The year of women living dangerously (in movies)


The game is a men’s game, all the rules are made by men, the feminine is not honored. A remembered, probably badly, quote from Coco Gonzo after seeing Mad Max: Fury Road (in 3D).

Michele and I saw Pixar’s Inside Out  last weekend. It was one of those children’s movies that are as much fun for an adult as for the intended audience. I thought it was excellent and, unusual for Pixar, the protagonist was female (for only the second time, the first being Princess Merida of Scotland in Brave, a movie I didn’t see). I say that the protagonist was female, but she – her name was Riley – could have just as easily been a boy. Her favorite sport was ice hockey and I’m not sure if there was anything particularly feminine about her.

A day before Inside Out, we saw  Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck. If you don’t know Amy Schumer, she is that girl from the television that talks about her pussy all the time – to quote from the opening sequence of the first video below – and she is pushing the limits of comedy and what is sayable in public (BTW, isn’t all  good humor pushing what is acceptable?) The two clips below are pretty typical of what she does and, if you haven’t seen her, these are a good place to start.


Trainwreck , is both a parody of a rom-com and an homage. It is also a string of joke set-ups that don’t always go together, but it is very funny. Amy plays the role of a womanizing heavy drinker, commitment-phobic and profane; it is the kind of role that would have been the man’s part five years ago (the body language in the picture on top of the post is a good demonstration). Bill Hader plays what would have been the woman’s part with LeBron James playing her best friend.

A couple of months ago, we saw Melissa McCarthy transmogrify from the Penny Moneyworth part to the James Bond part in Spy and before that it was Charlize Theron being the toughest sonofabitch around in Mad Max Fury Road.

Months ago, over dinner after Mad Max Fury Road, several of us got into a discussion over what makes a feminist movie and if Mad Max Fury Road was one (Mad Max and the other three movies pass the Bechdel test, BTW, if that was a question).  I think Mad Max is a feminist movie, but there was alot of disagreement and I am not as sure as I once was. Charlize Theron is the hero as well as the instigating agent in the movie but much of what she does is a woman acting as a man rather than through the feminine.

The operative words above is much, as opposed to all. Throughout the movie Theron is acting out of empathy for the Brides and she brings a humility and vulnerability that we don’t usually see from a man. When she talks about redemption, we sense it is because she almost lost her soul to become Imperator Furiosa. And Melissa McCarthy isn’t all testosteron either, she is reticent to step forward, a woman who has accepted her station. When she becomes the macha spy, she is still a team player, and – in the end – she shares the glory. In Trainwreck, Amy Schumer is only playing the man’s part in public, at home she is a softer, more feminine, Amy.

These four movies have got me thinking about women in a man’s world. When I say man’s world, I really mean the western, public, world in which the rules are men’s rules and the women have to conform. Both politics and business are basically run by men’s rules. They are combative, hierarchical, the rules are stable, and the main concern is for short-term gain. Women like Diane Feinstein do well because they, essentially, act like men.

What we need, it seems to me, are more feminine institutions (if that isn’t an oxymoron). Modern corporations measure success in how much they contribute to the top officers and big shareholders –  not in how much they contribute to the collective – and that takes perpetual and unsustainable  growth. What we really need today is a model for sustainability and that will require women engendering their feminine characteristics like coöperation and inclusiveness and long-term thinking.



2 thoughts on “The year of women living dangerously (in movies)

  1. Didn’t Robin Williams do a bit about women having political power? I think he described a peaceful world (where things were, perhaps, guided by Amy’s “universe”) but every 28 days there were intense periods of negotiations.
    Hmmm….the Western world could use a little more feminine influence (although maybe not from Sarah Palin)….but what does “Dr S Stern” prescribe for other cultures…like ISIS?

  2. I vaguely remember that Kirk (or maybe it is just because it sounds so much like Robin Williams). Wow, ISIS, they just seem like a totally out of control masculine and, yet, I am starting to read that they are bringing stability to the captured.

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