The other day I was flipping through the channels and somehow landed in the middle of a Nicolas Cage movie (full disclosure, no somehow about it, every time I see something is staring Nicolas cage I always give if it a few minutes to see him go over the top in every capacity). It was a movie called Next. I can’t remember if I was aware of this movie when it came out but after watching about 20 minutes (okay fine, I probably watched 75 percent of this movie) and reading the movie description I surmised that Nick Cage is a man who can see the future…but only like 2 minutes ahead.Uhhhhh that’s probably really great for um…well…uhh…knowing when the next commercial break is going to be so you can get up and make a snack? Anticipating the UPS guy knocking on your door (two minutes from now)? I’m not sure how else two minutes of extra knowledge about upcoming events might benefit you, but terrible plots are not the point of this post. I guess the FBI or something wanted to use him to stop a nuclear bomb…or something. And I could get behind all of that, but here is where the movie started to unravel for me. Nicolas Cage’s love interest was Jessica Biel. Ummm isn’t she like 20 years younger than him? I honestly thought at some point we were going to find out she was his daughter but then they kissed and I was all, “Ehhh, well, no, I guess not”.
So you might be saying, “Love is love maaannn, you can’t put an age limit on it”, (I’m envisioning this in a burnout surfer cadence) but how many times in movies do we see the lead actor is significantly older than his love interest? Why are so few leading men (in movies) dating women within even a decade of their age? It’s a bad image to be selling to people because it’s not realistic. The only time you would ever see the reverse is if they made a very, very obvious point that the leading women is dating a much younger man and that will always be a plot point (How Stella Got Her Groove Back, The Good Girl). A really amazing example (charts included) of top male leads and the ages of their love interests can be seen here
When much older men are dating these young women there is no question (by audiences or movie studios) as to whether or not this is odd. But the age difference is not even the worse part. Usually when movies feature a male lead (mostly action movies) the young women are no more than props. Their characters have no real purpose, there is no story and no plot involving them, most of the time they never even have last names. And more times than not when there is one female “character” in the movie there will likely not be another at all.
It was unusual to have two female leads in an action comedy like The Heat evidenced by the fact that everyone made a big deal that a movie with two female leads did so well and was such an oddity. The prototype for most “female” movies is that one female (the lead) can’t get her shit together and relies on her best friend (who shows up on occasion when the lead isn’t in a scene with her potential love) to help her out and set her straight.
Now I know very little about the movie business. I gleaned some information about certain aspects from this speech that Laura Linney (whom I love) made at the Crystal and Lucy Awards where she received the Crystal Award for Excellence.
She makes great points here. I suspect the reason older women aren’t working and there are not as many good movie roles for women in general isn’t because the material isn’t out there and not enough women are writing, directing or producing movies but because there is not nearly as much opportunity for them as men. And just like in politics when we don’t have an equal perspective from both sexes then we are doing such a disservice the population as a whole.
How is this affecting how we view our culture? I’m not sure. Movies, for better or worse, do shape how we act and think about real life. If there are no real, good representations of women in film do we then think women are not as important, not as heroic, not as dynamic as men? And while I really do adore romantic movies and romantic comedies I can’t really say the female leads are someone who I’d want to aspire to or make me feel empowered in any way.
Twilight, arguably the most successful “female” movie(s) in the last decade was specifically geared toward women, with a female lead, and written by a woman (based on a book in this case). Since I am not a teenage girl I may have a slightly different take on the plot of this movie but this is more or less how I think the movie breaks down. The lead character wants nothing more than to please a guy (essentially, lets face it, a murderer) and would do literally anything for him (become a vampire), and when he breaks up with her she falls into an almost catatonic state until she finds another guy to pick her back up, (literally and figuratively). I don’t think I’m wrong in saying this is not the best role model for girls. (Just on a side note, the first movie, which no one knew at that point would be so huge was directed by a woman who was then replaced with a man once the next movie was guaranteed to be blockbuster. The remaining three also directed by men).
Now obviously I’m generalizing and there certainly are exceptions. But when was the last time you saw a movie with a mature woman playing opposite another mature women and the plot wasn’t about men? And the movie had a point to it? Usually female driven movies are small and independent and in limited release. For every actress over 40 that is still working steadily and still successful you could probably name 6 men in the same situation.
I’m going to go even a step further (are there any more steps for me to go?) and talk about the plot (or lack thereof) when women are literally props in movies. Meaning they are to be acted around and used more as furnishings than characters.
I saw this article recently,
I like to call this phenomenon NNR (naked for no reason) or the PG13 version NNNR (nearly naked for no reason). This is especially popular in action movies.
What’s the point of these scenes? No really, what’s the point? If you need the nudie scene, then fine put it in but what am I missing? (Here is a great example of how I have no idea how the male gender thinks because I just do get it.) I’m pretty sure men will still come to see the movie and enjoy it if these scenes weren’t in there.
Unfortunately it is true that it’s very difficult to get men to watch typically “female” movies whereas women will have no problem going to typically “male” movies. But what if there were just more movies made with great female roles? Wouldn’t all genders want to see that? Wouldn’t that be great for young people to see? I know there are talented writers (female and male) who could make that happen. (Every time I go into a coffee shop I see at least half a dozen dark rimmed glasses wearing twenty-somethings working on a screenplay. Certainly one of them is writing the next Working Girl (9 to 5, Flashdance?).
I know I’m going to sound one-hundred years old when I say this, but it wasn’t always like this. I get TCM on my cable package. I have seen tons of really great black and white movies that are smart, well written, women driven and wonderfully acted. Just off the top of my head I’m thinking of
It Happen One Night, All About Eve, The Philadelphia Story (pretty much anything with Katherine Hepburn). Although to be fair I do notice there is a lot of the May, December romances in those movies as well. (Audrey Hepburn movies always seem to have this younger woman, older man dynamic).
So I guess I’m wondering when is this going to change? How can me make the movies not just another industry where women under represented, misrepresented and unequally treated?
What are quality actresses supposed to do after 50? There are just so many movies that can be made about the queen each year.