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Category: Women and Film

Instead of mocking teen Twihards, try talking to them

Criticizing the latest film in the Twilight series, Breaking Dawn, is child’s play. As columnist Jordan Baker writes, “I worry for girls who will grow up with Bella Swan from Twilight. Bella is self-absorbed, clingy and willing to give up everything – her education, family and mortal soul – for a man.”

It’s a common concern. And others have raised many more. Are the books and films romanticising stalking and controlling relationships? Why is Bella always in need of rescuing – often by more than one hero at a time? Is this yet another fable designed to teach girls that sex is an inherently corrupting force, where – once again – male sexuality is constructed in terms of the danger and risk it poses, while female sexuality is characterised in terms of deficiency and loss – loss of virginity, innocence and reputation?

Thousands of centimetres of column space have been dedicated to critics bemoaning the insipid and sullen Bella, and this latest film has triggered yet another flurry of exasperated screeds all taking aim at the Twilight franchise and, more specifically, at the fans who are ridiculed as mere “Twihards”.

And therein lies the problem. While the criticisms of the film may be legitimate, the subsequent worrying over teen girls, and criticism of those who enjoy Twilight, is not productive. When we roll our eyes at the cultural goods which appeal to teen girls and when we dismiss texts that manage to speak to them, we miss out on an opportunity to better understand and engage with girls.

As teen educators, we see this all the time. Parents like to repeatedly carry on about the “trash” that their teen girls are into (mind you, these same parents probably grew up on a diet of genies in bottles and Stepford-like domestic witches who both aimed only to please their masters). These same parents then act surprised as to why their daughters might be reluctant to share other parts of their lives. We can hardly expect our children to open up about the things that matter most to them when we dedicate so much energy to insulting the cultural goods they identify with.

As insightful as the critiques of Twilight might be, the problem is that they don’t in any way help to explain why teenagers like it or how it manages to speak to them. Instead of arguing the reasons as to why teenagers shouldn’t watch Twilight, let’s turn the problem over and try and understand why they do.

According to 15-year-old Elena Burger, the appeal of Twilight is that it marries up the fantasy of eternal youth with the fantasy of having access to adult privilieges, minus adult responsibilities:

“Bella gets to stay a ‘child’ forever. She doesn’t need to worry about the adult things that we teenagers know we’ll have to worry about: she doesn’t need a university degree, a car, or a mortgage. Plus, she still gets all the advantages of adulthood: sex, freedom, and a honeymoon. This is the ultimate fantasy for teenagers, and probably what a lot of adults hunger for as well.”

Other girls comment that they like the fact that Bella is decidedly not interested in dieting, cosmetics, fashion or other superficial trappings. Others seem to revel in their power to read resistently and deconstruct the text. One twelve-year-old girl we know leaned over to her mother while watching the latest film and commented, “Um hello? Domestic violence, much!”

The real power of the series is that, like it or not, the film seems to tap into a number of themes that resonate with the lives of young women. It is unsurprising, then, that they would wish to discuss and reflect on those themes.

Twilight presents us with an opportunity to springboard into discussions about some very sensitive issues. Ask a bunch of teen girls what a healthy relationship looks like and they will probably roll their eyes. But say to them, “Edward and Bella: a tale of domestic abuse. Discuss,” and you’ll unleash a passionate and thoughtful discussion as to what a healthy relationship is and how gender and power operate.

The latest film invites discussion on matters including premarital sex, abortion, consent, rejection, crushes, teen pregnancy, domestic violence, male competition, body image and secrets.

Teen films create “teachable moments” where we can connect with young people and engage them in discussions using the cultural goods already familiar to them. It’s far easier to debate the motives and actions of a removed, fictional character than it is to discuss the behavior and motives of your child or one of their peers. Young people enjoy expressing their opinions about the former, but will often become defensive or guarded about the latter.

You don’t have to love what your child likes. But if, instead of dismissing it, you view it as an opportunity to engage with your child, you just might learn something.

 

This post was co-written with Nina Funnell. Nina is a social commentator and freelance opinion writer. She works as an anti–sexual assault and domestic violence campaigner and is also currently completing her first book on “sexting”, teen girls and moral panics. The post was first published by the Sydney Morning Herald. 

 

Be aware of your dreams . . . they just might come true!

A couple of weeks ago I talked about research that proves that gender stereotypes are alive and well in Hollywood. Now a friend has sent me the perfect antidote: “Plastic”, a beautiful, clever short film written and directed by an award-winning young Australian woman, Sandy Widyanata.

As the film begins, we see Anna nervously preparing for a first date with Henry, a man she has secretly loved for years. She has nothing to wear, there’s a huge pimple on her nose and she feels fat. If only she could change a few things and look a bit more like those girls in beauty magazines . . .

Anna discovers that she can do the impossible and can sculpt her body to look just the way she wants. Would you do the same if you could? And how far is too far?

I don’t want to give too much away — it really is worth spending the 6 or so minutes to see how the story unfolds. The film is a great discussion starter for teen girls. It raises interesting questions about what real beauty is, what we really need in order to be happy and what it means to be true to yourself. And best of all, it is also simply a great film, so girls are just entranced. Enjoy the film, and then take a look at the suggested lesson plan activities below.

Plastic – Short Film from Plastic the Film on Vimeo.

Classroom Activities
A big thank you to Kellie Mackerath, who told me about this film. Kellie used to be a teacher and an Enlighten presenter, and now works full-time at NIDA and directs theatre. She has these great suggestions for classroom activities after screening “Plastic”:

— The film opens with an image of a moth. Like a butterfly, a moth can symbolise transformation. As you watch the film again, plot the journey of the moth. How does its journey relate to Anna’s story?

— What are the images that Anna surrounds herself with in her flat? These images assist Anna to make some important decisions in the film. Which images encourage her to make positive decisions? Do an audit of your environment (including your bedroom, the places you study and your virtual spaces). What images/messages are you surrounding yourself with? In the classroom, create a wall of images and messages that inspire you.

— The magazine in Anna’s bathroom is called Real Beauty. In your own words, define what you believe “real beauty” is. As a group, create your own “Real Beauty” magazine.

Thanks also to Sharon Witt, author of the Teen Talk books,
for these valuable discussion starters:

— If you had the power to mould your body into the ideal you believe in, what parts would you change and why?

— Do you think changing these parts of your body would make you any happier?

— Towards the end of the film, when the moth lands on the side table next to the photograph of Anna, did you feel she was more beautiful in the photograph? Why?

Girls on film

It’s three minutes till the end of the world. If you’re a guy, sweat is trickling from your brow as you defuse a bomb or outwit the leader of an intergalactic army. If you’re a woman, you undo the top button of your blouse and look alarmed yet sexy . . .

Photo by Oreos, Creative Commons licence

Do you feel as though every time you go to the movies you’re seeing the same old story unfold? You’re not imagining it. A study was done recently that showed in Hollywood movies, guys talk and get stuff done, while girls are eye candy.

Men get 67 percent of the lines, leaving just 33 percent of the talking to women. Forty percent of women wear sexy, revealing clothes, versus fewer than 7 percent of male characters. I just don’t think it would fly if I spent 30 percent of my waking life partially naked, yet that is exactly what women do in blockbuster movies. Men are shown partially naked only 10 percent of the time.

The Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism looked at the 100 top-grossing movies of 2008 for the study. They confirmed what many of you will already suspect: 13 to 20 year old girls are being hypersexualised in Hollywood movies. The characters most likely to be shown provocatively are teenagers, at 40 percent of the time.

Disturbingly, other research has shown that the effect is just as pronounced in movies and TV shows for children 11 and under. Watching TV with her young daughter, Hollywood star Geena Davis became so concerned about gender bias that she set up the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Her institute’s research showed that for every female character, there are three male characters; in a group scene, there are five males to one female.

To me, the most disturbing thing was that the female characters in G-rated movies wear the same amount of sexually revealing clothing as the female characters in R-rated movies. — Geena Davis

When women are involved in writing a script, the percentage of female characters jumps by 14.3 percent, according to the Annenberg study. But Hollywood is still dominated by men. On the top 100 movies, women made up only:

  • 8 percent of the directors
  • 13.6 percent of the writers
  • 19.1 percent of the producers.

I asked my friend Jane Manning, a filmmaker, whether she thinks it is as bad here in Australia.

My hunch is that we would have a better result. The film industry here didn’t really get going until the 70s, and more women were participants from the beginning compared to the US. Australian television has many female key players, and female viewers wield substantial power. Many of the most successful TV programs — Seachange, The Secret Life of Us, Love My Way, Paper Giants — have had strong female roles and key women on the creative team. — Australian Filmmaker Jane Manning

There are more women working in film here, according to Australian Film Commission research — though we still have a long way to go toward equality. Here women make up:

  • 15 percent of the directors
  • 21 percent of the writers
  • 35 percent of the producers.

Jane has been making films and TV programs for 15 years and recently directed episodes for Who Do You Think You Are? on Christine Anu, Cathy Freeman and Tina Arena. She has also just finished directing a number of the episodes in the brilliant new television series “In Their Footsteps”.  Jane says she has never encountered extra challenges in making programs about women but she has seen the patterns described by the US research arise here:

I worked on a TV series where the head writer was an old-fashioned male, and the female characters tended to be confined to the love interest / subservient mould. Incidentally, the series failed to get an audience, and when the TV station conducted focus groups to find out why, they discovered women hated it. This kind of thing is becoming rarer, because more women are in key writing roles in Australian television.

Stories — and their slant — always arise from who is doing the storytelling. The only way gender portrayals on screens will ever be balanced is when the number of female writers and directors is on a par with men in the industry. This is probably a way off yet, but the gap seems to be closing in Australia. I don’t believe any externally imposed guidelines to influence gender portrayal would ever work. The best, truest stories always break rules and guidelines. — Jane Manning

I am always saying that girls cannot be what they cannot see, so I smiled when I saw this quote from Geena Davis:

We know that if girls can see characters doing unstereotyped kinds of occupations and activities, they’re much more likely as an adult to pursue unusual and outside-the-box occupations. I really believe that if you can see it, you can be it.

We might not have the power to change the film and TV industries overnight but we can celebrate great movie-making that shows girls they can be so much more than the breathless, scantily clad ornament by the hero’s side. Here are some of my favourites for teens: Hairspray, Whale Rider, Bend It Like Beckham, The Piano, Matilda…

I’d love to hear yours!

Making Sense of Twilight

new_moon_poster_cullensThere has been a kind of hysteria surrounding the Twilight series of late. With the release of the second movie, New Moon, bloggers, commentators (and just about anyone with an internet connection) have rushed to vent their opinions—not on the quality of the movie but on whether the main female character, Bella, is a good role model for girls.

The consensus is that Bella, with her angst-ridden relationship with the vampire Edward, is one of the worst examples our daughters could emulate. Bella is clingy, helpless and self-doubting. She is willing to withdraw from life and sacrifice everything—self, friends, family—for an obsessive romantic attachment to Edward, who while being handsome and chivalrous also just happens to be a stalker battling a powerful urge to consume her and destroy her. Author Stephenie Meyer was inspired by classic literature—Pride and Prejudice, Romeo and Juliet and Wuthering Heights—for the first three books, but it is not difficult to see examples in real life of young women who are trapped in a world like Bella’s. Only for them it’s not a dreamy romantic fantasy but a nightmare of poor self-esteem and abusive, self-destructive relationships. No parent in their right mind would like to see their daughter aspire to any of this.

But ironically, in standing up for strong teen-girl role models, what most of the blogs and columns have underestimated is just how strong teen girls are in their opinions and critical reasoning abilities. I think one of the worst things we can do as parents and educators is to dismiss or belittle girls’ love of Twilight, or assume that girls lack the ability to form their own valid opinions of it. Just because Bella makes dubious choices, it doesn’t mean girls are automatically going to do the same. Girls are often highly articulate about why it would be utterly wrong to take the same path as Bella in real life:

I don’t like Bella’s character. Nothing can ever please her. Ever. She whines about absolutely everything, and the only person who seems good enough for her is Edward, which I think is a wrong view to have. —Cherie

Bella experiences crippling depression after she is dumped by Edward . . . If someone wanted to kill me because I smelt delicious, I don’t think I would feel never-ending numbness or pain—maybe more like happiness, joy or relief even. The fact that she can’t function and feels the need to block emotion really does not send the right message. But it’s not just this that I object to; it’s the controlling nature of the relationship. When Edward comes back, he won’t let Bella see her best friend. Turn this situation into a real relationship without vampires—well, that’s domestic abuse.—Maxine

I ended up hating Bella because she is SOOOO needy. But the boys creeped me out too—I could NOT handle having a partner up in my face like that the WHOLE time.” Kris, commenting on Mia Freedman’s blog.

Given the passionate views that so many girls and women have about Twilight—both pro and anti—I actually think it has the potential to be hugely beneficial to girls. It provides the perfect opportunity to communicate with girls and raise crucial issues. One teacher I know who works with a group of 12–18-year-old girls as part of a church youth group started a discussion session after the New Moon movie came out:

When I asked them what they thought of Bella, it took a while to get them to see her faults, but eventually they realised that she was not really that nice after all. She used Jacob relentlessly. She bailed on her friends all the time. She lied to her parents. She put herself in ridiculous danger to prove a point. She endangered the lives of her friends. We were able to discuss these points and talk about what would have been better choices for her . . . They led the discussion themselves and were able to identify the problems . . . We were able to have a great discussion about friendships, loyalty and safety.

Plenty of grown women are Twilight fans and besotted with Edward. Perhapsd_bella_edward_kiss that’s because Twilight takes them back to their own teenage years and the intense emotions of falling in love for the first time, with its almost inevitable pain and drama. What a powerful reminder these books can be for women of the ups and downs teenage girls are going through. Teenage emotions are so overwhelming and big, but as adults it’s easy to lose sight of that and try to minimise what girls are going through. But when we underestimate or make light of teenage crushes, first relationships and first breakups, we can create even more despair and conflict.

I do also think that Stephenie Meyer has instilled some positive values in the Twilight characters, and it can’t hurt to chat with girls about those as well: Bella does not embrace raunch culture; she dresses almost like a tomboy. She doesn’t diet or talk about weight, and she is largely uninterested in her appearance. Yet she is singled out for attention from the other characters, reinforcing that girls don’t have to dress provocatively or obsess over their looks to be loved and valued. Another positive you might have noticed is that Bella doesn’t feel the need to drink alcohol; nor do any of the other characters. And you certainly couldn’t call their alcohol-free lives uncool or boring.

While I don’t suggest for a minute that the Twilight books and movies are works of artistic genius, I do think that there is a benefit in anything that gets girls reading. It is even better if it encourages them to read the classics that inspired Stephenie Meyer.

 But most important of all is the chance Twilight brings women to bond with girls over something they feel strongly about. One of the reasons fantasy fiction is so popular is that it provides a safe space to indulge in fantasies that should have no place in the real world. We can look at the Twilight series as a safe place to let hormones and wild emotions reign for a moment, mothers and daughters alike. Most importantly, it can be the impetus for mothers and daughters to talk. To talk about what a good, nourishing real-life relationship is. To talk about the mistakes we grown-up women have made. The compromises it’s okay to make in a relationship, and the ones we should never make. That it is healthy to develop independence and resilience. We can revel for a time in Bella’s intense story—but talk about the ways in which she could look after herself and respect herself so much more.

Starving for attention

Guest post by Enlighten Education NSW’s newest team member, Nikki Davis:  

Looks like thin is no longer in. Skeletal is the new body ideal judging by the physiques of the female celebrities who are hot property right now.

I have to confess that I, and a number of my friends, were more than a little excited about the premiere of the new 2008 version of 90210. We were all huge fans of the original 1990’s series. The first ever episode aired when I was 13 years old and I was immediately hooked – complete with a huge crush on Dylan and a keen eye that followed the fashion choices of my new role models.

So I must admit that the thought of catching up with Kelly and Brenda again had me refusing to take calls from 8:30pm on the first night it aired.

And yes, it was fabulous to see Kelly and Brenda again (who were reunited at the Peach Pit nonetheless!).

However, I was very distressed by the new female cast who now play the children and little sisters of the originals. They are so thin. I am talking painfully thin. The lead girl “Annie” (played by Shanae Grimes) and her friend “Silver” (played by Jessica Stroup ) are excruciatingly skinny. As one of my mates so eloquently put it in her text message to me during the show the other night, “Watching this is making me hungry”. The characters must be hungry too as the only consumables we saw in Episode 1 were alcoholic beverages, coffee and salads (Annie had salad for lunch in the cafeteria, I guess you can’t look as tiny as she does by eating carb’s/protein/fat/non-vegetable matter). Why can’t teens on TV eat real food anymore? Even The OC had the girls eating burgers, fries, milkshakes and Thai takeaway….

One of the tiny stars of new series of “90210” – Shanae Grimes

Turns out my friends and I were not the only ones who noticed how thin these new stars are; a couple of articles have popped up on Entertainment websites claiming that “sources” inside Hollywood are reporting talks on set and at the network about the girls’ weight. One article even claimed that the male stars of the program are planning to stage an intervention with the girls as they never eat and the guys think it is unhealthy. Well if this is true, then go guys I say!

Below are pics of the old and new cast… the new photo doesn’t really show just how thin the young girls are in the series (perhaps they airbrushed them to be less thin for the pics?) but oh how the concept of a “hot body” has changed over time.

 


I grew up in the Supermodel era where Cindy Crawford reigned supreme. Cindy was a genetic freak (she was so strikingly beautiful) but her shoulder blades wouldn’t have taken an eye out – she had some flesh on those bones. In the late 90’s Kate Moss rose to fame and the fashion industry deemed the “coat-hanger” was the new body ideal. In turn, this lead Hollywood down the very thin, and the carb-less, garden path.

Researcher Botta, in the 1999 study on television images and adolescent girls’ body image disturbance, made the observation that “our culture’s obsession with the thin ideals is now played out in the media via models and actresses who may have eating disorders themselves, who may have personal trainers to help them maintain a thin body, and whose bodies, as portrayed through airbrushing and camera-angle techniques, may not even be their own.” What would Botta have made of 90210 – 2008 style?

Surely it’s not just me being alarmist, and surely the new “Beverly Hills waifs” provide just one example of how much worse have things become.

We are now seeing children as young as 8 hospitalized with eating disorders. Dieting, detoxing, purging…all have become normalized. I have been engrossed in the work of Courtney E Martin; her book “Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters” really sums it up as she points out just how “normal” it has become to equate thinness, food deprivation and excessive exercise with success. Martin also looks at just how much time women spend thinking and obsessing about dieting and their bodies – is this what we want for our young women? To rate “thinness’ over wit, intelligence, talent, warmth? To waste their energy thinking about how they look in skinny leg jeans? No way!

I am hoping the backlash over the body shapes presented on the new 90210 continues to grow. We need to be speaking about this! We need to open our eyes and minds to a broader concept of gorgeous.

Because this look is killing us – literally.

Finally, on a lighter note, if you do still pine for your fix of 90210 (there are rumours of Dylan making an appearance so I can’t tune out yet!) or one of the array of other crappy American shows of this genre – do as my friend does in her share house with the four young women she lives with. Make Monday nights “90210 and cookies” night. Indulge in all the fun, fashion and cute boys without the starvation.

It’s much more fun.

It’s beautiful.

Keeping it real

Yes Keira, your lips are totally real.

Last month, I watched Pride and Prejudice on DVD. I can’t tell you much about it because I was madly distracted by Keira Knightley’s top lip. Huge. Like someone had cut a Floaty in half and glued it to her face. I couldn’t remember noticing that Floaty lip before so I checked with Dr Google and discovered that even though she’d been photographed leaving a plastic surgeon’s office a couple of years ago and despite the fact Stevie Wonder could have spotted the lip inflation and deflation during her career, 23 year old Ms Knightly swears she’s au natural: “I haven’t had my lips done,” she told a reporter. “Can I just say that I haven’t?” Sure Keira, you can say it. But what you say doesn’t reconcile with what we see.

Celebrities are liars.  That’s my bold statement for 08. OK, maybe some celebrities don’t lie. But most do, particularly the ladies. And it’s messing with my head, dammit.

They say “I think botox is creepy, I’d never put a needle in my face.”
They say, “Oh, I hate exercise. I stay fit by breathing deeply.”
They say, “Of course they’re real!”
They say, “Yes I did have a procedure on my nose but only to correct a deviated septum.”
They say, “I’ve never tried drugs, I’m too much of a control freak.”
They say, “The split is totally amicable and we’re still best friends.”
They say, “I’m very low maintenance. A bit of lip gloss and I’m out the door.”
They say “I’m 34”.
They say, “I don’t believe in nannies. I do everything myself.”
They say, “I never really wanted to be famous.” They say, “I was only giving the transsexual prostitute a lift home because it was raining and I’m a Good Samaritan.”
They say “I’m so blessed to have fallen pregnant naturally with twins at 49.”

And why is this a problem for me? Because when I read about celebrities I compare myself. Yes, I know this is pointless and stupid. But hey, I’m a girl and girls compare. It’s our job…”

Mia Freedman wrote a fabulous piece on celebrity liars earlier this month. I have adapted the extract above; it is really worth a look.

And oh yes Mia – I hear you! And yes – although we are smart women, all the lies do feed us as we play the Compare and Despair game. 

Our hunger for all things false seems insatiable- we devour images that are almost all photo shopped and airbrushed. Worse still, we listen entranced to the air brushed words that spill out oh-so-seductively from celebrities mouths.

I thought I would share some very rare recent examples of celebs FINALLY telling it like it really is.

So refreshing. So liberating. So REAL!

“I’ve heard so many actresses say something to the effect that it’s difficult to be beautiful in this business. I am not a violent person but I literally want to strangle them because it’s the most ridiculous thing anyone can say. It’s difficult being overweight in this business, it’s difficult being a minority, it’s difficult having some kind of physical challenge or handicap, but the easiest thing to be is beautiful.”

Actress Eva Mendes, as reported in the Sun Herald, Feb 17th.

“(when I get excited) sometimes a little bit of wee comes out!”   

Ex-model and new mum Chloe Maxwell on channel 7’s It Takes Two.

“I’ve sat by in silence for a long time now about the way women’s bodies are constantly scrutinized. To set the record straight, I’m not upset for me, but for all the girls out there that are struggling with their body image. A size 2 is not fat! Nor will it ever be. And being a size 0 doesn’t make you beautiful. What I should be doing is celebrating some of the best days of my life and my engagement to the man of my dreams, instead of having to deal with photographers taking invasive pictures from bad angles. To all girls with butts, boobs, hips and a waist, put on a bikini – put it on and stay strong.”                               

Actress Jennifer Love Hewitt, defending herself after pictures of her in a bikini were published with demeaning headlines such as “We know what you ate this summer, Love – everything!”

 505626in-the-valley-of-elah-posters.jpg

“That’s my natural hair colour…You know, if you don’t consider the character beautiful, that is really me. That poster shows my natural hair colour, and it is me with very little make-up and no prosthetics. That is me.”

Charlize Theron talking to a journalist about the unflattering (by the usual Hollywood standards) images of her used to promote her new film The Valley of Elah.

“The belly is certainly not what it was. The boobs are certainly not what they were. You do think, ‘Oh, God!’ but at the same time, I was playing a mother, and it’s so important to me to have those things look as real as possible. More than ever now, I believe it’s so important to look as real and true to life as possible, because nobody’s perfect. I seem to be on a mission, but I don’t want the next generation, your daughters and mine, growing up thinking that you have to be thin to look beautiful in certain clothes. It’s terrifying right now. It’s out of control. It’s beyond out of control. For a long time being seen as a role model seemed like a huge responsibility, but if I am that to some young women, then that’s great. I’m tremendously flattered to be looked up to in that way, and I feel an enormous responsibility to stay normal and true to myself and not conform and all those things. You know? To be healthy. And normal. And to like to eat cake.”

Kate Winslet discussing her feelings about filming a nude scene in her film Little Children.

May the truth set us free. We have all fallen victim to the beauty myth. We all wee, bloat, flop, bulge and just do the best we can on any given day.

And we all deserve to eat cake …those of us who can still move our lips around a piece anyway.

Shortlisted in International Awards – Best New Blog!

nombestnew.png

As a brand new blogger, I am thrilled at being shortlisted for the international 2007 Edublogger Awards, Best New Blog! The list of finalists is most impressive – they offer powerful insights into education and learning. Do check them all out – and vote for us ;)! Just click on Best New Blogenlighten education.

Voting: The Edublog Awards 2007.   

Why did we decide to blog? It was our intention when we first set up “The Butterfly Effect” (enlighten education) to provide a tool that would support and inspire parents and educators who care for girls. We wanted to celebrate our work, provide links, videos, images, references, articles of interest – conversation starters. We elicited the help of award winning blogger Judy O’Connell to help with with the initial set up; she did a terrific job. It has all just been a thrill and oh so addictive!

What I had not anticipated was the fact that apart from allowing you to share, blogging introduces you to amazing people you may never have met had you not had a chance to explore each other’s ideas and mutual passions on line. Loved “meeting” Leah from All for Women and the gorgeous, shiny Jane Manning who is working on what will prove to be a brilliant SBS documentary -About Women:

In a ‘post-feminist’ environment, what have the struggles of ‘Women’s Lib’ of the 1960s and ‘70s delivered to today’s women? Has ‘Feminism’ made their lives better or just more complicated? With different opportunities come different challenges, so how are women coping in the contemporary world?

As a companion series to the groundbreaking About Men, the three episodes chart women’s major life stages from youth to old age. Our characters’ compelling stories of development, achievement, conflict, maturation and wisdom express the powerful themes underpinning this timely series. We meet these girls and women at pivotal times in their lives, as they come to terms with their identity, sexuality and relationships. Their stories are moving, funny, often surprising and informative. Each episode includes moments of insight, transformation, diversity of experience, emotional intensity and revelation.”

Jane read about our work through this blog and came to see us present to the DIVINE girls at Santa Sabina College earlier this week as part of her research for the series. Jane just loved the day and feels, as we do, that despite the many issues they face and the increasingly more complex lives they lead, teen girls are simply beautiful and worth celebrating.

Stay tuned to our blog – we will continue to transform and connect :).

The Invisible Woman – Coming soon to a cinema near you!

Various newspaper articles have reported that the Head of Warner studios, Jeff Robinov, recently declared that; “We are no longer doing movies with women in the lead.” It is alleged that his studio believes that female stars cannot guarantee top box office returns. No surprise that Warner Bros is now denying this report. Best this type of talk is kept for behind studio doors. 

The edict was uncovered, however, by journalist Nikki Finke, who posted it on Deadline Hollywood, her website devoted to movies, as distinct from celebrity business, on October 5. Despite Warner Bros denial, she stands firm.

If women cannot guarantee “big bucks”, should we then become invisible? And if women are no longer given lead roles, what implications will this have for the way girls and women are depicted in film? Surely they will be dire!

There’s no question the amount of product for women has diminished. Every year it’s a little less. The major studios only want to do the sure thing. Of course, these are decisions being made by men, who have a certain language for some of their films. The movies aimed at teenage and even grown-up girls are called chick flicks. The majority of the rest, filled with explosions of cars, buildings and bodies, with enough bare female flesh to satisfy the lowest common denominator, are aimed at teenage boys, the ones who reliably go to the cinema on Friday nights. Those films are called dick flicks. Of all the major studios, only one, Sony, is run by a woman Amy Pascal.” ( Say Goodbye to Hollywood Baby, Oct 15, 2007).

One cannot help but wonder if the reason why films starring women leads are not bringing in top dollars is because many are just so damn inane!  It is rare to see strong female leads in film nowadays, unless it happens to be a period piece ( surely this is ironic given women are meant to be more liberated now than ever before – wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect we would have more diverse experiences and more interesting things to say and do NOW?).   

Hylda Queally, an agent at the William Morris Agency who represents Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett and Hilary Swank, among others, has made comment on the lack of meaty roles for women in film;  “If you don’t want to play the stereotypical wife, girlfriend, lover – a corpse, basically – it’s hard. You see a lot of actresses gravitating to period movies, which are better written and have fully fledged characters.”(As reported by Sharon Waxman, “Fade to Black – Women’s Role in the Movies”, International Tribune, 2001).

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I suspect part of this trend towards patronising “chick flicks” and uninspiring films with female leads that do not fare well at the box office may be due to popular culture’s narrow definition of beauty and intolerance of the ageing process. If films choose to only explore the lives of traditionally beautiful women under 30, they will be less likely to have the scope to explore the more complex lives that other females, including those who are older and have had more rich life experiences to share, might offer.

Frustratingly, the trend towards resorting to radical plastic surgery in order to make older women look more acceptable in film is turning them all into bland, expressionless aliens. Nothing has distracted me more in a film than seeing Jane Fonda’s terrible face lift in the recent film I saw on DVD “Georgia Rule.” As if the sight of the once interesting Jane Fonda looking pained was not bad enough, star Lindsey Lohan looked dangerously thin and was an ugly, cliched version of a Troubled Teen (all sex and attitude). Lohan’s character actually says to a shy young cowboy she has just met, when he tells her he must go as he has to ride his horses, “You won’t have to brush or feed me after riding me.” In fairness to the film, it may have improved but that was 20 minutes in and enough for me. Who writes these lines?!

1217763.jpgIf this is the type of film Hollywood thinks women, and teen girls, will be drawn to – no wonder we are not buying tickets. I don’t blame the actresses but rather the idiots who decided a character who was after all a Grandmother had to be wrinkle free, and that a sad teen had to be, above all else, HOT, HOT, HOT and THIN, THIN, THIN.    

Howard Cohen, the President of independent film company Roadside Attractions, has publicly supported Robinov – to a point – “On a statistical level, he’s right. If you put an equal number of men and women in equivalent movies, the men would carry the day because they’ve been developed as action stars, thrillers, comics. No one develops a James Bond franchise with women. There’s no money put in women stars in other genres, so it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that they can’t carry a big movie.” 

Although after watching the clip with Sean Connnery and Barbara Walters below – and brace yourself, it is a shocker -one must wonder whether all that testosterone / action is so wonderful. And if the world needs more Bonds like this one! “Dick flicks” may bring in the bucks but just what are they doing to our boys’ brains?!  

 [kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/3FgMLROTqJ0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

May I suggest studios don’t give up on the girls, but rather start asking what interesting projects they can develop for their leading ladies that will appeal. 

Poor workmen always blame their tools.    

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