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Fifteen years in and I still gotta tell you how we pay the rent?

November 29, 2010

Oh Sydney, you are missed.


Stop calling me a “feminist film critic.”

Every time I am described as a “feminist film critic” I die a little inside. For starters, I find the label, when applied to me a misrepresentation of what I do and an insult to the manner in which I do it. Do you see me championing every single punishing and craptastic (in my opinion) femalecentric work featuring low production values and or pretentious drivel from aging riot grrrls? Yeah, I didn’t think so. I am a cinema buff and critic before I am anything. Occasionally, I use a feminist lens to examine films, but not like I used to, and not exclusively. The use of a “feminist lens” for the most part means NWLs go treasure hunting to find films made by other NWLs, which make them feel good about being NWLs. Again, not the type of film I find particularly engaging or useful. My focus is on cinema and my relationship to it, which is complex and not concerned with ticking off everything wrong with the medium. I don’t go to the movies to be pissed off, discouraged or antagonized. More importantly, I focus my analysis on films I would watch anyway, reflecting my tastes and all that. I don’t go out looking for a fist fight by watching some problematic piece of shit. I’m not that hard up a writer. I have lots of ideas. I never need to resort to that kind of thing.

More importantly, I think this style of analysis is for lazy and uninspired writers, which seems to be the default setting for “feminist film critics”.My god, would it be a hardship to learn how to place individual films within their historical context? Or at least know one or two other films that tell the story better/worse? Also, it’s not film analysis unless you actually have some discussion about the film-y aspects of the film, not just how offended you were as a feminist. I can see the appeal of this approach – the “feminist film critic” thingie – for those of falling into the lightly oppressed category. Getting yourself that worked up probably feels more productive than having one’s efforts under appreciated as a self ascribed “ally”. Who knows.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Alyx Vesey permalink
    November 29, 2010 5:07 pm

    Not to make this about me, but this post is really relevant to me right now and I thought I’d chime in.

    I don’t assume you’re following my film series for Bitch, but in attempting to strike a balance with the selections (including female filmmakers and considering domestic and international market pictures, popcorn fare/DIY/arthouse all in a melange), I’m shying away from movies that fit the profile of NWLs who “go treasure hunting to find films made by other NWLs, which make them feel good about being NWLs” (though, as a nice white lady, I’m assuredly in that number). It’s really challenging, as I would identify myself as a feminist _____ critic, but many of those movies make me angry *as* a feminist. Frankly, I think there’s more productive tension in looking at a slasher film than can ever be found in, say, a Nicole Holofcener movie.

    Anyway, I appreciate your candor and will make sure not to essentialize how you interpret movies by one label.

  2. Alyx Vesey permalink
    November 29, 2010 5:07 pm

    Well, duh. I identify as a feminist music geek. December, be kind.

  3. Harriet J permalink
    November 29, 2010 5:12 pm

    Oooooh, who called you a feminist film critic? Are they sorry now? I bet they’re sorry now.

  4. November 29, 2010 5:20 pm

    @Alyx – I think the objective of feminist ___ critics and what I do are vastly different. I’m not looking to pick apart a film; I’m looking to find treasures. So when someone basically labels me someone who does the former it annoys me. it devalues what I do, which by the way, I make look easy, but it’s really quite difficult.

    But the fundamental problem with most critics is their inability to turn the focus on their precious gems, which is my default setting. Everything I write about – even when I’m snarking it up – is something I probably like. I mean, I love Bruce Willis and he’s always in my crosshairs. It don’t get the sense most “feminist film critics” like anything, most notably cinema.

  5. November 30, 2010 9:56 am

    I appreciate the way you can write about a movie and point out all manner of ism-fail in a way that doesn’t make me feel guilty for still enjoying it.

  6. November 30, 2010 11:16 am

    @redlami – thanks! That means a lot. Thanks for getting what it is I do around here. For catching my drift, as it were.

  7. IrishUp permalink
    November 30, 2010 6:12 pm

    Yeeeeeaahno. Whether that came from a dood logiking that Woman Who Writes = Probably (thinks she’s) Smartish : Feminist or from a fauxgressive who went “Oh hay, chick who writes about movies, been @ Bitch and Shapley, must be a feminist” it’s foregone that they
    did not actually read for comprehension.

    Seconding what redlami said, and I would also add that what sucks me in is how you link this or that theme/approach/actor within some Larger Context. Oh, and whatever that Larger Context is, it’s NOT going to be some tired-old rented mule of a theme, either. It’s going to be pointed and on time and funny, whether the material rates snark or not.

    This obviously requires not only an “extensive fundus of knowledge” – as they like to say in academic circles – but really spending time connecting the dots and making out those patterns. I find myself often impressed by (what I assume is) how much time that must take you – not just in front of the vid or at the movie, but also with the R & D that has to go in to writing your posts.

    Hmm, I guess I share your disdain of people who are lazy with their brains, but perfectly willing to put their dumbass opinions out there.

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