By: Miriam Lubin
I am going on a bit of a cleanse. It all started a couple of weeks ago; I was reading King Lear, the Kavanaugh hearings were in full force, and I was feeling fed up. My brother had illegally downloaded Manhattan (so as to not fund Woody Allen) for us to watch together. For me, Manhattan has always been the most difficult Allen movie to separate from Allen himself. In the film, Allen plays a 42-year-old man who dates a 17-year-old girl. Allen—who has an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to his sexual assault allegations—is chock full of toxic masculinity. His depiction of the relationship in the film is evident of this. Allen portrays the relationship between himself and the 17-year-old girl to be more harmful to him than to her—as if the problem is that she is too immature for him, that she is dragging him down, rather than the opposite.
Usually, I am able to separate the art from its artist, even with Manhattan. But, this time around, I couldn’t. I couldn’t focus on the merits of the film which, don’t get me wrong, certainly exist. I couldn’t stop thinking about how disgustingly autobiographical the film was. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I had spent that day refreshing the Kavanaugh confirmation tracker on my phone, maybe it was because of King Lear, maybe it was because of the old man who followed me through the grocery store a few days before, maybe it was a combination of it all; whatever the reason, it is safe to say that I did not finish watching Manhattan that day. And so began my cleanse. I decided that day that I had, for far too long, been starving myself of feminine perspective in film.
The film industry is nauseatingly masculine. In fact, of the top grossing films of 2017, only 8% were directed by women (womeninhollywood.com). The industry is set up in such a way that predisposes us to be exposed to very little feminine perspective, so, it is our job to make the conscious effort to fight against this structure. I have decided that, with 17 years of watching almost exclusively films directed by men under my belt, it is about time that I take as much advantage of that 8% of movies as I possibly can. So, until further notice, I will be making up for lost time. I will only be watching films directed by women. If, by chance, you would like to join me in my cleanse (which I highly suggest), I have compiled a list of films to start us off.
Clueless dir. Amy Heckerling (1995): This one is a Miriam Lubin classic. Not only is it written and directed by a woman, but it is also loosely based off of Jane Austen’s “Emma”…I mean…c’mon… The film follows Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone), a wealthy Beverly Hills teenager as she navigates girlhood. Cher is pretty, feminine, AND three dimensional––she is a refreshing change of pace from the manic pixie dreamgirls Allen is so fond of writing. The movie is hilarious, aesthetically pleasing and intelligently written. It is an absolute must see for everyone.
Obvious Child dir. Gillian Robespierre (2014): This movie stars Jenny Slate and Gaby Hoffman—and that’s not even the best part. In Obvious Child, Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) becomes accidentally pregnant. With the support of her best friend Nellie (Gaby Hoffman), Donna gets an abortion. Donna gets an abortion and continues living normally—a concept seldom shown in Hollywood. It is likely the only movie I have heard of that doesn’t demonize abortion. Important pro-choice messages aside, the film also explores the beauty and importance of friendships between women—a theme men in the industry never portray quite right.
Pariah dir. Dee Rees (2011): Pariah follows 17-year-old African-American teenager, Alike (Adepero Oduye), as she embraces her identity as a lesbian woman. Alike eagerly tries to find her first girlfriend while hiding her identity from her parents so as not to cause any trouble in the face of their rapidly crumbling marriage. The film is written and directed by a queer, black woman. The experiences shown in the film are not coming from an outside perspective (see: bi-sexual girl protagonist of Hank Green’s new novel). With only 12% of directors being minorities, 8% of directors identifying as women, and a tiny percentage of directors being women of color who also are part of the LGBTQ+ community, it is very easy to miss out on a brilliant perspective such as that of Dee Rees. Don’t let yourself miss out; watch Pariah.
Lady Bird dir. Greta Gerwig (2017): Lady Bird was probably my favorite movie of 2017. It is the coming of age story of high school senior Christine, a.k.a “Lady Bird” (Saoirse Ronan). The central love story of this film is between Lady Bird and her mother (Laurie Metcalf), a relationship that is both turbulent and tender. Lady Bird is rebellious, opinionated and intelligent. She longs to get out of her home town, Sacramento, and go to college on the east coast, determined to do so in spite of all odds working against her. The secondary love story of this film is between Lady Bird and her best friend, Julie (Beanie Feldstein, another magnificent look into the importance of friendships between women. The tertiary love story of the film is that between Lady Bird and Sacramento. The film is about growing up. It’s about the people, the relationships, and the places that shape us. Lady Bird is one of the best portrayals of childhood—of girlhood in particular—I have ever seen in film. I would recommend it to anyone.