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Film: are women extinct?

October 11, 2015

Last night I went to the cinema. It’s not that often that I frequent a multiplex, but there I was because I


Mother Nature steals the show

wanted to see Everest as it’s written by two of my favourite screenwriters, Simon Beaufoy and William Nicholson, and I do love a good disaster movie.

However, even before the film started it became apparent that another disaster was unfolding: Women appear to be heading for extinction.

First up was a trailer for the Lance Armstrong biopic. Not a single woman to be sighted in that at all. Not one. Like, wasn’t he married to Sheryl Crowe who was way more famous than he was before all the bad shit came out?

Then there was Quentin Tarantino’s new film which seems to feature one woman to a ratio of eight men. And then, of course Spectre. A short trailer for this, which featured Lea Seydeux in a nice dress for about one second, and then lots of men doing man things.

Almost laughably, what followed all this testosterone-filled crap was a trailer for the Royal Exchange Live performance of Hamlet with Maxine Peake in the lead role, which is, of course, the role loads of male actors want to play.

And then Everest. It is, overall, a pretty great movie. The multiplex’s massive screen was perfect for those gorgeous shots of Nepal, demonstrating the sheer giganticness awesomeness of Everest, and inducing gut-wrenching vertigo as and when required.

But it was pretty galling to see two fabulous actresses, arguably both more famous than the main ensemble of men (Jake Gyllenhaal aside) playing bit parts. Keira Knightly plays expedition leader, Rob Hall’s pregnant wife, Jan Arnold. She has a few scenes in which she’s mostly in bed, looking tearful. A quick Wikipedia search tells me that Jan Arnold was actually a medical doctor and an experienced mountain climber who had summited Everest with her husband in the past. Backstory, but couldn’t they have at least done something to show that she wasn’t just a stereotypically pregnant woman, waiting for her daring, gallant husband to return?

Then there’s the legend that is Robin Wright who is consigned to an even more minor role, another wife waiting at home with the kids.

What was perhaps worse though was that one of the climbers who (spoiler alert) dies was actually a woman: Yaksuko Namba. She was one of the most experienced clients on the trek, having climbed six of the Seven Summits previously. But the actress playing Yaksuko, Naoko Mori is given one line. Not just a woman, but Japanese too, so the only non-white climber aside from the sherpas, to boot, and she was given ONE LINE.

I suppose though, the greatest character in the film was female, though not human. Mother Nature kicks serious ass in Everest. But if I needed a reminder that we should all try to write more women into the picture, last night was it.

Footnote: How hot is Jake Gyllenhaal right now? Apart from the mountain, he was the best thing in this film and so, so good in Nightcrawler which is utterly brilliant if you’ve not seen it.

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