This morning’s Chicago Tribune contained a short editorial by Monica Hesse of the Washington Post. She was writing to encourage men who to see the movie “Little Women.”
My wife and I attended the movie that past weekend. I loved it. But then again, I also like The Parent Trap film starring little Lindsay Lohan, in which she plays twins separated when her parents divorce and electe to keep the existence of the other twin a “secret” from the world.
That’s a pretty fucked up decision if you think deeply about it. But the premise of the movie is that the two young girls eventually meet at a summer camp and plot to bring their parents back together again. Lo and behold, it works. In Fantasyland. But it’s a sentimental film and cute in places. Little Lindsay Lohan innocently portrays both twins with amazing credibility.
I also like the movie Mean Girls starring Lindsay Lohan for completely different reasons. For one thing, it’s really funny. But it also seeks to confront the awful ways that girls treat each other from middle school through high school. The lead character goes from an innocent home-schooled plain-babe to a calculatingly plastic bitch who schemes to destroy her enemies.
The movie version of Lohan presaged the real-life Lohan who went a little nuts on the journey from child star to young woman to adult. At one point Lohan had a glow about her that was difficult to match. But drug abuse and parental torment transformed the woman into a caricature that was difficult to watch. Now she’s a poster girl for the dangers of excess and lost promise in this world.
Of course she’s not alone in that journey. The world has long been filled with hot messes and dangerous dudes trying to take advantage of them. The biblical tale of Adam and Eve presages them all, with Eve flirting with a Serpent using the Word of God to lure her under its control. Meanwhile Adam slides into the picture and then pretty much blames Eve for the whole mess. The rest of Judeo-Christian history is pretty much a tale of men gaining revenge toward women for the control they exert over them.
The article about the movie Little Women documents the way that men objectify the whole process of temptation and turn to violent outcomes. “Even before the new movie came out, fans and critics were fretting about men and “Little Women.” How they didn’t get it. How men would sit through eleventy billion plotlines in which an aging Liam Neeson head-butts terrorists, but not a single plotline exploring whether Aunt March was correct to take Amy to Europe instead of Jo.”
Now that last line only makes sense to people that have seen or read Little Women. But any description of a story that contains the words “Aunt March” is guaranteed to send some men screaming for the exits.
That brand of prejudice reminds me of the way some men malign certain women’s sports. Hatred for women’s basketball at any level is one such example. The women’s game is far too lateral for some men to tolerate. No dunks? Spare the pain of watching the game.
The same goes for women’s soccer despite the stellar performances of the US Women’s National Team in winning Olympic and World titles. Some men refuse the premise that the women’s game is anywhere near deserving the respect reserved for men. When the USWNT World Cup title game matched up with a USMNT tournament game, large segments of the soccer fan base still chose the men’s game, which largely meant nothing other than salvaging a tiny bit of ego for a team that underperforms on a regular basis.
In some ways, the sport of women’s running and triathlon have done better when it comes to earning the attention and respect of the sporting world at large. The “little women” who now run marathons at a 2:15 pace and the triathlete women who break nine hours are forces of nature on their own. Their talents and effort are not hidden by bulky uniforms or spread across the field in subtle moves lost on a sporting public that craves points, not mastery of the game. We see their fierce faces stroke after stroke, stride after stride. And we go along for the ride.
I watch the “Little Women” of the endurance world putting on a show and marvel at the dedication in training and focus it takes to put up with pain, to sweat with ferocity and to finish with determination. And I say to myself, “That’s how women have to do everything in this world.”
The movie review for Little Women continues: “Expand society’s narrow ideas about what constitutes a fulfilling emotional experience for men, one ticket at a time…Little Women Men, you need to go. You can do it, guys. You can politely glom onto your wives’ wine club viewing, or you can go alone, or, better yet, you can casually suggest that you and your crew grab a few beers, and then go watch the March family darn some socks in their sitting room.”
But actually, I watched the incredibly expressive Little Women actresses reciting lines that challenged the world to think differently about their gender, or any gender. The cameras panned their dynamic relationships. Meanwhile the men in the film strained to be heard even as they strained at times to listen. It’s all an act, you realize, in which the parts we’re playing are so often prescribed and not nearly enough indulged to help us make sense of it all.
Break out of the mold. Little Women and all.