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Against Gendered Culture

Thompson on Hollywood By Carrie Rickey | Thompson on Hollywood April 3, 2012 at 12:09PM

Why are books and movies tagged pink or blue, like babies in a 1950s nursery?
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Meg Wolitzer, the gifted novelist of "This is Your Life" and "The Position," wrestles with these questions in today’s New York Times Book Review. Her piece comes on the heels of the 2012 VIDA report tracking the lopsided coverage of male and female writers in magazines. (The VIDA Report was released a month after the Celluloid Ceiling figures that the percentage of women directors — five percent — had dipped to the lowest level in 13 years.) Wolitzer discusses the semiotics of book covers, how books written by men have bolder typefaces and universal symbols: the wedding ring on the cover of Jeffrey Eugenides’ "The Marriage Plot" is not attached to a female hand as it might be if it were written by a female author. By telegraphing with images of stiletto heels and pink lipstick that “this is girls’ stuff,” marketing departments bear some of the responsibility for gendered culture. But not all of it.

Is it a paradox that literature and movies by women are devalued at a time when the most profitable franchises in bookstores and at the multiplex are by women? J.K. Rowling created "Harry Potter," Stephenie Meyer "Twilight" and Suzanne Collins "The Hunger Games." When it comes to Young Adult fiction and movies, women get taken seriously. (Director Catherine Hardwicke established the "Twilight" franchise onscreen, the rare female filmmaker entrusted with the job.) "Gone With the Wind," the most successful movie in Hollywood history, was based on publishing’s most successful young-adult novel — written by Margaret Mitchell. Something must happen when female authors deal with grownups. Because when it comes to adult commercial fiction and literature, women are marginalized in the pink ghetto.

This article is related to: Guest Blogger, Franchises, Women in Film, Genres, Books, Media, Studios


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