Following a Writer: Manohla Dargis

Once again at The Times, I took to the arts sections and found an article listing what the writer claimed were the best films of 2017. Aside from being impressed with myself for actually having seen a few of them for a change, I found the writer, Manohla Dargis’ analysis and justifications for her choices convincing, so I decided to look into what else she has written for The Times. From her bio, I learned that she grew up a young film fanatic in New York and studied film at New York University before going on to write critically about film for The Voice, and now for The Times as the co-chief film critic since 2004. Looking over her canon of articles, most are reviews of movies, both blockbuster hits like Justice League to art house films like The Florida Project, but there were also a few non-review based articles exploring the culture of Hollywood and the film industry.

The two articles I read on this subject were titled “2017 Was a Year of Reckoning in Hollywood. Will 2018 Be the Year of Change?” and “Louis C.K. and Hollywood’s Canon of Creeps” (I have once again stumbled into talking about this, but let’s call it consistency of content and leave it at that). In both articles, Dargis views Hollywood through the feminist lens, while also acknowledging the seeming contradictions to the industry’s attitude toward women. In the “Yeah or Reckoning” article, she points out how while the industry did much to hold women back it also propelled some into superstardom, with the women of early Hollywood being a massive part of what popularized the industry and contributed to it becoming a defining cultural element of the 20th century – of course, Dargis also sees this relationship as exploitative of women on part of the male dominated Hollywood machine that used women to this end. This is where Dargis faces a contradiction of values, on the one end being repulsed by the clear sexism that Hollywood has historically practiced but on the other hand genuinely loving the art of film as a whole, and, at least up until today, you could not have one without the other. Dargis faces this dilemma more directly in the “Canon of Creeps” article where she states that it can be a challenge to love cinema as a woman when cinema “doesn’t love [you] back.” She makes several introspective observations – much of it based around an analysis of C.K.’s movie I Love You, Daddy which was never released, but offered a peculiar acknowledgement for Hollywood misogyny while also participating in it – and leaves off with the hope that things can change for the industry she cannot help but love.

Her position is certainly a tough one, having to reconcile her values with her appreciation for an art that goes against them, but I think for that very reason she is the kind of writer that Hollywood needs right now. If more people with genuine love for film and a desire to see it move past this ugly stage in it’s history are a part of the dialogue, then I believe there is a genuine chance for change.

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