Now featuring *Amanda Knox*
“Here comes my sister! She’s an American girl.”
Randolph Miller in Henry James, Daisy Miller, 1878.
The American girl is different. Daisy Miller horrified European America and much of Europe with her cheerful boldness, so Henry James killed her with a villainous miasma. Why?
There are two stories in Daisy Miller. First, the comedy of manners: an heiress goes to Europe and shocks American-European high society with her free-and-easy, potentially lewd American ways. Second, the public-health story: an heiress goes to Europe and dies of malaria. James mushes these two not-very-gripping stories together: if heiress A is the same person as heiress B, the feeling of meaning emerges. (more…)
“Sexism” is an ingrained structural aspect of film. Good films and bad have always centered on on portraying very attractive people in potentially erotic settings and circumstances, and women’s roles have always been customized to the characteristic fantasies of the males in the target audience. And from the beginning, the money people who run the industry have auditioned actresses with their own personal dicks.
The situation in 19th c. France was essentially the same, except that it was theater and not film. The theater was in one sense the dominant literary form in 19th c. France, because there was money in it — many of the great poets and novelists of the era made their livings as drama critics. It wasn’t because of the quality of the art — the dramas and dramatists of that time (Feydeau? Scribe?) have been forgotten. (A few of the operas have survived: La Boheme, La Traviata).
One theater director of that era said that he assumed that all of his actresses were courtesans, kept women, or prostitutes, because he didn’t pay them enough to live on. The French theater was the hub of a fully-institutionalized alternate sexual system which ran parallel to the insane French marriage system.
I don’t really skip movies on purpose — I just never developed the habit. But as someone with an almost completely non-filmic sensibility, I see films differently than devotees of film do. And my bet is that while an individual film can be non-sexist, non-sexist films will always be limited to the same niche as documentaries and wildlife films, and that sexual fantasies about actors and (above all) actresses will always be the driving force of the industry.