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Women and Hollywood: Paul Dergarabedian Responds

Noted New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis called me an asshole in a piece that Jezebel.com (a website devoted to women and entertainment) ran called “Fuck Them: Times Critic On Hollywood, Women, & Why Romantic Comedies Suck.”

Dargis was asked about a quote of mine in the Washington Post, which stated: “There’s no ‘Bourne Identity’ with a woman starring in it right now. It’s almost as if in real life, women want to be empowered and in control, but on-screen they seem to like the old-fashioned damsel-in-distress, love-struck female.”
She responded: “Fuck him. What an asshole. Yes, that’s what I want! That’s exactly what I want. If Angelina Jolie had been cast in a movie as a good as The Bourne Identity with a filmmaker like Paul Greengrass, I would have gone out to see it, and I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone. That is absurd. That’s blaming female audiences – you get what you deserve? Is that what he’s saying?”

Manohla, that is not what I am saying, and you know what? I hope Angelina Jolie’s action thriller Salt kicks ass at the box office next year. Just like you, I want to see good films that are female-centric and aren’t just romantic fluff. I want to live in a world where great films get made and are embraced by a welcoming audience; where gender matters not and where Kathryn Bigelow winds up with the Best Director statue for The Hurt Locker. But life is not fair.
I also want to point out that later in the same Washington Post article, the following excerpt demonstrates that I am actually in agreement with you in the sense that it is not the audience’s fault, and that, in fact, it may be a result of Hollywood simply not creating the types of stories and roles that depict strong women or maybe not even hiring women to create those stories:

For his part, Dergarabedian sees the recent trend as part of a cycle that will eventually shift. “Maybe someone hasn’t built the perfect beast yet,” he says. “Ultimately, everything comes down to the movie. If the movie’s good, it can cross over all kinds of lines and break all sorts of rules.”

However, when films like Whip It and Jennifer’s Body, two films that boast major female involvement both behind and in front of the camera, fail at the box office, it does not shore up a ton of support for investing huge dollars in future projects. I will say all audiences are responsible for one thing: supporting the types of films that they hope to see more of in the future. It’s a simple fact that the only way future films of a specific genre get made is if that genre is a proven money-maker. Unfortunately, it takes money to make movies and this fiscally based model does not always yield the finest aesthetic results. At the end of the day, however, women, just like their male counterparts, love all kinds of movies, but the box office success (primarily fueled by female audiences) of films like Twilight, He’s Just Not That Into You, Sex in the City, The Proposal, and the expected success of It’s Complicated only embolden and validate the studios’ decision to make more movies like them.

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This is not my fault. It’s just the way is the industry currently is, and if calling it like I see it makes me an asshole, so be it.

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