One of the pleasures of many films of the 30s, 40s, and 50s was the dynamic presence and performance of women such as Myrna Loy (Nora Charles in The Thin Man series, etc).
Jeanine Basinger, a professor of Film Studies at Wesleyan University, describes the impacts of these films in her book How Hollywood Spoke to Women, 1930-1960.
A publisher review says she shows how they “sent a potent mixed message to millions of female moviegoers.
“At the same time that such films exhorted women to stick to their ‘proper’ realm of men, marriage, and motherhood, they portrayed — usually with relish — strong women playing out liberating fantasies of power, romance, sexuality, luxury, even wickedness.”
In doing that, those complex and engaging stars – and the writers – created role models for other women, and even for us men who appreciate their wit and passion.
And what about those kinds of female characters in current films and TV?
“Juno” screenwriter Diablo Cody thinks “It’s a grim time for women.
“I feel sometimes like we live in ‘The Matrix,’ ” [referring to the film about a simulated reality created by sentient machines in order to pacify and control humans].
“People are completely blinded to the patriarchy because we’re so used to it. I try to live every day completely alert and aware of how I’m being marginalized. I don’t have a persecution complex, but I look for it.”
“I have a responsibility to write strong female characters. I’m going to continue to do it.”
[Quotes from Diablo Cody : From stripper to screenwriter, by Rachel Abramowitz, Los Angeles Times, Dec 6, 2007.]
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One film with a strong and complex female lead that I appreciated was “Knocked Up,” starring Katherine Heigl – but it may also be an example of the problem with many films supposedly extolling women [and it was written by a man.]
Heigl described it as “a little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.”
She said making the film was “98 percent of the time.. an amazing experience.” Still, she adds, “It was hard for me to love the movie.” [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Dec 03, 2007]
For more quotes by Ellen Page from “Juno” and Cody, see my Inner Actor post Compromising yourself – Ellen Page: I’d rather be shot in the foot.