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STAR LEAGUE

Greetings fair folk of the internet, Below are all of the films I have reviewed. They are awarded stars based on their presentation of women, full details in the Star System page at the top as it is far too complicated to explain here. One thing to remember is that good films don’t necessarily get more stars than bad films. And films with interesting depictions of women don’t always get more stars either, if the women are being constantly beaten up for example. You may choose to question this system but this blog is not a democracy and as its dictator I shall decide what counter-intuitive systems it shall operate under. Essentially this is your guide to how much misogyny you can expect from a film. I hope you like it.

10 STARS

9 STARS

8 STARS

7 STARS

6 STARS

5 STARS

4 STARS

3 STARS

2 STARS

1 STAR

Maleficent: 9 STARS

* In Feminist Film Star news I found this cool website about The Headless Women of Hollywood. No it is not new, maybe you had already seen it, but I had not so shut up. Basically it’s about the staggering number of movie posters which feature women with no heads, a practice I find offputting and politically horrific in equal measure.*

(SPOILERS. I mean it’s essentially the plot of Sleeping Beauty, so get with the program people, but there are some important and interesting plot changes so be prepared. CN for women being drugged and violated and I guess CN for wings being sawn off and fairies being burned by iron. I kind of doubt that anyone would be triggered by that but I’m not here to judge you, I’m here to judge Disney)

Aurora: Let us tell an old story anew

Sleeping Beauty from the witch’s point of view. That’s a great idea Disney, bravo. I mean you still never say witch (much like in Frozen, and don’t think I’m not coming back for you Frozen) which I’m gonna say is your fault America, but still it’s a good idea. These fairy people are led by a woman with horns and massive wings and when she is attacked by her traitorous bastard boyfriend she spends the rest of the film fucking shit up. Also she has a dragon. Which is cool. This is a Disney movie, and everyone in it is both intensely beautiful and very very white, all of the accents are insane, and I did not enjoy what they did to Imelda Staunton in making her and her fairy friends both very ungrateful and very stupid, but basically I loved it. I would really like to follow Angelina Jolie into battle.

STAR: The Bechdel Test

STAR: Developed female relationships

(Maleficent and Aurora have a great relationship. This film does that ‘true love can be found in non-romantic love between women not just in pretty boys kissing pretty girls they don’t know’ thing so much better than Frozen (told you I was coming back for you Frozen). Let me tell you for why. Firstly, they actually test out the kiss, they actually prove that the pretty boy/girl thing wouldn’t work, they don’t just let the boy get unfortunately lost in a snowstorm so the loving woman has to step in like a pathetic replacement kisser. Also the two women do not have the same exact face. And they actually spend cute bonding time together throughout the film. I am really going to try and make the rest of this a no-Frozen-hatred zone but frankly that would not be representative of what my life is like)

STAR: Non- stereotyped Female Characters

STAR: Developed, prominent female characters

(Yes. Absolutely. I mean I didn’t appreciate the over-zealous voice-over at the end that told me that Maleficent was ‘both a hero and a villain’ (dun dun DUN) but some genuine character development where a character changes her mind, has bad days, goes through trauma, and  you know leads her nation to victory, is appreciated. I genuinely think Angelina Jolie gives the performance of her life here, no sarcasm. I loved her crazy smiles, I loved her little magical jokes, and I loved her heartfelt love for a little girl who she cursed at birth and who it is never suggested is her biological daughter, which I liked. I did not like that Aurora’s birth mum just died off screen, very much Lady Macbeth style, while her husband goes mad, and I did not like the fairies, as has been previously stated. They act like Maleficent is super evil after she has literally been mutilated by the king they are bowing to. They suck)

STAR: No Excessive Air of Misogyny

STAR: No rigid adherence to gender norms

(Ok, so I’m a little on the fence here. I mean, the fairies are led by a woman, in an explicitly military capacity, and no one saves her, she saves everyone. So that’s good. Also she’s a mother figure, but a fierce one who wears a lot of black and has horns, you don’t see that a lot. On the other hand I don’t think suggesting that women are more magical and in tune with nature than men is a good idea. I mean yes the magical people are definitely way better, stronger and morally superior to the human men but it’s still not great to set up gendered binaries where we suggest that women and men are super different. So an ambiguous star, but a star none the less)

STAR: No Excessive Female Exposure or Sexualisation

STAR: No objectification of the female body

(Yay for children’s movies! Is there more to say? No? Yay!)

STAR: No Gratuitous or Trivialising Scenes of Rape or Male Violence Against Women

No threat of male violence against women

(Ok so there is violence. But it is primarily fantasy violence, and she really does give as good as she gets, in the medium of dragons and massive wings and magic. So that is good. However Stefan, prick that he is, does drug Maleficent and when she is sleeping he cuts off her wings. Which is horrible and has horrible emotional consequences for everyone involved)

Bonus Points. 1 for female writer Linda Woolverton, good work Linda. She was also a writer on the Lion King! good work again Linda. 1 for women in traditionally masculine roles aka general and political leader. And 1 for women in power, essentially for the same reasons. Maleficent is so much better than everyone at everything. And that is cool. All in all, Maleficent is better than Frozen. And that’s all I have to say on the matter.

*A note on the original Sleeping Beauty. Yes it is of the older genre of anodyne and conservative Disney movies, but I watched it until I broke the video when I was little and I wasn’t brainwashed into wanting to be a princess? I just don’t think it’s helpful to imply that all little girls’ minds will be molded by everything they watch. I actually wanted to be Merryweather when I was little, the fat little blue fairy, cos she had character. So there #feministfrombirth*

 

Crimson Peak: 10 STARS

*Hey, I haven’t done one of these in ages but at this stage is that news? So as not to pull an Eminem on you I will not try and make this into another comeback special and will instead proceed to the main event. You should probably check out this rad new version of the Bechdel test to determine a film’s portrayal of race. I will try to work it into my system at some point as I realise the Bonus Point thing I’ve currently got going on is really shit. Anyway, onwards and upwards.*

(SPOILERS ABOUND, like normally I try and avoid spoilers but here that would involve saying nothing about any of the characters for they are very much defined by their actions. In my defense I didn’t find any of the ‘twists’ surprising but at all, so I still advise you to read on even if you have not seen the film. CN incest (told you there were spoilers) and like a lot of violence but actually 0 violence by men against women which is incredible given how many people get stabbed in this film (everyone). Also a discussion of age of consent)

Edith: He said it needed a love story

Father: He’s old-fashioned

Edith: He said that because I’m a woman

Father: Everyone falls in love Edith, even women.

So, a shocking 10 stars for Crimson Peak. I know, I’m as surprised as you are. Firstly I must acknowledge that I only watched this film because Mallory and Nicole were yelling about it, and I am heavily indebted to them for said yelling. However, although they are far funnier than I, they have not developed a very complicated star system for rating films so I feel my services will still be useful. And 10 Stars, I mean, that’s practically unprecedented, how could I resist? Someone once offered me their opinion that Guillermo del Torro makes shit English language movies so he can fund good Spanish ones. They offered this opinion as if it were common and uncontestable knowledge which, frankly, I should already have known. I am firmly opposed to this opinion. Pan’s Labyrinth is just as silly as this film. Hellboy is a masterpiece. There shall be no more further discussion on this point. You will not like this movie if you do not like campy gothic dramas, but you might like it even if you don’t like your classic bodice ripping period drama (as I do not) because, unlike such dramas this film does not treat The Past as a place where no one had realised that women were people yet and a lil bit of sexual violence was just par for the course. Let us enter this blood soaked and misogyny free wonderland.

STAR: The Bechdel Test

– STAR: Developed female relationships

(Tick and tick. So Edith’s mum has gone the way of all literary mothers of the past, obviously. She also failed to make any female friends in America at all. Books were her friends. And her father was her friend, in that he gave her a pen. (He gave her this pen as if it were magic and he stares at it in a way that is full of significance but it is not magic, it is just very sharp. This is a film filled with mysteries and I do not try to answer them) Anyway Edith and Lucille have a great relationship. I mean obviously Lucille is poisoning Edith (and I do mean very obviously, that fireberry tea, that was never going to be good) However, they have great chats, very intense and about dead mothers and tortured childhoods and moths eating butterflies. So appropriate to the gothic, roofless mansion. So much more filled with passion that Tommy’s little chats about machinery. Is Tom Hiddleston anything other than eye candy and a nice bum in this film, no, no he is not. It is a battle of wills between two women and as such it is wonderful)

STAR: Non- stereotyped Female Characters 

– STAR:Developed, prominent female character

 

(An easy two stars, no question. Edith and Lucille. Yes they are campy and gothic and silly but so is literally everything in this film, from the red snow to the really terrible CGI ghosts who fail to be frightening at all because they just do look so terrible. Edith is an aspiring writer. We never read anything she has written but Tom Hiddleston is hooked from reading a page in 10 seconds upside down, so probably she’s amazing. Yes, she swans around in a see-through nightie coughing up blood and looking for, then running from ghosts. Yes, she very unwisely befriends a small dog, and you know, marries a mysterious and beautiful penniless English nobleman (this film is not a great advert for the English to be fair) but you know what, when the going gets tough Edith is well up for stabbing people with pens and hitting them repeatedly over the heads with spades. Would it be understandable if she didn’t do these things, of course it would, she lives in a house where the walls bleed, but she does them because she will not be the fainting maiden we all expect her to be, and that is excellent. Lucille is wonderful in all ways, she is as evil as anyone can possibly be, she is our generation’s Mrs Danvers (as Mallory so rightly points out) and there is no higher praise)

STAR: No Excessive Air of Misogyny

– STAR: No rigid adherence to gender norms

(So, more ambiguous. There is that bit, mentioned above when Edith is like, ‘they want me to be a romance writer BECAUSE I’M A WOMAN and her dad does the classic, I’m a nice but essentially apolitical (and thus conservative) man, make a joke, have a little grumblesnort, so as not to have to agree to such a bold statement. However, once you get to Crimson Peak, gender roles mean nothing. You know who’s running that house, that’s right, it’s Lucille. With a rod of fucking iron. The only really worrying point is whether Tommy is redeemed in the eyes of the film and thus forgiven for killing his 3 wives and stepping in for his new (hotter, younger wife) only when she is about to be pushed off a balcony (she recovers very quickly from that little 2 storey tumble onto stone though so his ineffective intervention doesn’t really matter). So, maybe Tommy gets unreasonably forgiven for his bluebeard lifestyle while his sister is the personification of evil. However, Tommy is killed, and frankly I don’t think we’re meant to feel that bad for him. I think, when Mia Wasikowska strokes his bizarre ghosty face she’s saying ‘Bye Tommy, you were hot, but now I need to try and find some people whose house isn’t sinking into hell and who don’t try and poison me. Peace out.’ And I think that’s kind of an acceptable message)

STAR: No Excessive Female Exposure or Sexualisation

– STAR: No objectification of the female body

(Now, here is where Crimson Peak is really getting into its stride. Because, there is sex in Crimson Peak, but there are no boobs and much more naked Hiddleston than naked ladies.  Good. That is what I say to that. Good. I mean if you had a dress like that would you take it off for sex? No , you would wear it every second of the day like the beautiful butterfly you are.  Also, aside from hunting ghosts, and writing about ghosts, Edith’s main thing is trying to bang Tommy. Sadly he is often off banging his sister, but I like that she is so obviously into him. These women are not just handy with blades, they are super into sex, as active participants. That is good. They literally spend their time looking at Japanese porn together. Cool)

STAR: No Gratuitous or Trivialising Scenes of Rape or Male Violence Against Women 

– STAR: No threat of male violence against women

(See, here is this film’s greatest triumph. There is so much violence. There are knives in faces and faces horribly stomped into sinks. And yet all of this violence is perpetrated by women. Ok, so obviously it’s not ok to stamp anyone’s head into a sink just because they’ve found out about your bluebeard plot, even if they act like you’re a massive snob because you have soft hands even though you like in a house with no roof and they have loads of servants and stacks of cash. But I do think it’s amazing that we don’t ever really think that Tommy might stab up his wife. Because he just really obviously wouldn’t. He has the masculinity of a beautiful waltzing nobleman who enjoys tinkering with strange clay digging machines. He is just not aggressive at all, which, for a man who has allowed his sister to kill a lot of his wives, is impressive. Also Edith saves her Channing Tatum look-a-like American boyfriend as well, despite falling off that balcony, so that’s pretty sick too)

4 Bonus Points: 1 for BME women (I know, it’s a shit system, I’m sorry – there are two black women working as maids, they are laughing as they make Lucille and Tommy’s bed, I think that is great: ‘haha I knew the English were weird, aristocrats, always fucking their relatives, classic’ is what I imagine they were thinking) 1 for working class women (there are some maids and such, are they really characters? No, but they do speak and thus a point they get) 1 for women in power (because of all the stabbing, and the emotional manipulation, and just being bosses) 1 for discussion of feminism (aka Edith Shelley and the fight to be a SERIOUS woman of letters)

In conclusion, this film is great. I mean it makes NO SENSE AT ALL. The plotline is not worth a second’s thought. But the ambiance, that speech Lucille makes where she’s like ‘the horror? That was for love. Murderous, incestuous, ugly, amazing love’, that’s a great speech. The only potential problem, as I see it, is that maybe Lucille is abusive of Tommy. I mean, he was 2 years younger than her, and he was only 12 when she killed their mum for finding out their dark secret, so like he cannot really have consented to that, but then legally, neither can she. It’s a hot potato that one, and, if my old pals the MRAs find this blog I don’t want to give them any ammunition in the argument that I don’t take sexual violence against men seriously. Because believe me I do. Would say, that old Tommy does then continue to bang his sister for 20 years, when he could just be banging his many wives, or you know, not partaking in her murderous schemes. I don’t think the film tries to make us think Tommy’s been abused, more that he has fallen in love with Edith and so wants to give up his life of crime and incest handjobs now. He is still very much trying to take his sister with him up until she puts a knife in his face. So I’m going to say it doesn’t seem like he was abused, it seems like he was fine. So, actually in conclusion this time, 10 stars, and sex, and violence and everything as gothic as it could be. A big big thumbs up from me.

*So apparently Guillermo was well into the feminist angle on this. I should have known that the world couldn’t produce such a film without having someone who was intentionally fighting ‘a secret gender war’. Some people have said this film isn’t really a ‘feminist’ movie, I basically don’t think any movies are feminists, because they’re not people? So they can’t be? And yeah it’s not really about feminism. But I don’t think you can argue with del Toro when he says that these are ‘a bit more liberating gender roles’ because they just kind of obviously are*

10 Things I Hate About You: 7 STARS

*Ok so not a very merry start for this week’s feminist film news but CN: Rape, paedophilia. Please skip ahead to the review which is violence and rape free if you would like to. This did not happen this week, but it took me till now to find out about it, I don’t know how that can be true but it is. So we all know that Woody Allen is married to his ex-girlfriend’s daughter, and that she was pretty young (18-20) when they got together. I knew that and I thought, ew, that’s awful, what a misuse of his position of authority in that family and what a horrible betrayal of Mia Farrow’s trust BUT they are still married, she was an adult, I guess they fell in love. That’s what I thought. What I didn’t realise is that, to this day, Mia Farrow and her now adult daughter Dylan contend that Allen also sexually abused Dylan when she was 7. There was never a criminal trial but the issue was brought before the court in Mia and Woody’s custody battle over Dylan and her two brothers. In this case it was ruled that Woody would have no visitation rights to any of his children, that his behaviour towards his daughter had been “grossly inappropriate” and that she needed to be protected from him. I have summarised the situation here but you can read what Dylan and Woody have to say about this here, and here you can read a response to Woody’s statement. I don’t want to get involved in  discussing the problems of a crime which will always be one person’s word against the other’s, where one is always a child. All I will say is that either you believe that Mia Farrow is capable of manipulating her 7 year old daughter so effectively that she has maintained, or internalised, a malicious lie for going on twenty years – something which involved putting her child through 3 different, media-heavy trials where she had to recount the invented abuse – simply out of revenge. Or you believe that Woody Allen sexually abused his seven year old daughter. I’m not saying that the first option is impossible, but I also don’t think the attitude of the Hollywood community (which is essentially: We can’t know who is telling the truth, so we’ll do nothing, say nothing and keep producing/acting in Woody’s films) is a neutral option. If the actors Dylan addresses in her statement thought, “Maybe this man raped his child” they wouldn’t appear in his films. Be realistic, if he was a house painter, and they heard ‘his adult daughter contends he raped her when she was a child’, they would choose someone else to paint their house. What they are doing is making the judgement that his films are good enough to risk mixing their name up with his past ‘sex scandals’, and that he is important and famous and talented enough that he couldn’t be a paedophile. I love Woody Allen’s films, but I won’t be watching any more, or reviewing any here, because I think he probably raped his daughter. Maybe he didn’t, but frankly I’m not prepared to take that risk.*

(SPOILERS. I mean the source text for this film is literally 400 years old so you guys are really behind on your reading if you haven’t gotten to it yet, but yes I will be discussing some of what happens. I don’t think any CNs are required, maybe for a discussion of how, much like in Happy Christmas, a young man doesn’t take advantage of a drunken young woman, but that’s more the absence of triggering material than its presence)

“I guess in this society, being male and an asshole makes you worthy of our time.” – Kat

“I see a woman may be made a fool,/ If she had not a spirit to resist.” – Katherina

I’m very sorry to have had to start with that but I think it’s important that people are at least made aware of the situation because I genuinely did not know and it has really effected how I feel about Woody Allen. But on to better things aka 90s teen movies based on Shakespeare plays. What could be better? 10 Things I Hate About You (which is based on The Taming of the Shrew in case anyone didn’t know that) is awesome. It has a great fierce heroine, a range of supporting female characters all of whom are different and, to different degrees, interesting, and it is a pretty solid interpretation of Shakespeare’s play. As a literature student I’m always slightly terrified by the prospect of modernisations but I think this is a great example: they keep enough of the plot to make it make sense, they lose some of the old school classism and misogyny (and all of the disguises, which I think is kind of a shame) but not all of it, so we are forced to recognise that fathers don’t tend to marry their daughters off in 90s America but that doesn’t mean their obsessive control of their habits and concern with their sexuality isn’t rooted in the misogyny which was felt in Elizabethan England. I promise not to rabbit on about Shakespeare throughout my review but if you are interested in my thoughts on why almost everyone is wrong about The Taming of the Shrew you will be able to find them at the end, never fear.

STAR: The Bechdel Test

– STAR: Developed female relationships

(Kat has a friend called Mandella. They are friends. They are cool. Kat and Bianca also talk. Their relationship is interesting because it can be viewed as stupidly 2 dimensional in entirely opposite ways. Either Bianca is pretty and popular and Kat is an angry bitch, or Bianca is a superficial airhead and Kat is a strong independent woman and in both instances they really hate each other. In fact I think the film does a good job of showing how siblings can be properly mean to one another almost all of the time and still care about one another deeply. I think their ‘role reversal’ thing, where Kat falls in love and Bianca beats up Andrew Keegan in fact demonstrates that they were never really that different, Kat always wanted to find a pretty boy to kiss and Bianca was always pretty fierce, albeit in a Prada backpack kind of way. Basically they don’t fit into either the pretty girl/loser or independent woman/mindless doll diametric and thus their relationship is interesting and cool)

STAR: Non- stereotyped Female Characters 

– STAR:Developed, prominent female characters

(So there’s Kat and Bianca, ‘Mandella’ or Shakespeare girl as she is more often known and of course Ms Perky aka Allison Janney aka CJ from The West Wing aka the love of my life. Is it good to have a guidance councillor who spends most of her time reading aloud from the erotic novel she is writing? The answer is yes. I also like that Mandella’s side relationship is unusually characterful. Normally the best friend gets either no mans or a relationship which makes no sense. A love of Shakespeare bringing people together makes a lot of sense to me, and Mandella and Michael have a few build up scenes, so I like the attention given to the side characters. There is also Chastity played by the ever beautiful Gabrielle Union, she is the least developed character but even here I get it, she’s an opportunistic social climber, she’s tired of Bianca telling her what liking or loving is really about and she wants to kiss a pretty boy of her own. Clearly this isn’t a great model for friendship but it doesn’t make me shudder with horror at the simplification of the female experience either. What’s really important is that we have a realistic cast of women and a funny feminist heroine, what’s not to love.)

No Excessive Air of Misogyny

– No rigid adherence to gender norms

(Ah, here’s what’s not to love. No I actually don’t see this as a failing in the film at all, but the world that’s being depicted is a deeply misogynistic one and that’s what the stars are meant to tell us so, be warned, here be misogyny. Mainly this is from Kat and Bianca’s father. Now I appreciate that raising 2 teenage girls must be difficult, especially when your wife has, like many a Shakespearean mother before her, disappeared, but this man’s obsession with his daughter’s sexuality is absurd. Sure they shouldn’t have unprotected sex, no one wants an unwanted pregnancy, but the idea that imprisoning them every night is a reasonable way to counter that is insulting and awful. To be fair this issue is kind of brought up, in that he admits that he’s just scared his daughter’s don’t need him anymore, but I’m not sure he deserved a big hug and complete forgiveness for allowing his daughter to go to college. The man made his daughter wear a pregnancy suit because she had expressed the desire to kiss a boy, not cool guy. Joey is obviously a complete dick and, although I completely take Kat’s teacher’s point about the privilege of the middle class white girl and how, as a black man, his representation on the literature syllabus is a lot more limited than hers, he still shouldn’t send her out of class for pointing out Hemingway is a misogynist)

STAR: No Excessive Female Exposure or Sexualisation

– No objectification of the female body

(No nudity, or girls in underwear! Think about that teen movies of the present. In 1999 not a single bra needed to be seen to make a film about underage girls appealing. That said, table dancing and an off camera flash was required. Now I quite like how Kat is confident enough to flash her teacher for a joke, I think that’s great and very much in the spirit of National Topless Day – I for one am tired of men walking down the streets with no shirts on as if that isn’t SUPER WEIRD, so I think we should do it back to them any time we can. Having said that I think the issue of Kat’s sexuality could be easily misconstrued, although I don’t think it’s handled badly really. I think my most uncomfortable moment watching the film was when Bianca suggests that any teen mum is a ‘skeezy whore who should have made her crack head boyfriend wear a condom’. I mean fucking hell Bianca calm down. I don’t think we’re meant to agree with her but her statement is meant to be treated as funny and frankly it just seems way too venomous for that. So there is a suggestion that having sex is a- entirely a woman’s responsibility b- a scary and dangerous thing and c- not something any woman actually wants to do, she just does it to please other people. Not good. However that is not what Kat actually says in the only open conversation about sex in the film. She says she had sex with Joey, because he was a babe (true) and because everyone else was doing it, then she decided not to do it again, then he was a massive dick to her and broke up with her so she smashed his car up, then she meets another pretty boy and they make out all over the place and it’s hot and they definitely have sex. That is not a story that demonises sex, it just demonises Joey. So basically we’re in the danger zone, but we have not succumbed to the danger, huzzah)

STAR: No Gratuitous or Trivialising Scenes of Rape or Male Violence Against Women 

– STAR: No threat of male violence against women

(This is probably my favourite aspect of the film, the fact that there is no suggestion that Joey forced Kat into sex or that that is his dastardly plan for Bianca (I mean I’m sure he wants to have sex with her but all we see him wanting to do is show her pictures of himself, which is boring but hardly malevolent). Heath also behaves like a nice young man, he doesn’t kiss Kat when she’s wasted, even though she’s totally acting like she wants to kiss him. Good! An example of how consent should work! An example of a man who is somehow able to control his manly animal manliness in the presence of a wasted woman and whose top priority is that she really wants to be with him. I mean he does at one point imply that women can’t play musical instruments properly but he seems to come around on that, and although he is being paid to hit on Kat it’s never suggested that that’s the only reason he hits on her, I mean he likes her too, for him I see it as a win win. And for us too because the hot young people jibe at each other and then they become friends and then they fall in love and then they make out covered in paint, win win win)

So 7 stars and 3 Bonus Points. One for female writers Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith. They are a writing team and they wrote Legally Blonde too. Wicked. One for BME women in the form of Chastity. I know that’s tokenistic. I know that doesn’t make this a good film in terms of presentation and intelligent discussion of black issues or multiculturalism or anything, but she is there and she deserves a point. And one for discussion of feminist issues. Which is great. What are the things Kat likes? Pretty boys, music and feminist literature. Bravo my friend those are some great teenage girl interests you’ve got there. I like that there are lots of women in this film. I like that there is a credible and respectful relationship between the two leads. And I like that the most dramatic change they make from Shakespeare’s play is to reconcile Kat and Bianca in proper sisterly fashion. All in all I like the film.

*A note on The Taming of the Shrew. I have literally written whole essays on this in the past but I’ll try and keep this short and sweet. Essentially I think this is a play about acting. It actually has a frame so all of the action is technically a play within a play and I think that’s important. I think what Katherina is doing is learning to play a part on the world stage. At the beginning of the play Katherina is not like Kat, she does not have friends, she is not a sassy independent woman, she doesn’t have a love of music and recourse to feminist literature. No. She is filled with rage all of the time, she physically attacks her sister, she terrifies everyone she meets and she really really wants to get married, her rage at men is mainly that they like Bianca more than her. Petruchio is the only person who will even talk to her, he allows her to try and form her character in relation to other people, he shows her that how she has been behaving is ‘not what people do’. By wearing the wrong clothes to his wedding, misconstruing all the directions everyone gives him, insisting that it is night when it is day Petruchio shows Kate that how she’s been acting is not as a clever and happy young woman (like Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing) but as someone who doesn’t understand how the world works, what other people are like, essentially as someone who is getting their lines wrong. When Kate makes her final speech of submission I don’t think she really believes that women should always be subservient to men, nor do I think she’s rolling her eyes and taking the piss, I think she’s very consciously playing a part. This is what Bianca has always done but Bianca thinks the play is over after the wedding and what Kate has learned is that everyone will be happier, and richer, if you continue to play along, if you accept, in fact, that all the world’s a stage. So there you have it, my impression of The Shrew, a shrew tamed not by breaking her will and forcing her into submission, but by showing her how to act for the mutual benefit of both parties. Not rad fem stuff, but a lot less diabolical than many have suggested*

Jackie Brown: 4 STARS

*So this week’s feminist film news was brought to my attention by a dear friend of mine whose future career in film will I hope help to right some of the wrongs we see here today. So Jill Soloway, who is the writer/producer of the show Transparent which is one of the 2 TV shows I haven’t seen, something I hope to rectify soon, recently made this speech. Here she says many wonderful and terrifying things about how hard it is to be a woman working in film and TV, an industry which is constantly and actively challenging female subjectivity ie questioning that women are, in fact, people. So I join Ms Soloway in saying “I just beg everybody to be relentless in their pursuit of their voice”. So go ladies and make films or just say things loudly whenever you get a chance.*

(SPOILERS. As always, only sort of, I basically think of any review as always containing spoilers because, I mean it tells you about the film before you’ve seen it, but yeah I guess you decide if that matters to you. CN for violence against women, shooting and attempted strangling, racism)

“I think if I was a middle aged black woman working for $16000 a year I wouldn’t think I had a year to spare” – Mark Dargus to Jackie

“If you walk into a business meeting wearing that suit, you’ll be the boss” – Sales Assistant to Jackie

Ok so I’m a bit scared about writing this. Because really my opinion about what this film says about women is immaterial. This film is not about me, it is about Jackie, and to suggest that I know anything about her life or Pam Grier’s life or what this film might mean to and say about black women would be arrogant and stupid. However I did not want this blog to be yet another place full of white faces and interest in white media and I am a big Jackie Brown fan so I’m going to give it a shot. Feel free to slap me in the face whenever you like. To double my sins I couldn’t find anything written by black women about this film. I mean obviously it must be out there I just I don’t know where to look because I’m woefully ignorant and because I don’t read film reviews (a great quality in a critic I know – in my defense at least 50% of the reviews I did find referred to Jackie as a “spinster” I mean seriously fuck off) so all I could find is this interview with Pam Grier about her role. She really just chats about her experience making the film but this moment seems like a particularly shocking example of the combination of everyday sexism and racism black women have to face in the business called show, and she says it like it’s nothing – completely to be expected:

“When I originally was sent and read the script, I thought I’d be playing the dope ho, with the bra and the hotpants. When Quentin said I wasn’t, I asked him what role I was reading for, and he said ‘You’re not reading! You are Jackie Brown!’”

So here’s my attempt at a Jackie Brown review, a film which I feel gives its female characters space to breathe and have lives and be wonderful while still acknowledging the continual waves of oppression they have to stand against, and at the same time is completely complicit in their sexualisation and the creation of their ‘other’ness. So this shouldn’t be complicated at all

STAR: The Bechdel Test

– Developed female relationships

(By the skin of its teeth. Jackie talks to the sales assistant about her cool new suit for long enough to qualify. She also talks to Melanie for a minute in the dressing room and gives her some money (what did Ordell ever do for us? what indeed, got us all shot and arrested seems to be the answer) and she talks to Sharonda, again very briefly. On the one hand the scene between Sharonda and Jackie is very touching, in that Jackie doesn’t seem impatient with Sharonda’s awkwardness and in general does her best to put Sharonda at her ease; on the other hand any scene with Sharonda in kind of brings up the issue of how acceptable it is to portray young black ‘country’ women as dim, simple and inclined to live in squalor. I mean I don’t think Tarantino is endorsing Ordell’s horrendous exploitation of this young woman but she seems unnecessarily silent to me and there is a certain glamour about Ordell’s life. This is a masculine fantasy, where you have enough money to ‘set up’ several different ‘types’ of woman, who, you then seem to think you own (and occasionally rent out to your friends). There is no solidarity between these women, and there was meant to be a scene between Jackie and Melanie (as Pam says in her interview) where Jackie tries to encourage Mel to make it on her own. I would liked to have seen that scene is all I’m saying)

STAR: Non- stereotyped Female Characters

STAR: Developed, prominent female characters

(Yeah, so no female relationships but lots of female characters. Jackie is wonderful. She’s genuinely complex. She has tastes in music, desires, dreams, a past, mixed emotions. Tarantino calls this a ‘hang-out’ movie, one where you get to hang out with his characters and you do feel like you’re getting to know Jackie. There are elements of her character that are larger than life, that verge on the ‘sassy black lady’ stereotype, a stereotype which applauds black women for their strength even while making that strength palatable and unthreatening to a white audience. All that can be said of these moments is that they are direct references to Ms Grier’s previous work in the Blaxploitation films of the 70s when she played characters like Coffy and Foxy Brown. Whether that makes such stereotyping ‘ok’ is, I guess, something one has to decide for oneself. Whatever your perspective on this however Pam Grier’s performance seems unquestionably accomplished and to have a 44 year old black stewardess as a film’s heroine, particularly when that character was originally written as white, seems great and important to me. As for the other women in the film, Sharonda has been discussed, Simone’s scene where she dances to The Supremes dressed entirely in sequins seems too easy to laugh at although it seems a marvelous performance to me and could just as easily be appreciated as such. And then there’s Melanie, who will be discussed more later in our sexualisation section, because, despite a wonderful performance by Bridget Fonda, she does play the ‘dope ho’ Pam thought she was reading for)

No Excessive Air of Misogyny

– No rigid adherence to gender norms

(So Jackie’s great, there are lots of women (even if their characterisation varies in quality) and there are productive relationships between men and women in the film. Jackie and Max are, of course, partners, and her relationship with Ray, Michael Keaton’s hyper ATF guy, is relatively respectful although his partner’s behaviour towards her – threatening her, talking down to her, probing into her personal life and making presumptions about her based on her age, sex and race – is disgraceful. Whether it’s ok to have 2 ‘nice’ law abiding white men in positions of authority treat a black woman better than her black male friends is acceptable is a whole other kettle of fish which i’ll allow you to cook yourselves. Anyway despite these relatively positive relationships this is not a world that is kind to women. Women are shown to have no way to support themselves apart from relying on the patronage of dangerous and exploitative men. Melanie is forced to wait on Ordell in her own home while she tries to watch TV, all of which involves either women getting hit in the face, Tony Curtis saying it’s important he’s with a good looking woman (important to whom Tony?) or women in bikinis. Jackie’s experience with the law is shown to be equally humiliating and exploitative, and let us remember she has been forced into this low paying airline because of her ex husband implicating her in various crimes. Just because Jackie ‘wins’ does not mean sexism does not exist. You should not have to concoct such a deviously complicated plan just to be able to support yourself)

No Excessive Female Exposure or Sexualisation

– No objectification of the female body

(No chance. In hell. Melanie is constantly dressed just in a bikini top and tiny shorts. Her legs are the main thing in most shots of her. Her desire to have sex with the shabby, coughing, old Robert de Niro seems unlikely at best. Also there’s the show ‘Chicks with Guns’. Now maybe this is Tarantino making up for the fact that in this film the women aren’t all half naked super heroes. Maybe it’s a knowing nod of self awareness that this is the kind of film he would go on to make. Or maybe it’s a chance to show women in bikinis. Jackie herself does not get this kind of treatment but there is a lot of camera lingering on her body, particularly in the opening sequence, and her beauty is CONSTANTLY referred to. It is great that the young white blonde Melanie is not the only option as an ideal of beauty in this film. And it is very important to recognise the beauty of black women, but it does rather undermine the importance of having a 44 year old woman as a lead when she ‘looks 35’, as Quentin says. One might question the strength of the challenge to mainstream ideals of beauty when casting such an unquestionably beautiful woman. So no stars here)

STAR: No Gratuitous or Trivialising Scenes of Rape or Male Violence Against Women

– No threat of male violence against women

(The scenes of violence against women are not gratuitous. Melanie is shot but this is quick and largely off camera. It is also taken seriously. Ordell is very upset about Melanie’s death. I mean partly this is because he sees Louis as disrespecting his ‘property’ and partly because he doesn’t see why Louis couldn’t just hit her to shut her up. Inspiring stuff. However it is not a death that is taken lightly or swept under the rug. Similarly the handling of Ordell’s attempt on Jackie’s life is taken seriously, both in that it is truly sinister, and in that, in revenge for trying to throttle her, Jackie threatens to shoot off Ordell’s dick. The reality of this scene, the fact that Jackie needs a weapon to have any hope of fending off Ordell, adds to its power The physical prowess of Kill Bill is a fantasy, the real difference between the sexes is that one can kill the other with its bare hands, as Rachel McAdams says in the only good moment of this season’s True Detective. To kill Beaumont Ordell concocts an elaborate scheme to get him into the trunk of his car. To kill Jackie he walks into her apartment and puts his hands round her neck. I think Tarantino takes this difference seriously and I think Jackie Brown deserves this section’s star)

4 stars. And 3 bonus points. 1 for BME women, 1 for working class women, and in fact all of the women in this film, with the possible exception of Melanie, could be described as working class which is basically unprecedented in the film’s I’ve reviewed (although none of them, besides Jackie, actually have jobs, they’re mainly doing Ordell’s dirty work/making him drinks) and 1 for explicit discussion of feminist issues. Because discussion of the difficulties faced by middle aged working class black women is at the heart of what feminist discussions should be about. After Django it seems overly generous to give Tarantino the benefit of the doubt when it comes to dealing with race and the ‘white hero coming to the rescue of their black subordinate’ syndrome is not really successfully subverted here but in terms of putting black women centre stage, and in understanding the ways in which misogyny and sexism intersect, pressuring black women to become, as Zora Neale Hurston put it ‘the mule of the world’, Jackie Brown does important work. I love hanging out with Melanie and Jackie and I think you will too.

*A note on Tarantino. I will almost definitely be reviewing Tarantino’s other films at some point, because I love them. I’m prepared to admit that I love all of them, objectification, gratuitous violence and all, but why I chose Jackie Brown first is because you don’t have to be a Tarantino fan to like it. Jackie Brown is adult and sophisticated in a way no other Tarantino film is and I think Jackie, of all his protagonists, most obviously commands his respect. Also, all the Django madness aside, I think his desire for Pam Grier to be the first black woman to get an Oscar was sincere and commendable. And the fact that she didn’t even get nominated is pretty shitty. I mean I’m not trying to knock Kate Winslet but how was Kate Winslet in The Titanic better than Pam Grier? How is watching Judi Dench be Queen Victoria more exciting than watching Pam be Jackie Brown? I also admire his attention to his audiences, the fact that he went to cinemas with largely black audiences to see how the show was received is really cool and something few directors do. I think he is overly self congratulatory for this and I think Spike Lee basically hit the nail on the head when he said ‘Quentin, you are not an honorary black man’, but I guess the point is that, with Jackie Brown I think the good outweighs the bad and, for a film made by a white man about a black woman, it is surprisingly profound.*

Happy Christmas: 10 STARS

*My feminist film news for you today is that of Rose McGowan getting fired by her agent for sharing a casting note she got for the new Adam Sandler movie where she was advised to wear a tight fitting top, showing cleavage “push up bras encouraged”. Really this story speaks for itself. Everyone hates Adam Sandler. Everyone hates people getting fired for pointing out sexism in the workplace. Everyone hates the unrelenting sexualisation of women in Hollywood. (Ok actually lots of people like all of those things but lets face it those people don’t read this blog so let’s pretend they don’t exist). Sadly while I want to howl a battlecry out across the wilds of the internet giving Ms McGowan my full support there has since been another story where she said gay men were more misogynistic than straight men. Clearly exposure to Adam Sandler’s evil has caused Ms McGowan to turn to the dark side where one forgets basic truths such as NO ONE is more misogynistic than straight men. So sadly my battlecry cannot be one which fully supports Ms McGowan in all of her endeavours, but it can still be full of hatred for Adam Sandler so let us not lose hope. Here’s the link for the full story http://uk.businessinsider.com/rose-mcgowan-fired-for-calling-out-sexist-adam-sandler-movie-role-2015-6?r=US&IR=T*

(SPOILERS. It is a new film. Not so many people have watched it and I am going to make a real big effort not to give too much away but it’s not that big on plot so don’t fear I will not be divulging any terrible twists. CN for NOTHING. That’s right, you heard me, not a single content note required. That’s how you get 10 stars baby, by filling your film with amazing women and male allies and not a strip club in sight. However it should be noted that I discuss sexual assault, there is none in the film but there is in my discussion)

“I think the concept of ‘having it all’ is really dangerous. It just means I have to do everything” – Kelly

Ok I’m going to get my adoring rant out of the way quickly and then we can move on. I’ve watched this film 3 times in 3 months. I try and get everyone I talk about films to to see it. Because this is a great film, the actors give great performances, the dialogue (mainly based on improvisation) is top top notch and it tells a really subtle lovely story about two women and their relationship. I mean this is the story which continually goes untold. This is why the Bechdel test is even a thing, it’s because female/female relationships are consistently undervalued and reduced to either bitchy standoffs or cloying blandness. This is now one of my favourite films and honestly I have never felt a film spoke directly to me as a young woman more, outside of the work of Eric Rohmer who is my number one fave guy and you should all watch his work. Also there is the best baby I have ever scene on screen in this film. Honestly you should watch it for the baby alone he’s phenomenal.

STAR: The Bechdel Test

STAR: Developed female relationships

(Is it going to get boring just saying STARS STARS STARS FOR ALL 5 times? No, because celebrating female excellence is not boring it is necessary. And rare. So this is really the central success of this film. Anna Kendrick and Melanie Lynskey play Jenny and Kelly so so well. I mean the stay at home mum and the young feminist are always somehow pitted against one another as if they are in competition and the beautiful thing about this film is that it shows just how bullshit that is. These women are united, not by some unquestioning biological tie of womanhood but because they like each other and are interested in each other and refuse to pigeonhole each other. Also the importance of Lena Dunham’s character Carson as a kind of instigator in their relationship, as well as her entirely separate and different relationship with Jenny demonstrates the complexity of female relationships. No one model of friendship is ever going to sum up all relationships between women because women are complicated and amazing and my god I love this film)

STAR: Non- stereotyped Female Characters

STAR: Developed, prominent female characters

(In part this has already been covered but it is completely true that the differences as well as the similarities between these women are so interestingly explored. Carson and Jenny, for example, have a discussion about their different feelings about maternity where Carson definitely wants to have children at some point and Jenny isn’t sure she ever will. These two women are both young feminists but neither of their views are more or less feminist just as there is space within the wide spectrum of feminism for Kelly’s position as wife, mother AND writer. The fact that it is hard to maintain all of these roles, as Kelly says having it all just involves her doing everything, shows that this is not some feminist utopia where all women love each other and are able to do anything they want and are free from all constraint BUT they are all equally considered as people and their differing desires and paths are viewed with equal importance and respect)

STAR: No Excessive Air of Misogyny

STAR: No rigid adherence to gender norms

(As we know this is the hard star to get. Given the importance placed on female friendship and the fact that the men in this film are an amazing baby, a loving father, husband and brother who is mainly seen in relation to the women in his life (what a change) and a nice young babysitter who Jenny kisses sometimes we can safely say there is no excessive air of misogyny. There is a scene where Jenny and this young man are making out, then she’s like ok let’s stop, I’m going home now and he’s like ok cool see you soon. That is a scene I want to show to every teenager in the world. Because he doesn’t whine, or wheedle or try and get her to stay or guilt her about turning him on and not having sex with him, he’s just cool and acts like a normal human. And then later, on another day, they have sex. So everyone’s a winner. (Not to say that you shouldn’t coerce people into sex because that will result in more sex for you in the long run OBVIOUSLY you shouldn’t do it because it is terrible and evil) Interestingly there is a scene later on where Jenny attempts to pressure him into coming home with her and the fact that that ends with her crying and massively freaking out again shows that that is fucked up behaviour and not something a happy healthy person should be doing. So top points regarding consent. I also think it’s important that Jenny doesn’t really have a job, not that I love unemployment (jokes I totally do jobs are for suckers) but she doesn’t have the typical “girl job” nor an ill fitting “boy job” she is just allowed to be herself)

STAR: No Excessive Female Exposure or Sexualisation

STAR: No objectification of the female body

(So there is some sex in this film, but no female nudity, we see our nice young man’s naked back and that’s it. That is so great. The idea that the sex scenes would be about development of character and exploration of relationships not just objectifying the actors and turning the audience on. That’s great. Also Anna Kendrick’s body seems very real, like she has to get dressed, and wear tights and wrap up warm and then take off some clothes and be carried around when she’s black out drunk. She is a person who takes up space and partly that’s just the naturalism of the film but what that naturalism adds up to is treating the characters like real people which in the context of feminism is really really important. I mean partly what Anna’s bodily-ness shows us is her vulnerability, the fact that her brother can just pick her up and carry her when her female friend could not, the fact that when she drinks she does really get drunk and that has physical consequences on her and the people around her but that really just shows again that this isn’t a utopian film and that part of naturalism is letting in the good with the bad. Basically there isn’t any objectification and that’s great)

STAR: No Gratuitous or Trivialising Scenes of Rape or Male Violence Against Women

STAR: No threat of male violence against women

(Ok so one could argue that as there is a passed out drunk woman at a party and later a woman alone in the apartment of a near stranger with said near stranger lying on top of her (in a kissy way) that there is threat of male violence. However one can argue many things but one is not always right. Such an argument plays into the notion that a woman, just because she is not able to physically overpower a male assailant, is a victim waiting to happen, a kind of moving target for sexual assault. Such a person would have to concede that Jenny’s brother, when he comes down to her bedroom, is equally capable of assaulting her. The fact that she is in her own home, with a relative who she trusts sadly is not a guarantee that she is safe because the same rule applies: She is not as strong as Him. However there is no such threat in this scene, at the party, or at the house of the young man Jenny kisses. Because being a woman does not actually mean you are constantly in the way of harm and you should always be on your guard to defend your body. Being in the presence of rapists is the only factor which effects the likelihood that you will be raped. Thus this film helps to move away from our victim blaming culture. There are no rapists in this film thus there is no threat of rape, despite the amount of “vulnerable” situations Jenny “puts herself in” she is never in danger. A final, and glorious huzzah)

So there you have it. 10 stars. And 1 Bonus Point. For explicit discussion of feminist issues, which really goes on throughout the film because all of these women’s discussions could be said to be feminist because they are women and so all aspects of their lives are effected by feminist issues, from having babies, working, boyfriends, what they write, what they read, where they live. There’s a question whether the film should get a female writer credit because the actresses improvised all their dialogue but Joe Swanberg is still considered the creator and this is very much his baby. The one drawback of this film is that it doesn’t get any other bonus points. The cast is very small so that is one reason for the lack of diversity in the film but really that is a poor excuse. There is no mention of BME, disabled, older or LGBT+ women. Not everyone can be represented in every film but the fact that almost every film is about cis straight white middle class women should not be overlooked. That being said this is really a failure of the industry as a whole rather than this one film in particular although it does say something important about the lack of intersectionality in mainstream white feminism.To reiterate, however, I love this film and overall I think it is phenomenal.

*A note on Joe Swanberg. I also really liked Drinking Buddies. For me it’s a more ambiguous and difficult portrayal of relationships, and is much more focussed on romantic, straight relationships but it is very interesting and 100% worth a watch. I am currently working my way through the rest of Swanberg’s films which is a very enjoyable project. What a babe. Here’s an interview he did with Collider – http://collider.com/joe-swanberg-happy-christmas-interview/ – and here’s my favourite part of that:

culturally, it’s a lot harder for women, especially right now.  There’s an expectation now that, in some ways, being a stay-at-home mom is a disappointment, and you’re not being an independent feminist and fulfilling your potential.  But then, at the same time, if you’re a working mom, you’re still expected to be a super-mom at home, buy organic food, put dinner on the table every night, and do all the research into preschools.  It’s really hard.  There’s this expectation of having it all, and there’s a lot of judgement.  Even when there’s not judgement, there’s the perception of judgement or the fear of judgement.  

So, my wife was having a really hard time and we were talking a lot about it, in our relationship, and I felt like I hadn’t seen that in the movies, really.  It wasn’t a conversation I was seeing married couples having on screen.  There’s a magic quality that movies have, in making you feel less alone in the world.  There’s an affirmation that you get, as a person, when you go to a movie and see people talking about the things that you’re talking about.  So, I wanted to put that out there, just so that women that were having those feelings knew that they weren’t alone. 

So thank you Joe for making me feel less alone in the world*

X-Men: First Class: 2 STARS`

*In the recent past (when you’re retired keeping track of the days is hard) Mark Ruffalo was trending on Facebook. According to the headlines this was because he had just written a biting put down of the ‘I’m not a feminist’ movement (thankfully I’ve vetted my Facebook friends so thoroughly I was not even aware that this was a movement). After a little investigation I discovered that what had actually happened is that he had re-blogged a post by Libby Anne Bruce in March. It is mysterious to me why this took 4 months to make news, nor why Ms Bruce’s name was mentioned only very sparsely in these stories – I guess there’s a reason that that Parks and Recreation episode where Ron Swanson was nominated woman of the year resonated with people – but it’s still a good story so well done Mark for being an ally and yeah not being a feminist is pretty dumb.Here’s a link to the original post, because Ruffalo’s blog, headed by a massive picture of his head which I found really funny and I’m not sure why, already has enough press http://dumbledoresarmy-againstbigotry.tumblr.com/post/92696008814/my-response-to-the-i-am-not-a-feminist-internet*

(SPOILERS. As ever. I should be clear however that this is not the most recent X-Men film (Days of Future Past, man how that title made it to the final draft I will never know) This is the first X-Men film since the McAvoy/Fassbender reboot. CN for violent interrogation/torture, violence against women of a variety of kinds and scenes from the Nazi concentration camps and SO MANY scenes with ladies in fancy underwear. I’m trying to find out whether that is what the 60s were actually like but I really think I would have heard about it if women only wore lingerie in the 60s, I just think it would have got back to me)

“They’re just guys being stupid” – Mystique

“Guys being stupid I can handle, I’ve handled that my whole life, but I’d rather they looked at me with my clothes off than how they just looked at me” – Angel

In a lot of ways this film is good. It is very aesthetically pleasing. It is a genuinely good reboot of a much loved franchise from our youth. It has an excellent, large cast of exciting actors. But it’s presentation of women is terrible. Unreservedly terrible. It falls into every pitfall a film can fall into. Using its female characters only to develop their male counterparts, casual misogyny that is not properly criticised, violence against women which is not sufficiently distanced from actual real life violence that women suffer, and so much objectification, all the objectification there is. What’s worse is that there are lots of women in the film, it could be a great alternative to exclusively/mainly male superhero teams. But that opportunity is not taken. In a lot of ways I still enjoy the film, but only in the way it’s kind of fun to hang out with someone you think is evil; just to see how far they’ll go.

The Bechdel Test

– Developed female relationships

(Ok so the above quotation is the only time they could have passed. But it lasts for 2 lines. And is about the endless misogyny women face from men and how this is compounded by other forms of prejudice. So it doesn’t pass. Even though Mystique, Angel, Moira and Emma are all characters who could totally talk to one another and form relationships. Once again we are shown that women talking to one another is not interesting. Only flirting is interesting (obviously we’re assuming everyone is straight, because that’s just what we assume in films right?) Oh and flirting normally includes a lot of paternalistic bull shit, but more on that later)

STAR: Non- stereotyped Female Characters

– STAR: Developed, prominent female characters

(I think Jennifer Lawrence takes this by herself. No one else is given much opportunity to develop as anything other than reformed/undercover strippers. Wow that is actually a description that fits all of the other 3 named female characters. I wish that was because the film was genuinely interested in exploring the idea of women exposing their bodies for the pleasure of male onlookers and how that might effect their sense of self, but I think it’s just an excuse to have as many scenes as possible in strip clubs. Anyway Mystique, played by Lawrence, goes on an actual journey where she realises she’s more politically radical than her old friend Charles and is no longer interested in hiding her mutation. However, this political journey is framed almost entirely around the men in her life, her father/brother Charles, her potential cute young boyfriend Nicholas Hoult/Hank with the promise of looking ‘normal’ or an exciting adult relationship with Fassbender/Magneto who wants her to be herself. OR DOES HE. Telling someone they are an exquisite creature, like a tiger, is not actually a great compliment because tigers are great and all but they’re not people, they’re not as clever as people, and they don’t have as many rights as people. So yeah didn’t love that. Also it’s what Kevin Bacon says to January Jones after he sends her to get him more ice for his drink. She can read minds and he sends her to get ice. In conclusion there is character development but it is surrounded by a disgusting sea of misogyny)

No excessive air of misogyny

–  No rigid adherence to gender norms

(No more stars for you X-Men. I mean I’ve kind of covered this with the whole ‘exquisite creature’ phenomenon. Professor Xavier also accuses Mystique of being ‘awfully concerned with her looks’ while she tries to come to terms to that fact that she is BLUE. Disguising women’s struggles with racism, objectification or eating disorders as vanity is textbook and from the future leader of the X-Men PhD it is disturbingly normalised. I’ve already mentioned that Bacon sends Emma Frost to seduce Russian politicians and do menial chores when she has the same power as Professor X and that power is MIND CONTROL right? I think I might have. Why does she sit in her actual underwear while that Russian general thinks he’s having sex with a spectral version of her? Why would that require her to actually take her clothes off? And can’t she just tell him to do what she wants in much the same way that Prof X tells people to get into cars and stuff? I think the answer to all these questions is that although she has the most amazing mind in the world her body is seen to be more interesting to viewers. Maybe)

No Excessive Female Exposure or Sexualisation

– No objectification of the female body

(Yeah so every scene with January Jones involves sparkling underwear, Magneto’s tiger argument to Mystique is that she should not only always be blue, she should always be naked (is she not cold? being naked is cold). He definitely had no vested interest in making that suggestion. Also a lot is made by the FBI that Moira is a woman and so will probably be shit at her job and just start kissing her colleagues (which is kind of what happens so we’re not exactly directed to scoff at this institutional misogyny). On top of this her first scene involves her going undercover in the first of many strip clubs. This is not an assigned mission it is one she takes on herself, because women love taking off their clothes. They also love wearing incredibly fancy underwear to stake outs. Stake outs where you sit in a car for hours. That’s when you definitely want to be wearing a garter belt. Obviously. Oh and Angel’s super hero costume looks very much like the costume she wore when she was a stripper. So that was great)

No Gratuitous or Trivialising Scenes of Rape or Male Violence Against Women

– No threat of male violence against women

(So this is the section I find most unforgivable. You can make an argument that Kevin Bacon is mean to Emma Frost because he’s evil, that Professor X is rejected by Mystique for his paternalistic nonsense and that Magneto is, that dreaded phrase used to excuse misogyny everywhere ‘morally ambiguous’. But his moral ambiguity stretches to trying to strangle 2 women to death, one of whom (January, obviously) is in her underwear at the time. One of them, Moira, he blames for shooting his friend, even though she was clearly trying to shoot him and shooting him is not dangerous at all because he can control metal. You can see how he justifies that to himself. But Emma Frost, although she’s working with Shaw, the Nazi who killed his mother, would only have been a child like himself when the Nazis were in power and has now dedicated her life to the mutant supremacy cause, a cause he continually advocates. When he needs a telepath he manages to put her association with Shaw behind him. So maybe he didn’t want to kill her because of that, maybe he just likes strangling women, Like the superhero he is)

So 2 stars (absolutely pathetic) and 5 bonus points for representation which is a surprisingly high number although, as always it does not measure the quality of the representation involved. 1 is for Jane Goldman who co-wrote the screenplay, all I can really say about her is that I really liked Stardust which she also co-wrote and I like her red hair, other than that I’m basically out. 1 for BME women although this is a bit tricky. Basically Zoe Kravitz (daughter of Lenny Kravitz) plays Angel. So far, so rockstar daughter. However Angel’s last name is Salvadore suggesting to me that she is supposed to be Latina. One again the demon of interchangeable brownness rears its head in Western cinema. White and non-white are not the two kinds of people that there are Hollywood, come on. (House of Cards is also a big offender for this with the wonderful and very palpably South Asian Sakina Jaffrey playing Linda Vasquez, just FYI). 1 for working class women because Angel is a stripper by trade, 1 for women in masculine roles because being in the FBI/a superhero is masculine however little actual action The Men let you see and 1 for explicit discussion of feminist issues (see top). So in conclusion a bad show all round, everything good to be said comes with a massive qualifier, and the bad stuff ranges from laughable to genuinely horrifying. For a team which is 50% female the X-Men sure do live up to their name.

*A note on the comics. I am woefully uninformed on this so this is less a note and more of a question: Does anyone know whether all this bullshit originates there or whether it’s new to the films? It is definitely in the previous 3 films from our childhood, none of which I think pass the Bechdel test, but it would be interesting to know whether it’s in the comics. Do let me know if you have any info on this dear internet folk*