Girls of the Summer

You may have been too busy fretting about how few women made Law Review to notice, but the ladies had a (comparatively) big summer in pop culture. We’ve already discussed how a political action heroine kicked off the summer blockbuster season, a season which has hostilely taken over most of spring. Shortly thereafter, HBO’s Girls blew up the pop-culture landscape. Starring, written and created by one of the titular girls, the show was received by critics as the achingly hilarious vessel of transcendent lady-truth. Then came the actual premier, and the backlash: Lena Dunham was neither as funny nor as groundbreaking as Archie Bunker, but she was equally racist. Further, Girls represented everything wrong with America because it starred rich-stars’-kids-getting-richer actresses playing unemployed, entitled characters who survive in New York by leaching off their parents. The fevered chanting of these sentiments begat the backlash to the backlash, and a consensus was established to pay middling attention to the show for the rest of its run into summer.

June brought a one-two punch of female blockbusters, Snow White and the Huntsman and Prometheus. As Snow White, Kristen Stewart picked up the action-heroine stone face lain down by Jennifer Lawrence in the Hunger Games. Also starring Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen, SWHP takes place in a feminist utopia where both the incumbent and challenging candidates for the country’s highest office are female, and all the dudes are hunks. (Counterpoint: the plot is resolved when somebody stabs a bitch). Prometheus similarly touches on important women’s issues. Its characters are role models for women in STEM careers, like interstellar archeologist or horror bureaucrat (again, Theron). The movie also provides a visceral, compelling case for giving women reasonable access to birth control and abortion when the main character unwittingly conceives and births a murderous, alien, squid baby. In our violent, capitalist society, carrying summer action blockbusters is the truest sign that women have arrived, as long as one of those women is Charlize Theron.

Later in the summer, animation powerhouse Pixar released Brave, its first movie with a female main character. Like the heroines above, the movie’s lead is a more active, violent take on her animated princess predecessors. Brave did well at the box office in part because it aimed to appeal to people of all ages and political stripes, showcasing a girl who rejects traditional marriage and gender roles as well as a literal mama grizzly.

The highest grossing movies of the summer also featured women in their ensembles. Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman was the best thing in the disappointing conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. (Don’t argue—Obama agrees with me.) Before The Dark Knight Rises descended into a magical hole-prison and Shyamalanamin twists, Hathaway’s performance embodied the stylishly pseudo-realistic yet recognizable-from-the-comics take on the Batman universe that made Nolan’s first two films great. As a woman making significantly less than her male counterpart at the same costumed, ass-kicking job, Catwoman also put a face on the theme of crime arising from Gotham’s economic desperation that was teased in the previews for the film and would have brought the series full circle to Batman’s inception in the first film. However, that theme was abandoned in favor of the uplifting power of spine-punching in aforementioned hole-prison. Scarlett Johansson played the Black Widow in the box office champion Avengers. The character was more Pink Ranger than stand out, but, more importantly, Johansson will reportedly receive truckloads of money to reprise the role in Avengers 2.

The summer movie season eventually faded, and the Summer Olympics rose to take its place. In a development that is either inspiring or terrifying depending on how you feel about Title IX, American women won all the medals and dominated the media coverage. Understandably so, since there were great stories like U.S.A. gymnastics winning the team gold and a bunch of individual medals, wunderkind Missy Franklin dominating the swimming, our footballers taking revenge on Japan for their World Cup loss, and the track team setting a world record en route to winning gold in the relays. Some of the coverage was not so feel-good. The unfortunately-named McKayla Maroney made a wry face after losing on the vault, and many people fainted on their couches at her perceived lack of sportsmanship. This story ends happily, as it became a meme. Less happy was the way twitter focused less on all-around winner Gabby Douglas’ superhuman acrobatics and more on her hair. Everyone just sort of awkwardly looked away from Hope Solo as she tried to pick a capitalization-free fight with soccer hero Randy Chastain. Finally, the media ignored the American medalists in women’s hurdles, Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells, in favor of their fair-maiden, losing teammate, Lolo Jones. To add insult to injury, Harper and Wells were castigated as jealous by the Internet when they pointed out that they had, you know, beaten Jones.

Despite these stories, the 2012 Summer Olympics ended on a positive note for women. In the most important team-up of the Olympics, Scary, Sporty, Baby, Ginger and even Posh reunited on stage as the Spice Girls, and killed the closing ceremonies. It was a moving, glorious moment for any woman who had come of age in their reign, watching them ghost-ride their regal taxis to “Spice Up Your Life,” our once and future Girls.

Cultural Literacy and the Law is a humor column written by an anonymous Harvard Law student. The column runs every other Monday.

The views in opinion editorials, columns, and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of The Harvard Law Record.

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