Tom Sutcliffe: What a Carrie on: will we ever agree?

Share
Related Topics

Another week, another cinematic misogyny row. Last week the silt was stirred up – in a rather intriguing way – by Sex and the City 2, a franchise extension which seemed to unleash an informal contest amongst largely male critics to come up with the most scathing dismissal. I think Philip French probably took gold with his, perhaps debatable, suggestion that "most reasonable people would probably prefer to be stoned to death in Riyadh than see this film a second time". But it wasn't just men who hated the movie. Women writers also weighed in, to lament the way that the characters they loved had been reduced to air-headed clothes-horses capable of nothing more creative than swiping a credit card. The charge of misogyny was aimed squarely at the film itself, with some ingenious bloggers introducing an extra triangulation, pointing out that the writers of series and film are gay, and that this might have fed into less than enlightened views about what women really care about.

Then the charge of misogyny bounced back – with at least two women columnists complaining that attacks on Sex and the City 2 might conceal an unconscious misogyny themselves. Weren't women just as entitled as men to escapist fantasy? And were male critics defending women by dismissing the film as trivialising trash or simply being snotty about an exclusively female pleasure? If you can enjoy the stereotyped machismo of The Bourne Identity, they argued, surely we can relax to Carrie squealing over a pair of Manolos.

This week's misogyny row is more straightforward and is centred on Michael Winterbottom's film The Killer Inside Me, from a grim Jim Thompson novel about a sociopathic sheriff which has very conspicuously not been watered down for the screen. Again the reactions to the film are broadly divided along gender lines (though not exclusively). Female critics and viewers have questioned the morality of a story in which the rape and murder of two women is depicted with such unblinking and detailed candour, while some male critics have praised the unblinkingness.

And it's easy to see why the charge of misogyny might have come up – since both of the killer's victims seem to collude, or to forgive the violence visited upon them. There's an assault that turns into passionate love-making – that most dangerous of fantasies – and there are overtones of sado-masochism in both relations, with the male character administering the pain and the female characters absorbing it. There is surely a difference, though, between a film that women don't like and a film that doesn't like women.

The most controversial scene in The Killer Inside Me – the effortful and horribly extended sequence in which the sheriff sets out to beat his lover to death – is appalling. Indeed it's hard to imagine anyone but a sociopath liking it.

But then what would you want violence against a woman to look like? An exercise in style? A master-class in film editing? I can't really judge whether this scene was either myself, because I could only bear to watch about half of it. But in that it seemed to me to properly register the horror of the event, and the depravity of the character perpetrating the crime.

Reading some reactions to this scene I couldn't help but feel that Winterbottom had fallen victim to an ancient confusion which often crops up when the misogyny accusation is made – a failure to distinguish between representation and approval. Martin Amis suffered from something similar when he wrote Money – unquestionably a depiction of a misogynist mind-set, but hardly the celebration of that prejudice as quite a few female readers interpreted it. Indeed, one wonders whether a kind of misandry powers some of these accusations – with their unstated implication that no man can address the cruelty of male violence without secretly endorsing it. Or, even worse, that any man who watches a film about such a subject will covertly subscribe to the worst instincts in it.

I won't pretend that The Killer Inside Me presents an uncomplicated case. It's a potent, disturbing film which leaves you wondering what, exactly, your discomfort has been for. You might reasonably make a case that it does nothing socially constructive with the revulsion it generates – or even that it puts into the world images that depraved men might actually enjoy.

But if a misogynist was looking for a good night out – one that reinforced his contempt for women rather than presented it as a kind of illness – I think I'd recommend Sex and the City 2.

Look and don't touch, please

Tate Modern has been fairly enterprising about exploiting new technology – producing podcasts and iPhone downloads relating to its collection. I'm not entirely sure about its latest effort, though – an app called Tate Trumps which uses the gallery as the raw material for a children's game. You can choose one of three modes. "Battle" invites you to reflect on the question, "If the artworks came to life, which ones would be good in a fight?" Players select their champions and meet up to discover whether Lichtenstein's Whaam!, for example, would defeat Epstein's Rock Drill in a one-on-one bout. Alternatively, "Mood" hunts for works which exemplify exhilaration, menace or absurdity. (Rodin's The Kiss scores seven for exhilaration and two for menace.) It is, I take it, aimed at the younger gallery-goer and so one isn't really allowed to be sniffy. But if you find that your next visit is interrupted by stampeding children stabbing at an iPod Touch, I think a quiet tut would be forgivable.

It's not a revival if it never died

What exactly is the rule for distinguishing a new production from a "revival"? You wouldn't use the latter term to describe the production of All My Sons which has just opened in London because, I take it, there's no sense that the play needs a theatrical kiss of life. I don't suppose it has been in continuous theatrical production since it was written, but taking amateur productions into account, it's entirely possible that it's been on more than it's been off. On the other hand, the Donmar's new production of Simon Gray's The Late Middle Classes is unquestionably a revival – since the play was clearly aimed at a West End transfer when it was first produced in 1999 and never made it. I guess a lot of people would have assumed it was six feet under until David Leveaux dug it up, pounded on its chest and got it upright (and, by most accounts, in vigorous health). Now that it has been produced again, though, how soon does the next outing have to be in order for it to count as simply a new production?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

QA/BA - Agile

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently seekin...

PPA Supply Teachers

£121 - £142 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Early Years, KS1 & 2 Prima...

Primary Supply Teacher

£121 - £142 per annum: Randstad Education Luton: Early Years, KS1 & 2 Prim...

Primary Supply Teacher

£121 - £142 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Primary supply teacher Hertford...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Ebola virus in the US: How did the disease ever spread this far?

Sophie Harman
 

The most common question I am asked is 'How do I become a YouTuber?' This is my reply

Jim Chapman
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?