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Helen Mirren on Hollywood
December 26, 2010 8:06 PM   Subscribe

Unsung. Helen Mirren honestly appraises Hollywood at a rewards show earlier this month, but no one told you about it.
posted by parmanparman (92 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
they have rewards shows?
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 8:27 PM on December 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


While I wait for the video to load, I would like to take this opportunity to say I love Helen Mirren a whole damn lot.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:27 PM on December 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Spanx, for anyone else who didn't get the reference.
posted by XMLicious at 8:30 PM on December 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Worthwhile for the way she says the word "spew."
posted by bicyclefish at 8:38 PM on December 26, 2010


So? What does she say?
posted by grobstein at 8:41 PM on December 26, 2010


Helen Mirren can flip a straight woman gay for a night.

I'm just sayin'
posted by tzikeh at 8:42 PM on December 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


And for:

"Quite small, I always think." *smirk*
posted by louche mustachio at 8:42 PM on December 26, 2010


Wow, the things dames like her do for causing my self esteem to rise.
posted by buzzman at 8:44 PM on December 26, 2010


Another story covered up by the lamestream media.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:45 PM on December 26, 2010


I like Helen Mirren.
posted by -t at 8:57 PM on December 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


In Hollywood's defense, worship of my penis has gone way up ever since the townspeople decided it was responsible for all those earthquakes.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:06 PM on December 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


In the Youtube related suggestions, a 1975 interview with her: 1, 2, which starts out with Michael Parkinson mentioning reviews calling her an "amorous boa constrictor" and "especially telling in displaying sluttish eroticism."
posted by XMLicious at 9:16 PM on December 26, 2010


Metafilter: especially telling in displaying sluttish eroticism.
posted by Rangeboy at 9:33 PM on December 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


Interesting point about there being about ten males roles for every female role in drama. Maybe that's one reason reality shows are so popular? Women do make up at least half the viewing audience, and in reality TV the sexes tend to be represented more equally.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:35 PM on December 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think this video actually made me a little more sexist. I hope I'm not the only one that thinks she comes off as slightly pretentious.
posted by TheCoyote23 at 9:44 PM on December 26, 2010


In the Youtube related suggestions, a 1975 interview with her: 1, 2, which starts out with Michael Parkinson mentioning reviews calling her an "amorous boa constrictor" and "especially telling in displaying sluttish eroticism."

To take it a step further in the more recent interview they address the 1975 interview.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 9:53 PM on December 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hope I'm not the only one that thinks she comes off as slightly pretentious.

Let me guess: 18-25-year-old male, right? A little small?
posted by No Robots at 10:16 PM on December 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


Let me guess: 18-25-year-old male, right? A little small?

27, according to his profile, and also our "Resident a-hole," so perhaps he's just keeping up appearances?

Anyway, I don't think Mirren is pretentious, but she is British, and I understand there are those who can't draw a distinction. I think she states things as they are. But in my estimation, when you are a grande dame of the theatre (and a DBE!), you earn a stash of gentle high-mindedness for a rainy day.
posted by mykescipark at 10:29 PM on December 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


There is nothing like a dame.
posted by Bromius at 10:32 PM on December 26, 2010


According to wikipedia she turned down a CBE in 1996 before accepting the DBE. As for pretentious I don't know if she has chosen to add the "For God and the Empire" circlet to her coat of arms, maybe she has it on her spanx.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:43 PM on December 26, 2010


According to wikipedia she turned down a CBE in 1996 before accepting the DBE.

The actual citation is a Times record, which makes the interesting distinction that she turned down the CBE under a Conservative government. This may or may not be significant but they did devote a little ink to mentioning it, which they haven't in similar cases. While these things are technically in the gift of the Crown I'm pretty sure they're actually proposed by the sitting government and perhaps she didn't want to receive it from their hands.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:23 PM on December 26, 2010


Is "rewards shows" one of those British phrases like "drinks party"?
posted by Brocktoon at 11:57 PM on December 26, 2010


I hope I'm not the only one that thinks she comes off as slightly pretentious.

But I'm guessing you'd think that of anyone who wasn't sipping moonshine and spitting tobacco, right?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:08 AM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think this video actually made me a little more sexist. I hope I'm not the only one that thinks she comes off as slightly pretentious.

You do know she is only lamenting the absolute truth of the movie industry? Most Hollywood films are made for teenage boys period. Any professional screenwriter or director will tell you this. Like this guy for example.

I'd dig up John August's comments about this, but I'm feeling lazy.
posted by clockworkjoe at 12:33 AM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Better comment from the same thread.
posted by clockworkjoe at 12:35 AM on December 27, 2010


I hope I'm not the only one that thinks she comes off as slightly pretentious.
posted by TheCoyote23 at 5:44 AM on December 27


I hope you are.
posted by Decani at 1:29 AM on December 27, 2010 [24 favorites]


I think this video actually made me a little more sexist. I hope I'm not the only one that thinks she comes off as slightly pretentious.

I'm not quite sure what pretensions are present in this clip. Neither can I see why this would reinforce any scuttling back to the thorny fortification of sexism.

When Helen says 'respect', to me, this is a kind of clarion call for all of Hollywood -- she's not even saying 'more women at the forefront of everything!', she is merely saying: respect. It's not just a matter of letting more female screenwriters into the boy's club, though frankly I'd get behind that because I'm in the writing business and that's sure as shit where the money is. As well as the macro issues of women in our society she raises, it's the fact that the writers are not writing roles for women.

I think it's lazy to say that, well, the money's with the 18-25 dude set and we should never shock them, ever, because I think they will watch movies with good writing. The default can slip to not be male. The default should slip to not be male. Valente talks about SFF lit in an essay I will quote, but I think her point's salient as hell: "... breaking out of the creator’s comfort zone, the place where everyone agrees with them and thinks they’re the bees’ lower appendages, always makes for better literature. It’s not PC, it’s not the hounds of feminism at your heels, it’s just good writing." (Let me not go by without linking. I feel this is applicable to Hollywood also.)

Movies like, just for example, Juno made over $100 at the box office, and that money was made with a lot of the 18-25 hipster set as well as Mom. Accusations can be levelled at its writing (I've got the same against dialogue in Juno that I have with, say, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, snappy dialogue that never serves any narrative purpose, but the fact is it made wodges of cash and yet people didn't talk about cash cow biotruths then, just sneered at Diablo Cody). I'm just saying, there is money to be made, there are clever movies to be written, and screenwriters of both genders in Hollywood should get their head in the game.

I will end this by respectfully noting that I'd fight you all to the death for the right to be the nameless slave who serves Queen Helen Mirren her chilled drinks in the apocalyptic future where she rules Earth and I totally haven't thought up elaborate fantasies or anything where she does smile at me occasionally, just a brief, regal smile, oh yes
posted by monster truck weekend at 3:22 AM on December 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


Oh shit shit shit, I meant Juno made over $100 million. I'm pretty sure it made over $100. Pretty sure they did not just pay Michael Cera a Starbucks coffee coupon.
posted by monster truck weekend at 3:52 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is "rewards shows" one of those British phrases like "drinks party"?

I assume it's a typo for 'awards shows'

And yeah there's far too much dumbed down crap aimed solely at stupid teenage boys and more people need to say it.

Also check out Prime Suspect to see why Dame H is one of our national treasures.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:04 AM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I remain surprised that even in 2010, Hollywood is still wedded to the belief that access to the 18-25 year-old male demographic is the single lever by which the fortunes of their industry are made.

Over the span of the past five decades, I know of no other consumer-oriented industry that has not had to drastically re-form the definition of their customer. As a result of their reformulation, all these industries have been forced to broadly differentiate their development, marketing, and distribution efforts to reach all the segments to which their customers belong.

The full range of Hollywood's talent (whether in finance, marketing, distribution, directing, acting), diverse in many forms (by age, by race and ethnicity, by previous business experience, by life experience), cannot but notice the thousands of market segments for their entertainment product. Why would they remain hidebound in the belief that 18-25 year old men are where all the money is?

Even a cursory analysis of the marketplace shows that there are almost as many females as males in the 18-25 year-old group, that female and male employment in this demographic is nearly the same, and that females spend nearly equally of their discretionary income on entertainment.

Were it just fossilized thinking amongst the earlier generations in the business, unjustified by data, half a century is long enough that all of those people have died and taken their beliefs about their market with them.

So why does this belief persist? And if the belief truly reflects the reality of the market, then why would it ever change?

(And, fearfulsymmetry, though I'd watched nearly all of Mirren's work in film, her work for the small screen in Prime Suspect is the first in her oeuvre that comes to mind when I think of her outstanding acting.)
posted by dott8080 at 4:41 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Until the economics behind Hollywood changes, until those small penis 18-24 year olds aren't the most lucrative demo, nothing is going to keep Hollywood from making 'Fast and the Furious 15".

And I'm definitely conflicted about google's second search suggestion for "helen m" being "helen mirren bikini".
posted by sexymofo at 4:44 AM on December 27, 2010


Until the economics behind Hollywood changes, until those small penis 18-24 year olds aren't the most lucrative demo

What about those 20 trillion dollars of consumer spending she mentions?
posted by Gator at 5:17 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is a lot of truth to the claim that the only blockbusters are movies for children, teens, and young men with childish tastes. There are however a lot of movies made for women, wish fulfillment romantic comidies about ditzy women that are inexplicably talented at their high-powered jobs as event plannners or magazine journalists or resteraunters (talented by virtue of everyone talking about how talented they are rather than actually doing anything impressive.) These women then are tasked with divining which potential suitor is right for them. These women are young and they are surrounded by young and beautiful confidants. These movies aren't blockbusters they are profitable over weeks not living or dying on opening weekends. They are also just about as dumb and unrealistic as giant robot fights.
posted by I Foody at 5:20 AM on December 27, 2010 [15 favorites]


On a slightly tangential note: I liked how Mirren handled the audience member with the cellphone. That said, why in 2010 are people still leaving their cell ringers on during public events? Rudeness? Idiocy? Attention?
posted by spoobnooble at 5:27 AM on December 27, 2010


parmanparman: Thank you for posting this. I caught a tiny blurb of this somewhere, and told those closest to me all about the published two sentences. Now, I shall share the video. Turns out, her speech is about so much more than the 18-25 year old penis.
posted by psylosyren at 5:42 AM on December 27, 2010


Worth it for:

"I resent having witnessed in my life the survival of some very mediocre male actors."

I watched the first part of the 1975 interview, and my god that interviewer was awful. Helen Mirren in so amazing; if I were in the same room as her I would be begging her to let me bring her tea, and that dude was all smarmy and couldn't even articulate "bosoms."
posted by Forktine at 5:54 AM on December 27, 2010


There are however a lot of movies made for women, wish fulfillment romantic comidies about ditzy women that are inexplicably talented at their high-powered jobs as event plannners or magazine journalists or resteraunters (talented by virtue of everyone talking about how talented they are rather than actually doing anything impressive.) These women then are tasked with divining which potential suitor is right for them. These women are young and they are surrounded by young and beautiful confidants. These movies aren't blockbusters they are profitable over weeks not living or dying on opening weekends. They are also just about as dumb and unrealistic as giant robot fights.

And they don't make money because the actual women who have all that purchasing power Mirren mentions know those movies are total bullshit, and would rather spit tacks than see them. But that's the only movie "targeted to women" that Hollywood seems interested in making, and then when they fail, Hollywood thinks, "see, movies featuring women don't do well. Let's go back to Iron Man 3."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:55 AM on December 27, 2010 [20 favorites]


The words were not pretentious at all -- that would have been clearer if she spoke with an American accent. Re Hollywood's love of men -- it would be interesting to see how much Sean Connery's last films grossed, but Hollywood reveres him. Harrison Ford was allowed to make that last Indiana Jones film -- although the picture suffered because he was really too old for the part. I agree with those who say that the news is that the lamestream media did not cover it. Maybe Jon Stewart will pick this up....
posted by KathyBraid at 6:21 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not many people know this, but the role of Queen Elizabeth II, which performance won Mirren an Oscar, was first offered to Dame Edna Everage. She turned it down but recommended Mirren for the part.

Dame Edna reveals the story to Mirren herself here (at 4:40).
posted by Short Attention Sp at 6:24 AM on December 27, 2010


Posting response for a female friend who wanted to two cents in on this thing:

As a stage performer it's just part of your daily understanding that at any audition, you will be up against countless hundreds of women your make and model to scoop up the two available female roles while generally, a good chunk of male actors will be cast, because there are just more parts, and if you can play a straight man with any accuracy at all, well then you've just scored yourself a full and lustrous career, regardless of performance chemistry or skill to convey emotion. In my performance courses at a fairly reputable school of acting to remain nameless, I was legitimately taught the following from my professors (of whom only one was female btw)

1. There are only 3 roles available to women, ever, regardless of the play, movie, script, book, etc. and they are follows: the ingenue who gets the guy, her competition, and the old Crone who says dirty things/plays the mother/provides exposition. That's it, ladies. These are the roles you're after, and it's been that way since Shakespeare, so no use fighting it unless you've got the chops to become a ground-breaking playwright (and Wendy Wasserstein certainly isn't doing us any favors...)

and 2. "Well, if you girls want to make it in this business you've got to gain or lose 40 pounds, because right now you're too fat to play the pretty romantic lead and too skinny to play her fat best friend"- (yup, paid thousands of dollars for this accredited education)

This is why it is such a head turning phenomenon when we get truly complex and empowered characters, such as Peggy from Madmen. One might argue that shows like Madmen draw to light the exact issue we're discussing with it's buxom broads and sycophantic secretaries, but in reality, scripts this good offer numerous women of varying complexity which grow ever more elaborate from episode to episode, one glimpse at a time. I think what we need to ask ourselves is really, why has it been determined that women are so unsatisfying to watch for any serious length of time? Why must it always be the male's story, in which women are a fleeting footnote, or the prize to be obtained at the very end? Why is it that your girlfriend doesn't mind listening to music with a male lead singer, but your boyfriend begs you to change the radio every time a female singer comes on? How far does this extend, and what's more, why?

I have no advise here, which is a shame, because if there's one thing I wish I had gotten out of my education at *mublemuble University* it would be advise on how to make the business of entertaining better, not how to just survive its turbulent swarms of redundancy. Helen Mirren is the shit.
posted by billypilgrim at 6:29 AM on December 27, 2010 [28 favorites]


There are however a lot of movies made for women, wish fulfillment romantic comidies about ditzy women

And they're known to many women consumers as (mostly) godawful. Extra points to those vehicles that still, somehow, manage to fail the Bechdel, which stupefies.

Why is the quality so bad? Looking at some other Women's Media! arenas, this isn't the case for them. Hell, there's a big renaissance going on in the romnov industry as to quality and the demand for better, more diverse, more story and less schlock -- even though I think it's slower than snails fucking, which is a topic for another day.

There is so much potential money in diverse female characters. Why is Hollywood so behind? I totally agree with you, EmpressCallipygos: why are we still on Iron Man 3?

All I can gather is that as Mirren said, there's a lack of respect. Foresight, too.
posted by monster truck weekend at 6:30 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nobody told you about it? Pshaw! I am proud to say I certainly linked to it, even if only to point out The Guardian's incredibly awesome condensed URL, which ended "/helen-mirren-sexism-hollywood-penis."
posted by Linda_Holmes at 6:48 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Her penis comment was ill planned and detracted from the point she was making. When you're lamenting the marginalization of a certain group due to gender and/or age, throwing out demeaning generalizations about another group doesn't make your point stronger....

Other than that comment, I believe she was spot on...
posted by HuronBob at 6:56 AM on December 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


It is one of the more sure things that whenever a women speaks up there will be someone who, while not overtly disagreeing with what she says, will take issue with how she says it. "You're right dear that women deserve a bit of respect. Now let me tell exactly how you should ask for it."
posted by srboisvert at 7:18 AM on December 27, 2010 [13 favorites]


sroboisvert... really? (assuming your comment was in response to mine) Many of the male actors in the age range she is commenting on are talented and accomplished. Those male actors are not the people determining if females are accorded roles, they are not the producers determining which scripts will be promoted, they are not the studios that determine which demographic to cater to. Was it really necessary for her to literally emasculate them to make her point?

Had a similar comment about the vaginas of young actresses been made by an older male, we would have been all over that...
posted by HuronBob at 7:29 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Many of the male actors in the age range she is commenting on are talented and accomplished.

Yet, Shia Labeouf keeps working, and working...
posted by Trochanter at 7:39 AM on December 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm definitely conflicted about google's second search suggestion for "helen m" being "helen mirren bikini".

You might want to watch Halle Berry's introduction of Mirren then; apparently, the single greatest thing Mirren ever did was grow old and still manage to look sexy in a bikini.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:57 AM on December 27, 2010


...really not too much has changed in the canon of Hollywood filmmaking that continues to worship at the altar of the 18-25-year-old male, and his penis -- quite small, I always think --

In context, I thought it was pretty clear that she was referring to the target demographic, rather than to the actors.
posted by Gator at 8:00 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know what gets my goat about Hollywood? Every woman is 'smart'. Watch any interview with any man and they say their female co-star is smart. They can't all be smart. It seems like such a cop out to say they are smart instead of actually praising their talents. For example, I could say, "I loved working with Tara, she came prepared, she made some great character choices, she's really open to the collaborative process of filmmaking. I had a great time, I can't wait to work with her again."

Look at that sound bite without be ever having to BS that Tara Reid is smart.

It's almost as though there's some elephant in the room that you have to counter the Hollywood beauty by claiming there's something in their head. But it's really absurd that every interview claims they're all smart.

Watch an interview with a woman about a male actor, and it's, "He's so sexy!" or "He's so funny!" The women know how to compliment a co-star without ever having to pretend he's smart if he isn't...

Also, more on topic, perhaps this means Helen Mirren will begin producing movies to break the pattern? She can gripe all she wants, but the 'Hollywood Movie' is the result of decades of evolution of chasing the audience dollar. When Calendar Girls makes Avatar money, then we'll see more great actors like her.
posted by CarlRossi at 8:01 AM on December 27, 2010


"Yet, Shia Labeouf keeps working, and working..."

Easy now, Shia was the voice of Cody Maverick and in our house that makes him the actor of the century. Just ask my son.

As for Helen Mirren, well, I can't make an objective comment as I have been madly in love with her since I first saw her in Excalibur. Smart, talented, beautiful, damn.
posted by MikeMc at 8:12 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Shia was the voice of Cody Maverick

and working, and working...
posted by Trochanter at 8:14 AM on December 27, 2010


This was covered in Europe (BBC, UK Guardian, Die Spiegel, at a minimum), so I wish people would stop saying the media didn't cover it. They did. The US media may have missed this one, but since when is the US media missing an obvious story a story?
posted by QIbHom at 8:35 AM on December 27, 2010


Gator... now that you say that, and I listen again... I believe you're right, but, the comment is still not necessary....
posted by HuronBob at 9:16 AM on December 27, 2010


Helen Mirren can flip a straight woman gay for a night.

So here's an accomplished intelligent woman speaking about the lack of respect and work for accomplished intelligent women, and all you can comment on is about she does sexy things for your sex jones?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:21 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hope I'm not the only one that thinks she comes off as slightly pretentious.

She's playing to a specific audience at a specific event, I would have been surprised had she not given a speech along these lines.

The problem is the same with any hugely expensive undertaking. Who want's to throw money at an unknown quantity? Old news, of course, but if there were a real IPO market in movies, which ones would you put your retirement money into? Multimillion dollar single product launches are a risky business. Executives have stock holders to answer to. No one ever got fired for buying IBM computers.

There are (admittedly lame) attempts, however, at crossover. Consider the way of the Bond girl in recent years. Denise Richards was giggle worthy as a Top Nuclear Scientist, but that movie also had Sophie Marceau as the baddie and of course the incomparable Dame Judy. And you can argue that Eva Green was more than just eye candy in the last Casino Royale.

So if the average RomCom is the girls equivalent of Stupid Action Movies (and largely they are), I'd be interested in seeing some thoughts on what Mefi considers good movies that fit her ideal.. The Queen comes to mind. Anne of a Thousand Days? Cleopatra was closer to fact than it might first appear, so perhaps that. Black Widow I think went nowhere, and could have been better, but was not your average genre movie. That's mine off hand, what have you all got?
posted by IndigoJones at 9:24 AM on December 27, 2010


They dont target "men" either, they target a specific type of men. At the risk of being reductive, we seem to know what to put in a movie to bring young males to the theatre. Everybody else, not so much it seems.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:43 AM on December 27, 2010


This was covered in Europe (BBC, UK Guardian, Die Spiegel, at a minimum), so I wish people would stop saying the media didn't cover it. They did. The US media may have missed this one, but since when is the US media missing an obvious story a story?

I was going to say, I know I saw some of this on television as part of news coverage. But then, the only television news I generally watch (actual news, not commentary) is BBC World News America.

Why aren't more people watching that excellent hour of news 5 nights a week on BBC America? It's the true world news broadcast that many seem to be pining for.
posted by hippybear at 9:43 AM on December 27, 2010


monster truck weekend: "There is so much potential money in diverse female characters. Why is Hollywood so behind? I totally agree with you, EmpressCallipygos: why are we still on Iron Man 3?"


Because the moneymen are assholes like TheCoyote23.

Seriously, despite the reputation, when it comes to the money, Hollywood studios are very conservative businesses, doing their best to maximize profits. Hence scripts get worked over repeatedly, sexed up, refreshed and tweaked till they read like they were done by committee- because they were. That's why producers have to fight like hell to get anything that isn't more of the same predigested pap onto the screen. It's why Hollywood movies almost always play to a conservative middle-America demographic.

And the worst thing is, it's hard to find someone with a face to blame. The writers? Hell they'll point to their unsold scripts that are what you're looking for; the directors? No, they can only do so much with the scripts they are given, and besides, they have to listen to the producers. The producers have their hands tied by the studio execs who have to listen to the accountants, who have to answer to the shareholders who just want the writers to come up with something that'll sell. And so on, in a circle-jerk of avoiding responsibility.

And even when you come up with someone like Michael Bay who seems like an obvious person to blame, well, he'll just point at the profits of Transformers II, and state that it's really the audience's fault for spending money on his schlock. And so on.

I don't really have a solution, except for people to promote and support projects that do expand diversity, and stop supporting and making excuses for projects that don't, like say, Supernatural.
posted by happyroach at 9:48 AM on December 27, 2010


the 'Hollywood Movie' is the result of decades of evolution of chasing the audience dollar

Not so much. 55% of the people who buy movie tickets in the US are women; 65% of the people who buy DVDs and Blu-Rays in the US are women.

You know why Hollywood chases the teenage male audience so hard, to the exclusion of the majority of the actual moviegoing audience? Tie-in merchandise.

So Mirren has a point. When movie-making was focused on making money from the people who go to movies, there was a lot more attention to a broader range of interests.

When movies with female stars make a bunch of money, it's dismissed as a fluke; when movies with male stars lose a bunch of money, it's dismissed as a fluke. Hollywood execs are so tied into the conventional wisdom that they don't actually analyze the data.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:08 AM on December 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hailee Steinfeld in the movie, True Grit, is worthy of mention in this conversation. Brilliant performance and a strong character.
posted by Chuffy at 10:17 AM on December 27, 2010


I really like Helen Mirren until I saw the Tempest. Of course, that probably wasn't her fault.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:18 AM on December 27, 2010


Why is it that your girlfriend doesn't mind listening to music with a male lead singer, but your boyfriend begs you to change the radio every time a female singer comes on? How far does this extend, and what's more, why?

This also explains why movies are made with teenage boys in mind. Young women will go to see a male oriented movie but guys will not go to a movie aimed at young women.
posted by clockworkjoe at 10:31 AM on December 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


You know why Hollywood chases the teenage male audience so hard, to the exclusion of the majority of the actual moviegoing audience? Tie-in merchandise.

I read somewhere about 6 years ago, that it is because, essentially, studios are also courting the 18-24 Thai young man, or the 18 - 24 Chinese young man. In other words action movies are easier to cut across culture lines and easy to either dub or subtitle - they aren't too subtle. And in those countries, men - young men are more likely to make decisions on what to watch.

SO if you have a rom-com, you might get a section of the US female audience and that is it. If you have Die Harder 234 you might get a smaller young teen + male audience in the west but a huge audience in the rest of the world.

I know nothing about movies, demographics, sexual poitics or marketing, so take this gleaning with a grain of salt.

PS not picking on Thailand or Thai men, the writer just used that country as an example.
posted by xetere at 10:32 AM on December 27, 2010


Not so much. 55% of the people who buy movie tickets in the US are women;

but what matters is which movies make more money... (often the opinion is that women who will go to action movies are being cool, but guys who will go to chick flicks are just pussy-whipped.)

However, recent movies do show an interesting contrast, since there's one about ballerinas and one about a 14 year old girl in the old west, that are popular across the board...
posted by mdn at 10:48 AM on December 27, 2010


Is she generalizing about the 18-25 year old age range's penis size? Does that imply another age range is bigger? Huh?
posted by electricsandwich138 at 11:13 AM on December 27, 2010


Does that imply another age range is bigger? Huh?
The 52-53 year-old range, actually.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:19 AM on December 27, 2010


I love me a good debate on sexism anywhere, but it's unlikely that Metafilter has changed much in it's ability to serve up a good debate on this subject.

So instead, I'll merely offer my thoughts that:

A. The Coyote23 "I think this video actually made me a little more sexist. I hope I'm not the only one that thinks she comes off as slightly pretentious." is wrong... it merely put him more in tune with his sexism.

B. Helen Mirren, is in fact, one of the most graceful, talented and Unpretentious successful women walking the planet. When she leaves this earth (hopefully not for some decades) we'll be poorer for it.

C. I really need to see more of her films. I had ZERO idea that she was in Caligula. And now I have a reason, legitimately, to see it.
posted by FlamingBore at 11:20 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]



My guess is that young males are a big part of Black Swan's target demographic. It's possible to tell a story about ballet without scenes of Portman and Kunis making out. Maybe the sex is an integral part of the story but I think it's more likely that the existence of such scenes is telling you something about who is making the movie and who it is being made for.
posted by rdr at 11:29 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


And now I have a reason, legitimately, to see it.

No. No, you don't.

My guess is that young males are a big part of Black Swan's target demographic.

My guess is that the frisson factor is there so that young males can dragged to it by their girlfriends. Given a choice between this and Ironman IV, the Man Pack alone will opt for the latter every time. (FWIW, the FT hated it.
posted by IndigoJones at 12:05 PM on December 27, 2010


In other words action movies are easier to cut across culture lines and easy to either dub or subtitle - they aren't too subtle. And in those countries, men - young men are more likely to make decisions on what to watch.

This is a good point, and I do think it plays a big role in the rise of action movies' popularity.

The thing is, though, there is more than one movie playing in theaters at any given time, and movies that aren't action movies often have a higher percentage of return on investment than many of the big-budget action pictures. The commitment to chasing the big-dollar box-office returns, even when those returns represent a smaller per-dollar-invested return percentage, is another part of the monoculture of Hollywood.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:10 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's possible to tell a story about ballet without scenes of Portman and Kunis making out. Maybe the sex is an integral part of the story but I think it's more likely that the existence of such scenes is telling you something about who is making the movie and who it is being made for.

But it's not a story about ballet. The sex may have been calculated, but it wasn't (in my opinion) gratuitous to the story being told.
posted by ch1x0r at 12:10 PM on December 27, 2010


I use the word "monoculture" here in its agricultural sense; just like crop rotation, diversity would benefit this field in the long run as well.

But then again, movie-making is one of the many industries that suffers from short-term thinking these days. Where the prime focus is "maximize return as much as possible upfront without building strategically for the future" you're going to get a lot of this kind of decision-making, and the resultant erosion.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:13 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


My guess is that young males are a big part of Black Swan's target demographic. It's possible to tell a story about ballet without scenes of Portman and Kunis making out. Maybe the sex is an integral part of the story but I think it's more likely that the existence of such scenes is telling you something about who is making the movie and who it is being made for.

You couldn't be more wrong. If you're going to criticize a movie, go see the fucking thing.
posted by TypographicalError at 12:19 PM on December 27, 2010


Why aren't more people watching that excellent hour of news 5 nights a week on BBC America?

Not universally available. (And why does BBC America show so many American shows? Just because Patrick Stewart is a Briton does not mean they should broadcast Star Trek to the fifty states.

Weirdly, the Wealth International News section of Wealth TVis pretty interesting, if you can catch it. (They don't list it under Programming, but it is under scheduling. Odd.)

Where the prime focus is "maximize return as much as possible upfront without building strategically for the future" you're going to get a lot of this kind of decision-making, and the resultant erosion.

Well, they tend to push out things that can be serialized, so that's planning for the future. Publishers do the same these days. But other than that, when every movie is a discrete object, how can you do that in Hollywood? Now that you can't put the talent under long term contracts? Not snarking, it's an interesting problem, not sure how you would deal with it.
posted by IndigoJones at 12:21 PM on December 27, 2010


seconding TypographicalError's comment.

While I enjoyed seeing Kunis and Portman in Black Swan there was very little that was sexy about it. To be frank, Portman's masturbation scene was way hotter.
posted by FlamingBore at 12:25 PM on December 27, 2010


Also... FWIW, the FT hated it.

The Financial Times is not exactly where I'd go to find movie reviews. WTH!?
posted by FlamingBore at 12:41 PM on December 27, 2010


But other than that, when every movie is a discrete object, how can you do that in Hollywood? Now that you can't put the talent under long term contracts? Not snarking, it's an interesting problem, not sure how you would deal with it.

I think this is a challenge, and the only content producers who are actively looking at building and sustaining audience over the long haul (as opposed to churning dollars for each movie) right now are the folks making animated pictures for kids, because they do have "the talent" under long-term contracts (where "the talent" = artists, FX people, and directors, not the voice actors).

The thing is that alienating 50+ percent of the population isn't a good strategy, industry-wide. And there really are huge boluses of bunkum getting in the way of creating meaningful strategies. Some good posts on the topic here and here and here.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:53 PM on December 27, 2010


the only content producers who are actively looking at building and sustaining audience over the long haul...right now are the folks making animated pictures for kids, because they do have "the talent" under long-term contracts (where "the talent" = artists, FX people, and directors, not the voice actors).

Heh. This made me start wondering what it would be like if we headed towards a return to the studio system (sans the manipulation and monopolization of theater chains, of course), with the actors being under those long-term contracts again. It could never happen, but it's kind of fun to idly wonder about.
posted by Gator at 1:08 PM on December 27, 2010


I think she's just bitter about all those "made for tv" movies.
posted by TheCoyote23 at 1:21 PM on December 27, 2010


I think this video actually made me a little more sexist. I hope I'm not the only one that thinks she comes off as slightly pretentious.

I'm also sick of hearing lectures about the paucity of opportunities for women. Not nearly as sick of hearing it as I am of living in a world where that's the reality though. Probably also not nearly as sick of hearing it as successful women are of feeling the obligation to say it.

Anyway, I'm always pleasantly surprised when an actor or singer who's work I admire turns out to actually be articulate and not empty headed when speaking their own words.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:08 PM on December 27, 2010


I wasn't criticizing Black Swan. I don't care about it any more that I might care about the latest stupid action flick. My point was that it's success isn't a hopeful sign. The movie was written, produced, and directed by men. Maybe Daron Aronofsky, Mark Heyman, Mike Medavoy, and the rest of the guys got together and made a film that subverted Hollywood's gendered stereotypes of what their audience wants but I don't think it's likely. The movie may be artistic. The sex may be integral to the story but Hollywood gets to chose what stories it tells, how it tell those stories, and how the final product is promoted. Until I see a major release action movie where one of the heros takes a break from killing people to give a blow job to his buddy and that movie is made by a group of only women I'm not going to be able to get away from the feeling that the Portman/Kunis stuff is there because men are making the movie and that the scene is there to get men into the theater. I'll concede IndigoJone's point that the attempt might be broaden the movies appeal rather than entirely redirect it.
posted by rdr at 2:59 PM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


rdr, your notion assumes that women don't like seeing sex on screen. At all. And that's simply not true. We do. We just don't like the same kind of sexuality that men like. Generally speaking, of course. We tend to like sexuality that engages the mind, not just the eyes. But I digress, I do see where you're coming from.
posted by FlamingBore at 4:48 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why film schools teach screenwriters not to pass the Bechdel test:
When I started taking film classes at UCLA, I was quickly informed I had what it took to go all the way in film....There was just one little problem.

I had to understand that the audience only wanted white, straight, male leads....According to Hollywood, if two women came on screen and started talking, the target male audience’s brain would glaze over and assume the women were talking about nail polish or shoes or something....

“The audience doesn’t want to listen to a bunch of women talking about whatever it is women talk about.”

“Not even if it advances the story?” I asked. That’s rule number one in screenwriting, though you’d never know it from watching most movies: every moment in a script should reveal another chunk of the story and keep it moving.

He just looked embarrassed and said, “I mean, that’s not how I see it, that’s how they see it.”
posted by tzikeh at 5:57 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Until I see a major release action movie where one of the heros takes a break from killing people to give a blow job to his buddy and that movie is made by a group of only women

This assumes that there are enough women working in film to form an all-female production staff.

We're talking about an industry where women are so ill-represented that the very first time a woman won the Oscar for Best Director was this year.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:52 PM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't really have a solution, except for people to promote and support projects that do expand diversity, and stop supporting and making excuses for projects that don't, like say, Supernatural.

In my admittedly anecdotal experience, I think the "stop watching Supernatural" solution will not go over terribly well with a great many women.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:38 PM on December 27, 2010


The full range of Hollywood's talent (whether in finance, marketing, distribution, directing, acting), diverse in many forms (by age, by race and ethnicity, by previous business experience, by life experience), cannot but notice the thousands of market segments for their entertainment product. Why would they remain hidebound in the belief that 18-25 year old men are where all the money is?

If you want to trace this back historically, you need look no further than that inexplicably lauded bit of silly fluff called Star Wars. Nothing against silly fluff per se, which has its place; but by the time the movie industry had seen what kind of money could be made by selling branded toys and other merchandise, the template was set: blockbusters with tie-ins.
posted by jokeefe at 8:19 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Get down! Get down! Quick! Duck into the alcove, out of the line of fire. Phew... Man, that was close. Mmmm, you look good in those jeans, buddy..."
posted by stinkycheese at 5:20 AM on December 28, 2010


there's far too much dumbed down crap aimed solely at stupid teenage boys and more people need to say it.

Finally people agree with me! I've been saying that about BitTorrent for years!

oh, wait
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:21 AM on December 28, 2010


The Financial Times is not exactly where I'd go to find movie reviews. WTH!?

You should, you know, you really should. They tend to be informed and thoughtful and not just stuff the reviewer hopes will get him invited to the next cool junket. And they review movies that you will not readily hear of anyplace else.

But the reason I mentioned it is because it was the only review I had read of the movie. Off hand comment, you see.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:19 AM on December 28, 2010


Thanks IndigoJones, appreciate the explanation, but I'll still take my film reviews from people who well, seem to like film. If you're interested, MetaCritic serves the purpose of bringing critical reviews together so you can parse for yourself. I try not to read individual reviews on things I have serious interest in seeing, but I will look at the cross section of reviews to see the general feel for something that I'm on the fence about. In the case of Black Swan, I think FT missed the mark. Significantly. Which may be understandable because they had a Dance Critic write the review.
posted by FlamingBore at 12:32 PM on December 28, 2010


Alien (1979)
Studio: Brandywine Productions (USA)
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox (USA)

"The success of Alien spawned a media franchise of novels, comic books, video games, and toys, as well as three sequel and two prequel films.
Alien garnered both critical acclaim and box office success, receiving an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, Saturn Awards for Best Science Fiction Film, Best Direction for Scott, and Best Supporting Actress for Cartwright, and a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, along with numerous other award nominations."

Hollywood, it can be done.
posted by SouthCNorthNY at 1:16 PM on December 28, 2010


Will check out metacritc, thanks.

(That particular critic was not their usual suspect, by the way. Don't know what the regular guy thinks.)
posted by IndigoJones at 11:48 AM on December 30, 2010


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