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September 21 2005

(SPOILER) Summer/River mention in USA today editorial. Michael Medved makes some "interesting" observations about the emergence of female roles in action movies in his editorial "Leading ladies: More glamour, less grit". Suggests actresses would do better to emulate Reese Witherspoon, Julia Roberts. VERY mild spoiler, but I didn't want to leave the tag off.

So, his general point is that women should stay in their place and be pretty and sweet, and leave ass-kicking to the guys? Sorry, but I don't buy it.
Me neither. Seems like a bit of a male chauvanist to me. Strong women are all around us today, why should they not be translated into movies?
Angelina Jolie waif-like? I'm sorry, but she totally held her own in Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
Of all the recent major comic book adaptations, two of the most notorious flops involved female superheroes.

Yes that's because a room full of monkeys wrote the scripts. Nothing to do with the fact that the lead characters were women. This has to be the silliest article I've read in ages. It's like something from the 1950s or that Harry Enfield sketch "Women Know Your Place".
Dear lord, I can't believe this guy seems to think the most "implausible" thing about many movies with utterly implausible (if fun) concepts is that girls could actually kick a guy's ass. Pfft.

And then he implies that Catwoman, Elektra, and Gigli tanked because people can't accept the totally crazy, out-there idea that girls could be stronger than guys? Funny how the movies sucking doesn't enter into the equation for failure. At all.
Summer is "a telepathic tootsie" in Serenity? I find that phrase, as well as Medved's article on whole, pretty hard to swallow. His assumption that the movies failed because of the personas of the leading women, rather than, say, pathetic dialogue, poor acting, poor chemistry among actors, poor direction, a lousy story, etc., is ridiculous. And there is the same old double standard expressed here. While he does acknowledge the fantasy aspect of the Stallone and Schwartzeneger hyper-muscled characters, he does not acknowledge that all action films have fantasy heroes with often unbelieveable premises or plots. James Bond was true to life? John Wayne? And he seems to want women to be locked up into one type of role, while men are free to play anything.

It's too bad that he focused on River and not, say, Kaylee or Zoe from Serenity. It's the diversity of strong or otherwise "masculine" roles being opened up for women that is what is important here. And thank god the diversity of roles in films is reflected more and more in society.
And just because Joss is fascinated with her feet, that's no reason to call Summer a "tootsie". :)
Michael Medved's a big ol' tool and always has been, so this is hardly surprising.
Well, we can't attribute his entire article to chauvinism. Part of his point is "what makes money?" not "what makes good art?" He's not necessarily saying it is right and proper that most recent movies featuring kick-ass women have not fared well at the box office. He's saying its a financial fact.

Of course, in so doing he manages to place the reason for that financial failing solely on the shoulders of the women in those roles, a horribly correlative rather than causative analysis. As others have pointed out, bad scripts probably contributed far more to the paltry bottom line.

Also, f he is trying to lambast the stupid chauvinism of the 'typical' moviegoer by wink-wink including himself in that demographic, he isn't doing a very good job.
It's Michael Medved. We can attribute the whole thing to chauvinism.
What does he mean when he says "tootsie"? Cause the only word I know that from is "Hotel Rwanda".
Michael Medved? He's alive?!?!!?!? Wow, I thought he died 20 years ago, y'know, when his career did.

"Michael Medved's a big ol' tool and always has been, so this is hardly surprising."-KernelM Word...Kernal...word.
"Tootsie" is a diminutive variant on the slang word "toots," which means "babe," or "sweetie." Both "tootsie" and "toots" are often used in a condescending manner -- which is how I interpreted Medved's usage -- although they are often used affectionately by couples or close friends. Think of the use of "tootsie" in the Dustin Hoffman movie with that title.
So he's such a tool that he doesn't even know he is being one? I was under the sadly naive impression that he was winking at the reader, as in: "yeah, I know I'm a tool, but so are you!"

Too bad USA Today has such a large readership.
See, he obviously failed to understand the point of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. A few people went to see Brad Pitt. More people went to see Angelina Jolie kicking Brad Pitt's ass.
What is fascinating to me is that global studies show that people by and large do not appreciate all the violence in films on the whole (though practice seems to be out of line with this statistic). Mega media conglomerates sell violence because it translates into all languages and therefore makes the most money. Comedy and romance (the two genres to which women are traditionally relegated) make less (and therefore cost less) because they are harder to market on a global scale (they don't translate as easily). So what people want is ultimately less important than what applies globally. What Medved suggests, then, is that women make films that will, ultimately, make less money (and cost less, which will affect their earnings). I am the first person to say that violence and action could be reeled in a bit--that continuously portraying men as brutes has a negative effect on our view of masculinity on the whole. However, if they continue to be portrayed as brutes, women should be able to join in the game. It's assine to say "business is business" and therefore women should be weak. That's a horrible cop-out. Business is based on consumerism, and there's something to be said for putting the same kind of time and cash into a strong woman film as a studio might put into one starring men because they undermine the system by assuming stong women will not appeal to their target audience (which is always men--this is a sad fact of the business. Women watch more, so everything must sell to men on some level, whereas some things are marketed only to men, since they are a "tougher audience"), and, therefore, they greenlight idiotic scripts, thinking that women will watch it if it stars a chick and men won't bother either way (unless said chick is wearing no clothes).

If we still think women should be as they were in Garbo's day, we're in a crapload of trouble.
As you say, it's just Michael Medved. But (besides the sexism etc. that you all rightly point out; and besides the asinine and unwarranted dig at River; and really besides anything relevant to this website...) here's the thing that kills me:
Reese Witherspoon's character in "Legally Blonde" is NOT smart--she's a shallow idiot and that's how she prevails too. (I was, I'll admit) forced to watch this, but even with low expectations, expected better: she barely passes the LSAT, never studies and solves the stupid law case with knowledge about hair-washing.)
Okay, this is WAY off-topic, but good to get off my chest. Thanks. (AND Michael Medved's idea that he likes his chicks brainy, using THAT example shows either that he's even more sexist or more stupid than we thought. If possible.)
If he thinks Sci Fi fans can't get a date, he should take a close look at his lack of a social life after this...

What does he mean when he says "tootsie"? Cause the only word I know that from is "Hotel Rwanda".

There was that little movie with Dustin Hoffman.

I think he's accusing River of being a cross-dresser. If so I'm not sure why he's taking exception to "her" as an action hero ;)
Thankfully I started to read the comments before even clicking for the article.
Dude, Women can so totally kickass, even in westerns.
Just sent a letter to the editor at USA Today:

Read with interest Michael Medved's column, "Leading ladies: More glamour, less grit." What a wonderfully condescending piece! Concise in its misdirection, elegant in the avoidance of its own inner contradictions.

Apparently the fact that female action heroes are popping up more often in movies means that soon there will be no other roles for actresses, if I am to believe him. There doesn't seem to be the option for both.

But his main point seems to be that "Public rejection of such fare reflects the deep-seated refusal to accept trendy notions that women match men in brute and violent tendencies." As proof he points to box office bombs such as "Catwoman," "Elektra," "Gigli," and "Enough," films that would have been stunk no matter what the gender of the star. Yet other female action films he deplores, the "Tomb Raider" flicks and "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" (starring the "waiflike" Angelina Jolie), made piles of cash.

I don't believe the public prefers, as he suggests, watching "distinctively feminine strengths," but rather characters with depth and emotion, characters we can identify with. Sometimes that's a hyperfeminine woman, sometimes it's a woman that can take out a SWAT team, sometimes it's something in between, but it always depends on the character and the story and not on one writer's assumptions regarding gender roles.
This is a silly, ridiculous article, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Honestly, what "evidence" he offers to make his strange points! My opinion of Medved, already very low, just fell further (if possible). And the "telepathic tootsie" bit? What on earth? I wonder what Medved would think of Buffy. Sheesh.

Nice letter, Chris Bridges.
Oh, nicely said, Chris Bridges.
Michael Medved's a big ol' tool and always has been, so this is hardly surprising.

Aww! I was gonna say that!

So instead I'll say that I have NEVER liked anything Medved ever wrote. He's a rabid right-wing rectal sphincter who needs a petite woman to plug him shut permanently.
Excellent letter, Chris Bridges. Stated the case rather well.
He's a rabid right-wing rectal sphincter who needs a petite woman to plug him shut permanently

I'm not sure what that means, but we've long since crossed the line from righteous indignation into not very nice name-calling. Please let's comment on the article rather than the author, as per our usual rules.

CB, that was a rather fine response, for which I thank you.
"The public doesn't yearn for stylish chicks to replicate the sweaty brutality of male action stars, but prefers watching characters who display the distinctively feminine strengths associated with the natural superiority of women."

Ummm... as a member of the public, I can say with certainty that I don't yearn for traditional female girly girl characters. But I guess I don't count.
Oh, so THAT's why that show about a cheerleader who kills vampires totally bombed. Where would our culture be without high-paid critics like Michael Medved? :P
Please let's comment on the article rather than the author, as per our usual rules.

I apologize if it breaks the rule, and I won't use such graphic language again, but Michael Medved is a pretty well-known critic with his own national radio program and all sorts of controversial "work" to his name. He's used his clout for evil, and I have seen him engage in yellow journalism in his campaigns to discredit some pretty significant people in contemporary history, and not just in the movie industry. Some of them were people I have worked with. This isn't some little critic just giving his take on a movie.

That his article exudes sexism is no surprise.
Well, I know who Medved is, alas. I believe he first came to prominence with his book, Hollywood v. America, which title tells you pretty squarely where he's coming from. I'm still not sure "evil" is an appropriate term to use though, let alone some of the others set down above. I do agree that providing some background to this reviewer - in particular - is helpful in weighing the worth of his opinion. Even so, we can surely refrain from insults when one or two judiciously worded critical sentences can do the job as well.
SNT, at the risk of being slapped by you (or Caroline), I'm gonna have to vote on the side that says this guy is "evil". I have to call it as I see it and this guy uses his "position" to advocate for evil principles. Sorry.
Ummm.... Evil? How about just opinionated?

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