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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar Voynar@moviecitynews.com

Girls On Film

No, not the Duran Duran song (though I have that stuck in my head now).

What would guy-centric movie scenes look like with chicks playing the roles instead? That’s what website The Girls on Film set out to find out. So they’re taking movie scenes with male actors and reshooting them (essentially shot-for-shot, so far as I could tell without a frame-by-frame analysis) with female actors. And at first I thought it was gimmicky but as it turns out, it’s really a fascinating project.

So far they have a couple of these up: Fight Club, Star Trek and The Town.

So go and take some time to watch them. If you only want to pick one, I recommend The Town. But they’re not that long, so if you have time, or you’re bored at work and wanting to kill a few minutes, go for it.

For me, watching each of these a couple times was kind of jarring at first, and then interesting as I re-watched to pick up on subtleties of my emotional response to the clip that might be different than my response to the source material.

It’s hard to be objective in judging how much of the difference in reaction is simply due to it being a remake of scenes that I’ve seen in their original context versus the impact of seeing them specifically with female actors instead of guys. Maybe gender really is only one minor factor in the scenes feeling different and the disconcerting sense you get watching the clips is just about different actors (without regard to gender), differences in production value, tone of performance, etc.

I was most struck by the clip of The Town; for some reason the cursing in that scene stood out way more for me in the reshoot than it did in the original, which I guess speaks to my Southern Catholic upbringing around how ladies are “supposed” to talk … even though I’ve been known to curse like a sailor.

The physical fighting in both the Fight Club and The Town clips felt more jarring to me as well — as did the bloody nose in Star Trek — because girls were involved. Or at least, those things caught my attention in a different way, which I guess, I don’t know … makes me … genderist? Or maybe just a victim of my societal indoctrination in the expected gender-specific behaviors of guys and chicks.

I’m not sure, even after reading the “About” page of the site, whether the trio behind the site — Ashleigh Harrington, Cat McCormick, and Jeff Hammond — intend an academic angle with what they’re doing here, but really their intent matters little. The interaction of audience with their project certainly has the potential to generate some interesting (yes, interesting) conversation around gender and Hollywood. Fascinating stuff, and gave me something to think about.

As an aside: Take a look at the clip below. This is from the Oxford Film Festival awards in 2009. It’s a short remake of the diner scene from Pulp Fiction … but with little kids instead of adults:

Okay, now. Putting aside, if you will, the relative qualities of filmmaking — because really, the clips on The Girls On Film are pretty well shot — it’s also disconcerting to see the Pulp Fiction diner scene re-enacted by little kids, right? I remember when they played this at Oxford, we were all kind of shocked because we weren’t expecting it. But we laughed our asses off, I guess because we are bad people. And because it’s funny to see little kids sort-of curse.

Then again, I made my 9YO daughter a Hit Girl costume for Aki-Con last November (my husband went as Kick-Ass), so I guess for some people I already fall under the heading of “questionable parenting.” So you should maybe take that with the proverbial grain of salt.

PS There was a pretty smart write-up on The Girls on Film by Mathilda Gregory on The Guardian’s website a while back. If gender topics are your thing, you should check it out.

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“The core fear is what can happen to you, personally. Your body. That’s what horror films deal with, precisely. We are a very thin skin wrapped around a pumping heart and guts. At any given moment it can come down to that, be it diseases, or somebody’s assault, or war, or a car wreck. You could be reduced to the simple laws of physics and your body’s vulnerability. The edged weapon is the penultimate weapon to disclose that reality to you.”
~ Wes Craven, 1996, promoting Scream

MAMET
Well, that, to me, is always the trick of dramaturgy; theoretically, perfectly, what one wants to do is put the protagonist and the audience in exactly the same position. The main question in drama, the way I was taught, is always what does the protagonist want. That’s what drama is. It comes down to that. It’s not about theme, it’s not about ideas, it’s not about setting, but what the protagonist wants. What gives rise to the drama, what is the precipitating event, and how, at the end of the play, do we see that event culminated? Do we see the protagonist’s wishes fulfilled or absolutely frustrated? That’s the structure of drama. You break it down into three acts.

INTERVIEWER
Does this explain why your plays have so little exposition?

MAMET
Yes. People only speak to get something. If I say, Let me tell you a few things about myself, already your defenses go up; you go, Look, I wonder what he wants from me, because no one ever speaks except to obtain an objective. That’s the only reason anyone ever opens their mouth, onstage or offstage. They may use a language that seems revealing, but if so, it’s just coincidence, because what they’re trying to do is accomplish an objective… The question is where does the dramatist have to lead you? Answer: the place where he or she thinks the audience needs to be led. But what does the character think? Does the character need to convey that information? If the answer is no, then you’d better cut it out, because you aren’t putting the audience in the same position with the protagonist. You’re saying, in effect, Let’s stop the play. That’s what the narration is doing—stopping the play… It’s action, as Aristotle said. That’s all that it is—exactly what the person does. It’s not what they “think,” because we don’t know what they think. It’s not what they say. It’s what they do, what they’re physically trying to accomplish on the stage. Which is exactly the same way we understand a person’s character in life—not by what they say, but by what they do. Say someone came up to you and said, I’m glad to be your neighbor because I’m a very honest man. That’s my character. I’m honest, I like to do things, I’m forthright, I like to be clear about everything, I like to be concise. Well, you really don’t know anything about that guy’s character. Or the person is onstage, and the playwright has him or her make those same claims in several subtle or not-so-subtle ways, the audience will say, Oh yes, I understand their character now; now I understand that they are a character. But in fact you don’t understand anything. You just understand that they’re jabbering to try to convince you of something.
~ David Mamet

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