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females and their plights. The writer explores the films Fried Green Tomatoes and Stepmom to discuss the way gender of the film is affected by gender. There were four sources used to complete this paper.
Fans of the silver screen have enjoyed the entertainment value of movies since the industry's infancy. Whether it is a desire to laugh, to cry, to yell or to spend quality time with children, movie goers have been able to find it during a day at the theater. While the industry by and large is there for the purpose of entertainment, the movies have also been used to send messages to the world. Political trends, fads and other things important to society have worked through their evolvement on the screen for the viewers. One of the more recent trends that has been finding its way on the silver screen in the past few decades is the women's movement. Feminism is something that has touched every aspect of American life including the film industry. Anyone who wants to study and understand issues of gender representation need only to turn to the film industry for a visual syllabus of possibilities. Two films in recent years provide excellent examples of gender representation with regard to the feminist movements of the past few decades. Fried Green Tomatoes and the movie Stepmom are two classic examples of movies that provide an illustration of changing roles for women, while at the same time showing the viewer that the struggle for equality still exists.
Throughout history there have been several feminist theorists who have contributed to society through their art, their work and their idea. One theorist, Laura Mulvey, is well-known for her belief that films are by and large controlled by men, and therefore provide a biased portrayal of the genders in the works of the industry (Notes on 'The Gaze' (http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/gaze/gaze09.html).
Laura Mulvey did not undertake empirical studies of actual filmgoers, but declared her intention to make 'political use' of Freudian psychoanalytic theory (in a version influenced by Jacques Lacan) in a study of cinematic spectatorship. Such psychoanalytically-inspired studies of 'spectatorship' focus on how 'subject positions' are constructed by media texts rather than investigating the viewing practices of individuals in specific social contexts. Mulvey notes that Freud had referred to (infantile) scopophilia - the pleasure involved in looking at other people's bodies as (particularly, erotic) objects. In the darkness of the cinema auditorium it is notable that one may look without being seen either by those on screen by other members of the audience. Mulvey argues that various features of cinema viewing conditions facilitate for the viewer both the voyeuristic process of objectification of female characters and also the narcissistic process of identification with an 'ideal ego' seen on the screen. She declares that in patriarchal society 'pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female (Notes on 'The Gaze' (http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/gaze/gaze09.html)."
Another well-known feminist, Mary Beth Edelson, was considered a pioneer in the area of feminism with her art and her theories of what the purpose of art is.
The political atmosphere for women internationally is very charged today," Edelson reflected. "In the U.S., continued revelations of pedophile Catholic clergy make ridiculous their arguments for denying women entry into the priesthood. At the time the Last Supper poster was produced people saw the humor, not the underlying message," she continued. "Today, the fact that the poster is exhibited around the world is tied to these issues coming into clearer focus (The Art of Mary Beth Edelson (http://www.organicanews.com/news/article.cfm?story_id=220)."
FRIED GREEN TOMATOES
One of the first things that one will notice about the movie Fried Green Tomatoes is that the feminist undertones are supported by choosing actresses that play right into the societal view of things. Beauty according to societal expectations speak of confidence, while non-beauty speaks of lack of confidence. Society still believes that heavy women, older women and less attractive women are substandard in society's eyes and view (Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101921/).
The movie is based on the life needs of actress Kathy Bates, who is considered a fantastic actress, but is also considered to be plain in looks. She plays Evelyn Couch who is a woman that is married to a domineering husband, and is less than confident in her abilities, sex appeal and intelligence. She is unwelcome in her husband's elderly relative's nursing home room, so when they go there to visit, she begins visiting another patient. The movie is actually the story of the elderly patient's life, but its true message is the fact that the character of Kathy Bates gains confidence in herself through hearing the story from the friend. While many people believe it is a true story of feminism, and it is, there are also elements of the movie that show the world the industry still reflects gender by beauty when it comes to females. Couch begins to exercise when she starts feeling more confidence. The eating right, the wearing makeup and the exercising to tone her body provide two messages to the viewer. The message is clearly that with the stories of female strength that she is being told by the elderly patient, she is gaining her own strength. However, if one looks past the surface message and excitement of the scenes used to provide the film one can easily see a second not so flattering message. The message that is far more subtle but there is the one that a woman is more worthwhile if she is considered pretty by societal standards. Her desire to fit in to the societal expectation of beauty is evident when she begins to exercise and try and change her physical image to "match" her new internal image. The confidence comes from within, but in the movie, she wants to show it on the outside and the only way to do that is to conform to a man's acceptance of beauty which is thin and made up.
In addition the message is further sent home by the choices in who plays the two girls who test the limits of society's acceptance. Mary "Stuart Masterson.... Idgie Threadgoode
Mary-Louise Parker.... Ruth Jameson (Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101921/)." These two actresses are well know for their beauty by male standards. Thin bodies, beautiful faces and pretty hair are things that both women have.
On the flip side of the issue the movies does in fact display many aspects of the feminist movement with the things the characters do. In the storytelling Parker's character is "a tough, rebellious young woman is one who smokes, plays poker in a gin mill with rowdies, and wears men's clothes (she swears too, and is unafraid of bees) (Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101921/)."
The movie also provides a warm story of a current day woman getting her confidence back. One of the most famous scenes in the movies happens when she is in a shopping center parking lot. She is about to park in a space when two young, hard bodied teens whip into the place that she had picked out. As they walk by her in the car they make a remark about the fact that they have youth and beauty, which gave them the right to take her spot. She says she has more insurance and wisdom and then rams their parked car three or for times after yelling TOWANDA. This entire scene illustrates the fact that women believe they have more to offer the world than looks. In addition it reminds the viewers that there are characteristics in a woman that outweigh youth and beauty.
The plot revolves around the discovery of self. And the classic scenes are sprinkled throughout its filming. It provides examples of gender representations. Within the movies the story also ties racism and feminism together as has been the case for years. Women have suffered the same types of discrimination as minorities since the beginning of time (Fried Green Tomatoes (http://entertainment.msn.com/movies/movie.aspx?m=462912).The movies allows that tie to come through and makes clear that they need to be changed and revamped at the same time. Gender representation is clearly evidence in this film, with the majority of the story being about the lives of the woman, and the men play a supporting role. This alone makes a statement about the feminist movement.
The movie Stepmom is another excellent example of the portrayal of the feminist movement in recent years. It is a movie that shows the exact struggle that women have faced for the past four decades, and of course the many years before that. Women are supposed to be equal at this point in American history. They have entered the workforce in record numbers. There are more women in previously believed men's professions than ever before. The movie Stepmom is a classic example of the struggles women currently find themselves in regarding genders. The movie is about one man and two women. His current wife is young and vibrant and beautiful. His ex-wife is…[continue]
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