Fun-Deprived Tag Team of NY Times Critics Again Scorch Summer Movies for Sexism

July 5th, 2015 7:57 AM

They're at it again. New York Times movie critics A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis once again drained the fun out of another slate of summer action flicks, smothering the popcorn with a heavy dose of stale feminist politics in "Heroines Triumph at Box Office, but Has Anything Changed in Hollywood?," their latest turgid annual summer movie diatribe, for the front of the Sunday Arts section.

The theme paragraph is introduced before the discussion between liberal feminist male critic (Scott) and ultra-liberal feminist female film critic (Dargis):

Has feminism conquered Hollywood? Has Hollywood co-opted feminism? Some recent female-driven hits and some vocal critics suggest that the entertainment industry’s status quo is under attack, at least in some quarters. While the Sony hacking scandal last year revealed what certain power players really think about women, more and more women and men in the industry -- from Kathryn Bigelow to Mark Ruffalo and Margaret Cho -- are speaking out against discrimination. Whether emboldened by the hacking, by exasperated fans, media attention, legal threats or just one another, these critics -- and the box office -- may signal that real change is upon us, even during that seasonal playground for boys and men called summer.

From there, Scott suggested the box-office success of "Pitch Perfect 2" and "Mad Max: Fury Road" meant a rising feminism in the movie business, and relegated the summer's big dinosaur blockbuster to the Neanderthal era for sexism:

Even the fact that a popular movie like “Jurassic World” has been called out for its sexism seems like evidence of a shift in consciousness, or at least a moment of awareness. Something is going on here, no?

Dargis was not nearly appeased: "We still have a long way to go, baby! That said, we are seeing a rising activism or maybe newfound gutsiness in the industry that echoes the resurgent feminism we’ve seen on college campuses and elsewhere. The Internet brought old-school feminism online with sites like Ms. Magazine and introduced sites like Jezebel, which gives readers a space in which discuss sex, gender, gendered violence and pop culture as their foremothers’ did in consciousness-raising groups...."

Dargis also has a low bar for situations she finds "appalling" that included an insufficient percentage of female characters in fictional tales. She also pushed for quotas in the hiring of female irectors, or at least "righteous feminist" men. (Although doesn't the current "gender is a choice" cultural assumption makes Dargis's binary view of "men" and "women" look rather reactionary?)

Offline, Geena Davis has been petitioning industry leaders for years, using stardom and reams of data to make the case for gender equality on screen. As of 2013, to cite a particularly appalling figure from one of her studies, only 28.3 percent of the characters in family films were women. I wouldn’t be surprised if she helped push Pixar to make “Inside Out,” which is only its second female-driven movie after “Brave.” And on May 12, the American Civil Liberties Union asked state and federal agencies to investigate the hiring practices of the major Hollywood studios, networks and talent agencies. Because while I love “Spy” and Mr. Feig is one righteous feminist along with being a great comedy director, every movie that you mentioned except for “Pitch Perfect 2” was directed by a man.

Her co-host Scott is no slouch as an activist liberal reviewer. He called mockumentarian Michael Moore "a credit to the republic" after Moore's Fahrenheit 9-11 anti-Bush propaganda piece. Scott cheekily apologized for liking men stuff before suggesting that the "disappearance of white men" from the movie screens would be somehow "utopian":

....Just to put my own cards on the table: Some of my best friends are self-absorbed heterosexual white men (not naming any names here). Some of my favorite works of narrative, including “Spider-Man” comic books, John Updike novels, murder ballads and episodes of “Louie,” are chronicles of male angst, desire and heroism. But those can’t be the only stories, and our culture has often, especially since the middle of the 20th century, been governed by the assumption that the big stories, the universal stories, the stories with a claim on cultural centrality and serious attention, have to be stories about men.

The success of some of the movies we’ve been talking about -- and maybe also, or even more so, the shape of television in the age of “Empire,” Shonda Rhimes, “Orange Is the New Black” and “Transparent” -- shows the cracking of that uniformity. Not the end of sexism or the disappearance of white men or anything so dramatic (or utopian), but an expansion of popular tastes, imaginative possibilities and marketing opportunities. There is something exciting about the discovery of new territory and new kinds of characters, whether they are fantasy heroines like Furiosa and Katniss Everdeen or realistically drawn girls like Riley in “Inside Out” and Minnie in “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” a tough and honest independent film coming out later this summer.

Dargis concluded by colorfully blasting the white patriarchy, insisting that "changing a hero’s race, gender or sexual identity is not enough; we all also need art that...allows us 'to imagine and to feel the pains and the joys of those who differ from themselves in everything but the broad fact of being struggling, erring, human creatures.' That describes how it felt watching Charlize Theron lead a revolution against a decadent pasty patriarchy in 'Mad Max: Fury Road,' which is both one of the best movies of the year and a blissfully perfect metaphor for the industry."

Politicized summer fun at the movies!