By Mary Thornton
Have you ever had a film experience that made you realize something about your own tastes that you hadn't understood before?
As a writer and even as a movie fan, I've tried to be fair when it comes to movie genres. Even while I understand some types of movies aren't my first (or even second), choice for entertainment, I like to think that I can at least recognize the standouts and give them their fair dues.
The one exception I've found to this personal rule? The biopic.
Beat for beat, almost every biographical movie I've seen follows the same structure as the one that came before it. Leaving out films about "important" figures - I would define those as more historical than biographical - this applies to any film that attempts to """accurately""" present the life and/or tribulations of an entertainment person.
This impression was so ingrained in me that despite hearing nothing but positive reviews, it took me over two years to finally watch 2017's I, Tonya. Once I did, I realized that the problem I had with these movies was not one of genre, but of prejudice.
It was take on a major female figure that may or may not feel familiar to the popular biopics. In The Dirt, the band member subjects ride a high of rock music, drugs, and fame that involves reckless sexual behavior, degrading treatment of women, and a complete lack of self awareness. If it sounds petty to compare an award-winning, widely-released film to a Netflix-only release (that was partially produced by the band itself, no less)....well, so be it. Keep in mind that online streaming has been steadily expanding in budget, impact, and subject matter for the last few years, and its role in modern entertainment has only increased during the recent events of the 2020 quarantine.
To clarify, I am not writing this to say that I, Tonya is a great movie that holds up a lens to a oft overlooked or even mocked aspect of female socialization and pressure - even though it does. I'm writing this because seeing a movie in the same genre, with similar story beats, following a female protagonist made me realize WHY I was so bothered by the common narrative.
Men were making it, and they were making it poorly.
I want to see so many more movies like I, Tonya. I want to see movies like this do well, become talked about, and cause an impact in the genres they are a part of. At the same time, this will never happen without women's contributions to film being as widely varied in subject, grunginess, budget, and even quality as men's expression is allowed to be. In any case, I hope that whatever influence I have with my writing is supportive of this effort.
Every expression of skill or artistry carries with it an expression of humanity - be it violence or beauty. Women are not an exception to this.
was started in 2015 as a collection of thoughts about film. After a four year hiatus, it is back with some new thoughts and new contributors. Please check out our archives of past reviews and follow our social media to see new content.