So let’s say you’re a film critic. Let’s say you’re a film critic at a widely distributed publication! That happens to be located in New York, which means that you get to see a LOT of movies, because not only does New York allow you access to all the big blockbusters, but the independent and foreign films actually play there as well, and your publication would actually like you to review them. This seems to me to suggest that you would be exposed to a higher number of thoughtful accounts of experiences that are Not Your Own than the average American male living in, say, the Midwest. This seems to me to suggest that you ought to be capable of a higher level of commentary on a movie about young women than the following:
It’s Fanning’s movie: You can taste the ex–child actor’s relish for playing “jailbait.” But can she be ogled in good conscience? The taste is sweet and sour.
Now, I haven’t seen this movie. But I mean, look. I get that this is a movie in which two young starlets are, among other things, engaging in same-sex making out and possibly sex scenes. I also get that for no reason at all straight men the world over appear to think means they’re doing it so that men in the audience can be titillated as opposed to because, you know, that it’s independently enjoyable for young women THEMSELVES independent of the effect on horny men in movie theatres. I also get, and think very firmly, that young women, even 15 and 16-year-olds, are sexual beings, and that insisting that any portrayal of young women in the media be stripped of all sexual content is not only unrealistic, it is infantilizing.
HOWEVER. Dakota Fanning, as of this very moment, just barely turned sixteen years old. Which means that David Edelstein is asking that we put ourselves in his shoes and ask if it’s totally okay for him, the 40-to-50-something dude in the audience, to be aroused by a fifteen year old girl. Because that is what he means, by “ogling.” And while I could maybe understand taking the tack, in the review, that the movie attempts to engage an audience of 40-to-50-something dudes with the thorny question of whether that sort of thing is appropriate or okay, that’s not his point here. He’s evaluating her performance in terms of whether or not he’s attracted to her body, tee-hee, which is a sweet and sour feeling for him! How very sensitive he is, you guys!
It’s that maneuver that is the massive male-privilege-fail of this sort of thing – the presumption that if the movie is saying she’s sexually attractive and she’s fifteen, that that is an invitation to pronounce, in a national publication, on whether you find her totally hot! (Or “sour,” the sort of mouth-feel evocation of which is kind of titillating too! Awesome!) Even worse, in the Edelsteinium continuum of “appropriate reactions to movies,” this is an invitation that Fanning is issuing herself by her supposed “relish” of “jailbait.” Too right. I can think of nothing Dakota Fanning cared more about, in doing a movie about a legendary all-female rock band, than if the dudes in the audience thought she was hot. And in any case, her ratification of his sweet and/or sour “experience” of her sexuality means there’s no way she would get the creeps when reading this, amirite??? Young women LOVE it when men publish their views on their fuckability in national magazines!
I suppose I shouldn’t expect more from the wordsmith who referred to child sexual abuse as “genital fingering” and Gabby Sidibe’s face as “squashed.” And then in a mealy-mouthed reply to critics said Angela Bassett’s body was “transgressive.” (Yeah, I’d call that a non sequitur.) But I do expect more of the editors of such publications. I mean, Jesus. Do no women work there?