In her acceptance speech at the 2008 Emmy Awards, Glenn Close made a profound statement about the place of female actresses and characters on television. She said, “I think we’re proving that complicated, powerful, mature women are sexy in high entertainment and can carry a show.” While Close’s observation is very true for television shows, it couldn’t be further from a reality in mainstream Hollywood films. In fact, the woman’s film, a subset of the melodrama, is dead and Hollywood is to blame.
Considering the fact that women’s film, films with female protagonists, has been a marketable subgenre since the 1920s, it is rather impressive that it has taken Hollywood more than 80 years to wreck it. If I had to pinpoint the exact date this happened, it would be sometime in July, after the release of Sex and the City and before the release of The Women.
The Sex and the City movie, based on the immensely popular television series, has been a huge box office success. In many ways, the movie has been beneficial for the future of woman’s films by reminding Hollywood executives that the female audience exists and that they want to see successful, complicated and powerful female characters on screen. But the Sex and the City movie has also pushed women’s films in a new and disconcerting direction which is evident by the release of The Women this September.
The Women is a remake of the 1939 George Cukor film of the same name, which is arguably the best woman’s film ever made. The story is updated to have more appeal to current audience. It tries to be like Sex and the City, but without the appropriate dialogue or memorable characters; there isn’t a Samantha or a Miranda in this group of friends. But above all, it tries desperately to be better than the original.
Here lies the problem with the next decade of women’s films. They will try to be like Sex and the City in order to be commercially successful, but as a result they will be nowhere near as good. So then they will attempt to be like the classic woman’s films, updating seemingly outdated stories. But the truth is, earlier woman’s films such as The Women or the soon-to-be-remade Midnight just don’t translate well for today’s audiences.
Hollywood needs to take a hint from television, or maybe just Glenn Close. Female characters need to be complicated, powerful and mature in order for the modern female audience to truly appreciate and relate to them. And maybe a little Sex and the City thrown in wouldn’t hurt either.
Published: September 25, 2008
The Mount Holyoke News