The past couple of weeks, I’ve been re-watching movies from the 90s. These are the movies I grew up watching, and have a fondness for, and I thought it would be interesting to watch them as an adult. Half the time, I couldn’t understand the jokes, or the actors would speak too fast for me to understand. Two of these movies were Father of the Bride (1991) and The First Wives Club (1996). I feel the need to write about them, and urge everyone to watch them, because they’re that good.

First off, I never cease to be startled by the differences in movies within a decade. It feels like movies are so centered around being lavish and glamorous and stylish, that the plot somehow gets lost in between the Blackberrys and the iPhones and Birkins and bling. In The First Wives Club, Goldie Hawn’s character was an actress, but there were never gratuitous displays of her wealth, though it was implied, and referred to frequently. If this movie had been made in this current era, there would have been a half hour devoted to visual details of her wealth alone.

Secondly, and more importantly, I absolutely love the portrayal of movie in these films. In Father of the Bride, Diane Keaton is a stay-at-home mom with no angst or regrets about it. She’s calm, patient, wise, in-control, and just, well, spectacular. The daughter she raised never wanted to get married because there’s more to life, and when she does get engaged, she breaks up with her fiancé briefly because on their anniversary, he gives her a blender, which disturbs her because, what is he trying to suggest with such a home-maker type present? I don’t watch women’s interest movies because they’re shallow and superficial and make me hate my own sex, but I loved the character of Annie. When she tells her parents she’s engaged, she explains that her fiancé is encouraging and wants her to work and have a life. Her independence and strength of character is gently insinuated throughout the movie in such instances, putting her in sharp contrast with most of the female characters I see in movies these days.

(I also liked Father of the Bride because it’s about a dad freaking out over his little girl getting married, and when the montage played in the end, of him remembering his daughter from childhood to the moment she announced the engagement, I couldn’t help tearing up, being daddy’s princess myself but that’s another story)

Then there’s The First Wives Club. Here’s the story; 3 women are abandoned by their husbands in middle-age for younger women. All three women gave up their lives to cater to their husbands as a sacrifice. All three women plot revenge. Typical movie you’d seen these days, no? Ah hah! Here’s the twist; along the way, these women develop and blossom into the people they could never be, because they were too busy being wives. They end the movie with opening a women’s shelter in memory of a friend who committed suicide because her husband left her. One of the characters reconciles with her husband; Diane Keaton’s character, a doormat in the beginning of the movie, tells her husband to get lost when he comes back to her; and all three ladies end the movie dancing down the street singing a song of empowerment and female emancipation.

Admittedly, I am more a TV than film person. But honestly speaking, the “chick-flick” movies coming out these days all have the same clichéd storyline, more or less. Even when women are portrayed as career-women, they’re shown to be either chasing love, or they’re cold and heartless and their lives are empty without love. “Love”, of course, always means the man and the children and the white picket fence. Its one of the reasons I loved The Hunger Games, despite having read the book.

Comparatively, I find a more positive portrayal of women in television shows. There’s Once Upon A Time, for example, which was recommended to me as a “feminist show”. True Blood has independent minded women who know what they want. I’d like to list Spartacus here, but much as I love the show, the soft porn makes it difficult for me to count it in. And my personal favorite, Claire in Modern Family; she’s smart, creative, in-control, slightly loopy, all while being a housewife and stay-home mother. Let me add here, that I don’t like her because she’s a stay-at-home mother or housewife, I like her because she is very well capable of having an extremely successful career, and isn’t some stereotypical brainless airhead, and more importantly, she has a supportive husband. A new show recently popped up by Amy Sherman-Palladino, Bunheads, with a sassy, fast-talking ex-dancer who won my heart in the first season for asking her mother-in-law what was wrong in wearing shorts.

Another interesting trend is sexuality. When I see old TV shows from the 90s, even early 2000s, I see very few plunging necklines and over-emphasized bare legs. Although this is more visible in shows on the CW network, there’s no denying the disturbing increase of hyper-sexualized women. I was hesitant to praise Spartacus for this very reason, but its not the only show guilty of blatant objectification. When a male friend of mine found out I’d started watching Modern Family, he excitedly brought up Sofia Vergara. I wonder if he knows the name of any other cast member aside from the sexy Columbian constantly clad in revealing dresses and tops to highlight her chest.

Here’s what I’m looking forward to watching in my list of old movies; Double Jeopardy, the story of a woman jailed for killing her husband, and finds out he’s alive and framed her to start a life with her friend, Enough, a Jennifer Lopez film about an abused wife who escapes her husband, and The Virgin Suicides, of which I remember very little. Something tells me the last one will have me pretty depressed.


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