Backlot Bitch: Oh Boy, Girl Problems in Film Criticism

Still of the evil queen of Snow White and the Huntsman

Over the weekend, I came across an almost unbelievable post by tweeter, critic, and blogger extraordinaire Roger Ebert from one of his Far-Flung Correspondents. The critic, Michael Calleri, was writing from Buffalo, New York, but he might as well have been talking about another place in the world where women aren’t allowed to leave the kitchen or have ideas. Because those actions would have too many potential verbs. I’m not sure that the publisher discussed in his essay would even approve of women in pants.

Long story short, his publisher at the Niagara Falls Reporter, Frank Parlato, gave him a strongly worded explanation after a string of unposted reviews: Calleri needed to drop writing about movies that portray, as Parlato phrased it, “the male as lesser in courage strength and power than the female. ”

Oh, this gets better. Like not-capitalizing-in-the-newspaper-business better:

“snow white and the huntsman is trash. moral garbage. a lot of fuzzy feminist thinking and pandering to creepy hollywood mores produced by metrosexual imbeciles.

I don’t want to publish reviews of films where women are alpha and men are beta. where women are heroes and villains and men are just lesser versions or shadows of females.

i believe in manliness.

not even on the web would i want to attach my name to snow white and the huntsman except to deconstruct its moral rot and its appeal to unmanly perfidious creeps.

with all the publications in the world who glorify what i find offensive, it should not be hard for you to publish your reviews with any number of these.”

You can find the rest of the golden text here, but its basically Parlato’s confession of his fear of empowered beings with vaginas. Damn, did no one tell him Teeth was only a movie?

And while Parlato responded to Ebert’s post, it really sounds like a “I’m sorry I got caught” response. To wit:

“I did not say that women should have less courage or strength than a man. I merely said I do not have an interest in publishing reviews of films that depict men as weaker, dumber, more cowardly or lower than women. In other words, no male bashing. And, consequently, no female bashing.

Violence, vulgarity, gender bashing, moronic sex acts on the screen, racial bashing, violent women, violent men, promiscuous men and women are the common fare of Hollywood fed not only to adults but to young people.”

Riiiiggghhhtttt. But making that call is a form of censorship. Not covering a movie because it doesn’t adhere to your world view renders you less of a critic. Your job is to sit through the good, the bad, and the ugly and turn in your thoughts. Some critics go entire reviews without mentioning cinematography, others revel in the technical details behind the art. To say “I won’t see it because it offends me” means your voice isn’t heard and your readers get no forewarning about how awful the next sequel of an overblown franchise is. And after sitting behind the ticket stand and selling $45 worth of tickets to a family of four, I take this recommending-movies job a tad more seriously.

But as many of us know, lone dipshits like this one don’t exist in self-contained bubbles. Just as he forced this critic to walk off his paper, narrow-minded leadership has the power to keep women out. In the last study by the Alliance of Women Film Journalists , a staggering 47 percent of major newspapers had no female film staff writers, freelancers, or contributors. Men write 70 precent of all movie reviews in print. No one has checked if the disparity facing journalists of color applies to film critics as well, but I’d put my money on “yes.” This also mirrors the piss-poor numbers of female directors (11 percent), male directors of color (13 percent), and female directors of color (4 percent). It’s an industrywide problem that needs an awful lot of work.

So keep that in mind next time there’s a self-righteous Rush Limbaugh-esque rant out there about scary strong women demoralizing their country. It’s our home too, and we’re breaking out of the kitchen to reclaim it.

by Monica Castillo
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Monica Castillo is a freelance film critic. You can usually find her on Twitter talking about the movie she just watched at @mcastimovies.

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12 Comments Have Been Posted

I read this rant yesterday.

I read this rant yesterday. It was so ridiculous that I couldn't take it seriously and even questioned if it was even real. And sad that it was legitimate. This man must be living in a time warp. I saw Snow White and the Huntsman and thought it was only alright. I didn't see the male characters being protrayed as weaker or less important than the ONE female character. I guess he wants Snow White to act like the 1930's Disney Snow White.

It is worse than you think

The numbers cited for female directors in this article are actually for female <b>TELEVISION</b> directors. And, while they are abysmal, the numbers for female <b>FILM</b> directors are actually worse. Only 5% of the top 250 grossing films were helmed by a female director in 2011 - a decrease of 2% from 2010. Here is a link to "The Celluloid Ceiling Report" from The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film from San Diego State University that breaks down how bad gender discrimination is in the motion picture industry: Interestingly enough, they also have a report about how underrepresented women film critics are as well:

This whole debacle reminds me

This whole debacle reminds me of the James Bond movie review that was banned from a British publication because the reviewer pointed out the sexism, racism, and white imperialism in Skyfall. The reviewer's wife published her husband's movie review on her own blog so that people could read it. I can't remember the reviewer's name or else I would post a link. The reviewer expressed disgust over the <SPOILER ALERT> scene where Bond makes a tasteless joke after his latest Bond girl is murdered. Apparently the British publication found any critique over their beloved film franchise unfit to publish. AKA they censored the voice of not just the reviewer, but every person who agrees with the reviewer.

He obviously hasn't watched the film...

The only woman with power in the film is the witch - and even then it is only because she is beautifil. Snow White is "powerful" because she is a virgin princess who never speaks. Even then she has to be saved thee times by the huntsman... The only interesting thing she does is break herself out of jail.

Give me Buffy anyday.

This is so sad, so pathetic.

This is so sad, so pathetic. Clearly this man is in need of some serious therapy to find the deeper meaning behind why he feels so inadequate as a man that he became a huge asshole.

Seems like the publisher took the moral high ground.

Parlato's articles on manliness and his email have shown that he has assimilated and analyzed a great deal of social matters and to conclude that today there is a confounding societal turmoil caused by political correctness and its impossibilities of adherence, and androphobia.
I think he's right when he criticizes effete men, and as far as the charge of misogyny goes (from greek, meaning hater of women or girls, not meaning "racist") there actually is nothing in the hyena bit or the email to indicate that, but that it is contemptible for a male to be baselessly ruled by a female on the strength of the sex drive; with this I most emphatically agree.
As a reader of the Reporter, and Parlato's articles, I've observed that he is a libertarian, he's all about freedom for the people, and not government force to uphold political correctness and other unnatural political drives that come perilously close to fascism, and as one man who enjoys not being told what to do, and not being told that 2+2=5 because the party wants it to be so, I enjoy what he has written, and agree with him more often than not.
Androphobia is of course an unfortunate mental disorder, and it has many victims in all classes, regardless of intelligence level. Parlato highly esteems manhood, and so do I. I also esteem womanhood, and I never confuse it with manhood. I believe in freedom for women, but just because men and women have freedom to do as they wish, doesn't mean that they should be encouraged to recklessly indulge in ignoble sexual promiscuity, and if you haven't observed that in your typical hollywood production, you haven't been watching, or you're prone to it, which is worse.


Are you serious?
He threw out a movie review because the movie apparently had strong women in it. (I don't think this particular film is a good example of this, but that is neither here nor there) To say that he simply esteems 'manhood' is ridiculous.
Ask yourself this - would he have thrown out a similar review that portrayed women as 'lesser' than men? Of course he wouldn't have. I'm sure he published reviews of James Bond and every other misogynistic action film and thought nothing of it, because those movies have women and men in their 'rightful' places.
There is nothing about this that ISN'T misogynistic, and it is foolish to pretend otherwise.

No, it isn't foolish to

No, it isn't foolish to acknowledge otherwise, but it is precipitously foolish to liberally use the word misogyny improperly. Misogyny (from greek, meaning hatred of women or girls) is not found here at all. There is no possible inference of hatred. Chauvinism on the other hand it is possible to erroneously infer if you read only cursorily. It appears he threw out the review due to the balance counterbalance portrayal of alpha women at the expense of beta men; his beliefs seem to be rooted in a true equality, something liberals and feminists have a tough time permitting.
As far as the Bond series, it seems he would have dismissed it immediately due to its sexual content.

Thank God!

Thank God we have such a smart man to tell us the proper application of misogyny! Our poor ladybrains get sooo confused!

When it comes to critisism

When it comes to critisism and women!! they make it just unbearable for them and for the people living around them. I thus always pamper a woman near me.. :/

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