‘Girl’ Gone Wild

Roses

I was listening to Here’s The Thing, Alec Baldwin’s podcast where he interviews artists, politicians, and the like in his own unmistakable style. This week’s episode featured director Cary Fukunaga, known for the most recent Jane Eyre, Beasts of No Nation, and a season of True Detective.  I didn’t know much about Fukunaga heading into the interview, and found his observations to be vibrantly open and humble.

But then, something happened. . .

Baldwin posited a question about sex scenes on True Detective, and Fukunaga responded by emphasizing Matthew McConaughey’s need for planning out the details of the scene ahead of time for the sake of comfort and predictability for all involved, and then moved on (in response to Baldwin’s question about Michelle Monaghan’s willingness to do a particularly explicit sex scene) to discuss his discomfort in asking any of the ‘girls’ to do these scenes at first and their ultimate willingness to engage in these scenes due to their validity in relationship to their character’s story arc.

Yes, dear reader, it was that one word that riled me.  Girls.

I just wiki-ed Monaghan.  She is 40 years old.  I mean, come on. . .

Now, this is not an attack on Fukunaga.  Aside from that one semantic issue, the entirety of his interview was respectful of all the people he worked with. Which, I feel, brings this issue into even starker relief.

If a well-informed and characteristically thoughtful individual, such as Fukunaga came across in the interview, would so flippantly refer to grown women he worked with professionally as ‘girls’, then doesn’t that point to how insidious this infantilizing trend is for our cultural lexicon?

Imagine if he had referred to the ‘boys’ on set (referring to McConaughey and Woody Harrelson) and their willingness to go full frontal for character development.  Can you even play that imaginary tape back in your head?  It’s hard, because the idea of calling a grown man a boy is so counter to what is considered polite or appropriate in our American culture.

And yet. . .

We have Gone Girl. And Girl on the Train.  And Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  And Lena Dunham’s Girls.

All of these deal with women either at the beginning or well into their womanhood.  Women who are agentic and capable (would you call Amy from Gone Girl a ‘girl’ to her face? Me neither.) Why are they referring to the main characters as girls, then?

Gone Girl
‘Girl’, you say? Didn’t you hear what I did over my Spring Break?

I can only speculate.

One obvious thought is to try and replace the word ‘girl’ in each title with ‘woman’ or ‘women’.  How does that catch your attention?  Yeah, me too.  Just not as grabby, right?  But that begs the question of ‘Why’?

Why is ‘Girl’ more interesting than ‘Woman’?

Girls still have a lot of learning to do, women know their way around the world. Girls are reliant on others, women handle their lives. Girls are pliable and flexible and young. Women are fully-realized and self-aware.

Or to put it bluntly: Girls are powerless. Women are powerful.

So is it true that, even in a literary world, we must market powerful femininity under a guise of helpless ingenues?

And for those who say that one word here, one word there won’t make a difference, I have to differ. Cultivation theory argues that we form our reality based on the media that surrounds us, and if that’s the case, our reality is one where males are empowered and females are reduced.

And that’s a reality I want no part in, for myself, my daughters, my son, and you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Flash of Red: Anna tells all (well, sort of)

Anna 2

 

What’s your favorite thing to do to relax?

I love cooking for my husband–he just loves my meals and he’s a little picky, so I love the challenge of making delicious things for him.  He’s really helped me become an expert in the kitchen.

Do you have any favorite recipes?

Sean, my husband, has a lot of fond memories of his mother’s cooking, so I’ve worked on recreating those recipes for him over the years. Chicken a la King. Strawberry Shortcake.  Nothing terribly fancy, but–you know, it’s really difficult to match your mother-in-law’s cooking. I’d definitely say I’m improving.

Did Sean’s mother give you her recipes, or is she one of those women who won’t share their culinary secrets?

When we were first married, I asked Sean’s father for them, but he couldn’t find them.  I’m sure, if she were here, though, that she’d be more than willing to share.

What about outside of the kitchen?  What type of work do you do?

I’m a professor at Ambrose University.  I’ll be up for tenure soon and, just between you and me, it seems likely that I’ll get it.  It’s been a lot of effort, but it should pay off in the end. Once I make tenure, I’ll be able to focus even more time on my home life.  I’m sure Sean will appreciate that.

What do you teach?

Psychology.  Right now I’m teaching a course in abnormal development.  We examine mental illness and its origins.

I’m sure your students enjoy that topic–it sounds incredibly interesting–but it must be draining to focus so much on how people’s minds can break down.

Yes, it can be. But, you know, I try to focus on the positive and not let it affect me.  I’m a firm believer that, if you work hard enough at a goal or a problem, you can fix it.

But surely there are some problems that require outside help? That you can’t solve on your own?

Other people’s problems and failings–yes, certainly those are out of your own control. Even in my own life, especially recently, I’ve been let down by the weakness of others.

But as for my own–what would you call them?  Issues? Disappointments?   I have yet to find one that effort couldn’t mold into success.

That type of attitude could sound domineering to some people.

I prefer the term agentic.  It’s empowering to believe that your life’s achievements rest in your own hands.  Quite honestly, I wish more people would realize this.

Not to belabor the point, but haven’t you ever encountered something within yourself that was entirely out of your control? 

As long as our mind is intact, we each have the capacity to overcome our inadequacies.

So what would you tell someone who struggles with negative beliefs about themselves–who feels immobilized by self-doubt? 

I’d tell them to get over it and get to work–or get out of the way and let someone do it for them.