To quote Broadcast News, I’m mad as Hell and I’m not going to take it anymore. I’m tired of the sexism in the movie industry. A recent issue of Entertainment Weekly lists the 100 best movies of all time. Dirty Dancing and movies of its ilk (Clueless, etc.) are not on the list. Goldfinger, however is. Boy fantasies are critical darlings. Girl fantasies are not.
Dirty Dancing is a girl fantasy. It is actually a specific kind of girl fantasy. Summarizing the plot of this film may not be necessary given that everybody who doesn’t live under a rock has seen the movie. In any event, for those of you who live under a rock the plot is thus: smart, outspoken Jewish girl meets hunky dancer from wrong side of the tracks in a Catskills resort in the early 1960s. Patrick Swayze is smokin’ hot. Romance ensues along with, well, dirty dancing.
You may think – what does Sex and the City have to do with Dirty Dancing? Well, in the same Entertainment Weekly issue, there is a rating of the 100 best TV shows of all time. The Sopranos is #5. Mad Men is #9. Sex and the City is #58. As the New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum notes in a recent amazing article, Sex and the City is viewed as a “guilty pleasure:” a frothy combination of prurience and fashion. Although yes there is lots of sex and lots of fashion, can we pause to consider … the writing? The writing is excellent. Although each episode sticks to a prescribed formula (Diner scene, Carrie voiceover, et. al.) this is the case with many shows, including the award-winning Modern Family. Sex and the City is about femaleness – female characters, female friendships, female flaws. And although critics want nothing but to dissect the flaws and complexities of Tony Soprano and Don Draper, nobody gives Carrie Bradshaw and her cohorts the time of day.
Carrie and Baby are both stuck in a corner. To be fair, part of this is due to the money-grab on the part of the Sex and the City Powers That Be, making two lackluster feature film sequels. The first was mediocre, the second horrendous as well as morally offensive. So in the purple haze of sex, fashion, and bad movies, it was somehow forgotten that Sex and the City was an excellent show with top notch writing, stellar acting, and nuanced characters.
I am actually a fan of Mad Men and The Sopranos. It’s noteworthy that both shows are notable for what isn’t said. Don Draper and Tony Soprano are (were) inscrutable; part of the fun is putting together the puzzle pieces. In Sex and the City, everything is stated in exhaustive detail. Isn’t that sort of like men and women – men not communicating, and women over-communicating? So why are artistic works lacking communication considered superior?
So listen up. I’m tired of reading (male) critics praise shows created by (male) showrunners starring (male) leads. Part of the reason they get away with this is that we let them. So my challenge to you, faithful readers, is to speak up. The Gilmore Girls. Pitch Perfect. Bridesmaids. Scandal. Let us now praise female-driven entertainment.