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A few days ago, I read the USAToday article, "Leading ladies: more glamour, less grit" by conservative columnist Michael Medved. You know Mr. Medved leans to the right because in his mind, there's no problem that the good ol' biological nuclear family can't fix. Whether it's moral decay or hangnails.

Well... for those of us who either HAVE no biological nuclear family, or who find that said family offers but a shadow of the emotional support that friends and extended family offer... well, we wonder just where our place is in Mr. Medved's world. It's enough to make you wonder, where did we go so wrong, what is so fundamentally flawed about us, that we can't get a biological nuclear family of our own. After all, this task is easier than breathing, according to Medved and company.

(Cross-posted to my own livejournal.)

Anyway... that being said, on with my skewering of this article.

For in my opinion, there are few people more deserving of the ol' skewer, than sexist men insisting that they're not sexist. In fact, that they actually respect women more than those misguided folk who actually believe in and support women's infinite roles and possibilities.

Right, Mike. Let me ask Mrs. Medved how respected she feels.

(My comments are in bold.)

Reports of Julia Roberts' imminent retirement from motion pictures highlight one of Hollywood's most painful and puzzling predicaments: the disappearance of glamorous females from all prominent lists of top stars.
This phenomenon undoubtedly connects to pop culture's odd determination to erase gender differences by casting leading ladies as muscular killing machines, contributing to recent setbacks at the box office.

Because everyone knows you can't be glamorous and a muscular killing machine at the same time. Right. Let me ask Angelina Jolie, Julie Newmar, Lynda Carter, Eartha Kitt, Zhang Ziyi, and Lucy Lawless about that one. Hell, why don't I just ask Laila Ali.

Of course, this tough-girl fad never applied to Roberts who, according to the international press, plans to leave acting after an upcoming role on Broadway to concentrate on her infant twins.

Aw, c'mon, Mike! What were you saying up there... it's a "painful and puzzling predicament" that Julia Roberts is hailing the death knell of the Hollywood glamour girl by retiring? She's retiring to do the very best thing you believe a woman can do! She's leaving her profession to care for her family! Shouldn't you be proud of her... not mourning her departure?

Her superstardom began with her 1990 Pretty Woman role as a spunky hooker with a heart of gold, and she has always played romantic heroines who rely on beauty and brains, rather than brawn, to get their way.

Roberts' hooker in Pretty Woman? Brainy?

Heart of gold, yes. Sweet, yes. Brainy? ...


Excuse me while I recover from my laughter.

Obviously this is what you have in mind when you say you like brainy women: Despite her purported intelligence, Kathryn is helpless in the face of her lover's often illogical judgements on her, and instead of correcting them, Kathryn spends her time worrying and dithering over Lucien seeking out other women, Lucien not wanting her, yadda yadda yadda.

Sure, give her a fancy, "powerful" title and a men's profession(Kathryn in this novel is an aspiring surgeon). But don't give her any actual SKILLS. Or, don't give her any actual PRACTICE of those skills in the real world. Sure, she's smart all right. But she just isn't as attractive if she actually USES those smarts... is she?

Box-office domination by male stars has become so total over the past few years that it's easy to forget earlier eras when female sex goddesses ruled the industry.

Gosh, you say that like you think it's a bad thing.

In the 1930s, Mae West, Jean Harlow, Myrna Loy, Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Claudette Colbert regularly were among the top moneymaking performers. At the very pinnacle of the yearly movie star list, Marie Dressler, Shirley Temple, Betty Grable and, much later, Doris Day, Liz Taylor and Julie Andrews all vaulted over their masculine competitors and achieved recognition as the No. 1 star.

More recently, movies seem to have shoved women toward a strategy of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" in facing off against their macho rivals. In the two Kill Bill movies, lithe, lovely Uma Thurman becomes a sadistic avenger who, in one much-heralded scene, uses Samurai swords to dismember more than 80 highly trained, male Ninja assassins.

I detect some strain in your use of the phrase "lithe, lovely, Uma Thurman". Difficult to convince yourself she's still attractive? Hell, she's actually USING some martial arts skills!

Besides, Uma is no sweet little "lithe, lovely" thing. She's over 6 feet tall last time I checked. Highly appropriate for an action heroine, in my opinion.

Even more improbably, the embarrassing Stealth features 22-year-old Jessica Biel (best known as the sweet, girl-next-door star of TV's 7th Heaven) as a crack Navy aviator shot down over North Korea, single-handedly battling Kim Jong Il's entire army to a standstill.

I actually agree with you on the "embarrassing" opinion... but more because of unbelievability than anything else. The one-hero-saves-the-day-singlehandedly plot is one of the surest signs you're dealing with a lazy writer, and lazy writers are always an embarrassment.

Also this summer, Red Eye featured fragile, innocent Rachel McAdams (best known from The Notebook) inexplicably besting highly trained terrorist hit-man Cillian Murphy in deadly hand-to-hand combat.

Actress attempts to escape typecasting! Film at eleven!

In one sense, such womanly superheroes follow the preposterous example of titans of testosterone like Rambo and the now-governor of California, who effortlessly slaughtered hordes of hapless extras.

Do I dare admit to you that for a short time when I was a little girl, I wanted to be Arnold when I grew up? That my favorite book was a dog-eared copy of Arnold's Bodyshaping For Women(featuring Lisa Lyon)?

But Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and their preternaturally pumped-up ilk looked inescapably imposing, while many of the screen's female fighters seem willowy, otherworldly, even delicate.

You're placing the blame in the wrong place here. Those actresses look "willowy, otherworldly, even delicate" because of all the pressure on them to be thin. Besides... I thought you LIKED delicacy in women. Isn't that what you mean, after all, by "glamour"?

Besides, is it not possible to be "willowy and delicate" AND tough, at the same time? Let me introduce you to Michelle Yeoh, at a mere 5'3" and 100 pounds. I heard that she even did her own stunts in Tomorrow Never Dies. Unbelievable, huh?

Consider Angelina Jolie, who violently bested every male in the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movies

Just say it, Mike. You hate lazy writing. You hate simplistic plots. So do I. You really don't need the sexism you're trying so hard to disguise. That's a universal complaint. Redirected, that complaint could make you one of the most respected film critics, instead of merely one of the most supercilious.

and battled to a deadly draw with fellow assassin (and erstwhile husband) Brad Pitt in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. With her luminous eyes and luscious lips, Jolie is always riveting to watch, but her buxom, waiflike form and skinny arms make it wildly improbable that she could hold her own against the brazenly buff Mr. Pitt.

Don't you know what happens when men and women weight-train? Men bulk up and women don't. They just don't... unless they're taking steroids, women actually get slimmer as they muscle up. For all your enthusiasm about the differences between men and women, it's unbelievable that you'd ignore this particular difference.

... Nahh, maybe not so unbelievable. You'd be less able to prove your point otherwise.

While Mr. and Mrs. Smith scored at the box office, most other tough-girl movies fared poorly. Of all the recent major comic book adaptations, two of the most notorious flops involved female superheroes: Halle Berry produced kitty litter as the feline fury in Catwoman, and the conspicuously athletic Jennifer Garner failed to spark convincing current as Elektra.

Hmmm... I'm not entirely sure you can call Daredevil a flop. Elektra, though, was. But I blame that on spinoff syndrome more than anything else. Even you ought to know that sequels are almost never as good as the originals.

Even Jennifer Lopez, popular in romantic comedy roles, achieved two of her biggest disasters with films in which she impersonated brutal killers: an avenging, battered wife, who masters martial arts in Enough, and a ruthless, amoral hit woman in the reviled Gigli.

Hmmm... Bad directing? Bad writing? Bad chemistry? Bad timing? Any of these possibly ring a bell?

Public rejection of such fare reflects the deep-seated refusal to accept trendy notions that women match men in brute and violent tendencies. Despite political correctness, most of us continue to harbor a visceral preference for brawny male cops or firefighters to come to our rescue in emergencies.

Ahhh, the true opinion unmasked. Conveniently hiding behind a David Buss-esque Darwinian defense. Ever ask yourself if the "visceral preference" is always the BEST one? It's the easiest one. The most convenient one. Unfortunately, easiest and most convenient DO mean "the best" to a lot of Americans. You are right on that one.

In the past, Hollywood's hyperfeminine sex symbols never tried to match men in terms of physical strength, but their classic roles still showed them holding their own in the battle of the sexes by deploying traditional female advantages of smarts, sex appeal, emotional resilience and intuitive understanding.

Because if women are out there doing the physical rescue, who's going to be the helpmates?

One of today's rising young stars is Reese Witherspoon, who played the ultimate girlie-girl in the popular Legally Blonde movies -- a sorority sister with hot pink accessories who confounds skeptics as the sharpest mind at Harvard.

If aspiring actresses hope to pry their way into the exclusive Boy's Club of top moneymakers, they should heed Witherspoon's example. The public doesn't yearn for stylish chicks to replicate the sweaty brutality of male action stars, but prefers watching characters who display the distinctively feminine strengths associated with the natural superiority of women.

Nationally syndicated talk radio host and film critic Michael Medved is the author of Right Turns and a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors.

"Natural superiority of women", eh?

Excuse me while I grab the Pepto Bismol.

That ain't "the public's" opinion, Mike. Only yours. And the millions who put convenience over everything else.
I don't believe that you think women are in any way "naturally superior"... if we're so damn superior, why do you find it so unattractive when we actually USE skills, actually put some of those qualities you so revere into actual action?
And yes, I even refer to the "distinctive feminine strengths" you list here. Your reverence doesn't fool me. I'd lay you ten to one, that if the women in your life actually used those skills for something that does not pertain to YOU and your own selfish interests... you'd lose your taste for those strengths pretty damn fast.

That's the essential definition of sexism, Mike. Women are tools to be used for your needs and possibilities, their own needs and possibilties always secondary.

What's really sad is that there are people who are going to read this article and actually believe you respect women. They will be taken in by your sympathetic-sounding, intelligent-sounding talk, and decide that you are reasonable and insightful. They won't see the narrow, confining space you consign women to in your mind.

And that, Mike, is what makes me want to hear your wife's opinion. All those strings attached to freedom and "respect" must be really nice to live with.


Originally posted to MonteLukast on Sat Sep 24, 2005 at 03:41 PM PDT.

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