The Context of Production: a not so Feminist Beginnings

One of the important aspects useful in the analysis of a film is its context of production. The context of production essentially represents who made it, why they made it, and for whom they made it. For the film Charlie’s Angels, the 3 most important people to look at are one of the films star actresses and producer, Drew Barrymore; one of televisions most active producer, Aaron Spelling; and the more or less then up and coming director, McG. To begin with, Drew Barrymore is likely the most unpredictable of the three I chose to discuss. She’s portrayed herself as being very sexual and wild in what most would consider very institutionalized or accepted ways, such as modeling for jeans and being in a nude photo shoot for Playboy. However, she also has her own production company, Flower Films, which may be considered empowering, especially when considering how successful it has been (its films grossing over $870 million dollars to date). In the eyes of MissRepresentation, thanks to Drew Barrymore, young girls and women will feel comfortable trying to claw their way through the Hollywood production ladder and establishing themselves by founding their own companies. However, I don’t buy that. The films Drew Barrymore is in are almost set in place with a realist style, typical of Hollywood productions. Said films also typically feature her in lead roles, not branching out and trying to bring up as many young actresses who haven’t been given chances by “the man”. Finally, these films also tend to follow the similar tropes and trite situations of traditional Hollywood fare: The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates revolve around Adam Sandler’s characters saving her or validating her in some way, Never Been Kissed follows a woman too pathetic to get over her childhood bullying, only to end up reliving it for a newspaper assignment, and Drew Barrymore must have been a fan of Charlie’s Angels as a child because all of the recent work on the franchise has been by her. As such, I lay down the claim that Drew Barrymore may seem to some like a strong, powerful woman, and therefore a good role model for women, but to me, she seems like the same Hollywood producer/actor wrapped up in a feminine body, rather than a masculine one.

The next person of importance would be executive producer Aaron Spelling: the definition of Old Rich White Man. He’s been producing television shows since at least the 1960s and built the largest single-family dwelling in Hollywood, meaning he’s loaded. Power: check.  Money: check.  White/man: check.  He’s been influential in television up until his death in 2006, with his final two series being Charmed and 7th Heaven, both of which characterize the sexualized nature of some of his shows and the safe, family-values nature of his other shows, respectively. Funny enough, part of the reason he was involved with the film in question is because he was involved in the original Charlie’s Angels. Perhaps it’s because I’m peering through the past with my own modern lens of judgment, but the original Charlie’s Angels seemed less trope-laden and steeped in gender and racial stereotypes (I’ll leave anyone who’s seen the Charlie’s Angels film to recognize these), with the original Angels seeming more authentic and having more agency (or as much agency as you can have when you’re grammatically possessed by someone). The racing sequence in the movie compared to those in the show seemed more cartoony and less realistic, lending Cameron Diaz’s character to be more of a cartoon character, or those opposite her being stupid, lessening her role in their defeat.

Finally, we look at McG, a then up and coming director who Drew Barrymore hand picked because she was a fan of his music videos. His background includes the aforementioned music videos, but also advertisements for Coca-cola, the MLB, and the gap, along with other companies. Sounds like the model archetype of a feminist director, no? It’s also important to note he’s produced The O.C., Nikita, Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious, Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll, and Sorority Forever, none of which exactly scream progress for women on screen, or at all. Of course, he’s more a product of Drew Barrymore, in that she chose him more than he chose to seek out her and her film project.

As an added note before I finish, I’d like to note Cameron Diaz, one of the “Angels”, on her first role ever in She’s No Angel: Starring Cameron Diaz, a softcore bondage flick. It’s important to note how there’s definitely nothing wrong a woman enjoying bondage, or any sexual desire. However, by starring in a softcore pornography picture, rather than being interested in it, some feminist scholars would claim that she’s doing women no favors. Of course, some may offer up alternative opinions, which is why I decided to merely include this as a note of interest, and not a supporting or expository point.

As I have clearly laid out, those who had the most influence on this film aren’t exactly aiming to advance women in anyway. At best, Charlie’s Angels is a “softcore feminist” piece aimed at the tween to teen female demographic, along with the entire drooling male demographic, blasting the misconceived notion of “girl-power” for all to hear. At worst, it’s just another example of hegemonic bombardment of ideas that are counter-intuitive, and possibly destructive, towards the ideas of feminism.