Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Notes On A Scandal

No, I'm not going to do a review of it, nor do I especially recommend it. (Anyone who wishes to explain what the hell that film was all about, why it got such good reviews, or indeed what the point of it was is warmly invited to do so in the comments section.) A trailer that came before it was what caught my attention.

Soon we are going to be graced with a film entitled "Becoming Jane". We have also had "Iris", "Sylvia", "Miss Potter" and "Frida". Who are these unassuming sweet-sounding ladies? They almost want exclamation marks by their names like on the front of lads mags.

Would we have a film entitled "Becoming Oscar"? Well, no, we already have a film about him - it's called "Wilde". We also have "Capote", "Pollock" and "Finding Neverland". Yes, that's "Finding Neverland", not "Mr Barrie".

So who decides not to call a film about a respected poet "Plath"? Why do they suppose it would put people off?

And on the other side of the coin, why would a film about Thomas Hardy entitled "Becoming Thomas" or "Mr Hardy" seem absurd? Perhaps those titles sound a bit disrespectful. A tad overfamiliar. Infantalizing even.

So does the film industry believe that in order to make a successful film about a gifted woman, they have to make her sound more like your cute little sister than someone to be revered? (Not that one shouldn't revere one's little sister, particularly if she's cute.) Would a film called "Austen" be deemed too threatening for people? Or is it just that it would sound boring?

After all "Austen" would sound like a film about a writer, and we don't want to see women in films about writing. We want to see women in films about sex, because, you know, women = sex. We want to see films where men treat clever women badly. We want to see talented women cry for a good half of their screen-time. Just like in "Sylvia". If I had watched that film not knowing who she was, I wouldn't have got the impression she was a prolific writer. Just an ordinary, put-upon, neurotic mess who also enjoyed baking.

So in calling the new film "Becoming Jane", the audience does not feel it has to respect the subject. It can just watch a vulnerable young girl getting into romantic scrapes. We don't have to know she wrote books or whatever it was the pretty young thing did in her spare time.

6 Comments:

Blogger spotted elephant said...

Absolutely! Why don't they call it "Jane becomes a woman" or "Jane's Flower of Womanhood Opens"? I mean, if you're going to totally undercut a woman's life and work, why not go for broke?

And btw, Amy @ Feminist Reprise did a great post on Notes on a Scandal.

6:26 PM  
Blogger Bea said...

Hey Jo, thanks for pointing this out. I felt pretty uncomfortable about 'Sylvia' but couldn't put my finger on it. Never occured to me that so many films about women are named after their first name but, yes, they are!

10:33 PM  
Blogger rudy said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Mr. Morgan said...

Jane's Delicate Exotic Flower of Soft Womanliness Slowly Opens in a Soft, Attractive and Gently Inviting Fashion

COMING THIS FALL

rated PG-13, contains pointless circumstantial nudity and no adult themes whatsoever
AOL Keyword: dishonest bullshit

The discrepancy hadn't occurred to me either, but it's not exactly a colossal shock.

8:54 AM  
Blogger jo22 said...

Sorry to delete your comment Rudy, but your blog links to MRAs blogs and I find it better to just ignore them.

11:04 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Excellent point, Jo, I'd never noticed this before!

11:33 AM  

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