Is 'Seven Psychopaths' being meta or just reinforcing stereotypes?
Just 12 or 13 of the directors of the United States’ 250 top-grossing films of 2011 were women, according to the Celluloid Ceiling report, and 93 per cent of those films employed fewer than six women as directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers or editors. On screen, only 11 per cent of protagonists in last year’s top 100 films were women.
It’s worth pointing out that Seven Psychopaths has a female coproducer, executive producer, editor, casting director, set decorator, costume designer, make-up department head, production manager, second assistant director, lead graphic designer, sound mix assistant and special-effects assistant among its crew, which is practically a full-blown feminist coup d’etat in film-making terms. But in an industry dominated by men it’s hard to see how the celluloid ceiling can be broken when a film-maker of McDonagh’s calibre chooses to take the low road for laughs.
I watched Seven Psychopaths at a screening mainly attended by people who work in film. With such an audience, the thigh-slapping after every joke would have been drowned out only by the backslapping when an Irish film, or one perceived to be Irish, gets a wide release. The harshest critics of musicians are often the other people in the band. Theatre folk slag their rivals with more ferocity than any critic could conjure. But in the Irish film industry, because it’s so much harder to see a project through to fruition than it is to make an album, play or painting, there’s a sort of omerta that makes it rare for a film to be publicly eviscerated by an industry colleague or critic – Charlie Casanova aside.
McDonagh is remarkably talented. I’m a fan. But I don’t think I’ve experienced a more depressing moment in film this year than a cinemaful of people laughing at the last (of many) “fag” jokes in Seven Psychopaths. I’m sure some people got the bludgeoning “subtlety” of its context, but tell that to those who have the same slurs shouted across the street at them when McDonagh isn’t there to hold up a neon irony sign.
And in an industry with a gender imbalance that makes Leinster House look like Ladyfest, what a pity that a smart film-maker reinforces stereotypes for the sake of a “knowing” joke.