In which an insufferable asshole angers me greatly

Oh hey guys! Bret Easton Ellis has an opinion on women film directors! WANNA HEAR IT?!

Via part two of last week’s five-part interview on Movieline, by Kyle Buchanan:

What are your thoughts on women directors? After you saw Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank, you tweeted that you might have to reevaluate your preconceived notions about them.
I did. And after I saw [Floria Sigismondi’s] The Runaways, too.

I loved it.

I wish I’d loved it.
Well, I wasn’t looking forward to it. I avoided it, and then I was with some people and they said, “It starts soon at the Arclight. Let’s go.” So yeah, I do have to reevaluate that, but for the most part I’m not totally convinced, [except for] Andrea Arnold, Kathryn Bigelow, Sofia Coppola…

Not Mary Harron?
Mary Harron to a degree. There’s something about the medium of film itself that I think requires the male gaze.

What would that be?
We’re watching, and we’re aroused by looking, whereas I don’t think women respond that way to films, just because of how they’re built.

You don’t think they have an overt level of arousal?
[They have one] that’s not so stimulated by the visual. I think, to a degree, all the women I named aren’t particularly visual directors. You could argue that Lost in Translation is beautiful, but is that [cinematographer Lance Acord]? I don’t know. Regardless of the business aspect of things, is there a reason that there isn’t a female Hitchcock or a female Scorsese or a female Spielberg? I don’t know. I think it’s a medium that really is built for the male gaze and for a male sensibility. I mean, the best art is made under not an indifference to, but a neutrality [toward] the kind of emotionalism that I think can be a trap for women directors. But I have to get over it, you’re right, because so far this year, two of my favorite movies were made by women, Fish Tank and The Runaways. I’ve got to start rethinking that, although I have to say that a lot of the big studio movies I saw last year that were directed by women were far worse than the sh***y big-budget studio movies that were directed by men.

Which are we talking about?
I mean, do I want to say this on the record? Did you see The Proposal? Anyway, whatever.

Oh, Bret Easton Ellis! Thank you for enlightening me to the fact that I apparently am not BUILT in the correct manner to be AROUSED by films, which are only one of my greatest fucking passions in life. I had mistakenly thought I was enjoying my non-penis-having self while watching films! (NO WORD YET on how Bret Easton Ellis feels about trans men and their collective capability to be aroused by film.) BRET EASTON ELLIS, THIS IS ME SHOWING THAT EMOTION THAT YOU HATE SO MUCH. IT IS CALLED ANGER. AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH.

Okay, breathe, self. Remember that you have always known that Bret Easton Ellis is a tool. At least you are not Mary Harron MOTHERFUCKING DIRECTOR OF AMERICAN PSYCHO, who has been personally insulted. At least you know what the term “male gaze” actually means in this type of discourse! (For the love of god, Bret Easton Ellis, take a Film Analysis and/or Gender Studies class at the 101 level, please, before you ever open your smug fucking mouth again.)

Anyway. The tension in my chest is fading a bit. I will not waste my time further dissecting the stupidity on display here. What I will do is go watch something awesome that was directed by a woman. BELIEVE ME it is about to get really, really womany up on this blog. Stay tuned.


6 Responses to “In which an insufferable asshole angers me greatly”

  1. 1 Becca June 1, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    Again with the male gaze!

    And what a DOUCHE. I haven’t yet read American Psycho, but now I need to, to make sure the film is better. Nyah nyah.

  2. 2 Chelsea June 2, 2010 at 8:08 am

    Wow, let’s start a Facebook group: Bret Easton Ellis is a Tool.

    I had to look up who this guy even was because he’s so NOT as famous as those directors he was bashing on. Clearly he has some sort of complex towards those more sucessful than him.

    And REALLY?? The Proposal?? That’s what he came up with as an example of a movie by a female that he hated? Clearly that wasn’t supposed to be some great cinematic achievement! Ugh, I swear sexism is one of the last accepted prejudices in our society. Asshat.

  3. 3 maliaann June 2, 2010 at 9:34 am

    The sad part is there will always be idiotic men out there saying crap about women not only in the movie business, but in all areas of life. It’s because they know everything would be a hell of a lot better if we ruled the world. :)

  4. 4 maliaann June 2, 2010 at 9:35 am

    By the way, love the word insufferable. It’s my new word of the day.

  5. 5 Brandi Sperry June 2, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Chelsea, after reading through the comments on the linked interview, sent along these gems:

    “It seems cunning that he misappropriates the term “male gaze”, which was coined through feminist critique of film-making in an attempt to describe why depictions of women are so distorted from reality, and tries to convince us that it actually describes a crucial component in film that justifies why women are not equipped to make film.”


    “I agree with Ellis in that for every Kathryn Bigelow or Sofia Coppola there are ten Anne Fletchers and Nancy Meyers. However, the same is true for male directors: for every Scorsese or Spielberg, there are 100 McGs and Michael Bays.”

    Yes yes a thousand times yes! If I could be more eloquent through my blinding rage…

    It is just so odd to me that film directing and politics are these two areas lately where it is really okay to suggest that a woman could not do as good of a job as a man. It is baffling that so many men can ignore the historical and social contexts that have created these arenas where men outnumber women, and pretend that there is an innate difference in talent. Sorry, no.

    • 6 Emily June 2, 2010 at 5:42 pm

      Totally. To make a generalization about a gender when that gender only produces maybe 5% of the medium… Ugh. Of COURSE some of them are making bizarre, potentially stupid product, if only to rise above the fray for some reason OTHER than their chromosomes. Or just make a good/bad product simply because humans sometimes succeed/fail. And then it gets traced to chromosomes. Blech.

      My dad has said the same thing about female mystery writers in the past, but will honestly admit that he has a very, very particular style that he likes, whose writers are 99.5% male, and that he wouldn’t even notice if the 0.5% actually tried to emulate that style rather than doing something “revolutionary.”

      re: “male gaze” in its appropriate context – I am confused as to why the reverse wouldn’t be interesting. hell, I’m all for unrealistic absurd representations of men from an overly subjective and unaware female perspective! ;-)

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Other projects:

Downton Gabby: podcasting about Downton Abbey from a funny, foul-mouthed, feminist perspective

Quick Lit: reading one short story a day in 2015

Grand Dames: collecting sundry achievements of admirable women

The MacGuffin: archive of my days as a film critic

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