I got a couple of seemingly unrelated emails recently. One alerted me to a trailer for Generation M, an upcoming documentary in which professor of philosophy Thomas Kieth explores how sexualized images of young women (teenagers in many cases) in pop culture have been rebranded as a form of feminism.
Along the way, Generation M forces us to confront the dangerous real-life consequences of misogyny in all its forms – making a compelling case that when we devalue more than half the population based on gender, we harm boys and men as well as women and girls.
Obviously, I can’t review a documentary I haven’t seen, so I’m just mentioning this to inform you in case you want to check it out.
The other email linked me to an article by Jennifer Merin about the lack of mainstream female film critics in the industry:
Lauzen’s impeccably researched report shows that women are still marginalized in the national discussion about film, arguably our country’s most influential cultural commodity — a medium of sweeping social, political and economic significance.
The more I thought about it, however, I realized there is a bit of a theme going on here. Women are welcome in front the camera – if they’re young, meet the insane beauty standard, and are willing to be depicted not as sexual beings but as objects intended to rally Our Boys into a frenzy of socially approved heterosexual lust. But the mainstream media doesn’t want to hear from women exercising critical thought about pop culture. Note we’re talking about “women”, not feminists. They’re not only ignoring women who might complain about the elements we criticize here; they’re ignoring women who might be totally oblivious to issues of gender, race, etc., and are as likely to be valued by the audience as male critics.
Merin reveals another wrinkle with a quote from Stephanie Zacharek suggesting there’s also a decrease in mainstream media’s willingness to hire full-time critics at all, male or female. According to Merin, the future of movie criticism lies with bloggers. This is true: online, your chances of finding a critic who mostly shares your point of view is much more likely than in print. I don’t completely share Merin’s concern about bloggers being marketers or studio employees in disguise, though I think that’s very possible: I just don’t think the practice of bribing critics began with the internet. If Hearst and Pulitzer could drag the US into war through unethical journalistic practices, I think it’s safe to assume the people who once helped make or break movies were sometimes subject to undue influence.