Finally, Blockbusters We Can Get Behind
By Megan Angelo
Of all the things in 2013's "The Wolf of Wall Street" that set women back — the girl with the cash strapped to her body, the hookers — what made me angriest was what the filmmakers did with Margot Robbie. As Leonardo DiCaprio's well-kept wife, she was all lips and boobs and 5-inch heels. Sure, Robbie's acting chops elevated the performance, but the character still came off like a walking, baby-talking tutorial in how to keep a man circa 1950...1950 B.C., that is.
Three years later, Robbie is having the last maniacal laugh as Harley Quinn in this month’s "Suicide Squad," a movie about a kind of SEAL Team Six made up of super villains. Quinn is chaos in a candy-colored wrapper, all face tats and bad rainbow pigtails. OK, OK, Robbie wears booty shorts in the role, but it's her crusty day-old eye makeup and her accessory of choice, a baseball bat, that really bring the badass Quinn to life. In other words, the overall effect isn't "pretty"; it's gnarly. And it worked: The studio is reportedly already creating a spin-off built around Quinn, with Robbie herself producing.
Then there's the other movie Robbie fronts right now: "The Legend of Tarzan." As brainy Jane, she wears clothing so modest an American Girl doll could rock it. Meanwhile, as the king of the jungle, Alexander Skarsgård clambers around half-naked the whole time. I’m giddy just thinking about Robbie being able to eat whatever she wanted during this shoot, while Skarsgård’s six-pack left no margin for carb-induced error.
And that's why the summer of 2016 is worth celebrating. After a lot of talk about the lack of opportunities for women in film, we’re seeing, right before our eyes, progress. In terms of female roles, summer used to be the province of "Transformers" hotties with big cleavage and flat dialogue. This year there’s Robbie’s one-woman revolution, and stuff like Anna Gunn’s "Equity," the first financial drama built around a woman protagonist. “I’m so glad that it’s finally acceptable for women to talk about success,” Gunn’s i-banker character bluntly tells a crowd of young hopefuls. “Don’t let money be a dirty word. We can like that too.” (Can I get a hell yeah?!) In "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates," Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza one-up man children Adam Devine and Zac Efron by being even drunker, wilder, and more willing to smoke weed out of an apple than they are. (Not that intoxication antics are progress, per se, but I’ve seen enough movies in which a girl’s only expression of tipsiness is to — surprise! — strip. And then her friend strips! Maybe they strip together! Who does that? Nobody does that.)
Then there's this summer’s pièce de résistance of gender flipping: "Ghostbusters," starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. The mere presence of women in the trailer drew outrage from misogynist basement dwellers, who gave it thousands of thumbs-downs on YouTube. But their angsty clicks did nothing to change the fact that "Ghostbusters" is the most anticipated movie of the summer, period. Nor could the trolls dampen the glee I felt when I watched a delicious bit of role reversal in the supporting cast: Chris Hemsworth as a receptionist. That’s right, the guy who plays Thor in those testosterone-soaked Marvel flicks is answering phones for the girls — in geeky horn-rimmed specs, no less.
Now that feels like a step forward: men and women equal in all things, even the hot-librarian cliché.
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