I am going to deviate from my usual shtick here to write about something that would have been a cumbersome heavy twitter post that maybe my followers weren’t up for. But in blog form, it’s only a light snack.
Due to my usual insomnia, I had the pleasure of a late night viewing of Tell It To The Judge (1949) starring Rosalind Russell. Russell stars as the strong willed sassy career woman who’s up for a federal judge appointment. The only hold up, is her high profiled, crazy, divorce. Very well dressed, she eloquently and confidently takes the floor of the hearing to state her case. She is a testament to career women everywhere.
The only problem, is that this strong sophisticated woman is manhandled no less than 5-7 times in the film. One time in particular, her jealous husband grabs her wrists and forcibly sits her down, so firmly, that she spends the next few lines of banter rubbing them in mock pain. This comes after being pushed out of the way by the side of her neck only moments before. Her only retaliations to such treatment were eye rolls and “above it all” sarcasm.
In addition to the domestic violence, she is forced to defend herself against an attempted date rape by a suitor who thinks it’s okay to take what he wants because she has been “making a fool” of him all day. To deal with all of this harassment, she knocks her husband out with sleeping pills and hits the suitor over the head with a gavel to “out smart” them. After dusting her hands off, she exits the scene with a clever “Good night, boys”.
The bulk of the manhandling took place as a show of how much her husband loved her. Being a screwball comedy, the violence and bad behavior were made romantic and funny.
I loved the film because I will watch anything that she is in, but what an insidious idea it is to romanticize being possessed by a loving, strong, but fair and handsome captor. It’s like Stockholm syndrome, isn’t it?
My only reaction to these things was to eye roll for myself, before worrying about all the impressionable youth that saw these types of movies and then became the generations that raised our parents etc.. At one point, I worried about the brain washing that I myself was subject to by seeing a beautiful smart woman so willingly allowing herself to be tossed around without addressing the issue head on. Only once, she warned, “You wouldn’t dare hit me.” I guess we can presume that is her breaking point.
It was a reminder that this was blatantly ingrained in the popular culture back then, so no one batted an eye. So, what manhandling must we be seeing now and shrugging it off? What are little boys and girls accidentally absorbing and accepting because we assume that they know better.
I still love watching these movies and it did ultimately deliver the gooey feels of romance. But I think it’s a good reminder to view the media in our modern culture with a more mindful and critical eye. I’m not trying to lobby to dispose of questionable past works.
I’m saying that maybe we can just add the good message through discussion-right after the bad.