Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Do It Like a Dude

Imagine a film about a powerful, ball-busting female CEO of a major auto company. She speaks with an attractive male subordinate with a new marketing idea and invites him over to her place for a 7:30 dinner to discuss it further. He comes over, eager to talk business, but she quickly makes it clear that she's intent on getting down to business of another kind. She tosses a pillow on a nearby chaise and seductively lies down on it. Then a bottle of vodka is brought in for the two of them to share. Cut to the next morning where the guy is yawning from exhaustion at his desk.

Doesn't sound so scandalous, does it? Now imagine this film is from 1933 and there is absolutely no attempt at not insinuating that they fucked. That's the magic of the Pre-Code films, an era of filmmaking where Norma Shearer could openly tell her soon-to-be ex-husband that he's only the man she won't be fucking. The film I'm talking about is Michael Curtiz's aptly titled Female starring Ruth Chatterton as the aforementioned female CEO. Female is hardly a deep movie and it does wuss out at the end with its negative message about how women don't belong in the boardroom, but it is a damn good time. Besides its sexual explicitness, I love the way Female represents its ball-busting CEO in the first three-quarters of the film. She may be a female, but she's also throwing it in the face of all her male subordinates that, yes, she can play the same game men normally do. She didn't need to act like a male to get ahead in her company. Now that she is at the top, she's taking full advantage of the power. Chatterton's character, although entirely unrealistic in the business world, is a businesswoman icon. I've never had aspirations to become a CEO of a company but after Female, I wanted to get my power bitch shoulder pads, howl at the Board of Directors like I'm Joan Crawford, back from my first rodeo, and work my way up the corporate ladder so I can be as fabulous as Chatterton here. She's an atypical role model, that's for sure, yet she manages to best encapsulate the female businesswoman in film until Faye Dunaway in Network. A-

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