Martha P. Nochimson: Eat me.

Oh ho! Something’s raised me beyond my default anger level today! Wha’ happened? Well, some pseudo-feminist twit over at Salon wrote a critical review of Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker. The review being critical isn’t the thing that’s raising my little hackles – I saw The Hurt Locker, and I liked it, but I’m not the kind of person who gets mad when someone’s tastes don’t line up exactly with mine. No, it’s the way she criticizes Bigelow that really makes me want to bring the pain.

Nochimson spents a few paragraphs bloviating about how The Hurt Locker and its main character supposedly glorify war and machismo. Which, um…did we see the same film? What I saw was a portrait of a dude who has been deeply and probably permanently damaged by war. And when he attempts heroic antics, he fails, and it just goes to show how far out of his depth he really is. While I recognize I’m not a film scholar, I think Nochimson must have been asleep for quite a few long stretches of this movie if she takes it as a John Wayne-esque “Rah! Rah! War!” film.

So, because Bigelow has made a movie which glorifies machismo (again, not really, but whatever), Nochimson feels free to insult her as a “tough guy in drag.” And that’s just the headline. She goes on to refer to Bigelow as “Miss Kathy,” (um, condescending much?) and calls her “The Transvestite of Directors” for making a “masculine” war movie. Annoyed yet, dear readers? I haven’t even gotten to the part where Nochimson wrings her hands over poor Nora Ephron and Nancy Meyers not getting their due, praising the “organic, life-affirming situations” of romantic comedy. Ephron and Meyers, she implies, are the ones who are making proper female-directed movies. They’re about feelings and shit.

I understand a little bit what Nochimson is trying to say about how the traditionally masculine is valued over the traditionally feminine in filmmaking. I mean, the fact that so many movies fail the Bechdel test is evidence of that. But any point she may have had is obscured by the sexist insults she flings at Bigelow. Why, a woman couldn’t possibly have an actual interest in making action movies (even though Bigelow has been making them since I was in short pants)! Any woman who operates in a traditionally male domain is obviously just trying to be like a dude! Saying that an interest in “male” topics is just weird deviance from a “true” feminine self is the kind of limiting, gender-essentialist garbage I’ve had to deal with my entire life, as a female who’s always had non-“girly” interests. (Ah yes, it’s personal and that’s part of why I’m so furious). Am I repressing some kind of innate femininity because I like horror movies and heavy metal? NO. I JUST LOVE THE THINGS I LOVE. I have no quibble with women who do enjoy “girly” things, but I have no fucking patience whatsoever with people who think that the traditional genderings of certain activities amount to a set of hard and fast rules.

And while we’re talking about gender roles and the limitations thereof, can we talk about how bizarre and wildly hypocritical it is that Nochimson, who’s supposedly quite concerned about having nuanced female characters, praises romantic comedies? Not all romantic comedies are terrible, of course, but many of them traffic in the crudest of gendered stereotypes, and elevating the pursuit of romantic love above everything else is, um, just a bit problematic from a feminist perspective. Look at Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail: “It’s OK that this chain bookstore is ruthlessly crushing the life out of my family business, because the CEO is cute and he likes me!” BARF FOREVER. This is the kind of stuff Nochimson considers to have better gender politics than Bigelow’s films? Dear god, woman, what on earth are you smoking?

ETA: Oh, and the use of the concept of drag as a pejorative? Did any thought go into this at all? Someone explain to me how the fuck you can call yourself a feminist cultural critic and still use the specter of gender deviance in an attempt to provoke giggles and sneers from your readers.

Ok, time to repress my natural femininity some more by listening to Skeletonwitch. Hurrah!

~ by Smellen on February 28, 2010.

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