shoot 'em up


Rebecca L. Eisenberg

march 31, 1997

Remember the year that the Oscars declared it "The Year of the Woman?" What a joke. The Oscars never have been an event of women; although it might be for women and about women, or more specifically, women's clothing and bodies, it has never been of women.

Happily, a truly skilled actress, Frances McDormand, took home the award for Best Female Lead. But did she win it because of her gifted performance, or did she win it because she, in the (male) Judges' eyes was playing the role of a person with a disability, and it is standard Oscar tradition as much as the red carpet entrance and the corny schtick-host, to give the Lead Actors' awards to characters with disabilities. (Witness Geoffrey Rush, Lead Actor.) After all, many, if not most, men still view pregnancy as a disability.

Shining moments of the night included watching Jodi Foster sparkle on stage as well as in the audience, and the dazzling appearance of the "First Wives' Club" -- Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn and the stunning Bette Midler. Downsides were grimacing over the too-old-too-fast Claire Danes and Winona Ryder. Can't teenagers just be teenagers, rather than overdone mini-supermodels? I miss the days of Claire in "My So-Called Life," and Wynona in "Heathers." Like Drew Barrymore, Alicia Silverstone and the Brooke Shields of the '80's, we are still stuck in the days where teenage girls are expected to look and act twice their age. Some get boob jobs before they get their periods, their years of dieting making sure that they never mature. Remember when Alicia gained 10 pounds and the press acted as if she were a felon? Hollywood never lets up on the women.

That is why we love our Barbra Streisands, our Bette Midlers, and our Frances McDormands -- viva la non-stereotypical beauties.

But this year was, despite the Demi-stripping and the Flynt-bimbo-wiggling, the year when Women Armed Themselves.

From "Freeway," "Girlstown" and "Mannie and Lo" to the "First Wives' Club," "Set It Off" and the brilliant "Bound," to Madonna taking a country by storm in "Evita," women took arms and fought back. They fought against the men that betrayed them; they fought against the racism that imprisoned them; they fought against the gender stereotypes that defined their unchosen roles; and they fought against the very men who make up the Oscars. None of these women came home with awards, and their movies were pretty much not surprisingly ignored ("Bound," the story of two gorgeous and gun-toting lesbians, being the least surprising one to be ignored), but they served an important purpose.

These movies helped insure that men fear women. For it is only when men fear women, the way that women fear men -- about violence on the street and in the home, about reprimand, unfair treatment, low pay and harassment at work, about control of money, love and careers -- that women will truly not have to care what they wear. It is only when women can be feared the way that men are that women will be fully represented in society, much less the Oscar Awards.


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Copyright 1997 Rebecca L. Eisenberg