Thoughtful Revolution

Really, Drew Barrymore? Really?

I’m sort of surprised that, amidst all the “Whip It” hype, this hasn’t gotten more publicity in the feminist blogosphere.  From a rather fawning piece in the Washington Post:

And when asked if the current prevalence of buzzed-about films by female directors — from Jane Campion’s “Bright Star” to Lone Scherfig’s “An Education” — is evidence that more women can successfully break through in Hollywood, [Barrymore] insists that gender is no longer a barrier to cinematic success.

“I just call bull[expletive] on the whole female chip on the shoulder: ‘We’re repressed and men have all the power,’ ” she says. “Like, get over it. Make it happen for yourself, stop complaining, and P.S.? That chip on your shoulder is super unsexy. Like, you want something? Make it happen. Work hard.”

Barrymore continues at great length about how women should feel empowered to do anything with their careers, a message she’s savvy enough to note is also conveyed in “Whip It.” She is at turns candid (“I never felt like, oh, I’m the young girl that’s not going to get taken seriously. I was just astonished and grateful when I was.”) and, always, intense.

This quotation may not be indicative of Drew Barrymore’s attitudes — honestly, I find it more emblematic of the Post’s — but it’s frustrating nonetheless.  This month’s relative windfall of female-directed movies (three or four among 30- or 40-something films) is more a statistical anomaly than an accurate representation of Hollywood output.  And to deploy it as evidence for a current “post-feminist” era is idiotic and willfully blind — almost as idiotic and willfully blind as deploying one’s life experience as a Barrymore.

Drew Barrymore may not have had the happiest childhood.  Certainly, her preteen years were rife with horrific experiences (experiences, I might add, that are all too common for young women in Hollywood, and challenges laden in every possible way with misogyny; that’s another post), but there is no escaping the fact that she grew up in a financially privileged environment, encased in the Hollywood bubble and gifted with a famous name.  She had access to expensive rehab clinics, luxurious trappings, and, even by the age of 11 months, career opportunities that would be off-limits to much of the world.  When she did stage her remarkable comeback (also laden with misogyny; see also, flashing David Letterman for his “birthday present”), it was with all of the resources that money could buy.  And if she needed an abortion, or a new job, or medical care, she would have no trouble at all obtaining it.  But to take her own extraordinarily uncommon experience and project it onto all women, to chastise them for the “chips on their shoulder” when they struggle for access to opportunities she has never been without — that’s not just insensitive, that’s downright ridiculous.  Of course, Drew Barrymore has been through a great deal, and I don’t want to downplay or delegitimize her suffering; it just strikes me as egocentric that she should completely write off legitimate grievances as “super unsexy” simply because she herself has never been burdened by them.  It’s all weirdly reminiscent of The Secret, another infamous piece of work that took a bourgeois, highly egotistical solution (the “power of positive thinking”) and elevated it over more practical, tangible solutions in situations completely outside of the author’s range of experience.

And P.S., Ms. Barrymore: I only have 16 years of experience with capitalism, but I do know one thing for sure — it’s never a good idea to alienate your product’s niche demographic.  And the grounded, progressive, feminist, “chip-on-the-shoulder,” “super unsexy” roller derby-lovers who have made “Whip It” possible may not be too happy with you.  This one sure isn’t.


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  1. * EpipieraDef says:

    Intresting, this was actually a very great read! thanks

    [url=]Watch Movies Online Now[/url]

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 9 months ago
  2. * Meg says:

    Err, if she was “astonished” when she was taken seriously, then obviously her expectation was that she wasn’t going to be. I used to really love Drew Barrymore when I was younger, but I kept growing up and she didn’t. This and her faux-lesbian kiss with Ellen Page* killed any bit of fan-love I had left for her.

    * What’s the point of putting something like that in a women’s mag anyway? There’s no male readers to titillate, actual lesbians are probably either offended or bored to death by it, and it has no shock value anymore. A few years ago it might have been interesting in a trashy sort of way, but now it’s just trite and lazy.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 9 months ago

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