Girls on Film
Six films from the 80’s that taught me about being a woman
The Last Unicorn, 1982
There were two equally compelling messages going on here: ugliness won’t save you, but then again neither will beauty. Molly Grue, medieval wench and rat-soup maker, feels washed up and has the salty attitude to prove it. When a magician transforms the world’s last surviving unicorn into a beautiful blonde woman, Molly becomes her protector. Because get this: the unicorn actually feels more vulnerable as a human female than she did as a mythical being! So, to recap: Molly Grue, sad tired wench past her prime — miserable. Last unicorn transformed into breathtakingly beautiful woman: also miserable. Sigh.
I was genuinely upset when Madison the mermaid took a little me-time to unfurl her fish tail, only to be rudely interrupted by her codependent lover. Because the thing is, sometimes women need to be alone. If you lock yourself in the bathroom and run the tub, you should be able to relax without worrying that Tom Hanks is going to bang down the door, despite the fact that you said you were ok!
“Men should be like Kleenex: soft, strong and disposable.” With this line, Madeline Kahn’s Mrs. White introduced me to the idea of female sexual power. Sure, I was nine, but something about it already made perfect sense to me. Despite my mother’s best efforts to find exclusively gender-neutral, turtleneck-clad entertainment for me, I already understood that men made most of the decisions about sex and love, so the notion of a woman who disposed of men was exciting. As a bonus, her bobbed hair and flat affect were utterly enchanting.
Peggy Sue Got Married, 1986
Middle-aged Kathleen Turner time-travels back to high school and addresses big regrets, but ultimately decides to marry the same dope she got stuck with the first time around. Why? I never quite understood. Sure, she did it because she loved her kids, and remember how people got erased in Back to the Future when Marty fucked with the “space-time continuum”? Understandable. But it seemed like the beatnik poet was so much better for her! Ultimately, I learned one very important thing: just because a dork gets you pregnant doesn’t mean you should marry him.
Baby Boom, 1987
Baby Boom marked the start of my New York City career-gal fantasies. I pictured myself hustling down Fifth Avenue in a deftly tailored wool suit and blouse with a bow at the neck, leather purse and newspaper tucked under my arm, rushing off somewhere terribly important. Diane Keaton’s character was like no one I knew, but I adored her pushiness, her tenderness, and her bumbling quest for self-knowledge. As the big question looms — Can she have it all: a successful career, a baby, and the love of a small-town veterinarian?! — Baby Boom takes a sharp turn away from, then back toward second-wave feminist ideologies. Ultimately, of course, the answer is yes.
Dangerous Liaisons, 1988
Truthfully, I’m still figuring out the lessons from this one. Here’s what I know I did take away: wounded women are fucking scary, and sex can be a weapon. I’m not exactly sure what made Glenn Close’s character such a monster (other than, you know, the crushing weight of sexism in eighteenth century France), but even as a teenager I was awestruck by her manipulation of everyone within reach. And in retrospect, maybe it’s no surprise that her falseness and bloodthirsty ambition were so relatable from a suburban high school vantage point. As a bonus, Uma Thurman taught me something else entirely in the role of the virgin ingénue: creeps can be fun in bed (especially if they’re John Malkovich).
Webuyyourkids is Sonny Day & Biddy Maroney. Their work is a conversation between two individuals played out in colour, shape, texture and drawing from their shared influences — comic books, skateboarding, music and film.
The 5th All About Women Festival will take place at Sydney Opera House,
5 March 2017. For more information visit the website.