When you’re a woman, sometimes just liking what you like is a full-time job. Don’t get me wrong, I know masculinity can be a prison too, but when you wax enthusiastic about a movie where Jennifer Jason Leigh gets hit in the face so many times you’ve lost track, you’re a gender traitor or a tryhard, and sometimes you just can’t come back from that.
The problem with being a girl who likes stuff that is, beyond all doubt, Not Made for Girls is it feels very much like the Stealers Wheel song no one ever forgets from Reservoir Dogs: clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right; here I am, stuck in the middle with you. On one hand, there are The Dudes. They’re terrible, you guys. They like Tarantino, they tell you ‘you have to have a very high IQ to understand Rick and Morty,’ they still can’t figure out why women don’t just like you if you put enough quarters into the Human Interaction slot. In short, dicks.
On the other hand, the women, the ones who on paper you want to hang out with, either think you’re trying to be Not Like Other Girls by watching that stuff or, better yet, just assume you’re a self-loathing bubblehead who just likes guns and explosions.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I do like guns and explosions. I have gotten much satisfaction out of guns and explosions over the years. I also like romcoms and weird arty documentaries, but I’m expected to like the first and the latter usually just gets some ‘oh, you’re a film buff’ comments or blank looks. It’s the action movies that get you judged, and the more you actually share what you like the more likely the judgements are to come. You can just get away with Kurosawa movies, and if you’re very lucky maybe you get a Star Wars fan, or someone who saw Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in the theaters. And I’m certainly not the Only Girl in the Village of movie fans who like watching shit blow up. Hardly. But the cultural narrative still doesn’t think I exist.
There’s a lot of things that go into the stew that makes this situation what it is; the heteronormativity and gender roles that shove movies (and people) into insanely restrictive categories, making me Not Like Other Girls the second I press play on the DVD, and the fact that no media is free of the biases and prejudices that rather infamously make them #problematic, which is where the self-hating gender traitor part comes in.
Are there exceptions? Of course there are. There are plenty of girls and women who like what they like without apology, and plenty of them are willing to welcome others into their ranks. There are men who won’t ask you stupid questions until you’re ready to bang your head against the keyboard. I’m deeply grateful for them. In fact, I almost started with them, but then I realized ‘sometimes I find people who don’t suck’ wasn’t much of a grabber, and it’s more important to frame the frustration before you describe the moments of relief.
And just once in a while, I’d like to not have to hunt for my people. Once in a while, I’d like to see packaging on a DVD that acknowledges that Donnie Yen is both a fantastic martial artist and, oh yes, super hot. Once in a while, I’d like to see more people say ‘yes, this movie uses violence against women in a way I find uncomfortable, but I’m impressed that Daisy is such a vibrant and layered character,’ or even ‘I’m really glad you like that! What about this other thing I like, that we might have in common?’
I suppose you’ve got to have a dream.
At least I’ve got The Solute!