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10 Famous Movies That Totally Condescend To Women

22 September 2017 | Features, Film Lists | by James Wilson

In the history of the world sometimes changes come awfully fast, and sometimes they move at the speed of glaciers. Some people claim that change is always good, but tell that to the people of Jerusalem when the Crusaders or the Romans were outside the walls.

All through history, most men and women were not considered fully adult. They were the great unwashed, and little was expected of them. They were simply supposed to do as they were told by their betters.

Little by little, with the help of the pike and halberd, the Black Death, the firearm and the printing press, that began to change. Men became expected to be adult, and the fruition of that came during the enlightenment, when the ‘Rights of Man’ became what we would now call a meme.

It moved unevenly, of course. In the United States, at first only property owners were considered fully adult, but over the last couple of centuries the list of adults has grown longer until it encompasses all men and women of every race.

Why were women last? The answer is simple. So long as muscle-powered weapons were all that existed, women would always be at a disadvantage. A small, concealable pistol makes a 90-pound woman the match for a 300-pound muscle-man, a thing otherwise impossible. A very few women could successfully fight a man that outweighed and outmuscled them to such a degree, but the vast majority would never have a chance without lead, fulminate of mercury and gun-cotton…and the guts to use them.

Like every other venture into adulthood, progress is uneven. It remains uneven for men to this day, and there are contrary voices trying to persuade almost everyone that they aren’t adults, they’re perpetual victims, permanent children who can’t be expected to exhibit adult behavior.

There is even the so-called ‘manosphere’ today, trying to persuade white men that they are also permanent victims. The ‘oppression olympics’ are truly universal.

A lot of movies use our civilization’s inconsistent progress to essentially say to women, ‘there, there, darling. Nobody really expected you to be an actual grown up.’

Here are ten of them.

 

1. The Stepford Wives (1975/2004)

The Stepford Wives

There are men in the world who want wives who are ‘perfect.’ However their definition of perfect leaves much to be desired. It comes from an adolescent fantasy, common among boys of their middle teens: the compliant girl who has no will of her own, but does exactly what the boy wants. Real life versions will be coming soon; sexbots are already around, if still crude…but then they’ll always be crude, no matter how technically advanced.

As a boy learns more about girls and women, this fantasy usually abates somewhat, until he finally learns that women have ideas of their own and practically all male achievements are essentially attempts at impressing the girls.

In The Stepford Wives, this fantasy carries over into putative adulthood. One could argue that any man who can’t surpass this juvenile dream never actually reaches adulthood, and a man who can’t grow up is less likely to be Peter Pan and more likely to be John Dillinger or Baby Face Nelson.

The wives in The Stepford Wives are replacements; rather than women, they are robotic companions, essentially ‘perfect’ sexbots who are completely subsumed by the wants of their owners/husbands. The real women are murdered by their replacements.

This is supposed to be a feminist warning that all men want all women to be docile, available, and mindless, but this has never been the case. A woman who pays too close heed to this kind of propaganda will not have any idea how to deal with actual men.

This is both patronizing and condescending towards women, flattering them that they are intrinsically good and anything they want is right, whereas with men it’s exactly the opposite. This might be appealing, but it’s also wrong. Men are individuals just like women, and any adult, whether they’ve accepted adulthood or not, can make stupid mistakes or do good and noble deeds, depending on how they make decisions.

 

2. GI Jane (1997)

GI Jane (1997)

This is a movie following the first successful female Navy SEAL, which has yet to happen, though the movie was made in 1997.

We are expected to believe today that women and men are essentially interchangeable, that women can do anything men can do. However, as Jane Austen wrote, “I should no more lay it down as a general rule that women write better letters than men, than that they sing better duets, or draw better landscapes. In every power, of which taste is the foundation, excellence is pretty fairly divided between the sexes.”

So long as we’re talking about pursuits of the mind, or talents and native abilities, men and women are quite equal. However in one area of life we are not equal, and that is in physical strength.

It is not that some women are not stronger than some men; they are. It is not that some women can do things that most men cannot, because they can. A female gymnast can do things that make a strong man cringe, and there are many physical pursuits in which women are superior.

That does not mean that even the strongest women can do whatever the strongest men can. There is a limit beyond which women simply can’t pass, unless they’re transgender, and haven’t undergone hormone therapy or anything else, so remaining physically male. Such transgendered persons spell the end of females in female sports if allowed to compete without first undergoing therapies to reduce testosterone.

Two women tried out for the SEALs earlier this year. They dropped out in one week. So did a lot of men—right now there’s no reason a woman couldn’t become a SEAL if she can hack the training. And that may be possible, but it also might not. In GI Jane, this is not really a consideration. It’s assumed that it’s not only doable, but not all that hard. It flatters women that the only reason there aren’t dozens of female SEALs is prejudice. It’s a boy’s club, and women are kept out unfairly.

A key moment in GI Jane is when Master Chief Urgayle, played by Viggo Mortenson, tells Lieutenant O’Neill, played by Demi Moore, that she simply won’t be able to pick up a wounded man and carry him out on one shoulder. Later in the movie she drags him across the beach rather than carrying him, demonstrating that he’s quite right. The idea that it just doesn’t matter is fallacious; across a beach dragging will work, but it’s only one situation of many where it won’t.

There are women around who can carry a 200-pound man on a shoulder, but that’s just one example of what’s required of a SEAL. The standards set for the SEALs weren’t designed to keep women out…they were designed to keep MEN out. Men are on average twice as strong as women in the upper body, but we’re not talking about the average. The world record deadlift for a man is 1030 pounds. The world record for women is 670 pounds. That’s best versus best, not average versus average.

Flattery is nice, but in GI Jane it’s mere condescension.

 

3. Tomb Raider (2001)

Lara_Croft_Tomb_Raider

This wasn’t the first of them all, but Tomb Raider popularized the genre of skinny little girls beating up bigger and stronger men. We’re not talking about a Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, who looks like she’s build up a lot of muscle, or a Zoë Bell or Jessie Graf, who hopefully need no introduction.

Angelina Jolie, who plays Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, is in fine shape, but she doesn’t have either the mass or the muscle tone to beat up men who outweigh her by fifty or eighty pounds. In Kung Fu movies a woman might fight successfully against men by being quicker or cleverer, but up until recently, nobody bought the delusion that men and women are equals in a punching contest.

Are there women who can beat up a significant proportion of men? Of course. The ease with which they do it in the movies, while being teenager thin, is just silly.

Worse than that, however, is that people, especially boys, might come to believe it. Women in the movies take a punch and keep fighting, and a young man who believes that propaganda might take a swing and kill his girlfriend thinking she can take it and deserves it. Either boys shouldn’t hit girls, or they should; and having endless propaganda in one direction, at least that boys will watch, and nothing they care to watch in the other direction, is not going to help them understand which is reality.

This is a dangerous level of condescension, telling women they can mix it up with men without being terribly hurt. Emily Marshall can attest to it, as can the wimp who punched her.

 

4. Maleficent (2014)

Maleficent (2014)

Most of the new Disney live-action movies have been subpar, but Maleficent is the worst of the bunch, not least because it continues a ludicrous concept popular among media feminists (as opposed to the real ones): men are to blame for everything.

In the original Disney cartoon version of Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent was the bad guy, and one who took pleasure in being bad. She is one of the best Disney villains ever.

For the live action version, she’s a victim, like all women always. Women can never actually choose to be good or bad, it’s all men who decide these things. She would never have turned bad if not for the wicked man who drove her to it, and eventually she repented and turned back toward good, while the evil man got killed, as he deserved.

This is flattering to women in an utterly foolish way. If women can’t choose between good and evil, then they’re not adults—they’re permanent victim-children. Is that feminist? Is that woman-power?

THAT is condescending. ‘Poor dears, nobody expected you to be grown ups!’

 

5. Double Jeopardy (1999)

Double Jeopardy (1999)

In keeping with the theme of ‘men are responsible for everything, women for nothing, Double Jeopardy is a good movie about a woman wrongly convicted of murdering her husband. It’s called ‘double jeopardy’ because she can’t be convicted twice for the same crime, and he’s not actually dead.

This is a sort of corollary to ‘men are evil;’ men are tricky, manipulative AND evil, and women are helpless, innocent victims of their deceptions.

Naturally there are plenty of men who fit the bill, but the idea that women are completely oblivious is ridiculous. It’s such a common trope that it ought to be common knowledge, yet somehow the same old deceptions work over and over and women are just helpless to see past them…or are they? Can women actually be grown ups and use their minds? Some believe that they can, but not the movies. Women are just helpless forever, and can neither learn from their own nor from others’ mistakes.

It’s funny, because Ashley Judd in Double Jeopardy turns herself into a not-helpless, non-victim, but the premise at the beginning was that of a total naif who had no idea that trouble was on the horizon, completely taken in by the charms and lies of her husband. The question is: are women required to be stupid so that they can be perpetual victims? Or can women rise above the foolishness that all human beings inherit in our very nature, and become wise?

 

 

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  • Zwei

    A Tale of Winter (1992)

  • bd

    “The question is: are women required to be stupid so that they can be perpetual victims?“

    You actually asked this question while writing a giant list of how women are victims. Yikes. Please find something of critical worth to write about instead of this retrospective nonsense.

  • Sahin Parvin

    JUST. REMOVE. THELMA& LOUISE FROM THIS LIST. THAT’S IT.

  • Emily Waterpony

    Offred most definitely does not choose to be a handmaid in the book.

  • Lars Franssen

    Nobody chooses to be evil, neither women nor men! That proposition is ludicrous.

  • Grace Skerp

    You missed the worst one: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It trotted out every cliche of the silly, helpless girlwoman. That alone made that mess almost unwatchable.

    Re GI Jane: No service woman with an IQ higher than her shoe size and on active duty long enough to score a longevity ribbon would believe she’d be welcome and supported in a career field that had always been strictly male. No, not all men would be hostile, but the tree house mentality is alive and well in the armed services.

    People don’t choose to be evil? Survivors of genocide might disagree.

  • Otto T. Goat

    Did not expect Just One of the Guys. Women really liked Pretty Woman. There’s a lesson there.

  • grootrm

    One can make a top ten list of:

    Totally Condescending to Men
    Totally Condescending to X
    Totally Condescending to Y
    Totally Condescending to Z
    Totally Condescending to 0
    Totally Condescending to 1

    or any other well intended but ultimately divisive labels that imply a permanent irreconcilable difference between the individuals in the various “classes”. It’s neo-Marxism intended to turn people against each other to bring about an orgy of violence so that the good benevolent tyrants can rise to the top.

    If this website was sincere, we would see top ten lists of movies that condescend to men, and believe me, they exist. Movies where the males are bumbling, careless, irresponsible manchilds who can’t keep their privates in their pants, while the women are successful, smart and intelligent role models and leaders. These themes are easily seen as contrived and intentional because of the exaggerations and belabored clichés.

    None of the above is meant to represent or imply or advance any one sided prejudicial social claim or description, from which the Alisky-ites themselves imagine to be battling with their own one sided and equally prejudicial social claim as a battle of oppressed against oppressors. I want individual liberty for all, and we can’t have that with even good intentioned but inherently divisive identity politics that view people not as unique individuals, but as just a member of one group or another, in which the group takes dominance. Wonder why the alt-left are turning into tyrants themselve? It is because that is where class, group based views of humanity necessarily lead.

    The alt-left does not have a plan of when to stop their attacks. They claim they will continue until justice is had, but justice cannot be had even if people tried. For even if the current en vogue group politics achieved economic equality, the doctrine of group politics doesn’t end, because new groups will arise on the basis of individual economic differences within those groups. Economic differences between individuals are ultimately the product of individual actions, not the color or gender or other group label of people. Yes, coercion and oppression could statistically and temporarily make it seem like there is class warfare, but even if everyone got along perfectly, there would still be economic differences on the basis of differences in people’s abilities, drives, and wants.

    This is what the alt-left does not and will never understand because their worldview is fundamentally anti-individual liberty, where individuals can be and should be sacrificed for the sake of one group or another. Well it is a good thing that with such a flawed worldview, it will soon go into the dustbin of abortive attempts to solve complex social problems.

  • Logan

    What absolute garbage. Only read the intro and the bit on Thelma and Louise. Taste of Cinema editors, how did this make the cut? No research, no knowledge of the study of the field of representations of women in film, no research into the complexity of Thelma and Louise. Garbage. I’m surprised.

  • os

    This is absolutely the worst list I’ve ever read on tasteofcinema and I’m not sure why it was approved as normally the lists on this site are very charming and well thought out. This is neither of these things, it addresses exactly 0 of the struggles women’s roles face in modern cinema and instead reads as butt-hurt over throw-away movies throughout, even your summaries of the films in question sound whiny and flagrantly devoid of even the most surface-y of critiques. “Isn’t it nice to indulge the fantasy that women don’t have to be literally anything to deserve literally everything?” like women haven’t seen this trope from 100 thousand movies about the dumpy male protagonist. Men fantasize about being a loser and still having it all just as much, it’s human to do so, and they get an exceedingly larger platform to air their fantasies. And at that, you take turns chastising some characters for not being “human” in their innocent nature and then others for being human enough to make bad life decisions and still feel worth something. And you’re telling me women can’t have any fun ass-kicking fantasy characters because in reality they’ll always be weaker? And that it will lead to men punching them in real life?? It all seems like a vendetta with “information” and “inevitabilities” that pertain as such only in the dumdum mind of the author. 0/10 this sucks boy get it offa here, next

  • Rit_C

    “Why would a Prince Charming want a woman with so little self-respect that she sold her dignity for money?” – I disagree with your views on sex work, they are oversimplified to say the least. I think you need to reevaluate your feminism to be more intersectional. I also think there was much more to some of those films, but that’s just my opinion