So here I was thinking that the most annoying aspect of watching Kathryn Bigelow gain speed as a serious Oscar contender was going to be sitting through all the lame 'battle of the exes' jokes about her and former husband James Cameron. But I was way off, because as it turns out, the reality is much more insulting. The latest insult is courtesy of an article over at Salon with the charming title Kathryn Bigelow: Feminist pioneer or tough guy in drag? Granted, this isn't the first opinion piece about Bigelow's film that has me in a ranting state of mind, but it is the most recent. Now luckily for my ranting purposes, I can break down my dissatisfaction into two major categories, so let's get started shall we?...
A Dog Wearing Clothes
There is a great moment on NBC's 30 Rock when Jack Donaghy (played to perfection by Alec Baldwin) tells his politico girlfriend, "I like it when a woman has ambition. It's like seeing a dog wearing clothes." Funny? Yes, and unfortunately, very, very true. I highly doubt that every interview that Quentin Tarantino, James Cameron, or The Coens have to sit through has them addressing how they feel about making a movie as 'male directors'. Well, of course not, that would be silly. But no such luck for Bigelow because no matter which journalist it is, the supposedly unlikely combo of a woman who directs action movies is the first (and sometimes only) topic for discussion.
After the jump; beating the boys at their own game... To her credit, Bigelow has deflected most of that commentary in the press, but it doesn't make it any less annoying that somehow her gender would preclude her from making these kinds of films. If that wasn't bad enough, there is the idea that a woman who not only gravitates to action films and stories, but excels at them, is the cinematic equivalent of watching a unicorn prance by.
Trying to Beat The Boys At Their Own Game
As someone who has never fit the traditional mode of how a 'girl' is expected to behave, I have a real problem with the idea that Bigelow would never have naturally made films like Locker without the help of her ex-husband, or because she had abandoned her artistic principles so boys would like her. If you don't believe me, take a look at this quote from the Salon in which they refer to Bigelow as the, "...Transvestite of Directors. Looks to me like she's masquerading as the baddest boy on the block to win the respect of an industry still so hobbled by gender-specific tunnel vision that it has trouble admiring anything but film making soaked in a reduced notion of masculinity."
In Salon's piece, the author claims that while 'women's directors' like Nancy Myers are left in the critical dust, Bigelow plays nice, makes a 'man's movie' and gets all the attention. But who decides what's a man's movie? Reducing Hurt Locker to an exercise in machismo is not only a disservice to Bigelow as a director, but leads to a far more insidious idea that filmmakers should reside in their own gender-specific ghetto.
I guess in the end what has me so annoyed with most of the press surrounding Bigelow's film is that her abilities or interests never come in to play. Like any other director she is drawn to making certain types of films, and I highly doubt that wanting to be at 'The Boys Table' had anything to do with it -- maybe these are just the kinds of stories she likes to tell, and she's pretty good at it. So here's a novel idea, how about we all just stop talking about the fact a woman directed this movie, and instead let's just credit her for a job well done. What do you think?