First and foremost, I’d list to apologize for all 3 of those people who read my blog for updating in days. I’m going to attempt to have several posts today to make up for that.
Onto the topic, I’m ashamed to say that I don’t pay much attention to actresses. Not insofar as I don’t view them as equals within a film but the fact that I haven’t put in the effort to even have many favorite actresses outside of some tongue-not-so-in-cheek aesthetic reasons. Granted I’ve become a huge fan of January Jones for her portrayal of Betty Draper in, the best show on television, Mad Men. I’ll go into that at the end of the current season though to see how see develops and because I want that to be an extensive write-up.
The only female performer that I genuinely surmise when talking about actresses is Gena Rowlands (wife of John Cassavettes up to his death). If you’ve seen her collaborations with her husband than enough has been said. If you haven’t, go watch A Woman Under the Influence first and then proceed in any random order that you wish. Though for my money, Opening Night is my favorite performance by Gena Rowlands. Even with all my love for Ms. Rowlands, I did not happen upon her because I’ve first heard rave reviews of her performance. I saw that movie because I was interested in her husband. This isn’t exactly peculiar considering that John Cassavettes is seen as one of America’s, as well as one the world’s, greatest directors. However, if I stop looking at Gena Rowlands through a magnifying glass and instead climbed to the top of a tower for a different vantage point, I would notice that almost unilaterally that the only way I discover actresses is either through male directors or because I wanted to see a male actor.
The only time I genuinely focus on the female is if I learned about the movie through a feminist perspective or if I’m specifically looking for a female story. In an effort to assuage my guilt, it is easy and obvious to point out that the vast majority of movies are designed for male leads. Hell, even the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director made a “male movie” in The Hurt Locker. Granted another woman director, Jane Campion, had directed a superior movie that year, Bright Star, that in fact had a female protagonist as the lead. This excuse (read as: valid explanation) aside, it is not the status quo’s job to show me different and branching outlooks. The status quo only exists to represent the status quo. I’ll go through some “female movies” and actresses that I do adore (after putting some time into it) at the end of this post.*
Before that however, I would like to mention something peculiar to me. The fact that movies with female characters as protagonist are deemed women films. Meaning that the majority of the audience is only for woman. However, we have the “everyman” that all people are supposed to be able to identify with regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. But, surprise surprise, the everyman is a white heterosexual male with rare exceptions to this rule. It goes without saying that the “everyman” is actually supposed to be the idealized male. Ignoring the gender and racial connotations this brings up, I would like to get back to the subject at hand. Though the “everyman” may be, almost exclusively, a white heterosexual male, if the character is used correctly then he does in fact become THE everyman where regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation you can relate to this character on several levels.
Why is there no female equivalent to the “everyman” then? I believe that the largest reason, and dear god there are several, is the two-fold problem is that woman are deemed as so widely different from men that a man wouldn’t be able to put himself in a woman’s shoes. And the second fold of that problem is actual the specific nature of the first, when a woman is portrayed on-screen however she acts or reacts are seen as undeniably woman. Male actions and reactions on the other hand are seen as universal. Lovely paradox we’re operation on here. But when you see yourself as the normal or default anything that is unlike you would be sure to be seen as alien.
To pose the question to myself, do I find that female centric movies are so widely out of order from something I could relate to? No and yes. I usually put women on a pedastal, meaning, I believe there’s something so utterly fascination and beyond my comprehension, that I will only get a faint grasp on, going on within them that I have a hard time relating. There have also been times that I understood the undercurrent, mostly growing up and the awkwardness that comes from the experience, that I could hold the hand, rather than a full embrace. There have been women that have reminded me off myself through my passive nature or because of the way that I love or because of the women that they love.
*I Changed my mind like halfway through the recommendations and decided to give it a longer post instead to focus on the movies in their entirety. There is already enough text here and I know people have a hard time reading walls of text withough breaks. I think this focused enough in it’s own right without me splittering off into another subject.