January 1, 2009

A response to the Women's Film Critic Circle Awards

Sometimes, I really hate women.

Observe: the 2008 awards of the Women's Film Critic Circle. It's what it sounds like: a bunch of female critics got together and churned out an end-of-the-year list. They have some typical categories, like Best Actress and Best Family Film. Then there are some categories specific to their cause, like the Adrienne Shelly award, for a film that opposes violence against women. Okay, cool. But then there are two categories that annoy the crap out of me and make all women look bad: the Most Offensive Male Characters and the Top Ten Hall of Shame.

For reference, here are the winners (losers?) of those categories:

Aaron Eckhart: Towelhead
Sam Rockwell: Choke,
Larry Bishop: Hell Ride
Paul Rudd, Sean William Scott: Role Models
Jason Mewes: Zack And Miri Make a Porno

Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired
House Of The Sleeping Beauties
The Women
The Life Before Her Eyes
The Hottie and the Nottie
Savage Grace
Made Of Honor
The Family That Preys
Zack And Miri Make A Porno


What these lovely ladies don't seem to understand is that depicting a morally maladjusted character or a character who does bad things does not mean that the director/screenwriter endorses that characters or his actions. Does Clark Gregg, the director of Choke, think that sex addicts are totally awesome and everyone should be one? No. But he chose to tell the story of one because he thought it would be interesting. Similarly, in Towelhead Aaron Eckhart played a married man who rapes an underage girl. Does Alan Ball endorse this behavior? Of course not, but it was an incredible, nuanced, and above all, compelling performance. I'll skip over Hell Ride, since I haven't seen it, and ponder what the crimes of Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott were in Role Models...that they liked sex and didn't like kids? Jason Mewes in Zack and Miri also seems to be on this list for liking sex.

This reminds me of a discussion I had with my boyfriend about a student film someone in one of my classes made. After workshopping the script in class, I pointed out that the girlfriend of the main character was ridiculous and offensive. Mere seconds after the boyfriend would upset her by being profoundly insensitive and closed off, she would start pawing at him for sex. She was like the sexbot of the writer's wildest fantasies. When I pointed this out to my class, everyone else in the class (all male) ganged up on me and said that it was totally possible, because there were really girls like that. It still bothered me, though. When I mentioned it to my boyfriend, he agreed that yes, there are really girls like that, but writing the character that way is simply uninteresting and one-dimensional. Then I realized what had really bothered me about the character and the script: it exemplified heinously bad writing and character development. She could have been an incestuous coke-dealing rapist prostitute for all I care, as long as she was interesting and well-developed.

As for the Hall of Shame, I wish they had offered reasons for inclusion of each film. For example, they probably included The Hottie and the Nottie because of the inner beauty/outer beauty conflict, but I think the rest of the world would have included it because it stars Paris Hilton, who is not just an embarassment to women but to the human race. It's also featured prominently in the IMDB Bottom 100, so it's just terrible. Similarly, The Life Before Her Eyes, The Women, and Made of Honor are just bad movies. But Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, which I've heard good things about, probably just made them throw their hands up in despair because of Polanski's statutory rape charge. Allegedly the film introduces the notion that the justice system evaluating Polanski's case may have been a bit wobbly, but these lady critics may have wildly misconstrued this as endorsement. Similarly, Savage Grace is about mother-son incest that ends in murder, which is messed up, but based on a true story. And I don't know what their problem is with Zack and Miri Make a Porno. People make real pornos, and they have far more graphic sex acts in them than the movie (I think the most scandalous thing is anal?). This movie is just funny.

The link I provided also lists awards from past years that are equally ridiculous. The 2007 awards are particularly bipolar in that they both praise and condemn some of the same movies (Atonement, Hairspray). Their placement of Atonement in the Hall of Shame really makes me think they have a problem with sex in general.

So there you have it. I appreciate what this organization is trying to do, as women and their stories are sorely under-represented in cinema, but I think they may be actually holding the cause back by getting their petticoats in a bunch over every single representation of vice and sin on screen.

What do you think?

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