Monday, September 19, 2011

Assault, by Any Other Hand

I'm having a weird convergence of movie-related thoughts. The other night Brian and I were watching Eddie And The Cruisers, and as Eddie got out of the car and walked around to open the door for Joann, I wondered if we've lost something in our society. Not a patronizing, "You're too weak to open the door yourself," thing, but a gesture of recognition. An outward expression that shows you respect someone, no different than holding the door open for someone entering behind you (whether they're male or female) or saying, "Excuse me," when you walk in front of someone.

Yesterday, we went to see Drive. I could cheat a post just giving it the high praise it deserves and encourage everyone to see it asap. It's very solid, and I don't have anything to criticize that's specific to Drive. I liked all the parts I could keep my eyes and ears open for.

However... there is this one little scene. You know the one. The one when secrets are revealed, and in that moment of revelation, the woman shows the world her emotion by slapping the guy across the face.

That really pissed me off. It's something I've developed a real pet peeve about. Movie after movie, show after show, some woman loses it and smacks a guy, and he just takes it.

Maybe it's because Brian knows what it's like to be on the receiving end of a backhander (not from me). Maybe it's because of how hard we try to teach the kids to solve their problems with words, not their hands. Maybe it's because the Casey Anthonys of the world are all the proof we need that we should never assume that mothers are always the best caretakers of children.

I mean, did you know that "according to the American Anthropological Association, more than 200 women kill their children in the United States each year."

I know that the reason we end up with stereotypes and cliches in our movies and books is because they often have some degree of truth to them. Certain phrases, ahem, hit the nail on the head in a way that other words don't, and sometimes, when people try too hard to avoid a cliche it's actually jarring because it doesn't work. I understand that.

I'm just tired of the stereotypical slap across the face being a substitution for real emotional expression in a drama.

And more importantly, I'm tired of it being so routine, so commonplace, that it seems to be acceptable. It isn't acceptable for men to hit women, and it isn't acceptable for women to hit men, either.


Unknown said...

An excellent point, well made, Sandra.

Dana King said...

I've only used slaps once in one scene. The hero says something insulting to an expensive call girl, and she slaps him. He takes it and has something else to say and she slaps him again. This time he slaps her back and says, "You only get one free." I wanted to show she was a drama queen and he had a harder side than he tended to show in the story. My writers group gave it a mixed reaction, but generally thought it was effective.

I haven't had any slaps since then, though I can't say I'll never do it. Like serial killer stories, they lost their effectiveness if done more than every several years.

Brian Lindenmuth said...

I should have thought of this last night when we were talking about this post but how about the opening of The Way of the Gun and the way it subverts everything about the slap and violence towards women.

John McFetridge said...

What I always liked about Eddie and the Cruisers was how proud it seemed to be about its source material. They even have the word "Spring" behind the band just waiting for the "steen."

Last week I read the article, "The End of Men," because another article mentioned it was used in dozens of TV pitches for this year's shows. The article had some interesting stats like how starting this year women will make up more than half of the workforce in America, women now make up more than half of the university graduates and how along with the loss of the manufacturing industry in north America will be the loss of a traditional area of male earning power. Big changes are coming, it looks like.

The article is here:

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Couldn't agree with you more!

Sandra Ruttan said...

Cheers Michael and Sean - glad you agree.

Dana, I like your scene. It doesn't stop with the free slap. And the reality is, I can't say that I won't write a slap scene. May have, but don't remember offhand. The thing is, it has to fit the character, the scene. It's just become too cheap and commonplace film after film, show after show.

John, wow. I wonder how that will affect the publishing world?