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Men and Women like different films (except for Star Wars) according to Sky May 6, 2007

Posted by Winter in film, gender stereotyping, sexism.
8 comments

Star Wars and Dirty Dancing are the films people most love to watch over and over again, according to a poll.

The Star Wars trilogy topped the list of most-watched movies for male film fans and came second on the list for women, the Sky Movies survey said.

Fantasies and thrillers dominated the mens’ top 10, with The Terminator, Aliens and Blade Runner highly placed.

On the female list, Grease, The Sound of Music and Pretty Woman completed the top five.

Obviously, with these surveys it’s difficult to tell who the people answering are and where they come from but it’s quite interesting, nonetheless, to look at how people seem to accept the gendering of movie entertainment.

Also, we should note from the start that all the films on both lists are almost entirely about white people. We can’t know whether it’s mainly white people who answer these surveys, or if people in general tend to accept the glorification of whiteness in movies. I hope it’s the former.

MENS’ MOST-WATCHED FILMS

1. Star Wars trilogy
2. Aliens
3. The Terminator
4. Blade Runner
5. The Godfather

Here we’re presented with the stereotyped idea that Science fiction, thrillers and action movies are for men, aside from the Star Wars trilogy which features on both lists and to which I’ll return in a moment. It is interesting to see Aliens at no. 2 on the men’s list, though, because although it’s a very violent Science fiction film, it’s arguably the most feminist movie on either list, with Sigourney Weaver’s iconic, unconventional, ass kicking heroine winning out against the aliens and surviving, while all the men get themselves killed. Sure, there are sexist moments in the Alien films but Ripley did open up new possibilities for the representation of women in Sci-fi. The Terminator suggests admiration for apparently indestructible, hyper-masculine figures, but ends with a woman beating a male monster and going on stronger. Blade Runner is a beautiful and brilliant film, prehaps more overtly sexist with the passive and uninteresting character of Rachel, but I can’t blame anyone for admiring it really. The Godfather is, I guess, a not uncritical look at patriarchy in one of its more extreme forms and definitely an intriguing film. So, although there’s a lot of violence and these are the kind of movies men are expected to like, it’s not uninteresting from a feminist perspective. As I said, I’ll come back to Star Wars at the top there.

Let’s have a look at the films women claim to watch over and over again.

WOMEN S’ MOST-WATCHED FILMS

1. Dirty Dancing
2. Star Wars trilogy
3. Grease
4. The Sound of Music
5. Pretty Woman

Personally, I prefer the men’s list. If I had to sit through all the films listed above, I’d probably have to be hospitalised. Alright, I cannot stand Dirty Dancing, although I’m prepared to admit there are a couple of ways of viewing it: anti-feminist romantic nonsense, or a sort of feminist coming of age story. But, however you look at it, it’s clearly an affirmation of heterosexual romance in which a young woman appears to throw aside her academic and political interests in favour of “true love” and goes from being a bit of a tomboy to a very feminine young woman in the process. Does anyone think “Baby” goes to Mount Holyoke (which, by the way, is a feminist school) or joins the Peace Corps after her summer at that posh American version of Butlins? Ok, my feelings on Dirty Dancing would require a post of their own, so I’ll stop right there. Grease is another affirmation of heterosexual romance in which a woman must change in the interests of “love, ” as Sandy develops from a shy misfit into a black leather clad, smoking, gyrating femme fatale. No offence meant if you are a black leather clad, smoking, gyrating femme fatale, the problem here is Sandy’s needing to become sexualised in this way in order to keep her man rather than due to any inherent desires of her own. The Sound of Music is a big old-fashioned family values film which affirms, yes, heterosexual romance, as well as female purity, wifehood, motherhood etc. Nice singing if you like that sort of thing, but is this really still so popular? As for Pretty Woman, well it’s a Cinderella fantasy, in which yet again true love conquers all as a rich man falls in love with the prostitute he’s hired for a week. Aside from any feminist considerations, it’s an incredibly silly film.

So, according to the Sky poll, women like rather inconsequential movies which reiterate a certain kind of white heterosexual romance narrative over and over again.

The Star Wars trilogy is high on both lists. Now, I can understand why a lot of men like Star Wars: it’s a real boys’ own adventure story in which we have a son seeking and finding his father, plenty of male bonding, lots of masculine heroics and an attractive woman to fancy. But I don’t understand why these films are so popular with women. They do contain good looking men who might appeal to heterosexual female viewers, but there’s not much else is there? Yes, Carrie Fisher is lovely, but sadly underused. She goes from having some guts in the first film (if we accept, for the sake of argument, that being presented as a bit waspish counts as feistiness) to being chained up in a gold bikini and looking on sadly as important stuff happens to the men. So perhaps women identify with the male characters in these films, or is it something else?
I absolutely cannot abide Star Wars, so if anyone can explain the appeal to women that would be good. In addition to the sexism, the conservative pseudo-religious bumbling really gets on my nerves (Anger leads to the dark side? Oh fuck off George), but I have to admit I’d be more inclined to put up with that if Leia got to be a lightsaber wielding Jedi Knight too.

But feel free to argue with me about the movies.

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