watched ‘divorce italian style’ (1961) which is supposed to be a dark comedy. was completely turned off by the overwhelming misogyny and mean-spiritedness of the film. yes, i know it’s supposed to be ‘satire’ but, once again, punching down against women in a dangerously patriarchal society/world is hardly funny.
so much is cringeworthy in the film: the mustache and unibrow added to mastroianni’s perfectly good-looking wife in order to dehumanize her, the fact that the hero is a 37-year old lech lusting after his 16-year old cousin (they end up together), how the teenager’s uncle (her mother’s brother) is also stalking her, the lech’s recurring day dreams of his wife falling into a vat of boiling chemicals or being sucked into quicksand, the constant sexual harassment of the impoverished, dishevelled maid (who doesn’t seem to mind so much), the off-screen/cold-blooded/inconsequential murder of the wife, and on and on.
i get that it’s an attempt to lay bare the ridiculousness of a conservative, catholic, macho society but is there no way to unpack cruelty, oppression, violence, and sexism, then by reproducing/laughing at cruelty and misogyny?
there’s also an undercurrent of racism against southern italians throughout the film.
i had the same issue when re-reading gabriel garcía márquez’s ‘love in the time of cholera.’ rather than being impressed by the hero’s persistence in pursuing ‘true love,’ i was unsettled by his compulsive consumption of women, how rape is presented (or invisibilized) in the book, and how black women are outrageously sexualized. (what i wrote is in comments)
it’s not just sexism, it’s also racism. for example, when i think of ‘breakfast at tiffany’s,’ the image that comes to mind is the ‘yellowface minstrelsy caricature’ served up by mickey rooney as mr yunioshi.
many times, partaking of mainstream culture feels like negotiating a minefield.