I was just watching Magnum Force, the second in the Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry series. It’s very clearly a male genre piece — specifically an example of dick, with lots of agonized, emotive guy/guy conflict and hardly a woman in sight. In fact, I think that there are only two female speaking roles, and both women involved do little other than throw themselves at Clint Eastwood (he turns down the middle-aged one and goes for the hot young thing.)
So, this is clearly not a movie that complies with the Alison Bechdel’s rule for watching movies — Bechdel only wants to see movies where there are at least two female characters, where they talk to each other, and where they talk to each other about something other than guys. (As was discussed on this blog by Tom a short time back.)
Anyway, watching Magnum Force, I was reminded that the Bechdel rule was propounded by a lesbian, and that, as such, I think it really misses a big part of the reason that straight women watch movies. Specifically, I think a lot of women watch movies for the same reason guys watch movies, which is, visual gratification, or, more bluntly, hot movie stars. It’s true that Magnum Force is clearly aimed at guys and the women’s roles are denigrating and sexist. Nonetheless, I’m sure that many, many women have watched and enjoyed the movie because, you know, Clint Eastwood is incredibly charismatic and smoking hot. The same goes for James Bond movies with Daniel Craig or Sean Connery; not especially uplifting gender politics, but given the choice between uplifting gender politics and serious eye candy, lots of women will choose the latter.
It would be possible to go a false consciousness route here — “women need to stop thinking with their genitals and embrace feminism!” But I’d actually rather suggest that, in a lot of ways, putting a really hot guy in the lead role ends up making a movie — not unsexist, but at least less sexist in various ways. In the first place, it suggests an effort on the part of the filmmakers to reach out for a female audience. And in the second…well, look at Magnum Force. As I said, the two women in the film throw themselves at Eastwood. Kind of offensive? Sure. But the fact is, women really *would* throw themselves at Eastwood. Even women ten years younger than him (as one of the actresses certainly is) would throw themselves at him, because he’s just that hot. I mean, at least you can see what the women are getting out of it and why they’d do that; it’s not a brainless or foolish thing to do. It doesn’t make them sluts. It just means that they’ve got eyes. They’re definitely performing a kind of male fantasy, but they’re also performing a female fantasy (getting with Clint Eastwood) and as a result their motivations aren’t completely ridiculous. Because of who Eastwood is and how he looks, the women in the film — however reduced or sexist their roles — at least seem like they could be real people, not just figments of some male daydream.
On the other hand, when women two decades younger than him throw themselves at Jim Carey, as is the case in Yes Man…well, it seems like icky special pleading. Yes Man does have female characters who talk to each other about things other than men (albeit only briefly), and it isn’t even expressly aimed at men — it’s basically a romantic comedy. But Carrey is in no way the eye-candy that Daniel Craig or Clint Eastwood is, and as a result the decision to make him a romantic lead opposite a woman (Zooey Deschanel) way out of his league starts to look like a fantasy daydream for male schlubs, who think they deserve a beautiful woman as some sort of trophy for just being guys.
I don’t know…what do other folks think? Perhaps, as a straight guy, I’m missing Jim Carey’s ineffable charisma? He just strikes me as kind of repulsive….