Filmism.net Dispatch July 9, 2019

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Today I'm talking all about the dangerous cultures the movies engender.

An archetype we see a lot in male movie characters that deserves deeper investigation is the guy who's so handsome any woman he comes across is practically salivating. It's something I've seen so many times and which bothers me so much I actually wrote about it on Filmism.net once before, right here. There's a more recent example I've seen since then too, in artsy sex addict film Shame , where Michael Fassbender only has to smile at a woman he doesn't know on the New York City subway and she's almost having an orgasm in her seat.

Aside from everything else about it that bothers me, I'm aware in our new, more gender-sensitive era (I believe the term is 'woke', but I'm too old to really know for sure) about how it strips female characters of any agency in themselves as people. You might think I'm taking it all too seriously and that, as I said in the original post, all those one-dimensional female would-be suitors are just there to set up the hero's primary romantic challenge in landing the heroine.

But aside from being the object of some sweaty, pasty screenwriter's revenge fantasy about every woman who ever laughed at him at school or told him to get lost in a bar it also perpetuates a myth, and as I've also said a thousand times, the stuff we see in movies matters. We start to love movies as kids and to a degree we don't appreciate or talk about enough as a society, we take unconscious cues from them about how to behave, with no real appreciation that they're carefully constructed artifice made to look like the way people really behave.

I don't care how attractive a woman finds a man, her desire for him would almost never overcome the innate trepidation we all feel about approaching a potential romantic partner to the degree it leaves her a puddle of mussed up and wanton lust. In fact, despite what we're told by the combined efforts of Hollywood and advertising that men should be constantly horny and ready to abandon all their better judgements in the face of scoring pussy, that same principle applies to most men in the real world too.

To depict any woman like that, even a hot extra meant to establish an aspect of the male's character or life (like those background 'god-let-me-be-your-sex-slave' bit parts are), is to suggest that it's possible for sexual desire in a woman to completely rob her of her freedom of choice. It's a handy shorthand in a romantic comedy to depict a desirable man constantly fending off the advances of hot girls, but so much of it across our screen culture surreptitiously cements the idea that the right man can charm the pants off any woman and leave her powerless to stop it.

And while I'm on the subject of representation in movies, I recently came to another realisation. Plenty of people in this MeToo era are rolling their eyes saying all the gender awareness is political correctness gone mad, and there is a lot of misplaced hysteria about it which the media is only too happy to whip up further to try and generate (or fabricate) conflict.

But there's a lot of truth to it too, and here's another one. When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s and even well into my 20s beyond, being gay was something funny. I didn't have a problem with gay people, but stupid beliefs and jokes like every gay man wanting to rape you were pervasive. To a large extent I was responding to the culture around me, and a big part of that was what I saw on screens. You need look no further than the 1995 documentary The Celluloid Closet to see how homosexuality has been depicted on screens for most of film history.

So my realisation was about Police Academy. When the 1984 original came out, my friends and I didn't think twice about finding the whole Blue Oyster Bar motif (one that continued way throughout the series) hilarious. I was straight then and have been ever since, but a thought occurred to me out of the blue recently.

If I'd been struggling with my sexuality back then as a 14 year old, I'd already be dealing with people like my friends and I making stupid lisping voices and using disparaging words like 'poofter' and 'faggot', only to go and see a movie that made me further internalise the idea gay men were at best ridiculous or camp, at worst sexually threatening, wore leather and huge porn moustaches and were associated with that silly salsa music.

I'm sure director Hugh Wilson and writers Neal Israel and Pat Proft had no ill feeling towards gay culture any more than I did every time I made some idiotic joke about walking with an over the top mince. But The Blue Oyster Bar was one piece of cultural awareness, my jokes were another, every other non-masculine gay stereotype from a movie, song or TV show was another and together, they formed a culture.

Even though nobody in their right mind would claim it's okay to force a woman into sex without her consent, opinions along the grey-shaded spectrum surrounding beliefs, myths and facts contribute to a rape culture (one where the President of the US boasts about getting away with grabbing womens' vaginas). In the same way, we lived in a culture where being gay equalled being an object of ridicule.

But if movies had the power to introduce those concepts to us, spread them wide through propaganda-like repetition and lay them down as bedrock in our belief systems, they have the power to undo them too.

Every time a movie makes fun of someone, question it. You're not being a killjoy (you don't have announce your newfound social awareness to everyone who'll listen like you're one of those f%$king vegans... there I go again), but you might tear down some dangerous and destructive cultures one little piece at a time.

On screens large and small for me lately, Child's Play was one of those movies I knew almost everyting about but somehow managed to miss it when it was in cinemas and have never crossed paths with since. I knew it spwaned a whole campy series after the first movie, and with a high profile reboot coming I thought I should finally familiarise myself with the original, and i was pleasantly surprised not just by how effective it is but how much it still holds up.

Along with the rest of the human species, I duly went along to Avengers: Endgame, and am now wondering two things. Can I finally stop going to see superhero movies, a genre I've never been a partiuclar fan of, and is it really so good it deserves to knock Avatar off the top spot of highest grossing films of all time, which it's just short of as I write this?

Far more compact and inventive is Aussie outback zombie drama Cargo , which I recommend to anyone who keeps wondering when the zombie genre is going to finally run out of steam (hint; there's no sign of it yet).

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