Vanity: a Male Privilege, a Female Sin


I was very excited to watch Unbroken. To see Miyavi in a major American film was incredible, and on top of it the story was not only based on truth but seemed an incredible piece of history. It had a super high rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and that was enough for me. When it was over, however, I was sad to say I didn't like it.

It was the first film directed by Angelina Jolie-Pitt I'd seen, and I was bored stiff by it. I kept wondering where's Phil?! the best friend (played by my favourite red-head Domhnall Gleeson) who just disappeared from the story. That, amongst other feelings of boredom and disappointment in the dialogue, made me less than keen on Jolie-Pitt's directing chops.

This aversion was, perhaps, why I steered clear of By The Sea. Then, I read a critique of the negative reviews she's been getting. She. Sure, the film too, but mostly Jolie-Pitt herself. Female artists aren't given the privilege of exploring themselves without it being considered vain. That a woman might want to write, direct, and star in her own project is self-induldgent at best. Men can afford to try this out - they have the privilege, and not only that, they also have the privilege of fucking it up. They may not be hired again as a director, but their very personality is not called into question, is not placed under the microscope in the same way. Women do not have the privilege to exercise vanity.

There is all this commentary about the lack of women in the film industry - and yet, when women want to explore roles that don't readily exist by creating them, they are given grief for it. I'm not excusing the film for sucking. I have not seen By The Sea but the reviews of it I did read did not make me want to. And, yes, if By The Sea is as bad as everyone says it is, by all means critique it. Give it negative press - but don't make the review of the film a review of Jolie-Pitt. She is lucky that, as a powerhouse woman in the industry, she has the ability to make and star in these kinds of films. Sure, they may be bad, but that doesn't mean more women written-directed-acted films shouldn't be made, and seeing her slammed for creating a vanity project is surely going to put off more women from joining in. The media seems to be saying "this is about Angelina's narcissism" as opposed to "Oh yeah... Angelina, wow that film was bad." When we are personally attacked, and described as vain, how can anyone expect other women to take a chance?

She may be a bad director, but she is opening a door that still remains shut to women. We need more women of colour and transwomen to write, act, and direct films about their lives, about their stories. We may fail a million times, but those efforts are all part of a larger context - a context that is sorely lacking in these stories. A bad Angelina Jolie-Pitt film may inspire the next woman Orson Welles to break the mould.