Tag Archives: film


Adapting to demand or recreating stereotypes?

Adapting to demand or recreating stereotypes?

Does Disney’s ‘rebranded’ Merida conform to the typical ‘princess’ imagery because that’s what the market wants, or has Disney got a bit worried about stepping too far away from the conservative strereotypes we’re used to from them?

The popularity of the character pre-‘makeover’ (and the protest at her image change) answers the question!


The glass ceiling casts a long shadow

It would be naive to assume that those long-despised invisible barriers which push some to society’s top and others to its bottom have been broken. But for some reason the issue has come to a head this week in three different areas.

Alan Milburn attacked the ‘poison’ of our class system in a progress report on social mobility published this week. Many desirable professions are accused of recruiting a high proportion of privately educated staff and of choosing new recruits based on connections rather than purely merit, according to the report. Wheeling out the over-used glass ceiling analogy Milburn said: “The glass ceiling has been scratched but not broken.”

The BBC took a less touchy-feely approach in its publication of new research on women in the workplace. The stats on the proportion of women in top jobs are grim and the BBC did nothing to soften them with its winning headline: ‘Are women their own worst enemy when it comes to the top jobs?’. The report was perplexingly uncomplex for my liking; I’m not sure how many people have overcome their own ‘unconscious bias’ by being told to be more confident. Certainly it’s an essential ongoing debate, but some of the more constructive pointers, for example from Cherie Blair, were sidelined by the overbearing headline in my opinion.

Last of all, this week Plan B’s film Ill Manors premiered. It seemed canny that the film, focusing on social unrest and the dark side of east London’s society, was released so close to Milburn’s report Plan B has not admitted to any personal hopes of social change as a result of the film in some interviews.

The three approaches, one from politics, one from broadcasting and another from film, raise more questions than they answer. Perhaps the most important thing they remind us of is the depressing inequalities in the Britain of today. We need to talk about it, but we need to do something too.

Stereotypes of Attraction

Last week I went for a meal with a group of four female friends. The conversation turned to the generalisation that men become more attractive as they get older whereas women peak in their late twenties (thirty at the latest). Despite my profound disagreement, the four others at the table agreed that this was a fact, an unquestionable truth. Men become sexier; women go southwards, was the majority view.

By perpetuating the idea that women are at their ‘peak’ at twenty-five we are not only short selling our beautiful mothers, and our future selves, but placing too high a value on youth and superficial appearance as important. And maintaining ever-damaging double-standards, too. A man’s wrinkles give character, experience, more authority (and patriarchal power). But our mothers make them look old. What is this about?

Leaving the cinema with my friend having watched the brilliant Please Give, we commented on the breath of fresh air which Catherine Keener’s face provided. Stunning high cheek bones, great hair, she’s undoubtedly never seen any side of the ugly stick. But the humanness of her face, the lack of bizarrely oversized lips / cheeks and small nose which becomes a familiar sight with women of forty-plus on screen, was brilliant. The storyline in which her character’s husband cheats with a younger beauty technician points, again, to the problem.

Conversely, on seeing the pitiful The Women (a film about how women relate to men, i.e. a film which is not about women at all), the statuesque American Beauty power of Annette Bening had long since gone, leaving a face with an uncanny difference to her former self. I winced, watching, wondering where her features had gone – into the surgeon’s bin presumably.

Not only is this about appearance. So smooth skin and plump lips are an ‘beautiful’, but, by making signs of experience ugly in women, we also suppose that elements of naivety and lack of learning, which youth perhaps reflects, is the pinnacle of how culture values women. Experience is threatening, and this is why it cannot be exposed on our faces.

I vehemently believe that these value judgements are incredibly damaging, and entirely arbitrary. Who’s to say that experience is not something to be proud of as a woman? Why do we race through our twenties before our ‘peak’ is over? What rubbish! It’s time for changing these views, and that means no more dinnertime conversations which treat these stereotypes as truth.