Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Filmi Girl rants about American Filmgeeks


Want your bad romance

-Lady Gaga, “Bad Romance”

I recently began listening to the Slashfilmcast podcast - a fairly entertaining show that focuses on mainstream American filmgeek culture, by which I mean the boys who host it enjoy comic book movies, probably cried at Toy Story 3 (but would never admit to it), and have a Chris Nolan fetish. The reason I bring this up is that I was disturbed at their comments regarding Taylor Lautner in the latest episode. Taylor, as we all know, stars as Jacob Black in the romance-driven Twilight series of films and the reason they were discussing him was the trailer for Abduction.

Now, to my eye, the trailer for
Abduction looks like a pleasingly vapid Hollywood popcorn flick in the vein of The A-Team or something along those lines. Dave and Adam from the Slashfilmcast thought it looked stupid, which is fine. We all don't have to agree on everything. But what is not fine is what happened when the third host, Devindra, stepped up to defend Lautner, saying he has a “nice physicality” and was the highlight of the Twilight films. Instead of either agreeing or disagreeing with the substance of the comment, Dave and Adam made jokes implying Devindra was gay because - and this is the point of this post - Hollywood filmgeeks have a problem with romance. More specifically, Hollywood filmgeeks have a problem acknowledging romantic performances from actors.

[Memo to the Slashfilmcast: Acknowledging that Taylor Lautner has a nice onscreen presence and is attractive will not turn you gay.]

Think back on the very few romance-driven films in recent past that have won a Best Picture Oscar -
Titanic, Shakespeare in Love... leading men Leonardo DiCaprio and Joesph Fiennes (respectively) weren’t even nominated. Does that seem right to you? That a film could be the Best of the year, that the leading actresses and other cast win and the leading man doesn’t rate a mention?

One of the most refreshing aspects of Bollywood for me when I began watching the films was seeing unabashedly masculine men do things that were forbidden to do in Hollywood - dance, sing, wear bright colors, and express emotion. Not only was this sort of behavior acceptable but it was
encouraged and celebrated. I feel pretty confident that if somebody questioned Salman Khan’s heterosexuality because he liked to take his shirt off, that somebody would get a dishoom to the face. That odd, twisted, American notion that men doing things that appeal to women makes those men homosexual simply does not exist in Bollywood.

Bollywood actors rightly believe that men doing things that appeal to women will have the result of lots of female attention.

But casual homophobia is only one reason of why the American filmgeek will kneejerkingly dismiss any romantic performance from an actor as worthless and that has to do with women and the American cultural assumption that anything women like
en masse is worthless.

Romance is a part of life and unless I’m very much mistaken, it’s not something limited to the female gender. Why is it that romance is ghettoized into romantic-comedies? And why are the best examples of that much-maligned genre so easily dismissed by critics? I saw
Valentine’s Day and let me tell you something - I thought it was cute.

In Bollywood, romance is a part of the narrative of life - there have been attempts at the romantic-comedy genre in recent years but, oddly enough, the most successful of these are not seen as “women’s films” but just “films.”

Love Aaj Kal, Band Baaja Baarat, Tanu Weds Manu, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, and Jab We Met. All well received films, all romance driven, not one of them is considered just for ladies. Ranveer Singh in Band Baaja Baarat is now considered a new hot property in Bollywood for playing... a guy who falls in love with his (female) best friend and business parter.

But I guarantee you that if this was re-made in Hollywood, it would be considered a “chick flick” and the male lead would be ignored by the critics.

Maybe it’s time for Hollywood to put down the 3D glasses and comic books and realize that romance is an ingredient in life and the actors who play these roles deserve some recognition and respect. Is running around in a green bodysuit somehow more worthwhile than romancing Sandra Bullock? No. No, it is not. And playing the HECK out of a werewolf in love role is not something that should be dismissed as career poison because it strikes a chord with women.

I think Taylor Lautner is charming but I don’t expect everybody else to agree . What would be nice, however, is for filmgeeks to be confident in their own masulinity enough to be able to discuss an actor known for romantic roles without reflexively turning to casual homophobia.

And try watching
New Moon, again with an eye towards emotion, scene composition, and narrative tone instead of rolling your eyes at the fact that (oh my GOD) two guys like this one girl. You might just be surprised at how much you enjoy it.


maxqnz said...

Another thought-provoking post, thanks! As a happily-married straight man, I have no problem withanything you've written, except when you praise Titanic, one of several films on my anti-bucket list and which I'm inordinately proud of not having seen :)

Filmi Girl said...

@maxqnz I've never seen Titanic either, actually, and I thought SIL was pretty mediocre. :)))

(I'd rather watch BBB than either of those films any day.)

It really is odd, though. Try to think of an American romantic film where the male lead receives as much attention as the female lead... I can only recall a small number of exceptions, all male driven and "indie" like 500 Days of Summer or Scott Pilgrim.

Christine said...

I agree. That's one thing that has always impressed me about Bollywood films. I love that the men can sing, dance, and show their emotions and still be considered manly. American men don't (usually) do any of those things whether in movies or in real life because it would ruin their image. It's something I admire greatly about the Indian culture and their cinema.

S said...

Amen! Great post filmigirl. Why is romance less worthy than tragedy, or comedy or action? Is it because it relies on feelings (something lots of people are scared about) rather than the head and it's not "intellectual" enough? Well it's pretty hard to look convincingly in love. And about New Moon, I'm sorry but I don't think I can appreciate it for the scene composition, narrative etc. etc. My eyes will be in one place only - on Lautner. LOL

Lime(tte) said...

Very good post.

Titanic was the most important career step for both Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, but when western journalists write about the film or the actors nowadays, Winslets performance will be described as intense and great, while in a DiCaprio-interview they'll mention that he became THE heart crushing icon after being in the movie.

Filmi Girl said...

@lime(tte) You just made my point much more concisely than I did!! :))))

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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