Kevin Maher at the London Times kicks off an article on the "genre of Hollywood movies that speak of post-feminist kick-ass action
heroines while offering an overtly sexualised view of women thatâ€™s
utterly rooted in the darkest chambers of male desire" with a dig at Joss Whedon‘s "Serenity," which we feel is a particularly poor choice of titles to beat up on, particularly as it seems Maher has yet to see the film.
Yes, Whedon was a Women’s Studies major at college. Yes, the entire arts staff of Salon was on suicide watch for, like, months after "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" was canceled. No, we’re not quite sold yet on holding him up as the new champion for female empowerment in disposable entertainment. But "Serenity" (which is great, great, great, by the way), "Firefly" and "Buffy" did manage to present what were certainly the most interesting and developed female characters in a decidedly non-female-skewing genre. Whedon’s managed to make comic book movies/series that appeal at least as well to women as to men â€” how rare is that?
Anyway, among many things, we’re particularly up in arms about this:
In other words, although these allegedly strong chicks, according to Whedon, may look "attractive" and "cool," when is the last time that Vin Diesel had to wear a pair of mercilessly photographed and cruelly revealing tight black PVC Speedos before he could snap the neck of an enemy agent? Ditto for The Rock and Jet Li? And why canâ€™t the action heroine kick ass in a baggy jumper or pair of dungarees?
We’ll not kick poor Vin when he’s down, career-wise, but we don’t see how he, ever wife-beatered-out and improbably bulging with muscle, was any less fetishized at his peak than your average recent action movie heroine. And while we’d be hard put to disagree that, of late, "strong female action hero" pretty much equals pseudo-dominatrix, why is being dungaree-clad more empowering? We don’t want some damn heroine who looks like crap. We have to get up and dress for work like everyone else, why shouldn’t she? We want her to look cool, and to have a bitchin’ outfit (and who cares how impractical it is? We’re talking about escapism here, right?). Hollywood hasn’t figured out what women want, action movie heroine-wise yet. But we’d say they’re getting closer. Sloooowly.
Meanwhile, on the track of a few iconic men’s roles, Nicole Lampert at This is London swears up and down that Daniel Craig is the new James Bond (traditionally clad in a less than action-ready tux, but no one’s get an issue with that, apparently), which we’ll believe when we see his face plastered on a poster at the multiplex and no sooner. Stephen Hunter at the Washington Post waxes melancholic and Freudian over John Wayne in "Hondo," recently restored and re-released on DVD.
Hondo was John Wayne, mythic even then, and for many of us the image he portrayed in "Hondo" that year was an image no man could live up to. He was tall and strong, encased in buckskin, his wise eyes hooded by the broad brim of his hat, looking to and possibly beyond the horizon. He was fair and calm. He was tough but not mean. He had temper but not rage, only decency under the muscle. He had a poetic streak and an emotional one; he knew what love was, just as he knew the drop of a .38- 40 from a Winchester carbine at 100 yards and how to knife-fight and fish and swim. He could ride or shoot or fight as well as any man alive, but he didn’t seem to brag on it. He killed Indians but he loved Indians; he killed white men but they were low-down skunks. He protected. He made things safe and let you grow. Otherwise he believed in letting alone, doing his duty and setting an example. He didn’t order you to be like him, he made you want to be like him.
And while the Independent‘s Paul Vallely looks over the cinematic history of a just as iconic, if far less flattering, father figure, "Oliver Twist"’s Fagin, Sean Macaulay at the London Times interviews Ben Kingsley, the latest to don the raggedy robes and attempt to humanize a tragic Jewish stereotype.
+ A hard woman is good to find (London Times)
+ It’s James Blond (This is London)
+ Who’s Our Daddy? For A Generation, It’s ‘Hondo’ (Washington Post)
+ Wayne’s lost world (Guardian)
+ Dickens’ greatest villain: The faces of Fagin (Independent)
+ Ben Kingsley (London Times)