Last week, Paulie asked me in comments on my post about Miss Representation, “Say I’m a stereotypical guy looking to watch/read something new. What stuff written by or starring women am I likely to enjoy?” Here, in no particular order, are 18 things that I think would appeal to men. I’ve omitted classics because I assume you know. All of these, for me, pass Ta-Nehisi’s test in that these are not things you should watch or read out of obligation, but because they’re very good. Got more suggestions? Toss ‘em in comments.
1. Prime Suspect: Helen Mirren is so universally understood to be an amazing actresses, a salty dame, and a foxy lady, that it’s difficult to think about a time when she wasn’t a phenomenon in the U.S. as well as in the U.K. But if you want to understand Mirren’s general awesomeness, it’s worth checking out her seven-season run as DCI Jane Tennison, during which Mirren puts away serial killers, works with immigrant communities, challenges institutional sexism, has affairs and an abortion, and acknowledges her drinking problem. In other words, she’s an actual person rather than a saint, a living illustration of the costs of breaking gender barriers in the working world. And she’s funny, too.
2. Anything Barbara Stanwyck: The woman was tougher than most of the guys she was on-screen with, even in a dress so tight she couldn’t run in it, even in heels that she broke strategically as a way to get back to a mark’s stateroom on a cruise ship. “I love him because he’s a kind of a guy that gets drunk on a glass of buttermilk,” she declared in Ball of Fire. “I need him like the axe needs the turkey,” she glowered about Henry Fonda in The Lady Eve. Stanwyck is the apotheosis of the idea women can be equal — even superior — to men with an entirely different toolkit. Read this profile and critical reassessment of her by David Denby. Then rent The Lady Eve and prepare to die laughing during the mirror scene.
3. Emma Thompson and Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility: Jane Austen is, indeed awesome, but Emma Thompson is the only woman who possibly could have improved upon her, turning Sense and Sensibility into a pitch-perfect examination of why women get emotionally attached too quickly, or don’t explain why they’re thinking — and how social pressure, particularly when it comes to class and money, leads men into bad decisions. The movie is sharp, very funny, and quite moving. Yeah, it’s Austen and it’s understated, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s boring.