The Heat, and how much I love female protagonists!

On a whim, I decided to run out and see the new Melissa McCarthy-plus-Sandra Bullock movie on a recent evening.  I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed myself!  It was raucous and dirty and relateable; a ‘guys’ movie for the girls!  It’s definitely about time.  As much as Bridesmaids was heralded to be that movie, ‘The Heat’ was the one that finally delivered.

I hate that so many films ignore the force of the female protagonist – and the true nature of the twenty/thirty something single lady.  This film was different from most female-centric films in that it didn’t focus on a love story (in fact, two single ladies and not a SINGLE boyfriend, oh whoa-is-single-me moment!  Talk about exciting novel moments!) or romantic nonsense.  It didn’t wallow in single self-pity, and it didn’t spend time bemoaning work-life balance, etc.  It was ladies engaging in physical comedy and a fun, developed, action-y story line and behavior generally reserved for male-only bro-films.  Even Bridesmaids was rife with the oh-no-I’m-so-sad single girl tropes (although I do adore Chris O’Dowd), which, as funny as the film was, left me with an icky taste in my mouth and a bit of a down feeling as I left the theater.  Instead, I left ‘The Heat’ happy and fulfilled.

I recently listened to a story on npr (http://www.npr.org/2013/06/30/197390707/casting-call-hollywood-needs-more-women) about Geena Davis’ think tank on women in movies.  I won’t go through it, as I have faith in your reading abilities; suffice to say that the results are broad and enlightening.  I especially found the findings on male:female ratios in film group scenes (17% women on average…) and the resulting discomfort men found when the percentage popped up to 30% (Men felt outnumbered when they were a mere 70% of the group…) fascinating.  Additionally, her discussion of the ‘this film (Thelma and Louise, bridesmaids, etc) changes everything’ media theme following popular female-centered films and the back-to-the-status-quo downfall afterwards was spot on.  This what-men-want/men-dominate-the-theater/women’s-movies-don’t-sell dominant discourse in the film industry is reminiscent of the back-and-forth conversation in many different genres in the entertainment industry – video gaming in particular coming to mind immediately.

The fact that these same assumptions are still being trumpeted around – those ideas men have about what women will or won’t like, or, furthermore, what women are and aren’t like – says so much about the society in which we live. The fact that these two characters and the way they interact and are presented in this film is such a novelty says just as much.  I just hope, as a single female who enjoys watching movies with strong, fun, single female characters, that these types of films will continue to be made with fun, strong female actresses like McCarthy, Davis and Bullock.

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