Saturday, June 30, 2012

Women in Entertainment: Glass Ceilings and Floors

Disclaimer: I'm on some meds that have a me a bit out-of-sorts just currently. So pardon me if this doesn't make a lick of sense.

Over at Observations of the Fox, Mr. Wenman bemoans the lack of female-lead nerdtastic action/adventureentertainment and toy tie-ins. Being a not-quite-powerful-and-influential member of the blogosphere, I have some friends who would desperately like to be movers-and-shakers in the Hollywood scene. And they fairly consistently point to a glass ceiling/glass floor dichotomy in how women are treated in popular entertainment. For while, yes, Arwen must now wield a sword and be the one who carries Frodo in the chase to the ford, and the engineer or hot-shot pilot must now be a tough-as-nails or ice-princess woman, the leads must still be male. The successful woman must still be defined by her relationship to a guy. If two female characters are alone and chatting on the screen, they must be talking about a guy.

And this isn't likely to change. As movies go international (if there's ever a “John Carter” sequel, it'll be because of the international audience), as the tastes of the American public continue to diverge and broaden, the fabled Taste Makers have become befuddled Taste Chasers. What does the American public want? Nobody seems to know, and that's not even tackling the Russian public or the Chinese public, or the French public or... So is it any wonder that the people who are risking their own cash swerve towards conservative, tried-and-true options at every decision gate?

There is some grounds for hope. We will get sequels to “The Hunger Games” and there's a chance that Joss Whedon might get a freebie from the studios after “The Avengers.” I don't buy toys and I don't understand that market, but it does seem to me that the gender bifurcation there is a defensive crouch as well. How does that market even work without the solid, five-hour block of Saturday morning cartoons they had when I was a kid? Is everything movie tie-ins now? LEGO certainly seems to have gone that route.

Hollywood is trying to give us decent sci-fi (and is almost succeeding; “Prometheus” I am so looking at you), which is more than I expected from them. Maybe they'll drag the toy manufacturers with them? In the meantime, however, the day when there's one of these in every home can't come fast enough.


Vulpinoid said...

Thanks for the further insight.

I certainly hope the toy and game manufacturers of the world start giving us more compelling female roles.

I'll be keeping an eye out.

LS said...

I'm always a little worried when someone I respect speaks up on serious issues: politics, religion, gender issues, etc. Not because I think those are issues which should not be talked about. Quite the opposite: I think it is essential that we talk about them. My worry is that I'll be disappointed.

You don't disappoint though, Trollsmyth.

Philo Pharynx said...

You hit the nail on the head when you said that our culture defines females by their sexuality. When Merida didn't choose any of the three comic relief princes, then major magazines are asking if she's gay. People can't accept that maybe she's okay with dealing with all of the non-romantic issues in her life right now.

Hedgehobbit said...

I found the article you linked to to be quite disturbing as it implies that girl's toys are inferior to boy's toys simply because they aren't just female versions of boy's toys.

This is ironic considering the entire action figure market was started with GIjOE which was created in order to copy the successful Barbie business model by selling dolls to boys.

As a father of three girls, I can assure you that there are plenty of cool girl toys, movies, and shows.

5 Stone Games said...

The film industry came of age in a very different America and is seemingly stuck there.

The US is not culturally, ethnically or information availability wise anything like it was in Hollywood's heyday.

This means big changes, usually smaller niche audiences for anything other than the simplest most universal fair.

It sucks but the genie is out of the bottle.

As for more compelling female roles, yes but what kind its a gender issue.

Few men share social interests with womens issues and visa versa. The market rarely overlaps since men and women inhabit social worlds that are rather different.

Stuff like say the Vagina Monologues will not appeal to men much more than a biopic on Tebow or whoever would to most women.

As for action movies,it was cool when it was rare (Xena and Buffy) but I don't think anyone really wants any more fem-sploi-tation epics. Its played out as a trope. I suspect the Gina Corano pic "Haywires" flop is a sign of this

As for toys, most boys of toy age do not want girl dolls. There are exceptions, I was one if I may admit my age I had a Jamie Summers (Bionic Woman) doll as a kid to go with my Steve Austin and I had Princess Leia too but I had a kiddy crush on Lindsay Wagner anyway.

However the market is small and its not an issue of culture, boys and girls are different in major social ways driven by biology

If Hollywood wants to thrive they need to find out who actually goes to the movies (or rents them whatever) and either make a film with the broadest audience (like ahem Avengers) or make more less expensive films with a proven niche.

Some new blood would not be amiss either. Hollywood is controlled by a rather narrow group of coastal liberal elites and most of the country, the world, does not think like them.

They need more Conservatives, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and such to match the real demographics.

And I'll note done right this can be pretty profitable for all , witness Tyler Perry's work especially the Medea series.

Its principle viewership demographic, mostly Black is among the nations poorest yet Perry is possibly the highest paid entertainer in Hollywood because he understand what his market needs

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