A Week at the Movies with Grandma

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I vacation every summer with my mother, my sisters (one older and one younger), and my grandparents. We stay anywhere from two to four weeks in Wildwood, the southern most tip of the Jersey shore. Because we are fortunate enough to have such a lengthy vacation, we often find ourselves having lazy days where we don’t trek to the beach or shop through Cape May. Instead we veg out on the couch and watch Friends DVDs. Or my grandmother forces us to watch an old movie from her collection. In fact, I have had a wonderful movification because of my grandmother. Since the time I could comprehend words and pictures, my grandmother has made me watch old movies. I’ve seen everything Doris Day has ever done and watched June Alyson sing “Good News” more times than I can count.

So last summer, my sisters and I decided that it was time to turn the tables. If our grandmother was going to make us watch her movies, we should be able to do the same. So we made a pact. Every night we would watch a movie. Grandma would pick a movie of hers one night and the following night, we would pick a movie of ours from the 21st century. And we would do this for one week straight. It seemed like a fun arrangement at the time and a chance to bond with our grandmother and perhaps even experience and observe representations of different generations. But it actually ended up being so much more than that. It was an educational experience for me.

My grandmother’s movies were all the same. The guy falls in love with a girl, the guy loses the girl. They sing a song. He gets her back. The end. There was rarely any character development for the females of the film and when there was, it was all for the attention of a male character. Every movie my grandmother chose for viewing broadcasted women as victims of the male gaze, so it was overly refreshing when Pitch Perfect was up next on the queue.

I’ve blogged and spoken many times before about how women in film both on screen and behind are misrepresented and under-represented, but I thought it was time to applaud one that isn’t. The portrayal of woman in film has come a long way from the days of Marjorie Morningside and Pitch Perfect is a great example, not just because it has a female protagonist (so does Morningside). The difference is the amount of women on the screen, the main objective of the film, the positive representation of female friendship, and the fight against patriarchy, all to the tune of show stopping musical performances so no one notices. That’s what makes the film’s pitch so perfect. They seamlessly promote positive ideals in terms of gender and representation without being preachy (thought the film, and all films, could use way more racial diversity.) The women in this film are the active, though it can be argued that having a male director complicates things, but the film was written for the screen and produced by women.

Everyone loves Pitch Perfect. As they should. But this film really takes on a greater significance and brings much more comfort when juxtaposed with a movie from the 1950s. And I’m proud that today’s female protagonists and supporting characters, as rare as they may be, are starting to be well-rounded, developed characters. So sorry, Gram, but your movies just aren’t cuttin it anymore.

 

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