When Stereotyping Is Invisible

I once read an article about manipulation. Although the subject was not specifically sexual manipulation or indeed anything to do with gender, the article was nevertheless illustrated with a cartoon showing a male puppeteer and female marionette. It had to be that way, for if the figures had been the other way around, there would have been a storm of protest against “stereotyping”. But a male puppeteer and a female marionette – no one would dream of objecting or would be listened to if they did.

Whenever a film has a major female character who is unsympathetic, the feminists are up in arms about “stereotyping”, “misogyny” and “backlash”. Funnily enough, when films are full to the brim and slopping over with unsympathetic male characters – as most of them are – no one seems to care. Certainly no one complains about stereotyping of men as brainless brutes, violent gangsters and slimy lawyers, and no one invokes these characters in evidence of the permeation of society by misandry. This may be because everyone knows both that such people really exist and are therefore fair game for portrayal in art, but also that they do not exhaust the possibilities; this is why one of the basic plots is, always has been and always will be “the good guys versus the bad guys”. Ordinary sensible people also know that there are good gals and bad gals; in order to convince yourself that there are no such thing as bad gals, you need a certain kind of university degree. This functions as a magic stick: bad women in a movie are then misogyny, while bad men in a movie are social realism.

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