These are a few of my favorite things:
"Erin Brokovich," "Three Colors: Blue," "An Angel at My Table," "Working Girl," "Annie Hall," "Julia," "Fatal Attraction," "Out Of Africa," "Orlando," "Thelma and Louise," "Heavenly Creatures," "The Accused," "My Brilliant Career," "Elizabeth," "Juno" and of course "The Sound of Music."
In a marketing culture so perfectly calibrated that experts can predict what's in our fridge by the car we drive, why is it that what women want in a movie is still considered mysterious? We clearly aren't unreadable consumers (Seriously. They know what milk you buy), so it's odd that every woman I know has a movie appetite that includes more than "chick flicks" (though we love those too), when for years nobody seemed to know it.
Movies for and about women were a force in the marketplace through the 40's, 50's 60's and 70's and those movies largely performed well. It seems unlikely that women became inscrutable after the sexual revolution, so maybe this is the case of a marketing misread. Movies with female protagonists began to perform poorly and the conclusion was that women didn't drive box-office: the problem was the consumer, not the product. Which is like a guy getting dumped after acting like a jerk on a dinner date who decides that the problem wasn't him, but the woman.
I don't mean to imply that in the last 30 years there have been no amazing movies with female protagonists; there have been many gems, but there have not been enough. Before you think I've lost the optimism I wrote about last week, here's the silver lining: Things are changing and it's largely because sisters are doing it for themselves. Female (and male) creators, writers, directors, producers and actresses are creating great narrative worlds for women and, in doing so, are bringing women back to our screens and studios back to their senses.
Why are people surprised that the same qualities that made "Sex and the City" such a mega-hit on TV would attract women to the cinema. It may not have been the traditional event movie that Batman was, but it was an event nonetheless. An excuse to dress up, to throw on our stilettos, throw back a cocktail and make a night of going to the movies to visit some old friends. More events please!
I am inspired by Diablo Cody and the way she writes female characters that are distinctive, funny and true. I am inspired by creators like Tina Fey and Shonda Rhimes who write characters that not only speak to the modern women, but make me laugh so hard I am reminded of the joy that the medium can bring. I am inspired by Catherine Hardwicke and Nancy Meyers and their continued success as writers and directors, and the idea that there is a movie coming out about a female icon like Julia Child played by Meryl Streep, one of the greatest actresses of our time.
I am inspired by producers like Gale Anne Hurd, Laura Ziskin and Kathleen Kennedy, who have produced some of the biggest blockbusters of all time and helped bring movies like "Alien," "To Die For" and "The Color Purple" to the screen.
Within the last year we've had "Rachel Getting Married," "Doubt," "Frozen River," "Confessions of a Shopaholic" and "He's Just Not That Into You." And there's the encouraging fact that Angelina Jolie is starring in the action movie "Salt," originally written for a male star.
Are we learning from the success of movies like "Twilight," "Mamma Mia!" and "Wanted" that if you tell a good, entertaining story with a woman at the center, a whole lot of us will show up to see it. If you make a bland movie to appeal to all women, we're going to skip it. Even though we know that you know what face cream we like by what magazine we subscribe to, we are individuals beyond our consumption trends and we want female characters to be memorable and distinctive as well. When they are, women show up to the theater in droves, each of us certain the movie is about us. After all, individualism is the only thing we all have in common.
I hope that we can strive to portray great female historical figures on screen whose names don't all start with the title of Queen --heroines of every type, inspirational women who have made a difference. There are movies in the works about Jody Williams, Lee Miller, Amelia Earhart and many others. Also in store for us are films about fictional women characters so memorable they stand to make indelible marks on our consciousness and hearts. When these films come out I will round up my girlfriends, maybe a guy friend or two, and see them in the theater.
Whether the name of the protagonist is Norma Rae, Judy Benjamin, Raimunda, Amelie, Ellen Ripley or Juno, I can't wait to meet her.