Director Tim Burton, whose work I often enjoy, has created an Alice in Wonderland so flat that even in 3-D it’s two dimensional. Ironic that one of our few really offbeat filmmakers should transform two incredibly offbeat novels into a dreary by-the-book feminist parable that seems to have been written according to some treatise on mythological story structure.
What’s more, as familiar and obligatory as this feminist parable has become, it’s absurd. A girl is about to be forced into a loveless marriage, the story goes, but running off to a fairy land of psychologically transformative adventure, she slays the metaphorical dragon and returns ready to become instead… a business woman! Shallow idiocy.
In the classic fairy tales and myths, BOTH heroes and heroines endure adventures and trials in order to learn to love, to become worthy of being husbands and wives who live happily ever after. Movies still tell this story for men: just think of how many comedies and fantasies (ala Spielberg’s Hook) end with the hero saying, “Oh, I’ve neglected my family for business but now I’ve learned my lesson.” But that women must likewise inwardly adventure to learn how to dedicate themselves to being loving wives and mothers, even—gadzooks!—homemakers… this has become a cultural heresy.
Now, I’m an individualist, and I believe that each of us should do as he can and as he pleases. But I can’t help noticing that our artists have—one—virtually ceased to portray homemaking as a fulfilling task for women and are therefore—two—lying through their collective teeth for purposes of political propaganda. The homemaking wives I see in TV shows and movies are either misused victims in need of self-awareness and liberation or finger-wagging mommy-doms forced to keep their manchild husbands in line. And yet, having married a homemaker, having lived in neighborhoods where many of the women around me were homemakers, these images contradict the evidence of my eyes. Assuming by homemakers we mean women whose primary work is creating a home for husbands and children, then the homemakers I know seem richly fulfilled, good-natured and happy in their work—decidedly more so than most of the full-time job-holding women I meet. And though they live in what census takers might call male-head-of-household families, the homemakers I know are also generally powerful and respected—likewise more so than most female wage slaves. This recent survey, read without the New York Times spin, supports that observation.
And something else. The husbands I know don’t roll their eyes when they speak of their homemaker wives. They don’t speak of them in fear like some kind of cowed castrati. Even in the most intimate personal conversations, these husbands speak of their wives with respect, affection, desire and love. Yes, of course, I know there are plenty of exceptions, but in general male heads of households and their homemaking wives are still the most satisfied people I meet.
American artists—conformist, ideological and afraid of the leftist media on whom they depend for publicity and praise—have gone out of their way to create a cultural landscape that degrades both homemakers and fatherly leadership. Their entertainments are designed to make women feel that a life of full-time business and part-time motherhood—and a marriage spent nagging their recalcitrant husbands for household help—is where their happiness lies.
Again, I’m an individualist and wish only for each person that he follows his own way. But I can’t help suspecting that women are being sold a bill of goods here, that many are being made to feel foolish for wanting what in fact they want and dreaming what in fact they dream.