In 2000, just a few hours past the dawn of the new millennium, American culture stood on a cusp, though it did not know it.
The late 90’s saw a wave of postmodern feminism (yes, this is going to be one of THOSE posts) that I look back on with nostalgia. We had Buffy. We had Scully. We had Tank Girl. We had L7 and Poe, Veruca Salt and other snarly girl bands.
We had females DOING things, speaking their minds, making mistakes, trying and failing; granted, it wasn’t perfect, but it was stumbling, staggering, and shuffling towards that equality that feminists of the previous 100 years had dreamed of.
Charlie’s Angels was an exponent of that time, almost more so than the subsequent Kill Bill movies, and here’s why:
Charlie’s Angels, for all the glitter nail polish, high heels, explosions, and bouncing boobs, acknowledged the ridiculousness of the action genre by allowing women to take part in it the same way that men did. Plain and simple, it showed that women could be as witless in movies as their male counterparts.
For example: take any action movie that preceded it, and look at the cliches. The bad guys are terrible shots, go down with one punch, may be blown up but are never hurt in a way that humanizes them (ie broken limbs, etc.), attack one at a time, posture, but are less competent than your average frycook.
The good guys never miss, can do ridiculous stunts, have 12-foot vertical leaps, can punch through concrete, and have encyclopedic knowledge of Earth and all its contents. Most importantly, they never look bad: with one exception (played for laughs) their hair and makeup is always perfect. Just like in the boys’ movies, where the protagonist can be shot at, beaten up, fall out of a helicopter into a volcano, fight their way through a herd of buffalo and look elegantly rumpled, so too the girls of Charlie’s Angels are always sleek and poised. After a couple kung fu go-rounds with the baddies, the most disheveled they get is that ‘just been fucked’ look.
And really–for a tom boy girlified enough to like the accoutrements of beauty and fashion, what better movie is there than Charlie’s Angels? The main characters are capable, intelligent, and violent when necessary. It’s just plain awesome.
Of course, for anyone even marginally aware, the last decade has seen a bizarre return to 1955’s gender roles. Commercials would have you believe that women need men to do math and open the pickle jar, and that men are barely civilized savages who only wear pants and use utensils if women are around to nag them into it. Plain and simple, it’s bullshit.
I know women who are so slovenly in their household affairs you’d consider calling the health department, and men so neat and tidy (gay AND straight) you could perform brain surgery anywhere in their home without fear of contagion. I know women with no social skills, men afraid of snakes, women who lift weights, men who wax, women who hate children, and men who daydream about changing that first diaper. When people begin sentences with ‘Well, girls are naturally. . .’ or ‘Little boys always. . .’ my hackles begin to raise and a host of anecdotal evidence lines up for reference in my mind.
Unless you are speaking about biology, gender doesn’t matter a whole lot to the individual; but it matters to the masses, and this is where enculturation comes in. Think of the boys’ and girls’ toy aisles in the store: teaching males to be ‘boys’ and females to be ‘girls’ begins at a very young age, even before children are mobile. Hell, it practically begins in the womb, with people showering pink and blue gifts on people.
But I digress. I was talking about how much fun Charlie’s Angels is.
Because I like watching movies where women DO things rather than ARE things. The Angels, although directed by the ever-unseen Charlie, are more proactive in the investigation, following threads and formulating theories (however convoluted they might be) to the final showdown with the bad guy.
The other thrill that Charlie’s Angels presented the world was Crispin Glover’s return to mainstream cinema.
I was sitting in the theater, agonizing over why the Creepy Thin Man was so familiar, when my friend leaned over and informed me that it was none other than George McFly, from Back to the Future.
“But that’s impossible,” I thought. “That movie came out like 20 years ago and he looks about 25!”
He was about 35, actually. Which, since I am not too far away from that myself, doesn’t seem that huge a difference. But still. A well-kept 35, to be sure.
Man, I had a crush on him for like 2 years after that.
Anyhoodle, Charlie’s Angels was followed by the slightly less fun Full Throttle, which was only lessened by the enormous expectation set up by the first fun-filled film.
I think the most fun thing about Charlie’s Angels is the simple camaraderie of the 3 lead actresses. No backbiting, no veiled criticisms of each other, no snark; literally just 3 people who get along very well but for a few quirks and function as a well-oiled machine.
There just aren’t enough high-level movies where women respect each other and get along. For Christ’s sake, we comprise HALF the world population, getting along with each other and learning not to compete for some dude’s attention shouldn’t be this hard. For reals.