"I've gotta stop saying 'Women can't direct,'" tweeted Bret Easton Ellis after seeing Fish Tank. And yet here he is today, saying it again. You see, women lack a necessary implement (no, not a penis): "the male gaze."
Ellis is doing a week-long series at Movieline discussing his novels' screen adaptations. Up today: American Psycho, which was directed by Mary Harron. Asked by Kyle Buchanan about re-evaluating his stance on women directors after seeing Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank, Ellis said he'd also liked The Runaways.
"But for the most part I'm not totally convinced, [except for] Andrea Arnold, Kathryn Bigelow, Sofia Coppola…"
Not Mary Harron?
"Mary Harron to a degree. There's something about the medium of film itself that I think requires the male gaze."
What would that be?
"We're watching, and we're aroused by looking, whereas I don't think women respond that way to films, just because of how they're built."
You don't think they have an overt level of arousal?
"[They have one] that's not so stimulated by the visual. I think, to a degree, all the women I named aren't particularly visual directors. You could argue that Lost in Translation is beautiful, but is that [cinematographer Lance Acord]? I don't know. Regardless of the business aspect of things, is there a reason that there isn't a female Hitchcock or a female Scorsese or a female Spielberg? I don't know. I think it's a medium that really is built for the male gaze and for a male sensibility. I mean, the best art is made under not an indifference to, but a neutrality [toward] the kind of emotionalism that I think can be a trap for women directors. But I have to get over it, you're right, because so far this year, two of my favorite movies were made by women, Fish Tank and The Runaways. I've got to start rethinking that, although I have to say that a lot of the big studio movies I saw last year that were directed by women were far worse than the sh***y big-budget studio movies that were directed by men."
Which are we talking about?
"I mean, do I want to say this on the record? Did you see The Proposal? Anyway, whatever."
Where to start? The part where he sounds semi-apologetic about his misogyny and then reclaims it all over again to claim that The Proposal is worse than say, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen? How about the part where Ellis thinks a director is always responsible for the visual components of a movie, except for when that director is a woman like Sofia Coppola? Or that women don't have a visual sensibility because he thinks only men get one? Or when he says that all female directors are "emotionalist"?
It is tempting to go through one by one, and point out the absurdity of these claims. Then again, in addition to his printed and onscreen oeuvre, this is a man whose previous Tweets have included, "John Mayer in the March Playboy is one of the most interesting, funny and revelatory celebrity interviews I've ever read. He just gets it." In other words, his idea of revelatory is saying things that are deep-seated, prejudicial convention and protesting that everyone can't handle his edgy truth. So he really doesn't care if it's actually true or not.
For example, in the same interview, Ellis says, "I've always thought that the feminists got it totally wrong on [American Psycho. But I can't go there anymore." Presumably, that is because the feminist PC police has so exhausted him, he has to find new ways to articulate his disdain. I can't find a better way to articulate mine than Manohla on the same topic: Fuck him