Tough Women

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[Alyssa Rosenberg]


Far too much awards-season speculation, at least for my taste, has focused on the dynamic between former married couple Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron, who are up against each other in the best picture and directing categories at the Academy Awards.  They seem fairly relaxed about their competition and whatever their short-lived marriage means for it, so I don't particularly see why any of us should get verklempt about it.  

That said, I've really enjoyed the slight gender role reversal involved: Bigelow is nominated for directing a tough, suspenseful action movie that refuses to indulge in a romantic or conventionally happy ending, while Cameron is up for a movie that despite extended action sequences is essentially a corny (if visually astonishing) romance.  I'm not the type of feminist who thinks women ought to ape male behavior exactly and believes that if we can do that, sexism will just go away.  Nor do I think it's necessary for women in any medium to think they can only make careers for themselves by carving out spheres in which they write strictly about women's issues, or make strictly women's movies, or whatever.  But whatever my larger, still-clarifying thoughts on gender in the workplace, I do enjoy watching Bigelow repeatedly demonstrate that in art as in life, war and action are not strictly the directorial domain of Very Tough Men.

And so I feel a little ambivalent about the news that in addition to the awesome-sounding Triple Frontier, a movie about organized crime in South America, Bigelow's next project is the pilot for "The Miraculous Year," an upcoming HBO show about "a New York family as seen through the lens of a charismatic, self-destructive Broadway composer."  Perhaps it'll be a Wes Andersonesque look at New York--the show's described as a "light family drama with a flamboyant character at the center," but this early on, I can't entirely tell.  And really, Kathryn Bigelow should do whatever the hell she wants, which seems to have been her M.O. for most of her career--she's directed 9 movies and a handful of TV episodes since her directorial debut with The Loveless, a 1982 biker flick.  And she's put in plenty of role model time for smart female writers and directors discontent with the prospect of following in Nancy Meyers well-shod footsteps.  If she decided she wanted to make romantic comedies and take Ashton Kutcher as her muse, well, I'd have a hard time begrudging her the change.  

But I'm secretly hoping that Triple Frontier gives Bigelow the box office to match The Hurt Locker's critical acclaim, and that she keeps making action movies.  Goodness knows, we could use a female director (and Bigelow, who does so well with the dynamics between men, might not actually be it) out there who understands that there are women out there who love action movies, and who don't particularly see themselves represented in Megan Fox-style eye candy, or need it to get us in the seats.  We know how to shoot the guns ourselves, thankyouverymuch.
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Alyssa Rosenberg is a culture writer with The Washington Post.

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