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Against Gendered Culture

Photo of Carrie Rickey 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?

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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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.