Crime Drama and Feminist Paradox

I do not consider myself an avid watcher of television, but there are a few shows that I make a point to watch, and several others that I’ll watch if they happen to be on when I want a distraction. The Mentalist is one such program.

It was on the other night, and my parents were watching it, so I joined them. I had only seen one or two episodes before, so Jane was the only character I could identify. I watched the episode for some time before I realized that Teresa Lisbon was the senior agent. This came as a shock to me, and I immediately asked myself, “Why are you surprised by this?” There are plenty of crime dramas in which a woman is in a position of administrative authority. After a few moments of reflection, I figured it out:  Lisbon has long hair, and is, in general, feminine. In most shows, powerful women have short, masculine haircuts. Director Shepherd on NCIS is a good example of this. Her relationship with Gibbs is the only facet in which she is shown as a feminine figure. Her short hair is a symbol of her masculine authority. In Bones, Cam has long hair, but it is pulled back when she is at the Jeffersonian. She may be a woman in her personal life, but at work, she is a masculine figure.

This is an interesting aspect of our culture. For a woman to have power, she must masculinize herself. Even in the mainstream feminist movement, this is the case:  many feminists display their feminism by becoming masculine. Women who are feminine are sometimes scoffed at for being weak. This strikes me as odd. Isn’t feminism about celebrating the feminine and placing it alongside the masculine in value? So why do we take the feminine out of feminism?

I’m not saying that women should live in the kitchen and spend their lives waiting to be saved by a man. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with women having short hair or other attributes typically associated with the male—on the contrary, I have short hair because I look ridiculous when my hair is long. I am wearing a tie as I write this, because I look good in them (actually, I look more feminine in a tie than I do in a plain t-shirt). What I am saying is that women should not be looked down upon by butch feminists for being feminine. Being masculine so that you can be considered equal to men is devaluing the feminine. Femininity has different strengths than masculinity, but that is not to say that femininity is not just as strong.

I believe that true feminism is giving women value equal to men without removing their feminine nature.

 

Single, Not Broken

As soon as I began college, it started. My friends paired off and married, two by two. There was a period of almost a year in which I attended at least one wedding a month. While I still have some unattached comrades, most of my friends have said their vows and joined the League of the Married™*. I believe that for them, that was the right decision. It fit into the life that they wanted and involved attaching themselves to someone who was good to and for them. I am happy for my married friends. But I want something different.

Twenty-one and single, however, is not something that my culture accepts. Since I was in high school, I’ve been pushed toward relationships:  relatives ask at every family gathering why I don’t have a boyfriend, and friends take on the responsibility of telling me who to date. Now, most of my friends are engrossed enough in their own romantic lives that they leave mine alone, but the stigma of singleness remains. One friend of mine frequently told me that he was afraid that I would be a crazy cat lady, and so always tried to set me up with his friends.  I’m not even seeing anyone, yet my mother wanted to buy a coffee mug for my future husband. I won’t even start the list of people who have talked about my future as a mother. I feel like Eleanor Dashwood, pitied as a spinster despite her age of nineteen. When I look at the expectations pertaining to marriage in this culture, I can’t help but wonder, “Why?”

The current couples’ culture that exists in the States devalues the individual by declaring that if someone, especially someone female, does not have a significant other, that person is somehow defective. If a person does not place the same irrational value on romantic relationships as everyone else does, they are viewed as hard-hearted. I don’t agree with that view. I believe that a single woman (or man) has just as much value as a married one. I don’t have to be married to be a good person—or an important one. Marriage isn’t my focus in life. My focus is to learn, grow, and establish myself as a writer and a member of my community.

Being single doesn’t mean that you are a bad person; it means that you are moving in a different direction.

*The League of the Married is not an actual trademark (at least to my knowledge).

Jane Eyre: The Movie

After RJ and I finished Jane Eyre, I decided to watch the movie that recently came onto DVD. As with most movies-based-on-novels, it wasn’t as good as Brontë’s classic. However, I believe that there are legitimate reasons for this. It is, in my opinion, impossible to condense a thirty-eight-chapter novel into two hours of cinematic experience without losing something. If they were to stay true to the book, the film would take far more than one hundred and twenty minutes.

What suffered the most was the dynamic between Jane and Edward. Scenes of the main couple interacted are the obvious things to cut, since there are so many of them. However, if I hadn’t read the novel, I’m not sure I would have been as fond of the two of them as a couple as I am. Granted, the makers of the film probably assume that most viewers will be familiar with the novel, since a) it is something that every high school student (except, apparently, me) is required to read; and b) why would you be interested in the movie if you were uninterested in the novel? So it makes sense to take for granted the relationship between the two main characters. The interaction that was portrayed was very strong. I am not a crier at movies, but when Jane pulled away from Edward after she learned of Bertha, my eyes were a bit watery. It was a very powerful scene.

They cut out the revelation that Jane and the Rivers were cousins, which was, I suppose, due to modern sensibilities about cousin marriage, since St. John proposes to Jane. That wasn’t really an issue at that time. While I do understand the reasoning, I thought it an important plot point that Jane finally finds family.

Adele wasn’t exactly as I pictured her (I pictured her as a younger, Frencher Georgiana Darcy of the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice), but she was still adorable. Bertha was as eerie as promised (though I’m not certain the vampire rumors were necessary).

At the end of the film, I was satisfied. The writers managed a much more successful conclusion than Brontë had (read RJ’s last post for more on that subject), and the story ended happily, not perfectly (perfect endings leave a bad taste in my mouth). I would suggest this film, even for lovers of the novel.