cause" by rocking the boat too much. How we should be nice, and subtle, and just wait around for men to decide to give us what we want. No system of oppression was ever overthrown that way; their advice isn't to help us, it's to make themselves more comfortable.

Fuck that.

Truth be told, though, a lot of my anger came from the fact that he will never understand the feeling I get when I see Pietro clutching Crystal's leg, or a trio of women kicking the shit out of a misogynist murderer. And instead of trying to understand the joy I get from these things, he was just cutting them down.

Fuck that, too.

Seriously, though. Ponies!??!?!!
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Robyn Fleming: Batman WTF
User: revena
Date: 2007-04-24 21:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Batman WTF
Just surfed over from your link in the self-promotion post at Feministe, and I felt compelled to comment:

PONIES?

I just... WHAT?
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Lily Cain: babs is cute
User: lilycain
Date: 2007-04-25 11:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:babs is cute
Yeah, I have no idea. I think male privilege rots your brain.
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User: szilviaschwebs
Date: 2008-10-09 15:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Babies rot your brain. Plus, who has time to have babies. You're too busy BEING PERFECT. ) 40 % of professional jobs in UK are held by women.
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User: hughpeckham
Date: 2008-10-17 03:11 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Margaret Bridgman on May at PM Report this comment In the 40 plus years I have lived here the services have declined dangerously.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2007-04-28 19:11 (UTC)
Subject: In defense of Pirates...
The Curse of the Black Pearl *did* have two named female characters - Elizabeth and Annamaria. It's kind of a quibbling point, since the only talking they did to each other was about an extremely eminent pirate attack. So, it passes the first criteria, but not the other two. Dead Man's Chest has Elizabeth and Tia Dalma, but again, they only talk to each other peripherally and about men, even then.

Dominique
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antigone_reborn
User: antigone_reborn
Date: 2007-05-11 02:00 (UTC)
Subject: Re: In defense of Pirates...
But talking about the extremely eminent pirate attack wasn't about men, so it meets the third as well.
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a veteran pseudo-fictioneer: jewel unicorn
User: skalja
Date: 2007-04-30 04:31 (UTC)
Subject: Here from When Fangirls Attack
Keyword:jewel unicorn
.... Ponies? Good lord, I hope you pointed out to him that he couldn't have chosen more of a belittling/sidelining analogy. "Oh, those women, they like their chocolates and their ponies and their sappy emotional moments in movies..."

I think part of the skeptical reaction people sometimes get when they're confronted with the Mo Movie Measure is defensiveness - proportionately, most favorite films aren't going to pass (hey, I like the MMM, but I'm pretty sure that most of my favorite films don't!). Statements intended as, "It stinks that there aren't more good movies that pass the MMM," which is what I think most people who use it are saying, are interpreted as, "Any movie that does not pass the MMM automatically stinks." Which is understandable from a human nature point of view, but deeply frustrating.

The ponies part is not quite as understandable. I ... okay, I know I'm repeating both myself and you, but ... ponies?
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Steven Scougall
User: sscougall
Date: 2007-05-01 04:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Just found this via When Fangirls Attack.

I'd been hearing that the second half of Grindhouse was boring - however, seeing your comments on it and why people are saying it's boring makes me want to see it. Thanks! :)

And that comic book cover rocks.
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User: fionagaxim
Date: 2008-07-16 22:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Posted by: Julie at May 2, PM I'm not into action films and your review makes me want to actually haul my ass to the theatre instead of waiting for the DVD.
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User: thomasfoljambe
Date: 2008-10-09 14:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I really don't want somebody sitting next to me and saying its sappy or laughable or oversentimental.
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Mmoa: victoriana
User: mmoa
Date: 2007-09-19 23:32 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:victoriana
In many ways, Tarantino reminds me of Almodovar, because even though he is one of those annoying 'female empowerment=cheese' he does really like women. I remember reading one of his interviews where he says that the first half of Grindhouse which oddly enough a lot of people seem to find really boring becauuse it was really just girls talking anout normal, mundane things, was a sort of tribute to the real female solidarity that he would see, admire and wanted to make a tribute to, between his mother and her friends at the hairdressers. So maybe he's more Hollywood's un-PC Almodovar...? That's what I like to think anyway.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2008-09-09 12:11 (UTC)
Subject: lily cain
hey u stole my name bitch
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2011-01-05 05:58 (UTC)
Subject: Imbri trifle advantage and disputatious outlook could fuse and choked ecstasy.
Blithesome Reborn Year[url=http://sdjfh.in/flexpen/],[/url] one! :)
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