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Tuesday 7 February 2012

Diablo Cody's Female Perspective

When 'Bridesmaids' came out, everyone was talking about how it was going to change the industry. The hype was crazy, and there were articles aplenty with patronising questions, along the lines of "can a woman carry a movie?" and "can women be funny?".

The film industry is male dominated. People often challenge this notion by listing a bunch of films that star women, or by explaining that Kathryn Bigelow won an Oscar for directing 'The Hurt Locker'. These examples prove the point. If I said to you "Name ten great movies that have men in the leading roles," it would be easy, because nearly all films do.

While 'Bridesmaids' got the press coverage, pushing the fact that the cast were all women, it is writer's like Diablo Cody who are doing the real work to show us how we've been missing the voice of an entire gender for most of cinematic history. It's not that 'Young Adult' is a particularly brilliant film, although it is very good. What makes it stand apart from nearly every American film I've ever seen, is how strongly written Charlize Theron's character 'Mavis' is. I feel like I am watching a woman from a woman's point of view, and it's not buried in a 'woman's genre'. This is new territory. It is also worth noting that Jason Reitman directed this, as well as 'Juno'. He is tapping into a reservoir of talent that has, for the most part, been disregarded over the years.

Cody's writing is refreshing and unique. The structure and pacing of the film is expertly crafted. Mavis (Charlize Theron) has a goal, to win back Buddy (Patrick Wilson) -- and that is her (and the film's) only concern. She drives back to the town she grew up in, to win him back, and is remarkably nonplussed about the impact it might have on his marriage or newborn child.

The intriguing thing about the movie is that it's clear that the character's goal is doomed right from the beginning. It's like she's purposefully heading into a car crash. Even though I've never been a woman, nor have I tried to break up a marriage, I relate to her. Why? Because there's something beautifully human about her. A side of humanity we've all been at one time or another. Diablo Cody writes very subtle moments into the film where Mavis shows her vulnerability, where we realise she's not a careless bitch, just human. Just struggling. It occurred to me; I've not seen this too many times before, not with a female lead.

When people speak about the lack of women in leading roles, the comeback from those who disagree is often that "we have enough chick-flicks as it is". The view being, of course, that women just like to watch (and make) "Chick flicks". The intriguing thing about Diablo Cody is that two of her films, "Juno" and "Young Adult" have been about having babies; yet, they've not been predictable or chick-flick-ish at all. You may think that "Young Adult" is not about having a baby -- but when you see the film, there'll be a startling moment towards the end when you realise that it is hugely about that very thing.

"Juno" was her break-out hit, a mini-masterpiece. "Jennifer's Body" was average at best. "Young Adult" was subtle and intriguing. These three films, while not necessarily better or worse than films that would have been made by her male counterparts; do show a unique female voice. They leave us wondering, who else is out there like her? How different could the future of cinema look? We're ready.


  1. The future of cinema can - and should - look shockingly different!

    I hope you don't mind my posting this link here, but I took a look at this idea of "chick flicks" by asking my female Facebook friends what movie genres they prefer. Their #1 choice? Science Fiction! I'm sure the powers-that-be would be shocked by this - which just goes to show the degree to which women need to be more involved in the film business!

  2. We're ready? I really do hope so!

    I don't know if you - or (m)any other men for that matter - can really understand what it is like to go the movies and not see yourself represented (or as more as some worn out stereotype) 90% or so of the time. You have no idea how insanely happy it makes me to watch a movie about a 'real' woman. You know, one that is a fully developed three dimensional person. It happens so so seldom! But, hey, talk to people of colour, differently abled people, LGBT people and people over the age of 45 and it's pretty much the same picture.

    I love Diablo Cody. Even if her representation of women isn't always unproblamatic, she writes whole human beings. I don't care if her films are only good, not great. It's a shame that films about and starring women have to be great or at least commercially successful for the industry to deem their existence valid.

    If movies about and starring men were filtered through the same lense, there'd be far more money to go around for folk to make great movies representing all kinds of people.

  3. "The intriguing thing about the movie is that it's clear that the character's goal is doomed right from the beginning. It's like she's purposefully heading into a car crash." Very well stated.

    I adored this film, for many of the reasons you mentioned. Glad to see you writing about it.

  4. I wasn't planning on seeing it - didn't realize who wrote it. I definitely will now.

  5. Long time reader, first time commenter...

    Thank you Kid in the Front Row for:
    A) enticing me to see this film inspite of the fact that the posters and trailers left me uninspired;
    B) writing about something that other film afficionados either have ignored or not even realised;
    C) being so thoughtful, measured and articulate in your writing; and
    D) inspiring me to get my blog on.

    I look forward to seeing this film now, and seeing more like it in the future. Props to Ophelia above too.