Lots of articles are addressing Knocked Up, among other recent films, with the accusation by some critics that they are misogynistic. I’m still working on a full response, and having seen the film I’m inclined to agree that it’s an unreal, if not outright misogynistic film.
Empire Magazine’s response that the film is NOT misoginistic
One of the key points is,
[i]”But to call Knocked Up “misogynistic” because (and this genuinely seems to be the argument) a beautiful woman ends up with a schlubby looking slacker is, I’d argue, far more sexist than anything in the film. Queenan’s argument seems to be that women like Heigl go for either good-looking or successful guys or, for preference, both. He completely discounts the fact that funny guys tend to have beautiful wives (check out director Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann; or think Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft, Woody Allen and every girlfriend he’s ever had), that women with any sense value a good heart over money, and that really, really, ridiculously good looking men are never as nice and funny and charmingly geeky as the guys they play in movies.”[/i]
An interesting argument, but the characters in this film really do not compare to Brooks or Allen. For one thing, they are not as funny, that’s a matter of taste though. They are also all out druggie slackers without ambition, talent or even something as simple as a job. The author of the article mistakes the fact that the argument is not that it’s misogynistic that a beautiful woman falls for a conventionally unattractive guy. The issue is, he has nothing going for him and not once in the film am I convinced she does love him. She is continually forcing something that clearly does not exist between them, because she thinks it’s the right thing to do. The film isn’t sweet as some suggest, but outright depressing.
The responses to the article are even more depressing, coming back to the recent article by that hack who I don’t even want to bring up, who says women just aren’t as funny as men. Sure if you look at stand-up comedians this is probably a good case, but I’d argue men and women handle comedy in different ways, and the strength of female comedy emerges in interaction with other people. Acting and reacting. It’s only a recent “thing” that women are not given an equal opportunity in acting, if you look at the comedies of the 1940s that mostly centered on gender and relationships, women were equals in comedy to their male counterparts. Rosallind Russell was just as funny as Cary Grant in His Girl Friday, Carole Lombard could out-comedy nearly everyone and that’s just scratching the surface.
In Knocked Up, the women are boring… if not, they are shrill and unpleasant. Women are life suckers, killing men’s spirits to the point where they are on the verge of killing themselves. I’d argue that Leslie Mann gives a good and FUNNY performance, but her character relies so heavily on stereotypes of an overbearing wife that it counteracts her work.
One of the important questions is why women are objectified in this film, and where is this root of this not so recent trend. I think in recent years there has been an unfortunate shift in American mainstream films where young males are THE target audience, this means that women are relegated as being sex objects if they are present at all. Great actresses are having a more difficult time finding roles to play, and some studios are to the point where they are having to tell writers to add or beef up roles for women to make up with their lack of them (i.e. 300 among others, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/26/m…r=1&oref=slogin). Part of it, as some people have pointed out, also has to do with the small amount of women in the industry, critically and behind the scenes. This however, has always been the case. It still is a contributing factor. There are not many women able to tell their story from a director’s point of view, and with the exception of a few (Almodovar comes to mind) not many men are interested in women as a gender. Another period in time this is rather evident is the 1970s in American film. Very few women characters, and for the most part they are subjected to secondary/sexual characters.
The interpretation of women onscreen has always fascinated me, and I’ll hopefully include some of my old writing in the future on some older director’s work. Very often you can find a pattern in interpretation and interest. I think soon I’ll look into Peckinpah’s films, as he is famous for his misogynistic interpretation of women (having just seen The Ballad of Cable Hogue, I think the argument can be made in this case… but it isn’t quite as black and white. Also, I think the female character in Ride the High Country is very interesting and doesn’t fit into the categories I’ve read that some writers have relegated his women. It’s also important to note, that most of his more famous work fits into the western genre, one that hasn’t always been friendly to us girls).
I’ll hopefully have a fuller essay on Knocked Up soon, in the mean time this is the best discussion on the topic I’ve come across. If you’re interesting here it is; http://icine.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=12522
I’d also like to apologize for lack of updates, my computer crashed and school has been overwhelming. I’ve seen a few films that I may review, and picked up a book that may be interesting, especially given this response “Women and their Sexuality in the New Film” by Joan Mallen.
For semi-related interests’ sake, here are some interesting articles/writing on the interpretation of women in Hitchcock’s films:
Focus on the Hitchcock Blonde
The article is titled Hitchcock and Women, says it all really
Probably my personal favourite, looks in depth in the woman’s hairstyles in Hitchcock and their deeper meaning
Article titled Eroticized violence against women in Hitchcock, with focus on Frenzy
Probably the most thorough work I found on Hitchcock, discusses film and his personal life, with a focus on women.