Two things happened this weekend:
1. Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire opened on Friday. I was looking forward to seeing this, then I wasn’t, then I was again.
2. The first episode of NBC’s Smash became available almost everywhere for free viewing. Off the top of my head, I know you can watch the pilot on Hulu, Netflix, Comcast OnDemand, and on iTunes.
You can’t see Haywire without considering “female empowerment.” Smash, much less consideration is needed. But having seen both in a short amount of time, I kept comparing the two and what they meant for women in media. It led me nowhere.
I loved it. That five minute preview worried me because it was shot and acted so terribly. Luckily, the opening sequence is the weakest period of the whole movie. The rest is miles better.
Gina Carano’s acting skills are not great. She’s obviously untrained, but she does well enough to not kill the whole movie. The fight scenes are brutal, and by the end of the movie, I wanted to be Mallory Kane without embarrassment.
This isn’t the first movie with a heroine “on the run against impossible odds,” but I think it’s the first movie where the woman doesn’t spend time crying in a bathtub or accidentally having sex with the closest dude in the room. She’s always clearheaded, in control and reactive.
Here’s what I loved the most:
Except for one questionable line near the end of the movie, no one ever makes mention of her gender as a handicap or defining characteristic. There’s no “you’re a good fighter… for a girl.” You could take the whole role and replace it with a man with only two to three changes to the plot. Mallory Kane is the answer for everything I hated about Paula Patton’s Jane Carter in Ghost Protocol.
NBC really wants you to watch this show. They are so desperate for a hit that the network has made the pilot available everywhere for free before it even airs on television.
Really, it’s not bad. It’s actually a very good pilot and could be a very good series. Brian Moylan at Gawker pointed out that this show could do for Broadway what The West Wing did for politics: it could make you give a damn about the industry.
Smash covers the ensemble cast pretty evenly, but if you had to pick two leads, they’d be Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty. Neither characters are incredible role models for women. McPhee’s Karen Cartwright needs her boyfriend to stick up for her in front of her parents and is pretty cavalier about learning finer points of auditioning. Hilty’s Ivy Lynn goes butt first into auditions and spends most of the show sandwiched between pelvic thrusts. Both women are extremely talented, but neither are very admirable.
Again, the only reason I’m comparing Haywire and Smash is that they’re two female-driven items that happened to strike me in the same short period of time. On paper, you could say Haywire does more for women in media than Smash. But look what happens when you put them against the Bechdel test.
1. Are there two women in the piece?
Haywire, barely a yes. Smash, yes.
2. Do they talk to each other?
Haywire, no. Smash, yes.
3. Do they talk to each other about something other than a man?
Haywire, no. Smash, yes.
So, either the Bechdel test is useless, or Haywire has nothing to do with anything other than watching people beat each other to death. Or, the third option, which is the conclusion I’ve had to settle on:
I don’t know a damn thing about feminism.
I looked at Mallory Kane in Haywire and assumed she was a great example of gender equality in film because she could kill people just as well, if not better, than the other men. Parents, show Haywire to your daughters! One day, they can be hired assassins, too. Reach for the bloody, bloody stars.
I looked at the women in Smash and dismissed the leads as dangerous because they had too many stereotypical feminine qualities. They wear low cut dresses! They entice men to earn roles! Where are the real women who do that? Shame. Shaaaaaame.
What I do know is this: I want my sister, my mom, my female friends, my hypothetical daughters to be free of any extraneous idiotic burdens that I didn’t have to experience. There are enough stupid obstacles we have to face on a regular basis anyway.
So from now on, I’m just going to shut up about feminism. Women, if you think something is sexist or damages women, I think you’re right because you inherently would know more than I would. I really do care about equality, but I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about when put on the spot. So just point me at the ballot and tell me if/how I can fix it.
But I don’t do bumper stickers.