Wednesday, March 9, 2011
CLASSIC LEADING LADIES vs LEADING LADIES OF TODAY
Strong leading ladies don't make the cut today
by Katherine Monk
What happened? Here is a guide to some original screen heroines, and their modern incarnations...
Katharine Hepburn in Morning Glory (1933) (or any Kate movie, for that matter): In this early Kate movie (which won her the first Oscar in her collection), she plays an innocent but highly intelligent actress learning the ropes -- and conquering. The part was all about learning to become a professional, and earning the respect of her peers.
Bette Davis in All About Eve (1950): The hard-working veteran actress is pushed to her limit by the ambitious protege who fights dirty. Davis could have sharpened her nails for a cat fight, but she proves class goes further than crass, as she transcends the moment to emerge emotionally victorious.
Myrna Loy in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946): Loy plays the wife of a returning soldier in this glowing example of cinema for grown-ups. After being the head of the household for the duration, Loy must find a way to reconcile her husband's post-traumatic stress and existential doubt with her family's needs. This is a strong portrait of a wife and mother who isn't afraid to face down the truly tough issues.
Nine to Five (1980): Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton play office workers who get even boss when they holboss when they hold him hostage d him hostagewith their sexist in this memorable girl-power comedy that made a lot of money, and celebrat ed women's leadership abilities.
Rachel McAdams in Morning Glory (2010): The idea of the ingenue is revisited with McAdams playing the part of a TV producer, but her agenda is decidedly non-heroic as she seeks to soften hard news, and celebrate glam over substance.
Kristen Bell in Burlesque (2010): Bell's part is the latter-day Davis role, but it's unrecognizable here as the veteran is reduced to an alcohol-dependent joke. The destruction of strong characters with interesting things to say is just the beginning of the devolution. The whole movie endeavoured to make erotic dance appear empowering -because nothing says serious female power like a whip, thigh-high boots and jiggling boobs.
Rosemarie DeWitt in The Company Men (2010): DeWitt's character must deal with her recently unemployed husband (Ben Affleck) and his low self-esteem in the wake of downsizing. The role had great potential in DeWitt's hands, but all she does is stand at the side of the frame looking concerned or upset. The whole movie is handed over to the male characters.
Angelina Jolie in Salt, Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil, Noomi Rapace in The Girl Who Played With Fire: Even though all of these screen characters can fight physically, they're denied the ultimate power of a leadership role -and play action heroes in tight clothes. Some of these characters are sexually tortured (in graphic detail) as a source of motivation, but in the end, these people are just action-hero eye candy without being edifying role models.