A Personal Manifesto

A couple of decades ago I realized everything in my life up to that point had been determined by men. I can hear my friend Denise shouting, “It’s the patriarchy, stupid!” That’s not it – at least not completely. The patriarchy is still with us. But inside my head, things have changed.

Let’s start with ancient history. I grew up when the movies were westerns with Roy Rogers or Gene Autry. Or they were war movies with Aldo Ray and Montgomery Clift. Stories were about men. Books were about men. In college, I majored in English and I read dozens of books by dead white men. Men were supposed to rule the world and women were supposed to let them. I lived with a man who controlled and manipulated everything about my life. And I let him.

Then I stopped letting him.

After that, I wanted to think some new thoughts. I wanted to learn about feminism, which had passed me by. I wanted to read books by women, I wanted to see movies about women, hear songs sung by women, and see TV shows about women.

I’m not saying I started hating men. I like men. I have a son who is the finest man you could ever know. It wasn’t about men. It was about women, about finding the feminine, about understanding the female heart and mind, about finding the essence of what it is to be a woman.

The first thing I did was start reading books by women: Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Edwidge Danicatt, Margaret Atwood, Sara Paretsky, Amy Tan, Mary McCarthy, Annie Proulx, Leslie Marmon Silko, Jeanette Winterson, Sandra Cisneros, Dana Stabenow, Rita Mae Brown, Zora Neale Hurston, Joan Didion, Gloria Steinem, Diana Galbaldon, Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Berg, Janet Evanovich, Sarah Waters, Rita Dove. I didn’t care if it was great literature or a speed-readable romance as long as it was by a woman.

No more war movies, no more westerns, no more guys coming of age (girls coming of age are acceptable), no more buddy films about guys. I became attached to films like “The Secret of Roan Inish” and “Practical Magic” and “Thelma and Louise” and “How to Make an American Quilt” that told stories about women. I decided what to go see based on who the female star was – the male star didn’t matter. Did it have Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon, Queen Latifa, Sandra Bullock, Meg Ryan, Julie Christie, Angela Bassett, Shirley MacLaine, Holly Hunter, Halle Berry, Alfre Woodard, Julia Roberts? I was there.

I started to get a bit picky, a little more demanding. The woman had to really be there. Be a person who added to the film. If “The Fugitive” advertised Sela Ward and she got offed in the beginning so all we could do was watch the hero run around, I was pissed.

Television had some women to offer. There was Mary Tyler Moore. Carol Burnett. There were shows with a lot of male characters and a few memorable female characters. “China Beach” had both Dana Delany and Marg Helgenberger. “Northern Exposure” had Janine Turner and several other interesting women. “The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd” was all Blair Brown. “Cagney and Lacey” – Woohaw! “Any Day Now” with Annie Potts and Lorraine Toussaint – double woohaw! The four fabulous women on “Sisters” – a quadruple woohaw.

In the last couple of years some really good female led TV has come along. “Saving Grace,” “The Closer,” “In Plain Sight,” “Hawthorne,” “The Good Wife,” “Weeds.” I’m loving it.

And, there was “The L Word.” A show that was practically all women. I so, so loved it. I thought I loved it because I liked Jennifer Beals. I watched every old Jennifer Beals movie that I’d missed over the years. I found dancers, cops, crooks, a naive housewife, a madam, a psychic, a blind wise woman, singers, liars, the bride of Frankenstein and a whole lot of other people, but I didn’t find Jennifer Beals. I only found characters. That’s when I realized the thing that really attracted me was the character of Bette Porter on “The L Word.”

Bette Porter. A strong woman who stands up for herself. She’s not perfect, but she’s powerful and inspiring and a leader. She seems very real there inside the TV.  She’s who I’ve been looking for in all the books, in all the movies, in all the TV shows. She’s in the courageous politicians I look up to. She’s in the tech savvy leaders I admire like the founders of BlogHer. She’s in the organizers for charity and the women who fight against injustice. She’s in the writers who tell stories that change the world. She’s in my daughter, who’s raising a kid with no help from the father. She’s in my granddaughters, who don’t take shit from anybody.

Real women I know have courage and strength and power. Maybe even I do. I’ve been trying to figure that one out for about 20 years. I could be close to an answer.

[Reprinted from Two decades of women on First 50 Words.  This post was first written in August 2010. I decided to repost it here as well because it’s relevant to why I started this blog.]

Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Quickly now! See if you can guess how I felt about Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again based on these facts. 1) I loved the now 10-year-old Mamma Mia! 2) I love ABBA. 3) I love a musical. Have you guessed yet? Continue reading “Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”

Review: The Post

 The Post taps into the modern political situation like it was 1971. I don’t know how filmmakers tap into the zeitgeist of a particular moment with films like The Post that take months or years to make, but they do it again and again. Continue reading “Review: The Post”

Watch This: Trailers for Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Trailers are showing up for the July release of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. Here’s a spot from the Grammys and a regular release trailer. Continue reading “Watch This: Trailers for Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”

Watch This: Trailer for The Post

Are you old enough to remember The Pentagon Papers? Just in case that was before your time, they were 700 pages of secret government documents about the Viet Nam War. They made the government look very bad. Very bad. Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks star in The Post to tell the story of how those pages  were published creating the biggest news story of the 1970s. Continue reading “Watch This: Trailer for The Post”

Surprise! Old People are Underrepresented in Film

A new study from the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism provides the data showing what we all know already – older people are ignored, underrepresented, or trivialized in film. Continue reading “Surprise! Old People are Underrepresented in Film”

On the Need for Female Reviewers

I’ve tried several times to leave comments on posts such as the most recent “Why It Matters That Male Film Critics Vastly Outnumber Female Film Critics” at Bitch Media. The remarks never seem to make it into the comments. My comments are rather lengthy, too. I decided to follow the rule of my friend Elisa Camahort Page and make my lengthy comments on female reviewers into a post on the topic. Continue reading “On the Need for Female Reviewers”

Review: Ricki and the Flash

Lucky for me I’m not a critic. It seems to me that the main job of a critic is to watch a fun and enjoyable movie or TV show and find things wrong with it so as to make it unenjoyable for anyone else to watch. Which leads to my point: Ricki and the Flash is fun and enjoyable. Lukewarm reviews be damned.

Spoilers ahead. Continue reading “Review: Ricki and the Flash”

Review: The Homesman

The Homesman showed up recently on Netflix. I watched immediately.

The movie annoyed me. And the more I think about it, the more annoyed I become.

Spoilers ahead. Continue reading “Review: The Homesman”

Watch This: Trailer for Ricki and The Flash

I am somewhat (okay, a whole lot) excited about Ricki and The Flash. The first excitement is the star Meryl Streep. Next, there’s the writer Diablo Cody.

But wait! There’s more! Check this out:

“Meryl Streep takes on a whole new gig – a hard-rocking singer/guitarist – for Oscar®-winning director Jonathan Demme and Academy Award®-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody in Ricki and the Flash. In an original and electrifying film loaded with live musical performances, Streep stars as Ricki Rendazzo, a guitar heroine who made a world of mistakes as she followed her dreams of rock-and-roll stardom. Returning home, Ricki gets a shot at redemption and a chance to make things right as she faces the music with her family. Streep stars opposite her real-life daughter Mamie Gummer; Rick Springfield, portraying a Flash member in love with Ricki; Kevin Kline as Ricki’s ex-husband; and Audra McDonald as Kline’s new wife.”

Oh, my, what a cast. Meryl Streep singing rock and roll and slinging a guitar around like she knows what to do with it. Oh, my.

There is something so magical about Meryl Streep. Just a glance at this image of her in her costume and you know she’s going to kill in this part. In real life she’s 65, matronly, wearing glasses and a not very exciting dress. Put her in front of a camera, yell action, and something special happens. I feel lucky to be able to watch what Meryl Streep does and be amazed by it again and again.

Mamie Gummer lets herself look like hell in this film. I love that. I love the smacking that Ricki gets from her family, from her ex husband’s new wife. I love the Rick Springfield, the Kevin Kline, the Audra McDonald. This film better be good, because I love it.

Enough already with the gushing. See what you think of the trailer. The film opens August 7.

The Trailer

Meryl Streep images © 2015 – Sony Pictures Entertainment