...is provided by Total Film magazine. A confused mish-mash of serious comment and tacky exhibitionism, this magazine can't seem to make its mind up as to whether it likes its women better clothed (viz a remarkably restrained interview with Kate Winslet) or with their dresses tantalisingly open and falling halfway down their backs (viz tediously predictable session with Rhona Mitra, the new Lara Croft). Unfortunately it only seems like women with as much critical respect and resulting power as Winslet are afforded any half-decent treatment - other lesser known actresses are awarded the questionable honour of dressing up as Angela from American Beauty (naked except for roses), Satine from Moulin Rouge (basque and fishnets) and The Bride from Kill Bill (skintight lyrca, with bum cheeks aimed right at the camera). OK, so I should know just by flicking through this magazine that it's only going to enrage me and swiftly at that. However, as someone who takes a mild interest in film, partly in the naive hope that one day it will present me with a portrayal of women that doesn't make me want to chew off my own leg in rage, I continue to read anyway. And as the proliferation of boobs, butts and legs begin to blur into one, it's actually a small, tongue-in-cheek column that gets my goat the most.
The list is '15 things we want to see before Issue 200' (the magazine has just celebrated issue 150). Some of these seem like admirably relevant goals - wish 2 is that DVDs go green, wish 5 is to see old-timers like Woody Allen still going strong. Great, one thinks - a nice light-hearted examination of how cinema can evolve and continue as a valuable artistic medium. Flick the page and my heart drops into my rubic's cube socks as I see wish 15 - 'Shawshank Redemption To Get Women-On-Female Sequel'. TF proposes that 'Shawshank 2: Girls Go Wild in Zewataneyo, starring Megan and Fox and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as love nymphets Meg and Fox' is what we all really want to see on our screens in the next few years.
Am I seriously deficient in the humour department for finding this not only deeply unfunny, not only hackneyed beyond belief, but downright offensive to the readers of Total Film who buy the magazine to read quality film commentary, not the kind of sub-standard knuckle-dragging that even the writers of Zoo or Nuts would be reluctant to be associated with? If the whole article had had a similarly ridiculous tone, fine, but as I've said it was actually a pretty valid list - a reviewing of piracy policies, a better BBC film programme, improvement of Scorsese and De Niro's outputs...so what the hell was this supposedly amusing paean to male crowd pleasing tack doing in there? For me, it destroyed the integrity of the whole article, and made the writer seem as if s/he either threw this lowest-common-denominator insult in at the end because they deem their audience morons, or feared corporate pressure to 'sex up' an otherwise credible piece of writing.
There's certainly a whole book waiting to be written upon how lesbianism has gone from being a powerfully subversive statement of autonomous female sexuality, to being something straight women dabble into in order to please men. I've never quite understood why men claim to be aroused by something that, in its non-contrived form, totally excludes men and demonstrates' women's ability to be sexually and emotionally satisfied without a man in one's life. I sometimes wonder if the way lesbianism has been appropriated as something 'hot' for men to watch is men's way of addressing their fears about women not needing them - an attempt to re-assert that their presence is necessary, as two women can't be truly satisfied unless they're servicing men, and any girl-on-girl action is just a sexy prelude to 'real sex' (i.e. involving a penis). The Total Film droolings certainly imply the latter - evidenced by the reference to the scourge of Girls Gone Wild (plenty of slim, attractive straight girls kissing each other solely for male consumption on there) and naming of two slim, attractive, straight actresses as the obvious leads for the fantasy movie.
Should I be less po-faced, accept that it's 'all a bit of fun'? I fail to find the fun. Were a female journalist to perv over the idea of Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger getting it on in the mountains, would her mindless hormonal ramblings be published? I seriously, seriously doubt it. Oh wait - Jake and Heath DID get it on in the mountains, and the film was treated as a tasteful, sensitive epic, its reviews noticeably devoid of 'Christ, would you look at the abs on those two? Watching those pretty boys writhe all over each made me frig myself stupid in the back row of Cineworld Stevenage!'. My point is, I just don't see male actors being trivialised and objectified in this nasty way, and I don't see why females being awarded such treatment is a matter for laughter. If TF couldn't think of 15 wishes, they shoulda just shaved one off and retained the respect of their female audience. As it is, there's yet another magazine on my list that I'll have to file under the cowardly, lecherous disappointment that is fast coming to constitute most of the British media.