Lady Problems is a weekly column that looks at how the entertainment industry — and its corresponding culture and constituents — is treating women in a given week. (Hint: It will almost always be “poorly.”) Every Thursday we’ll review the week's most significant woman-centric conflicts, then provide a brilliant solution to each problem that nobody in Hollywood will ever listen to or enforce.
The Lady Problem: The Hollywood Reporter is on some shit this week. Though it ostensibly circled its horses to produce the "Women in Entertainment" issue, some of them clearly escaped the barn and are running, frothing at the mouth, toward the endless horizon. They’ve gone ... rogue, if you will. (This transcendent pun will make sense approximately one sentence from now.)
Exhibit A: Todd McCarthy’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story review. McCarthy’s review starts out innocently enough, with a li’l Star Wars pun, then begins to verge into dangerous territory with a grimace-inducing remark about the film’s “rainbow coalition of actors.” A few paragraphs down, however, McCarthy reveals his main problem with the movie: “What the film really lacks is a strong and vigorous male lead (such as Han Solo or John Boyega’s Finn in The Force Awakens) to balance more equally with Jyn and supply a sparring partner,” he writes. “None of the men here has real physical or vocal stature, nor any scenes in which they can decisively emerge from the pack in a way that engages audience enthusiasm. Both [Diego] Luna and [Riz] Ahmed have proved themselves repeatedly in big-screen and television performances, but their characters never pop here, to the film’s detriment. And given that Jyn is rather less gung-ho and imposing than was [Daisy] Ridley’s Rey, there’s an overall feel of less physical capacity on the part of the main characters.”
I’m not going to pretend to have seen The Force Awakens, not fallen asleep six times during the first Star Wars, or have any fucking clue who or what McCarthy is talking about here. I am going to pretend that Todd McCarthy has never seen another movie. That’s the only explanation for this review. This is Todd McCarthy’s first movie. He just wriggled forth from the fertile earth this very week, blinking into the bright sun. He does not know that nearly every other movie made on this godforsaken planet stars a “strong and vigorous” male lead. He does not know that female characters have rarely “decisively emerged from the pack in a way that engages audience enthusiasm,” that female characters are rarely given the chance to “pop,” or are often wildly less “gung-ho and imposing” than male characters. He also clearly doesn’t realize that Rogue One’s female lead is a feature, not a bug, and that female leads don’t require an aggressive male counterpart to “balance more equally.” Anyway, Todd, welcome to the world, and to movies!! You’re gonna love it here!
Exhibit B: THR’s animation roundtable. When asked about approaching different ethnicities and cultures in his work, director John Musker said, “We had the challenge in Moana of dealing with this culture that we were really outsiders to in a way. I knew something about the South Pacific just from a distance, reading books set there and seeing paintings by Paul Gauguin and that sort of thing. But after I pitched the idea to John [Lasseter, Disney Animation creative chief], I started to read Polynesian mythology and I discovered there was this character, Maui, who was bigger than life, could pull up islands with his magical fish hook and was a shape-shifter and I was like, ‘Why has this never been done before?’ So we cobbled together a story and pitched it to John and he said, ‘This is great, but you’ve got to dig deeper, do more research.’ So we were forced to go to Tahiti and Samoa and Fiji. Our development people arranged a really deep dive into the culture where it wasn’t the Tiki bars and that sort of thing.”
Just want to really focus in on the “we were really outsiders” who were “forced to go to Tahiti and Samoa and Fiji.” Just want to let that one simmer for a second.
Director Mark Osborne followed with, “That’s pretty good. On Kung Fu Panda, we just googled China. That was as far as we could go.”
BRB, burying my face into the belly of a real panda until I suffocate.
THR: “For all of you, several of your movies have female protagonists. But they’re not looking for a prince.”
Director Mike Mitchell: “Well, on Trolls, we wanted to completely break the mold of the animated princess. Most princesses have big eyes and little bitty waists and little tiny hooves they walk around on. And [with Poppy], we wanted to keep this ugly-cute, big melon head, giant teeth. She didn't have to wear uncomfortable princess shoes, which I think is cool. [To Musker] I don’t think your princess has any shoes.
Musker: “No. She does not.”
Mitchell: “That’s cool. Who needs these shoes?”
Look at these heroes. We are only truly equal when we are allowed to have teeth as giant and feet as filthy and heads as melon-like as our male forebears. What more do we want vis-à-vis measurable social progress? Who needs these shoes?
The Solution: Though The Hollywood Reporter is to blame for assembling and giving space to this clusterfuck of confusing takes on gender and race from a cadre of white men in an industry that has rewarded them kindly for the mere fact of being white men, said white men must also take responsibility for saying these dumb-ass things.
First, let us deal with the problem of Mr. McCarthy’s backwards-ass review. McCarthy will strongly and vigorously emerge from the plot of soil from whence he sprung forth this week, where he will immediately be met by a woman of his exact height, physical and vocal stature, and level of imposition and gung-ho-y-ness. In order to balance him more equally, she will follow him everywhere for the rest of his natural life. She will watch him shower. She will watch him weep into his dog-eared copy of Catcher in the Rye. She will watch him clack away at his computer, typing about rainbow coalitions and stocky males.
Next we will address the six-person boy band of the THR animation roundtable. For the duration of their ’toon careers, these men will attend every meeting shoeless (who needs these shoes?), their mouths stuffed with gigantic veneers and their heads pumped up with enough helium to believably approximate the size and shape of a melon. The only thing they will ever be able to google is “China.”
Lastly, Paul Feig will just get a gentle talking-to, because again, he did Freaks and Geeks, and we shall thusly and eternally forgive him for his mild trespasses.