Popcorn & Punishment
What if Thelma and Louise didn’t die? What if the Thunderbird never sailed off the cliff and the gals made it Mexico to sip margaritas by the sea? According to reviewers the women had done too much social and moral damage to qualify as heroines, so they had to die. However; Arnold, Sly, Bruce and Clint can gun down hundreds of folks in their movies, but they’re allowed to live. These action heroes are lauded, celebrated, and rewarded for saving the world, the planet and all of life as we know it. Thanks guys! Gee, but kill one would-be rapist and it’s over the cliff for the ladies.
If you’re afraid of heights and fast cars, here are just a few of the ways you can get your just desserts in Hollywood movies: Cancer (One True Thing, Beaches, Evening, Terms of Endearment), Rape (The Accused, Bastard Out of Carolina, North Country, Monster), Suicide (Girl Interrupted, The Hours, The Virgin Suicides, Million Dollar Baby, Solaris), Murder (Fatal Attraction, The Last King of Scotland, Silence of the Lambs) and, finally, don’t forget Ostracism for being too uppity or, as I like to call it, “career-oriented” (The Devil Wears Prada, Working Girl, Jerry Maguire).
Little trivia tidbit for you folks reading: did you know that the original screenplay for Fatal Attraction was miles different than the light romp we watched on screen? You bet it was! The screenwriter, a thoughtful Brit director, writer, and married man by the name of James Dearden, set out to tell the story of a man who commits adultery and, as a result, inflicts dire emotional consequences on his lover. Hats off to Mr. Dearden who wanted to explore the idea that men are responsible for their actions. Our dear friend James wanted the man in the film to suffer the consequences of his actions and not the female lover.
Nut-so idea, right? Well, Paramount sure thought so and pressured our Brit to twist his tale accordingly so that the male character, played by Michael Douglas, was more sympathetic. No sympathy for Glenn Close’s character “Alex.” Rig up the Catherine Wheel, boys because this woman’s gotta be punished for having the rotten moral judgment to sleep with a married man and, gasp, believe what he tells her! It wasn’t enough that Alex be punished, she really had to get it and what better idea than being killed twice? First he gets to strangle her in a bathtub, but somehow our favorite crazy survives and pops back up like a wet, blond, Jack In the Box where she is promptly gunned down by the wife. Whew! The nuclear family is saved by the long suffering wife, who had about as much pizazz of a half-eaten, week-old corn dog.
Perhaps I am beating a dead heroine, but this film still rankles deep within me. Perhaps because I am awfully tired of watching women’s friendships on screen turn to bedside, cancer-laden sob fests. Women drown themselves in rivers, are punished for succeeding and young women in g-strings are hacked to death by weird middle aged men in bad Halloween masks.
The ultimate question is, truly, then what? What do we do? Stop going to movies, flip off the television, and refuse to watch the news? All very good plans, but perhaps not so realistic. Thanks to Europe and your local video store, there is hope. European filmmakers provide their countries womenfolk with tons of films, television programs and all sorts of fun watchable goodies that don’t end like a snuff film! Take a gander at any of these fantastic films: Chocolat (French), Antonia’s Line (Dutch), Notes on a Scandal (UK), Children of Men (UK), Heavenly Creatures (UK), or Flirting (Australian).
Remember, film is not unlike fast food. There are tons of Cineplexes out there offering 50 Hollywood movies that are the intellectual equivalent of a Big Mac. Nourish yourself according; and drive right by that big McMovie house and over to your local video store. Ask the 16 year-old clerk behind the counter where the foreign films are. After he moves the ginormous cardboard Shrek III display, you’ll find these wonderful screen gems waiting.
Don’t worry; no one gets hurt. Well, at least not as badly as Alex.