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A post-Bigelow check-up on gender relations.

A post-Bigelow check-up on gender relations. (photo)

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This week, Ludacris has the number one album in the country: “Battle of the Sexes”, a title which seems eminently appropriate. Not that gender representation on-screen has ever gone uncontested, but everyone seems particularly punchy after Kathryn Bigelow’s victory — an unfortunate side-effect of which will be designations like “Britain’s Bigelow,” applied by the Telegraph to director Susanna White. I’m not sure Bigelow ever signed on to be synonymous with a female breakthrough in film, but by God she will be from now on.

The New York Post brings us a disturbing but hilarious casting call notice for “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” which specifies “Must have real breasts. Do not submit if you have implants.” There’ll be a jog-around-the-track test, a sleazy process I’ve heard of happening in LA in, like, the 1970s (at a time when such things were somehow culturally acceptable). This a rare public profession of unregenerate sexism. The reason? “Times are changing,” a casting agent says, “and the audience can spot false breasts.” Has Disney been reading about the problems with HD porn? Do audiences really care that much?

The confused responses to Bigelow’s movie (and often didactic debates about what being a “female director” could mean in pure screen language, and whether or not she was a “masculine” director and so on) co-existed with people frequently blurting out repeatedly, as if helpless, how good Bigelow looks at 58, as if she could be our new Sophia Loren. (Fact: she’s a former Gap model.) The “Caribbean” crew was more overt about how important it is.

At least we can all agree that when it comes to women on film, both genders are — even against their well — drawn to comment on their looks, forming a clear hierarchy for how to evaluate female celebrities; most spite is directed there. By contrast, all that anyone can seem to agree about regarding men on-screen is that they’re in a hell of a mess; character attacks are rampant.

03222010_draper.jpgSuch, for example, is the substance of Jessica Grose’s vitriolic analysis of “Greenberg” in Slate as everything wrong with the contemporary “masculinity crisis.” “The omega male doesn’t have the power to reject anything — he’s the one who has been brushed off,” she hisses. “The image of the American woman has gone through several upheavals since the 1950s, but the masculine ideal seems fixed in cultural aspic: Think slick ad executive Don Draper in ‘Mad Men’.”

Really? Isn’t Don cool precisely because he’s a cultural anachronism (in the process, presumably, of becoming a modern guy)? Because the one thing a right-wing site like Big Hollywood and leftwing bloggy types like Defamer can agree on is that the contemporary “metrosexual”/”gangly manboy” is a blight upon film, denying us the comforts of good old-fashioned masculinity — so much so that we must import our he-men (like Gerard Butler or Russell Crowe) from abroad. It’s all a mess: either they can’t handle themselves or they’re regressive.

Still, I prefer Richard Brody’s calm overlook in the New Yorker of all the fighting, reminding us that “adulthood” as a definable has undergone steep revisions for both genders over the last forty years. For all the fighting, it breaks down less along the obvious lines of sexual politics (though it frequently does, albeit sometimes inextricably linked with personal griping) than along generational faultlines that are still being redefined. Phew.

[Photos: “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” Disney, 2003; “Mad Men,” AMC, 2007-present]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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