In these supposedly progressive times, gender equality is one of those touchy issues relegated to the last paragraph of a trend piece nobody reads. When Katherine Heigl suggested to Vanity Fair that Judd Apatow's movies were sexist, the assertion came across like an after-the-fact shrug of acceptance. Ever the galvanizing provocateur, New York Times critic Manohla Dargis confronts the issue head-on with a thorough analysis of the gender bias in this year's summer blockbusters.

With "Iron Man, Batman, Big Angry Green Man" and other massive expressions of virility invading the box office, female roles appear to be relegated to the back of the multiplex. Dargis touches on the rumors that Warner Bros head Jeff Robinov believes no woman has been able to sell a movie since Julia Roberts (a point that Natalie Portman might contest, but not Paris Hilton) before sizing up numerous upcoming studio releases, with particular attention paid to Anna Faris, "who could be the next Judy Holliday but without the right material will, alas, probably end up the next Brittany Murphy." It's the kind of pronouncement that hits you in gut.