Why Hollywood Will Always Be Sexist

Why Hollywood Will Always Be Sexist

Movie portrayals of women have gotten better, but the outraged attacks against Hollywood have gotten more strident. Not from the Right—from the Left.
Brad Slager
By

In early December, Carey Mulligan’s performance in the historical drama “Suffragette” failed to net a Golden Globes nomination, even after the film had expanded into 17 locations. This bump placed the title on just over 500 screens after a month in theaters, a sign its studio, Focus Features, was employing the staggered release. Often used to build interest in a “serious” film, this strategy attempts to generate Oscar interest.

Should the film earn notice from the Academy, this normally would be considered good news. I am not convinced. More likely is that any amount of nominations “Suffragette” may receive will not be “enough,” and any awards it subsequently does not win will become a sign of a “problem.” This is where we are in the third-wave feminist era: movies expected to curry favor from feminist leaders instead inspire pitchforks.

It has been, for generations, a complaint that Hollywood is a gender-excluding sexist laboratory. While that has been mostly an accurate assessment, things are improving. Gradually more opportunities abound for females, actresses are being offered better roles, and movies are featuring a wider array of female-centered subjects. Great job, gentlemen!

Except. For all the advancements and improvements, one cycle continues: the women remain unhappy. They actually appear to be getting angrier.

You Can Never Please Us

2015 has been a confounding year for Hollywood in general. The industry renowned for being a liberal hotbed for social issues has been repeatedly targeted by its acolytes for perceived insurrections. The activist set has poured forth consistent rebukes on Hollywood titles, whether it be “offensive” displays of foreigners (“No Escape”), appropriation of native culture (“Aloha”), or, as always, racism (“Get Hard”). When a film centered on the historic gay events at “Stonewall” was released, it wasn’t celebrated for honoring this event, but instead received loud scorn and protests for improper racial casting.

The industry renown for being a liberal hotbed for social issues has been repeatedly targeted by its acolytes for perceived insurrections.

This rabid cultural rigidity became so ridiculous that a film lampooned the social-justice-warrior overreactionaries. They promptly acted exactly as expected. Writer-director Eli Roth mocked the professional hand-wringing crowd in his horror satire “The Green Inferno” this fall.

His film focused on a group of know-little busybodies who travel to the rain forest to save a beleaguered tribe of natives, only to be violently set upon by their very beneficiaries. Right on cue, Roth faced protests and boycotts, because how he displayed this fictional tribe of people was apparently xenophobic.

While Hollywood had a tough year pleasing its own, the most rancorous group, with the most complaints, has to be the feminist outrage brigade.

These Feminists Are Stoking Sexism

Almost this entire year, the feminists have found reasons to screech at studios. When the films featured strong female characters and gender-appropriate casts, they still found issues worthy of scorn, because these days everything is a problem.

By lashing out instead of supporting films with a strong female presence, they create a disincentive program.

I’m sure the grievance gals feel empowered and elevated when carping about the proper depiction of women in, let’s say, a dinosaur movie. However, by lashing out instead of supporting films with a strong female presence, they create a disincentive program. Why would studios invest money and effort into bold gender content when they will not reap a receptive audience, and further get excoriated in social media for the effort?

In February it began with “50 Shades of Grey,” based on a publishing property few men read. The book series, dubbed “mommy porn” while dominating book charts, was written by a woman and sprang out of “Twilight” fan fiction; it would be hard to get farther away from the male audience. Feminist thinkers managed to elide all of this female-driven passion and excoriate the damaging aspects. See, the abusive relationship depicted was actually bad for the very audience clamoring for the content.

Women Are Strong—Except When They’re Not

This summer we witnessed stark bipolarity of the women’s groups towards film through the escapades of Joss Whedon, the king of nerd fanboys. Whedon is an unapologetic leftist, and the writer-director has been largely regarded as a sane voice for women’s issues. His scripts are commonly praised for their strong female roles. So it was possibly from a position of perceived safety that he initiated an attack on behalf of the ladies.

Yet as Howard’s character followed the third-wave blueprint, its very same societal architects deemed it offensive.

In April, based upon the trailer, Whedon led the mobs on “Jurassic World” for what he considered a retrograde characterization of a powerful female. Bryce Dallas Howard played the role of CEO of the reinvigorated dinosaur theme park, and her portrayal rankled Whedon and others. The fact that she was cold, emotionless, and hard-edged apparently was a caricature. As Joss said in a tweet: “…and I’m too busy wishing this clip wasn’t 70’s era sexist. She’s a stiff, he’s a life-force – really? Still?”

Now, speaking as a testosterone-polluted male, I know I’m not supposed to understand. I’m handicapped by a pragmatism in which previously spoken words carry value. For a generation, feminists have lectured society on the expectations of modern femininity. We have been told by feminists women can be just as tough as men in the business climate, and Howard delivered exactly that.

Feminists bristle at female characters placed in the helpless maiden role, and Howard’s Claire ran the show at the new “Jurassic World.” Feminists have long been abrasive at any mention that women may view motherhood as a priority. Claire exemplified this, viewing her pre-teen nephews almost as alien entities. Yet as Howard’s character followed the third-wave blueprint, its very same societal architects deemed it offensive.

The Mob Turns On Its Leader

In hilariously revelatory fashion, a mere month later Whedon found himself on the receiving end of the exact outrage he had helped stoke. His “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” included Black Widow, the fiery and self-sufficient heroine played by Scarlett Johansson.

A mere month later Whedon found himself on the receiving end of the exact outrage he had helped stoke.

However, in a bid to lend shading and character development, Whedon had his widow display reticence at becoming infertile. This was an unpardonable sin, especially since a male had crafted this emotional subterfuge! Joss became the focus of an Internet avalanche of pique; in a manner, after calling for people to take up the torches he was summarily punished for the resulting carbon footprint.

The gynocentric fury was so intense that Whedon was reputedly chased off Twitter. (Whedon disputes that, although the timing was exact.) All of this because a female betrayed emotion regarding child-rearing. The mere possibility of a woman pausing over these thoughts was so offensive that a response was required on par with that of an astrophysicist’s wardrobe selection eclipsing his career accomplishment.

Note the major paradox: Over the course of two films, released a month apart, one character considers kids, the other abhors them, and both are offensively inaccurate in the minds of feminists. And men wonder why they never understand the female mind.

Do as Commanded, and How Dare You Pander

These gender insurrections within Hollywood are not limited to adult fare. Numerous children’s titles also provided problematic content that had to be addressed. Take “The Minions,” a brazenly sexist film. How? Well, have you noticed that amidst the titular lackeys there are no females to be found? Now, being a Y chromosome-addled individual, it would never occur to me to view the animated depiction of a nonexistent species as exclusionary, and therefore offensive. Nonetheless, over at The Wrap they dug into this “problem.”

They intentionally made the minions all male because of their venality and addled thinking?

It turns out director Pierre Coffin had a justifiable explanation: “Seeing how dumb and stupid they often are, I just couldn’t imagine Minions being girls.” Wait, wait, WAIT! They intentionally made the minions all male because of  their venality and addled thinking? That list of negative qualities is blatant misandry! This is a wildly unacceptable affront to my gender, and someone needs to be held accountable!!

Oh, hell, I cannot even fake that kind of dopey outrage.

Moving on to the next kids’ fare provocation, there was “Inside Out,” a prime example of women being favorably represented and therefore feminists being upset. The creative film featured five emotions—three of which are females—characterized in the mind of a pre-pubescent girl. This means 75 percent of the primary characters are female. Cause for celebration? Hardly.

See, the character Sadness (voiced by “The Office” alum Phyllis Smith) was somewhat portly. This was a shameful example of body-shaming, understand. Apparently Hollywood is supposed to have a uniform, positive anatomical standard for any female character. (This means they need to excise Fat Amy from all “Pitch Perfect” content.) This edict from the Huffington Post defies the reality of that very outlet energetically reporting on America’s obesity epidemic, and positive female portrayals override accurate reflection.

There was ‘Inside Out,’ a prime example of women being favorably represented and therefore feminists being upset.

The zeal to lambaste all potentially egregious content stretched to the short film Pixar offered ahead of “Inside Out,” titled “Lava.” This Hawaiian-themed tale is about a forlorn volcano who soon finds love with a newly formed volcano. The problem? The lead volcano was seen as a corpulent male, and the newly arrived female mountain was a lithe female. Can’t you just feel the oppression?

This short, according to the Estrogen Squad, was a clichéd trope of the slovenly wretch obtaining the gorgeous maiden. However, as this writer delivered a lengthy screed that takes three times as long to read as “Lava’s” run-time, she bypassed a simple, verifiable fact: The characters classified as offensive and unrealistic, were based directly on a real-life couple—the Hawaiian legend Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and his wife.

We Demand Racial Purity

October saw what may be the worst offending piece of misogyny this year from Hollywood: “Jem and the Holograms.” I know, I know—you are thinking, “Isn’t that a film with actresses in the leads, based on a proto-Hannah Montana cartoon about a female business owner and successful singer who forwarded the message of girl-power? How is that anti-female?” Oh, you poor naïve soul. This is the worst possible movie from the female perspective!

All I know is that this is a title I could not see inspiring a single male ticket buyer, yet the ladies had a field day thrashing it.

How, you ask? Well . . . Honestly, don’t ask me. All I know is that this is a title I could not see inspiring a single male ticket buyer, yet the ladies had a field day thrashing this movie more than an intersectional symposium at Vassar University on the barbarism of “The Joy of Cooking.” So many things were wrong with this film it is hard to know where to begin.

Maybe starting with race, of course. See, the holograms were a group of diverse lasses, and while the onscreen quartet is rather diverse the ethnic roles were played by actresses of mixed lineage. So they are not diverse enough. Honestly, biracial actresses are not racially pure enough to play a cartoon character. Soak in that sentiment.

Other issues? How about that even though the film looked like sorority rush week, there was a sausage party behind the camera? “Let’s remember for a moment the film has a pretty glaring problem,” we are cautioned at Ravishly. “And yes, it has to do with gender.” (Of course it does.) “The silver screen version of this female-empowerment tale is being spearheaded by a male director, male screenwriter, and eight male producers.” So, you do not applaud these men for bringing a female-based property to screen. Instead, you get in a snit over the gender makeup of the credit sequence.

Any other transgressions this animated remake is guilty of foisting on females? Well, there was that miniscule budget. It was made by the bargain studio Blumhouse Productions (and for an amount higher than most of their Paranormal Activity films) but, you see, this is deeply offensive. “Did you know Jem and the Holograms cost just $5 million to make?” asks Pajiba, clearly onto something big. “The fact that Jem and the Holograms’s budget was so comically small makes me wonder if it’s that we don’t value girls’ nostalgia as highly as boys’.” Well, obviously we don’t.

Biracial actresses are not racially pure enough to play a cartoon character. Soak in that sentiment.

Then, if you suspect there was little else about a disposable release to get riled about, the lack of verisimilitude to the original property was enough to generate death threats towards director Jon Chu and producer Jason Blum. Read that again: Fans of the “Jem and the Holograms” cartoon threatened the life of the creators. Seriously, I can never again be accused of overreacting to whatever happens during a hockey game.

I’m beginning to wonder if Hollywood has every reason to be a misogynist industry. These two men (I do apologize for that microagression) spent ten years getting Jem to the screen, and how were they rewarded by the feminist mindset? Scolded, threatened, and boycotted. That budget of “just” five million? It will lead to a loss for the studio. Jem was such a dismal release it set a record for the lowest opening of a movie released onto 2,400 screens. Ever!

‘Suffragette’: The Consolation Prize?

But hey, at least there is “Suffragette.” Now here is a film above reproach. It is pure feminist content and paints a favorable image of the gender in historical terms, which will be roundly embraced by all women who . . .

No wonder audiences get slates of summer releases filled with remakes, sequels, and reboots.

Uh, nope. Outlets took issue with the fact that the final cut of the film edited out scenes involving a lead character enduring some physical abuse. And (as always) there’s race issues, given the film only focused on white, female power brokers. And the female stars got in trouble for the t-shirts they wore to promote the film, and I CAN’T EVEN ANYMORE!

Seriously, this tears it. Everything—everything—studios attempt to please women is wrong: biopics, nostalgia, kids movies, tepid erotica, and even sci-fi romps. All of it is offensive, filled with nothing but content aggression and problematics.

No wonder audiences get slates of summer releases filled with remakes, sequels, and reboots. The moment film companies attempt to appease the crank set they are on the receiving end of reprisals and boycotts. Consider this for a moment, ladies: studios can absorb the same type of vitriol from you for not making gender-appropriate titles. The main difference? They could save a ton of money in the process.

Brad Slager has written for a number of publications, such as Movieline, Breitbart's Big Hollywood, Pocket Full of Liberty, and ComicBookMovie.com. For more social commentary, and the occasional buzz-tweeting of bad DVDs, you can follow him on Twitter @martinishark.

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