Sick Of Tired Chick Flick Clichés? So Is Diablo Cody.

Illustration for article titled Sick Of Tired Chick Flick Clichés? So Is Diablo Cody.

In the last decade or so, women have been inundated with movies created "for" us — cloying romantic comedies in which the heroine is charming but clumsy/insecure/desperate; in which she can have a "cool" job but can never truly successful. And, as we learned in that Tad Friend piece about Anna Faris in The New Yorker earlier this year:

"To make a woman adorable, one successful female screenwriter says, "you have to defeat her at the beginning. It's a conscious thing I do — abuse and break her, strip her of her dignity, and then she gets to live out our fantasies and have fun. It's as simple as making the girl cry, fifteen minutes into the movie."

Even better: Have her literally fall down, violently. Hilarious, right?

But with Young Adult, Diablo Cody has thrown the usual tropes out the window. Charlize Theron plays Mavis, who is not the eyelash-batting optimist, but very blunt and fairly ruthless. Cody tells NPR:

I noticed in so many conventional romantic comedies, the women are always getting flustered. She never is. She blatantly tells the saleswoman that she's trying to break up a marriage.


There are plenty of movies in which the main character is unsympathetic, unlikeable and unappealing, but he's usually a man (think American Psycho, or Adam Sandler comedies). "I think we're more conditioned to accept a male curmudgeon or a male antihero," Cody tells NPR's Linda Holmes. In an interview with New York magazine, she says something similar:

"I felt like there were a lot of movies out there about the man-child. It had become a kind of genre unto itself," Cody says, referring to the films of Judd Apatow and his peers, from Knocked Up to The Hangover. "Everybody thinks the man-child is so funny and cuddly and lovable, but I thought there's something sinister and disturbing about a woman who's in the same place."

Could it be that the rise of reality shows — in which women are often nasty-backstabby harpies not here to make friends — have prepared us for feature films with seriously flawed female characters? This year we've seen Bad Teacher and the boorish babes of Bridesmaids. Cody tells New York: "I believe in just having as many representations as possible of women onscreen … good, bad, shitty, whatever. There just needs to be volume."

Diablo Cody Explores The Ugly Side Of Pretty In 'Young Adult' [NPR]
The Devil and Brook Busey [New York]
Dialogue: 'Young Adult' Writer Diablo Cody Strikes Back at the Haters []


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If you don't mind mild spoilers, Roger Ebert has a pretty excellent write up and gave it 3 1/2 stars. For those wondering if this falls into rom com cliches: no. It doesn't. It explores them and certainly doesn't ignore them, but this is not a feel good movie. The point of it isn't to have a happy ending and wrap everything up nicely. It's about a really, really, really, -actually- flawed character and the kind of funny/sad progression of her spiral down.

And for those who have issues with Cody's dialog: try watching something other than Juno. United States of Tara had some of the best dialog and well developed characters, male or female, on TV. And it's fine not to like stylized dialog, but Cody is hardly the only person to do it. See Tarantino, Hughes, Smith, and a ton of other people. And I hate to break it to people, but teenagers do have a tendency to try too hard. If all you see in Juno was some quirky dialog, you really missed an important and necessary female character driven story that played with tropes and made the effort to do something different.

Likewise, Jennifer's Body is one of the best female centric horror films I've seen in the last decade. I'd put it on par with Gingersnaps, and it's no more "stylized" or less reliant on exploring dysfunctional female relationships. It's also a serious indictment of misogyny.

But at the end of the day, whether you like her films is a matte of personal preferences. What can't be denied is that she is one of the few prominent female writers who intelligently, consciously, and purposefully explores female characters and tropes in pop culture driven film/TV. She can't possibly do stories that appeal to everyone or make up for every problem that exists with how women are depicted in film...but she's not passing the buck or just playing along, either.