Whither Women

June 6, 2011 11:12:00 Posted at June 6, 2011 11:12:00
Lainey Posted by Lainey

Written by Duana

I’m kind of in a bad mood today.

Yesterday at the end of the liveblog, I whined that no girls were allowed to be funny during the MTV Movie Awards. Someone pointed out Mila Kunis, sure, but really, she was part of a funny bit. The first joke in the sequence was wherein Justin grabs her boobs – he does the funny thing, in short - and she’s OK with it.

This is what counts as ‘funny’ these days. Girls are OK with what’s going on, and that counts as including them. Where were the stars of Bridesmaids? Yeah, I know that movie wasn’t up for any awards. Neither was Super 8. Everyone’s been screeching this spring about whether Tina Fey or Amy Poehler is funnier (we’ll get to why that’s weird in a second), so why couldn’t they have made an appearance?

I’m going to speculate for a second. If we accept (as has been outlined elsewhere) that Bella Swan is so popular because her lack of discernable characteristics makes it easy for girls to project themselves onto her and her situation, and if we accept that most actors are gonna be seen as their most famous characters, no matter what (which explains why Jennifer Aniston is your Friend and Megan Mullally only plays sociopaths), then I have to wonder whether funny isn’t a desirable quality in women. Whether Kristin Wiig’s Annie or Maya Rudolph’s Lil aren’t, after all, people you want as friends.

‘No’, you cry at me, ‘funny is great! They make me laugh so much!’ – but do you want to look like them? To dress like them? Do you really, truly want to be like Tina Fey? How about Rachel Dratch? Why isn’t Ellie Kemper more famous? I know people just googled one of those last two names. Not you, of course, but someone. (Did you hear that Fox News ran a Sarah Palin story with a picture of Tina Fey? Can’t make this up.)

A funny girl is kind of a threat, right? She can point out things about you that you don’t know. She sees a reason maybe to not think that the guys are as hilarious as you do, and that can be upsetting. What does she know? Why does she think like that? Why won’t she stop being like that? Is it really guys who don’t believe in funny women, or is it actually women themselves?

Women more educated and experienced and well-versed in comedic history than I have gone on at length about this topic, so I won’t spend too long dwelling, but the thing is, it’s not just about funny girls. It’s about most of them.

People get alarmed when women don’t act the way we want them to. They are affronted when the representations of women on TV or in film are less flattering than they would like, or than they think they would tolerate. This is why there’s a strong contingent of women who aren’t interested in Mad Men – the realities of marginalization in the 60s workplace are too hard to swallow. This fall’s Pan Am is eliciting the same reaction - that it’s going to be shallow and base. To paraphrase someone on the liveblog recently, “Why would I want to watch a show about a decade that was totally crappy for women?”

But of course you know where I’m going next, right?

Why isn’t it the same for men? Male and Female viewers watch men portrayed as womanizers, as drug addicts, as enterprising men-on-the-make only looking out for themselves – and we call it compelling. Women are portrayed as doing what they can within the confines of their environments, and maybe that’s what is upsetting for viewers? That they don’t do more – burn their bras there in the offices, upend tables, etc? Maybe that’s what it is. A wish that women back then – when things were different - had stood up and said something.

So then, the only women who escape our ridicule are the pretty ones who don’t say much and never do the wrong thing and don’t have any weak points or get mad? I suppose Reese Witherspoon was yesterday’s honoree…

Which brings me back to last night. Why wasn’t Emma Watson in any of the comedy sketches? Why didn’t Emma Stone get a punchline instead of a mock-horrified stage exit? Why did Selena Gomez have to hide her face, embarrassed, as the inevitable discussion of her tabloid vacation with Justin happened? Why couldn’t she be part of the skewering? Wouldn’t that have been more fun?

“Oh Duana, she would never!” Why not? Why can’t I expect some gameness, some self-awareness, of her or her cohorts? Why do I have to accept that the best women can do is stand by and big-up their funny male costars – or be ridiculed for portrayals of women that are, you know, icky and unflattering?

And why aren’t you more mad about it?


Photos from Kevin Winter/Gettyimages.com

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