In The Independent today, Johann Hari writes, "Where have all the strong women gone?" Hari gets all nostalgic for Bette Davis: "She was not only a woman; she was an electrical storm with skin. She never pretended to be dumb, or a little girl. She didn't do soft, or simpering. She had a voice like sour cream, and eyes like a raven." But, Hari argues, women on film — and on TV — have weakened. "If the symbol of 1930s Hollywood was Bette Davis in Jezebel, defiantly wearing red to her virgin-white ball, today it is Cameron Diaz in There's Something About Mary, rubbing semen into her hair because she is too dumb to realize it's not hair gel."
But what about Buffy? You may ask (I definitely ask!) Hari answers:
The few strong women in Hollywood movies and TV are safely located in an unreal world: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xena: Warrior Princess. The closest to an unapologetic feminist is Lisa Simpson - and she is eight years old, and a cartoon. This isn't because Hollywood is especially sexist. Hollywood largely gives us what we want - and we don't want to idolize strong, powerful women today.
I tried taking a look at my DVD collection to see if there were any movies with strong women in it. Whale Rider was the only "modern" movie. And the lead is — in the words of Ms. Britney Spears — not a girl, not yet a woman. Maybe Flirting? Or Blue Crush. I don't own Death Proof but I plan to. Other than that, all of the other films with strong women (The Women, His Girl Friday, The Wizard Of Oz?) are from a bygone era. (The rest, stuff like Midnight Cowboy, Nowhere, Shampoo, Adaptation, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Velvet Goldmine, Harold & Kumar... male-oriented.
Hari notes that today, a majority of college graduates are female. We have a woman running for president. We live in a time where women are in business, in government, in outer space. Why aren't they in entertainment?
Johann Hari: Where Have All The Strong Women Gone? [Independent]