Contributed by Patti Moore
A couple of years ago my brother wrote a blog post about all of his best friends’ top-played song on iTunes. Mine was a Louis CK stand-up track. He wrote, “Goddamnit Patti, I knew it. I knew you don’t listen to music. Either that or you just really want to bang Louis CK.”
It was a joke, but I have to admit I was a little hurt by this statement. I mean, I love a ginger as much as the next girl, but why is the logic “If top track is Louis, then must want to schtup Louis?” My brother’s known me for twenty-five years. He definitely knows I’m a comic. I call him all the time to run jokes by him. While it would be totally acceptable if I did want to sleep with Louis CK, that’s obviously not why I’ve listened to his stand up more than any music I own. It’s not that I can’t get enough of his sexy talent. It’s because he’s the best and hardest-working comic in America today, and I want to learn everything I can from him. The same reason any comic out there has Louis (or whomever they seek to emulate) on repeat.
This ostensibly innocent assumption is perhaps behind the misalignment between what people in general think are “good roles for women” and what the actresses who play them think are good roles for women. Bond girls are a highly coveted role in the world of film, but I’d be willing to bet most women would far rather play Bond. It’s the whole reason the Babes exist as a company. We’re working show by show, script by script to develop more roles where women get to take action and be the hero, as opposed to getting to do cool stuff as a side effect of being in love with the hero.
Luckily for us, Hollywood has taken note. As film critic Bob Mondello noted recently on All Things Considered, a startling six out of the top ten grossing movies of 2015 center on a female character. (In the past three decades that number has topped out at three, with 13 of those years not featuring a single movie in the top ten centered around a woman.) While it’s arguable that Fifty Shades of Grey and Cinderella are not exactly advancing the woman-as-hero model, that still leaves the sassy go-getters of Pitch Perfect 2 (actually written by a woman!), as well as the heroines of the fighting variety in Home, Insurgent and Mad Max: Fury Road.
Which is a positive sign. Because the number one influencer of what Hollywood produces is money. The fact that these six movies are now in the top ten grossing films of the year (and we haven’t even gotten to the upcoming female-centered Pixar film and the latest Hunger Games yet) is further proof that people are eager to shell out their hard-earned cash to see women as heroes on the big screen. Studios are listening and feeding that market, which can only mean there will be more to love in the future. That means more great roles for actresses – roles we want to play – and, more importantly, more great role models for young women.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the fact that this kind of misconception about who we admire and why goes both ways. Charles Clymer points out that as a man who has many female heroes, he has often been made to feel that this was suspect or inappropriate. That if a man is to admire a woman, it is automatically assumed to be sexual, and that women in power are often picked apart and used as reinforcement for the kinds of ideas that keep women out of power in the first place.
Aside from the blatantly heteronormative nature of these assumptions, they are damaging and limiting. And I think the best way to combat them is to gently correct. Which is why I told my brother “I don’t want to bang Louis CK. I want to be him.”
blog post contributed by Patti Moore