Archive for Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

Where are all the women—on the big screen?

Posted in Fashion, Movies, Sex and the City with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2009 by Dawn Raftery

Bring on the next “Sex and the City” movie. If “Obsessed” or “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” are my only options at the movie theater when I want to revel in the female experience, I’d rather spend time with Carrie Bradshaw, even if she isn’t leading the single in the city lifestyle anymore. When I did the online equivalent of yawning at news of a sequel two months ago, I didn’t know that, much like the dating dry spells Miranda has on the “Sex and the City” TV series, there would be a drought at the theaters of perceptive, engaging movies made about and for women. Carrie and her friends at least provide the opportunity for intelligent discourse on the challenges and rewards of being a modern woman.

Other films have tried to copy the “SATC” formula for success and failed miserably, whether on an emotional, intellectual or commercial level. Earlier this spring I decided to see “Confessions of a Shopaholic“—I was initially attracted because of the fashion montages promised by the title—but it’s a silly concoction of cinematic fluff better served up to young women who haven’t actually entered the workforce (read what I think about it here).

As for “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”—is Charles Dickens rolling in his grave at the abusive play on his words?—not even the well-tanned brawn of Matthew McConaughey could entice me to pay money for “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.” The trailer song alone—“Pictures of You” by The Last Goodnight (not to be confused with The Cure’s superior but different song by the same name)—makes me want to throw a stiletto heel at the TV screen.

“Obsessed” has less comedic moments, but I wouldn’t call it a real drama either. In the movie, a gorgeous woman (Ali Larter of “Heroes”) stalks a married man from work and eventually gets in a knock-down -drag-out catfight with his equally gorgeous wife (Beyonce Knowles). It’s a cross between “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” and “Fatal Attraction,” and the premise of beautiful women physically competing for the love of one man puts this realm in the realm of deranged male fantasy.

Management,” starring Jennifer Aniston, Steve Zahn and Woody Harrelson, opened last weekend. According to the Movie Insider Web site, “A traveling saleswoman sells cheap art to small companies and motels. She has a fling with an aimless, underachieving assistant motel manager at one of her stops, and he pursues her all over the U.S.” The genres it’s listed under? Comedy and romance. Only in Hollywood is a stalker considered the protagonist of a romantic comedy.

If we aren’t being presented with silly or superficial films about women, we’re offered cinematic fare lacking in any sort of meaningful female presence. I recently saw “The Departed” and “We Own the Night,” two male-centric movies that, if they feature women at all, bestow upon them only the most insubstantial of roles—typically that of a girlfriend or wife who has very few lines and almost none of any import. They are by no means the exception. So many of the movies on top 100 lists—or any reputable list, for that matter—focus so much on the story of men from a male perspective that women are relegated to minimal screen time or, in the worst case scenario, they don’t appear to exist at all in whatever landscape the director has created. With the frequent dearth of women in movies, an alien species might assume men spring entirely from the loins of other men. It’s an inane trend, given that women make up more than half of the U.S. population.

As much as this irks me, I don’t abhor movies meant to appeal mostly to a male audience. I saw both “Star Trek” and “X-Man Origins: Wolverine” on their opening weekends with my boyfriend without any coercion from him. I love action, adventure, fantasy and/or science fiction movies, all of which are intended mostly for men. And women like me are part of the reason why these movies do so much better at the box office. Women are more willing to compromise. How many women saw “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” last summer? How many men, do you think, went to see the “SATC” movie, either by themselves or accompanied by their significant other?

Which brings me back to my original complaint. Since the release of “Sex and the City: The Movie,” we’ve had few choices that really appeal to those of us who seek a versatile handbag as well as gender equality. Women need to start taking control of their purse strings when it comes to movies, and maybe then we’ll have more box office power.

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