On Halloween, Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Section, page 1, had the following sentences, “A spate of supernatural series that has the TV industry spellbound simply fulfills need for strong female characters.” That caption to the picture read, “Julia Ormond’s character projects authority and power while protecting her daughters in Lifetimes ‘Witches of Eastwick.'” The article is further aglow about powerful women characters: “Witches, Crones, Harpies, Furies and Amazons.”


Since Harry Potter began, the Milleniums and the IC [Internet-Cloud] generations have gone gaga over supernatural figures, and heroes and cartoon characters found in comic books. That’s real life. It’s the reason why many twenty-somethings are living at home after college. They’re deep in student debt, have financial obligations and no income. They have the next sequel of Batman, Ironman, Superman and Spider Man to save them from evil forces, and everyone will live happily ever after in a world of soft goodness and complete understanding. Miracles happen. The Second Coming of who or what is upon us.

Nowadays there are women wanting to get ahead, whether they are at the hairdresser, watching DVDs in their parents’ TV room, following football and basketball games, at work in a job for which they were overqualified, or she is studying mathematics to understand economic theories.  According to current culture and society, her heroes are witches, crones, harpies, furies, Amazons, as well as the usual vamps, vampires and vixens.  It’s a great time to be a man because every man knows that’s what women are. Women must use supernatural, extraterritorial, overarching, spiritual communion, and so on to make her way in the world: Be a she-women to overcome the he-men. Be a wedge to our maneuver a hunk. Be a ball buster in a testical world. Huba-huba, buba-baby.

Monica Lewinsky tried that with Bill Clinton, and I’m not sure where it left her as a human being. We are centered on human beings, not supernatural beasts with male or female genitalia, both or none. What do the grunting-grubbing producers in Hollywood say? Getting and maintaining status for women is not in the paycheck. It is in the message. When a female superhero acts, she is open and obvious. Women do not have to coo, coax, wile or suggest. That’s passé, from the Fifties. Human beings have evolved beyond implications and inferences. Be upfront. Appear naked on the Internet! Show the world the woman you are!

When a woman has quiet time with husband or boyfriend, and things need saying but you don’t want an argument: You want his thoughts and hopes about you and the relationship, devotion and warmth – signs from him that he spends as much time as you have given to him and the relationship. It has always been a problem of communication – suggestion, implication, cajoling, teasing – but NOT today. No one expects subtlety. Be Xena instead, exerting authority, exercising power, exorcising demons and emasculating…

Are the Mistress of the Universe movies today better than films about human relations from the Fifties? Consider Crime of Passion, Barbara Stanwyck, Sterling Hayden, Raymond Burr. Stanwyck is a successful journalist in San Francisco with an Ask Abby column. She meets Hayden, Lieutenant LAPD on a murder case in Frisco. She beats him to the suspect. He proposes, and she leaves her career to become wife in LA. 

Although well-thought of and promising, Hayden is willing to wait for promotion. Being a housewife Stanwyck is bored. At a party she wants to join the conversation of the men where the conversation is about the police department. But she is relegated to the officers’ wives talking about casseroles. Stanwyck uses her abilities to move him high in the department. She sleeps with his superior, Burr, and because Burr refuses the promotion to an open position, she kills Burr. Hayden learns is wife killed Burr and walks her to booking in a poignant final scene.

Crime of Passion is a movie showing human issues, women living demeaning lives and never using their abilities. Today Stanwyck’s part would be held by a supernatural woman or a psychologically damaged woman to show her fallibilities and provide reasons for her actions. Stanwyck would never take the modern part especially if she had to cast a spell. That act and that bit of acting would diminish Stanwyck as a human being and as a woman. Stanwyck would take roles like Crime of Passion because she had to meet life as it came to her character and work through the problems.

For today’s films – fantasy, wonderment, fairy tales, comic book flicks – I suspect actresses capable to playing human beings like Barbara Stanwyck and Bette Davis need not apply.


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