Friday, May 2, 2008

It's Man Season Already: A Summer Preview and Angry Tirade

Just when you thought films could not get anymore male-based, this year's summer blockbusters are about to burst onto the screen and remind us who makes movies, who goes to movies, and who matters most on screen--and really, who matters most in our culture.

The other day, I was dialoguing with an Honors student in my Gender and Film composition class about her "lack of female athletes in cinema" paper, and I couldn't help but remark about how nearly every genre is jam packed with male characters, but females are either not present, relegated to the sidelines, or objectified. And in our conversation, my head started doing the math.

Starting last night with Iron Man and continuing with 5 more films in a matter of mere weeks, we will be treated with all the rippling muscles and testosterone we can handle... or even some we can't. It's Hero Time, folks, and since women are just not capable of being anyone's hero, this translates to men, men, men on screen. Men saving the day, (did I say "day"? Try saving the world), men learning life lessons, men scoring with women, men acting badass, men triumphing over adversity, and men being just fucking super cool.

In the wake of Iron Man, we get the male hero in Speed Racer next weekend, followed two weeks later by the perennial hero, Indiana Jones (May 22). A few short weeks later, on June 13, we get The Incredible Hulk...again (because the first time with an angst driven green man was not enough). And of course, no one can overlook the king of all Independence Day releases, Will Smith, suiting up for another hero role in Hancock on July 2.

Whew. That's a lot. Right? Nope. Apparently not, for a few weeks later, we also get the brooding, very handsome, manly, mysterious Batman in The Dark Knight (July 25).

Wow. I believe we get to see every age bracket of man represented on screen as superhero this summer, all between May and July. Where are the women?

Aside from just the super hero roles, most of the comedies this summer are also heavily male laden: Adam Sandler in You Don't Mess with the Zohan (June 6), Mike Myers in The Love Guru (June 20), Eddie Murphy in Meet Dave (July 11), and Seth Rogen in Pineapple Express (August 8). The only female-centered films of any kind that jump to mind are Sex in the City and Mamma Mia! (May 30 and July 18, respectively). Hardly the barrage we see of the male dominated flicks. In between said barrage, men dominate the animated films as well. Within the weeks of all the aforementioned movies, Kung Fu Panda (June 6) and WALL-E (June 27), both centered on male characters, are released.

Just as we can't find female centered characters in the sports film genre, we can't find any female super heroes either. So, apparently in the minds of writers, producers, and directors, no women play sports, have real important angst, and certainly no women are capable of being heroic. Are the creative teams just responding to what audiences want? Why are women not interesting to anyone unless they are spinning around a pole or are coifed side kicks?

I really don't know who I was kidding. Every season is Man Season... but at least we don't get the unadulterated hero worship like we do during the popcorn months. Look, I love film. I saw Iron Man last night and absolutely loved it (save a few issues I had, all of which will be enumerated in my forthcoming review). This tirade of mine is not about being pissed that movies are made with men in the lead. The point is that it's not just men that matter. It's not just men who have something to contribute. Women should be fairly represented on screen as well. And based on this summer's lineup, we have more than a long way to go, baby.


Utah Savage said...

You loved Iron Man and hated Stop-Loss? WTF?

K McKiernan said...

Two different genres babe.

Each one has its own standards and criteria by which to be judged.

Glad to know you are still reading me. But it would be nice for you to write about or acknowledge some other item within the complexity of what is dealt with in this blog... not just the quick quip about Iron Man.

Hope all is well with you.

the WIZARD, fkap said...

Dear J and K,

Sorry to be off-topic, but I couldn't find an email address to contact you away from this blog.

As I read the tempest over on Utah's blog I couldn't help but think of an observation I've made again and again and again as I write and observe across the web. Rather than discuss it here (where it is so totally off topic), I'll merely pont you two to this blog entry from my website: The Joy of Blogging. Be sure to follow the link to Rachel Lucas website once you read my rather short post.

Also, after reading your bios, I really think your would greatly enjoy the Emma Wallace CD featured in my blog entry (linked above). Click on the CD Cover and you can download the individual tracks from iTunes.

I promise to return and be "on topic" with your cinematic reviews.

Stella said...

I'm looking forward to seeing Iron Man. I'm really looking forward to seeing the new Indiana Jones movie. Just can't help myself.

Since you are both movie buffs, I have to tell you Trophy Hubby (stole that from Vigilante) and I love Japanese horror and fantasy. I have really weird taste: Did you see "Blind Flight" with Linus Roache (the new attorney on L&O)? What a great actor. It's a Sundance film that I caught last weekend.

I also watched "Evil," a Swedish film, about a boy who went to boarding school. He and his class were terrorized (predictably) beaten up and terrorized by the older boys. The movie follows his growth as a person, and actually had a good ending. Very un-Scandinavian.

I just thought I'd add a couple of films on here that I've seen recently and like. I hope I haven't offended any of you. I'm having a moment of sheer frustration with the political situation. It was so nice to just write about art for a change.

Thanks for the opportunity.

J McKiernan said...

Hey there, Wizard and Stella...great to hear from you.

I apologize that we are not more up-to-date in our posts...we have seen so many more new movies and have not reviewed them all. Without spoiling our full reviews, I can tell you that "Iron Man" is a blast and "Speed Racer" is brilliant...yeah, I said it. Not everyone's cup of tea, but the Wachowskis are moving the medium forward in a way few others (outside of Scorsese, PT Anderson, Todd Haynes, etc.) even attempt.

Wiz, I will go to your links promptly. I visited your site and read many of your posts/comments, and I love what you have to say. I look forward to having more exchanges with you...both on and off topic.

Stella, you are the greatest. And yes, I know EXACTLY what you mean when you say you are frustrated with the political situation. I am, too...both in general and over at the Utah blog. Just when I feel like no one understands other K, there you are to back us up...and lift us up. Thank you so much.

Keep coming back, you all. I promise there will be more updated stuff soon...REALLY...

DivaJood said...

I think summer films are almost always about mindless flap. But these all remind me of "Celebrity Film Star Blow Up" from SCTV. "He blowed up real good!"

Still, I love Harrison Ford, so I will go see Indiana Jones.

J McKiernan said...

Oh yeah, divajood, the summer is the place for mindless entertainment to make millions upon millions of dollars. And this summer is no exception...except for the early exceptions. :)

"Iron Man" has some issues, but at its core has a sharper wit, much stronger performances, and a more knowing attitude than most other summer bullshit. And so it transcends the stereotype.

"Speed Racer," on the other hand, transcends traditional filmmaking altogether, moving the medium forward in ways that must be seen to be believed. And some people will completely buck against it (a lot of the critics already have) will make their heads explode. But one must take into account the incredible feat the filmmakers have pulled off...turning a cartoon into a living, breathing, pulse-pounding live-action film while still retaining the stunning visual power of Japanese anime. Genius.

I actually have some hope for this summer. "Hancock" was directed by Peter Berg, who most recently made "The Kingdom," and who is one of the smartest directors currently working. And I am really looking forward to "Pineapple Express," which on its sureface could be misunderstood as another Apatow-inspired raunchfest, but is really, in my mind, attempting to be an independently minded genre bender...and I hope a smart one.

As for the rest, we will just have to see. I think "The Incredible Hulk" will be an attempt to dumb down the much slower, but much more interesting, Ang Lee version from 5 years ago. The "Narnia" sequel is out today...and getting a lot of mixed notices. Indy drops next week, and I haven't heard word one from anyone worth listening to yet...they have done a great job of keeping the lid shut tight. I also happen to think the trailers look underwhelming, but that may also be because they're bending over backwards not to show too much.

Either way, the film will be the highest opener and highest grosser of the summer.

So...thanks for the visit. And sorry this was so long...yikes. Shoulda been a full post...

DivaJood said...

I'm just delighted to find a serious cinema blog. I love movies so much, I moved to Los Angeles to be a travel agent.

J McKiernan said...

Very interesting. And thank you for viewing our blog as "serious about cinema." That is absolutely how we always intended it to be viewed.

As I mentioned, more reviews are on the way. We seem to always find ourselves in a time crunch here, and that makes it harder to blog all the time. But there is plenty on the way.

Stella said...

I need to send your link to my husband. He's the movie buff in the family. Iron Man is one of my must sees, along with Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I need the entertainment.

caesia said...

Although I find this whole macho summer movie thing incredibly upsetting, I suppose it's good that I'll be saving my money. Plus, I bootleg all the movies I want to see anyway. Oh yeah, and there's this whole thing where my friends don't like seeing movies with me anymore because they claim I "hate everything," when really I just have a moderate distaste for a majority of today's pop culture.

And I sound like a snob, apparently. There's always that.