chick flicks


When I was at the movies the other night I saw a preview for the new movie Tully, about a mom in the 21st century and the magic woman named Tully who comes to save her. It looks like a modern Mary Poppins but for moms instead of kids.



I’ve been kicking around some screenplay ideas, and one of the things I really want to do is write some real-life women with respect and passion and weirdness and artistry.

As I sat in the theater watching a preview 
for the movie that I wanted to write, 
I thought, 
“Oh no! Someone wrote it already!”

RECORD SCRATCH.

Imagine this conversation happening between a screenwriter and a producer:

Chad: OK so we’ve got this guy, he’s a hero with a haunted past. His wife died, and he’s forced to fight for his freedom.

Producer: It’s a no from me. They already made “The Fugitive,” Chad. That story’s been told.

Chad: Oh my God, duh, yeah. I’m so stupid, you’re totally right, never mind.



That conversation would have been how Gladiator didn't get made.

Also Braveheart.

John Wick. The Road. Minority Report.

And Finding Fucking Nemo, for crying out loud.

But those conversations didn't happen because the people who write and produce those stories understand that the success of Gladiator doesn’t eat John Wick’s birthday cake – it proves that people are hungry for that flavor.

They didn’t stop making buddy cop movies after Lethal Weapon.

They didn’t stop making Transformers movies even when we begged them, please, Jesus, oh God, please stop.

And yet I looked at this movie, Tully, and my first thought was that there was only room for one of these. There’s only enough space on the shelf for one story about a woman like me, and someone else already told it. Guess I should just go home.

I'm just gonna come out and say it: 

White men are the only people who get to be 
interesting for no reason. 

Want to see the list of every movie about average dudes whose point of view is made interesting by hours of well-lit, perfectly-scored milieu, provided by the labor of hundreds of people and millions and millions of dollars?

Well I’m not going to write it because it’s seriously just all of the movies. From Anchorman to Zach and Miri Make a Porno and everything in between. 

Their stories can be carbon copies of each other, but they’re different because the men who made them believe in the value of their point of view, regardless of their plot lines.

It’s like there’s a secret formula:

Movie about a white guy does well -> This is a good kind of movie to make! I will make more of them for lots and lots of money! Everyone likes this kind of movie!

Movie about someone other than a white guy does well -> Huh! Surprise hit! Good thing we only spent 8 bucks on it. I guess those people go to the movies sometimes too! Alright, check the box, we did that kind of movie. Now we can go back to the good kind of movies to make. Call Chris and see if he’s available. I'll pay him twenty million to play an okay accountant with a meh stamp collection. 

I think I have good things to say. I think I have good ideas. I like art made by women. But I still struggle to believe that it’s my point of view that makes me interesting, and not the factual reporting of things that have happened to me. 

I still feel like I need to justify my request for your attention with some kind of novel cocktail party icebreaking factoid like, “One time I was in Union Square drinking sangria and the bomb squad came busting in and told us to move to the back of the kitchen so they could defuse a suspicious package. A strange calm washed over me as I picked up the pitcher of sangria to bring to the kitchen. I realized that I was calm because there was nothing I could do, either right or wrong, to change what was about to happen. I drank a gulp of sangria from the pitcher. Welp. Okay.”

My “Tully” would be so different from the one coming out in theaters, and Tully’s success will not eat my birthday cake, or yours. But it feels that way, and I think it feels that way because I’m used to describing movies  as either “a movie” or “a chick flick.” It’s either a regular movie, which means it’s about men but for EVERYONE, or a girl movie, which means it’s about girls and for girls only, and we're only allowed one at a time. Except on Valentine's Day. We might get two, but all the guys in those movies will be interesting for no fucking reason and all the women will be like world-renowned ethnobotanists who would feel accomplished if they could just get a man. Or a makeover.

How many movies do you see out at the same time with white male protagonists? In the summertime, ALL OF THEM. During Oscar season, ALMOST ALL OF THEM. Until lately.

But hey, let's take a closer look at the movies. Black Panther is absolutely destroying the box office right now, and media outlets are already trying to pit Black Panther against A Wrinkle in Fucking Time, as if, “which black movie will win” is a real question to ask.

As if the folks who'd see a movie starring black people only go to the movies once a year.

Did we pit Iron Man against The Chronicles of Narnia? Did we pit Transformers against Bridge to Terabithia?

NO, because they are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT MOVIES. 

But see, they’re all “movies,” not “black movies,” so it’s okay for each of those movies to be special just be-fucking-cause. Because a whole bunch of special fucking people believed that their story was something everyone would want to hear.

THIS IS REAL. THIS IS A REAL CONVERSATION THAT PEOPLE ARE HAVING. 

What the everloving fucknuts. I dare you to look at these articles and arrive at any conclusion other than, “There’s only room for one black movie here.”

So according to this “wisdom,” there is only one kind of movie that’s about me, and if someone has already told a story like mine, well, then my story has already been told. I have nothing new to say. Nothing worth the price of a ticket, at least.

So no wonder it’s hard for anyone who isn’t a white man to wrap our heads around the idea that not only are our stories worth telling, they are also worth retelling.

If these male writers and male directors and male actors and male producers stopped themselves from telling a story, just because a story like it had already been told, then we wouldn’t have ANY MOVIES.  These guys are confident (some might even posit a bit TOO confident) that you want to hear their voices, no matter who you are or what they’re talking about. No matter how many times you’ve heard this one before.

It reminds me of that meme – Lord, give me the confidence of a mediocre white man.

Lord, give us the confidence to believe that the most interesting part of the stories we tell are not the stories, but us, the storytellers, and how we tell them.

Amen.

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2 comments:

  1. On point here! Did you see the Roger Ebert review of Oh Lucy!? He finds the main character "tired" because he's seen another movie about a Japanese woman traveling to America this *decade*.

    https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/oh-lucy-2018

    ReplyDelete