By Amy Ryan
Updated September 30, 2005 at 12:00 PM EDT
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Movie reviewer Michael Medved recently wrote a provocative editorial in USA Today in which he suggests that the reason actresses are not the top box office draws today, as Hollywood’s glamour gals were 50 to 75 years ago, is that they’ve alienated too many moviegoers by playing brutal, sweaty, and (in Medved’s eyes) unfeminine action-heroine roles. He doesn’t think such willowy waifs as Angelina Jolie or Jessica Biel make for believable butt-kickers. (Um, it’s called fantasy; it’s called suspension of disbelief. Look into it.)

He cites such flops as Biel’s Stealth, Halle Berry’s Catwoman, and Jennifer Lopez’s Gigli as proof that moviegoers want actresses to get out of the action-heroine business and be more like the ”girlie-girl” Reese Witherspoon of Legally Blonde. (Of course, there could be a simpler explanation for why the movies he cites failed at the box office: they all sucked. He does not have an explanation for the success of such crowd-pleasers as Uma Thurman’s Kill Bill movies or Jolie’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith.)
It’s often foolish to try to make movies fit a narrow, ideological reading in order to score political points, a la March of the Penguins. (McSweeney’s has a hilarious satire of the trend here.)

Still, Medved is right that actresses seldom get to play glamour roles in contemporary movies. Should actresses agitate to play more roles that allow them to emulate the glossy screen goddesses of the past, or should they continue to challenge their male counterparts for action-hero supremacy?

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