I have no intention of seeing the movie "Spring Breakers," having been traumatized at 15 or so by Korine's "Kids," and having no particular interest in watching nubile young women writhe around. So I wasn't going to say anything about Heather Long's review of it, until writing the post below and thinking more about how one should and should not criticize art that offends.
It's an odd review that walks this line between condemning young women who dress skimpily and act naughtily, and condemning male filmmakers-and-audiences who wish to see women doing that onscreen. There's another conversation that might be had about whether "rape culture" should be used to describe a movie which, by Long's own account, does not include any rape or attempted rape, but this is a conversation that needs to be had by people who've actually seen the film. (Does this highlight the potential seriousness of objectification and a line of continuity of male entitlement, or is it conflating ogling with assault? Kind of depends what "ogling" consists of.)
But this is what jumped out at me in Long's review has zilch to do with whether "Spring Breakers" is or is not the most terrible movie ever made:
What's particularly frustrating with a film like this in 2013 is that it comes on the heels of Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In and the push to get women to aim for the boardroom, not the boardwalk. And never mind the fact that thousands of college students are spending their spring break not on a beach, but volunteering with groups like Habitat for Humanity and the United Way, especially after Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. Empowered women aren't the stereotype. That's not the story Hollywood wants to portray.Thing 1: Why are boardroom and boardwalk mutually exclusive? Who goes on spring break if not well-off and socially-connected college students, and who, if not such students, has a realistic shot at growing up to be an executive? Or can young men frolic and succeed, but young women must choose? Thing 2: How exactly are we going to restrict cinema to depictions of college students volunteering for Habitat for Humanity? This is not only never going to happen, but why on earth should that happen? Thing 3: What do hurricanes have to do with any of this? Why not Syria? Why not overfishing? Why stop there?
Broader point: How does one talk about representations without demanding the impossible/undesirable and opening one's self up to accusations of pearl-clutching? I mean, I've watched "Modern Family" and thought, yikes, here's an ostensibly progressive show - racial diversity! homosexuality! - and both of the women on it are SAHMs. (Which is briefly addressed - I believe the blond one tried and failed to get a job, and is now refurbishing a house with the "househusband" member of the gay couple, who also has, or had, a job outside the home - I haven't really been paying attention.) No one work of art (and yeah, I'll include sitcoms) needs to be everything to all people, but how can you comment on the culture lagging behind reality, or on the culture promoting certain reactionary values, without asking for the PC and ridiculous, without denying Art its freedom to go in whichever direction the Artist sees fit?