Returning (albeit somewhat lazily) to our recurring theme of culture crit: Alternet offers an unusually acute feminist critique of the “crazy lady” theme in popular film. Julianne Escobedo Shepherd compares the mythology of female madness — as seen through the lens of male fantasy and wishful thinking — and contrasts it with actuarial statistics on violence and madness in the real world.
Last week, Newsweek’s Ramin Setoodeh wrote a piece exploring the phenomenon of the insane woman on celluloid, and how American society not only seems to thirst for such depictions but rewards them with box office paychecks and critical accolades. His unspoken conclusion, which he craftily writes around: it’s a one-two combo of schadenfreude and titillation. “In most crazy-chick flicks,” Setoodeh writes, “the female protagonist doesn’t just lose her mind; she loses her clothes. And sometimes she loses her sexual orientation as well.”
He interviewed several actresses who’ve recently portrayed crazy women, including Black Swan’s Mila Kunis — whose own brand of insane, propped up against Portman’s paranoia, is devious manipulation — and Leighton Meester, who portrays a stalker college student in the upcoming film The Roommate. Setoodeh points out the sexism and general ookiness of audiences’ attraction to this type of character, quoting a 26-year-old videogame designer who says, “I can’t think of a crazy girl who isn’t hot.” But he never gets past the basic concepts that seem to drive the psychology behind such desire. Sexist portrayals of women as dangerous and unhinged are statistically inaccurate. Men are three times more likely to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorders, men are more likely to be stalkers, and men are up to 10 times more likely to commit violent crime. In a kind of mass-gaslighting, the crazy-chick film meme is simply untrue.