Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the company behind some of the most beloved films of all time — The Hobbit, the James Bond franchise, Some Like It Hot, Rocky, and dozens more — better known as MGM, is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. In 1924, the company released their first silent film, a comedy, Mademoiselle Midnight, starring Mae Murray. And while the film isn't remembered as one of the greats, it was the film that launched a company that would produce some of the biggest blockbusters of our generation, and Midnight, which started it all, starred a woman.
Ironically, the company's success has since been promoted through films starring leading men, and in a trailer released by MGM showcasing their most successful work, this fact becomes brutally clear. We open on Daniel Craig as James Bond, sliding on a pair of aviators in Skyfall. We pan to Mel Gibson riding in a car on a hot day, then we see John Travolta, Clint Eastwood peaks behind his hat, adjusting his cigarette. Dustin Hoffman, Martin Freeman, Robert Di Nero and Tom Cruise enter next. All of Hollywood's dashing darlings are in attendance. And lo! The women have arrived. But instead of riding in cars, smoking cigarettes, and toting guns, they are only shown beneath the bodies of the leading men just described in romantic embraces. Rocky kisses his girlfriend, Brad Pitt climbs on top of Geena Davis in Thelma and Louise, the masked man lies atop Princess Buttercup after they topple down the hill.
Once the women have all been properly smooched, it's time for more action sequences. Cowboys on horses, men on motorcycles and secret agents breaking through doors aimed to fire at the bad guys. The two-minute trailer continues like this, featuring man after man after man after man — white men —by the way. Sure, Sidney Poitier comes in at the very end to deliver the infamous, "They call me Mr. Tibbs!" from They Call Me Mr. Tibbs, but he is the exception to the rule.
Women are scarce, and in the onslaught of rapid-fire images from classic films, only two feature women: A brief bit of dialogue: "Snap out of it!" from Cher slapping Nicolas Cage in Moonstruck, and the oh-so famous When Harry Met Sally scene where Meg Ryan O-faces at the diner. But that's it. We have an angry woman and a sexualized woman and that's all he wrote!
While it's obvious the company is lacking where strong female characters are concerned, I won't deny that MGM has produced some of my favorite movies ever. The Hobbit and many of the James Bond films, both favorites, are either a) adapted from a book that featured zero women (The Hobbit) or featuring a character that is a known womanizer (Bond). So while we can't exactly blame a single studio for the lack of women in film (surely, it is a bigger issue), we can ask that MGM, with all its influence and production power, celebrate those few movies on their roster that do feature women as primary characters. Thelma & Louise, The Wizard of Oz, Carrie (both versions), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Legally Blonde, and others could benefit to be shown along side the tilted cowboy hat and leathered skin of Clint Eastwood.
Watch the two-minute spot below:
Image: MGM; tumblr