Is this a film for women? Review of the film Like A Boss (2020)

I give my thoughts on:

  • Films in which women actually speak to other women
  • Films in which women aren’t just chasing men
  • How apparently feminist films can undermine their own message

This review contains spoilers.

A woman’s film?

Yes, I am going to be looking at this as a film aimed at women.  I want to evaluate the sort of films that are supposed to interest women and be made for women.

I say made for women because this film was not made by women.

It stars three women: Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne and Salma Hayek.

However, the screenplay was written by Sam Pitman and Adam Cole-Kelly.  It was directed by Miguel Arteta.

Women on screen

I have just discovered that, even in rom-coms (which are aimed at women) where the lead character is a woman, an average of 58% of the dialogue is spoken by men.  It was therefore a pleasant surprise to watch a film where that is definitely not the case.  In Like A Boss, most of the named characters are women and they talk largely to each other.  Yay.

This is one of the few films I have seen in which the leading characters are women and they’re not spending their time worrying about whether they do or don’t have a boyfriend.  It was refreshing.

That’s not to say it’s a perfect film.  It’s not.  By a long way.

The premise of the film

To give a quick overview:

Mia and Mel have been best friends all their lives and even live together.  They run a cosmetics company together but Mia is the creative force behind it and Mel is trying to run the business side without stepping on Mia’s toes.  The company is in debt and Mel persuades Mia to go into partnership with ruthless cosmetics mogul, Claire Luna.  Despite the warnings signs, both women sign the contract and then have to fight to keep hold of both their principles, their business and their friendship when Luna sets out to swindle them.  You can imagine how it ends.

Review of Like A Boss

I’ve given it a lot of thought and I’ve come up with some of the best qualities of the film and some of the things that I felt didn’t work.

Things I liked about Like A Boss:

At no point did any of the women dwell on the fact that they did or didn’t have a partner.  If they had one, he was only mentioned in passing, and if they didn’t have one, it wasn’t important.

Working women were shown to have a home life and a circle of friends without showing that they were close to the edge because they couldn’t handle a family and a career.

Both female leads were sexually confident women and the film shows them engaging in liaisons without angsting over them.  It was simply a part of their lives and not something they obsessed about.

It had a positive message that it was trying to spread, both about changing the way marketing campaigns constantly tell women to cover their ‘flaws’ and about appreciating those who are there for you when you need them. 

It had some funny moments, usually when the two leads were talking to each other.

The villain – though very much a pantomime villain – was clever and driven, and made her choices consciously.  She was living the life she wanted and was doing it unapologetically.

Things I didn’t like about Like A Boss:

Even by the end, I wasn’t sure how the title reflects the film.  Is it because they want to be their own boss?  Is it because they take the evil Barbie-doll and her cosmetics company down like bosses?

The tone of the whole thing was incredibly uneven.  It could have been a really interesting character drama about friendship, the beauty industry and what it means to be an unmarried woman in your thirties.  It wasn’t, though, because it quite fancied being a pantomime but didn’t properly commit to it.

Despite its good intentions – trying to spread the message that make-up should accentuate women’s features and not just cover them up – it didn’t dig deep enough into that issue to really make much of a comment on it.  The scene in which the two women are directly contrasted to the two men, each putting make-up on a model, was telling.  It wasn’t funny.  It felt like it was trying to make a point about the male gaze and sexualising women, but women already know this, they live it.  And the plot didn’t challenge that as directly as it could have.  Those men were allowed to carry on doing what they were doing, supported by a population of women who bought into that patriarchal ideal.  That was very clear, too: it is women who are buying these things, so women are the problem.  I understand that it’s a complex issue about social values and ingrained sexism, but the film does rather undermine its own message by not really choosing a side.

I didn’t like the obligatory weed-smoking scene that seems to be in all modern American comedies.  It’s there to show that these two women haven’t ‘grown up’ like the rest of their friends, who are married with children.  However, by doing that, it undermines one of the film’s greatest assets.  It should have been a film which promoted the idea of unmarried women living happy, adult lives and being successful in various ways.  The childish hiding-out-in-the-bedroom-to-smoke-weed scene didn’t fit with the rest of the plot.

One of my biggest problems was the fact that I didn’t believe either of the leads were stupid enough to sign a contract without reading it.  Seriously.  They didn’t have any idea how this business venture was going to go.  They had no idea of what their role was or what their rights were.  You’d think they’d ask a lawyer or something, if they weren’t sure, before signing over their business.  Or, you know, ask any questions…

Apparently a substantial period of time passed during the course of the film.  There were no indicators of that.  As far as I’m concerned, this all happened in about a week and a half.

Let me know what you thought of Like A Boss

If you’ve seen Like A Boss, let me know what you think.  I’d be interested on your views, particularly about whether it was a positive film for women or not.

Contact me on Twitter @AlisonJanetBro1 and tell me your thoughts.

See you next week

Hope you’ll come back and read next week’s post.

Three Things I Did This Week

This week, I will:

  • Reveal my deep and abiding love of P.G. Wodehouse
  • Give you insight into my reading habits
  • Drive you wild with jealousy over the wool I bought
Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense

Since I’m still new to this whole blogging thing, I thought I’d share more about myself so you know what you’re getting into.

Three things I did this week that I don’t always do

I thought I’d tell you about what I don’t normally do, rather than what I do normally do, because I assume you don’t really want to read about me putting the washing on or driving to work.

I went for dinner with the girls and saw a local show

I would love to say this was very glamorous but it wasn’t.  It was incredibly fun, though. 

A couple of friends and I went for dinner in town and caught up on each other’s news.  Then we went to see Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense at the local theatre. 

Poster for the Barn Theatre’s Jeeves and Wooster

It was a dramatization of a few of P.G. Wodehouse’s stories with the premise that Bertie Wooster is staging a one-man show and, typically, it isn’t working out quite the way he wanted.  Luckily, Jeeves is on hand to save the day. 

It was incredibly funny.  Bertie plays himself and narrates the show, often getting carried away with the fun of it all and forgetting to act.  Jeeves and his fellow valet (who Jeeves has conscripted to help his hapless employer) play every other role.  They take their parts much more seriously, making quick costume changes and being everywhere at once.

One of the best things was the set.  Honestly.  One backdrop was brilliantly constructed to represent all the settings and the doorframe was wheeled around to represent every doorway they needed. Sound effects were provided with (almost) perfect timing.

If you want to see it, you can find where they’re touring here.

I actually read my bookclub book

It’s a running joke in my bookclub that I don’t read the books. 

That’s unfair some of the time and completely true at other times.  When I was a teacher, particularly, it was common for me to turn up to bookclub, and ask, “What is it we were reading this month?”  When asked whether I’d read it, I would be forced to say, “No, I read Matilda.”  I would like to point out that I wasn’t reading Matilda for fun, it was for work – you can’t teach it unless you’ve read it.  Of course, I had read Matilda before but 1) it wasn’t always Matilda that I read and 2) who doesn’t love a bit of Roald Dahl?

This month, however, I have read my bookclub book!  It’s Invisible Women: exposing data bias in a world designed for men by Caroline Criado-Perez and you’ll probably hear my thoughts on that soon.

To give you an idea, we ended up with a group of women angry and outraged at the (almost) invisible bias we struggle against day in and day out.  Every one of us had an anecdote to support almost every bias that had been talked about in the book.

I hate to perpetuate gender stereotypes but we did all have to have some chocolate to calm down.

I bought some new wool (exciting)

I had to nip into town this weekend to buy some more wool so I could finish my ongoing crochet project because I severely underestimated how much wool you get through when making what is essentially a very small blanket. 

I may now have the opposite problem but I’m assured there is no such thing as too much wool.

My new sparkly wool and lovingly crocheted squares

You can’t see it properly in this picture but I assure you the wool is sparkly!

Let me know what you’ve been up to

I love hearing from you so let me know what you’ve been doing this week.  If you’ve been buying wool and reading your bookclub book, share that great news in the comments section below (or share the other, possibly more interesting things you’ve been doing).

You can follow me on Twitter @AlisonJanetBro1.  Say hello and brag about your week.

See you next week

I hope you’ll come back and read next week’s post.

Stop Book-Shaming Children

This week:

  • I define book-shaming and why adults do it
  • Book-shamed children stop reading
  • Top ways to get children to move on with reading
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

I have encountered book-shaming as a child, I have encountered it as an adult reader and as a teacher.

It makes me angry to see it, and this is the reason why:

What is book-shaming?

Book-shaming is when someone mocks, belittles or discourages another person from reading a particular book.

There are several reasons why people do this and not all of them are vindictive.

It largely depends on the type of relationship the two people have and why that person is book-shaming.

These are the situations in which I have encountered book-shaming:

  • As a child, when I wanted to read an old favourite but was told I was ‘too old’ for it
  • As a teen when I wanted to read a Children’s book and was told I was ‘too old’ for it
  • As an adult when I wanted to read a Children’s or Young Adult’s book and was told I was ‘too old’ for it
  • Any time I wanted to read genre fiction

Already you are sensing a theme.

There are other times when I have seen book-shaming.

I will discuss book-shaming adults based on their choice of book in another post.  This one is focusing on why people do it to children and what effect that has.

I’m also going to focus on adults book-shaming children, rather than other children doing it to their peers as this is very similar to the above.

Why people book-shame children

Most adults who book-shame are doing it because they care.

Certainly, I have never seen an adult book-shame a child because they want to be mean.

Most of the people I have seen doing this have been teachers, parents, aunts and uncles, etc.

What they have wanted to do is stop the child reading something ‘too young’ or ‘too easy’ because they wanted them to read something harder or older.

They want the child to get better at reading and better at English.  Reading is the single most effective way of doing that, but book-shaming isn’t the way to go about it.

What effect does book-shaming have?

I have seen this have several effects on children:

They stop reading.  If they can’t read what they want to read, they’re not interested and then you, as the adult, have to battle to get them to read something else.

They come to associate reading with shame and inadequacy and, unsurprisingly, they stop reading.  Why would they keep doing something that makes them feel that way?

In order to please you, they try reading a much harder book which they don’t properly understand and then they think they’re stupid because they can’t read ‘proper’ books and they stop reading.

Just to be clear: making someone feel that their choice of book is wrong doesn’t make them read something else, it just makes them stop reading that thing.

A little story for you

I was at a Year 7 Parents’ Evening, talking to the mother of a Year 7 boy, who was sat next to her.  When I’d finished talking about his work and asked if there was anything else she wanted to discuss, this mother leaned forward and said, “Yes.  I’m worried about his reading.  I just can’t get him to read.”

I was incredibly surprised and automatically turned to the pupil.  “But you read all the time!  I always see you with a book in your hand.”

The boy looked sheepish and said, “Yes Miss, but I only like books about dragons.”

My response, obviously, was to say, “I love books about dragons!  What’s your favourite?”

The point is, that his mother – who only had his best interests at heart – was worried that the books he was reading weren’t good enough.  Not only that, she was so convinced that they didn’t count, that she told me she ‘couldn’t get him to read’.

This boy was being told – whether directly or not – that the things he liked were wrong.  That’s uncomfortably close to him being told that his personality is wrong.  It’s also a classic prejudice about Fantasy but more on that another time.

I spent the rest of the year talking to him about dragons because I liked the way his face lit up when I did that.

Better ways to get a child to read more advanced things

Don’t tell a child that what they’re reading isn’t good enough or is the wrong choice.  You aren’t going to change their personality just by saying ‘don’t read that, read this’.

If you want a child to read something else, there are ways you can make that happen.

Give them options in addition to their own books

Instead of telling them not to read one thing, persuade them to read the next thing.  Let them keep the books they like, just give them something else as well.

Give them books you know they’ll like

The best way to get a child to read something else is to find out what it is they like and go from there.

Ask them what they like and try to find out what exactly it is that they like about it.  Is it an adventure, is it a mystery, do they like long books or short books, are they drawn to female protagonists, what kind of humour are they into?  Once you know what they like, you can start to find other books that have that thing in them.

Find something similar to what they’re reading and give them that.

If they like it, they’ll trust your judgement.  That’s important.  If they trust you’ll give them good books, they might be willing to try something they otherwise wouldn’t when you promise them (truthfully) that it’s good.

Let them see you enjoying that book

If they know you enjoy it, they know it’s a good book.

If you’re giving them a book you hate but think is going to be good for them, don’t.  You’re not giving them a dose of medicine.

There are so many good Middle Grade (MG) and Young Adult (YA) books out there – quality books with excellent writing, intriguing plots, big themes and inspiring characters – that you will be able to find something that pleases both of you.

Don’t force them to read it, inspire them to read it.

Let me know what you do

If you’ve seen or experienced this, let me know.  What do you do to stop it?

If you have recommendations for quality MG or YA books, let me know in the comments section below or contact me on Twitter @AlisonJanetBro1.  I want to know your go-to recs.

See you next week when I’ll tell you a little bit more about me.

World Book Day 2020

In this blog, I will:

  • Tell you why I love World Book Day
  • Give you an inspired lesson idea (if I do say so myself)
  • Start a radical movement to get World Book Day introduced to every working office environment

As you may know, on Thursday 5th March, it’s World Book Day.

I know that because I was a teacher, and an English teacher at that.  It’s one of the highlights of the year in schools.  I’m going to tell you why I love it and then I’m going to ask: why is it only a thing in schools?

Why I love World Book Day

It was great when the pupils would come into school dressed as their favourite character and I got to guess who they were.  Then they’d tell me all about the character and the book (whether I already knew or not).  I loved it.

And the fun activities I could do with my classes on World Book Day?  I made it my personal mission to make sure my pupils enjoyed World Book Day lessons, no matter what was on the curriculum (but don’t tell my head of department that).

For me, the point of the day was to enthuse pupils about reading.  That doesn’t mean force them to read, and it certainly doesn’t mean changing what they read.  It means reminding them why they love books.

A great classroom activity for World Book Day

Teachers, please steal this idea if you like it.

It’s an incredibly easy, planning-light lesson.

One of the most effective activities I did on World Book Day was to split the class into groups and send them round the classroom on a carousel.  At each station there was a sheet of sugar paper and pens, and each one had a different question on it:

  • Who is your favourite hero from a book?
  • Who is your favourite villain from a book?
  • Which book would you most like to live in?
  • What’s the first book you remember reading?
  • What’s your favourite children’s book?

It was so interesting to see the pupils consider these questions.

Firstly, I wasn’t asking them to do any ‘real work’ so they thought they were having a skive lesson.  It’s amazing how much work they got done!

Secondly, it got them talking about books.  It got them arguing about books.  New groups would reach the next sugar paper and shout, “That’s such a good choice, I’d forgotten about that one,” or, “That’s not the best one, this is the best one.”

Thirdly, it reminded them that books were there to enjoy.  None of the questions were ‘teacher’ questions.  I wasn’t asking them to analyse the books, I didn’t want them to write PEE paragraphs, I wasn’t asking them to justify themselves and I wasn’t judging their choices.  I was simply asking their opinion.

It’s important to note that I was also asking what they used to like as opposed to what they do like now.  By putting it in the past, I took away some of the social pressure – from me and other pupils – to choose appropriate books.

My favourite station to eavesdrop at was ‘what’s your favourite children’s book?’ because they began to reminisce about all the books they’d read as children.  I found it both fascinating and hilarious.  I feel I need to point out that these were Year 8s (so they were 12-13 years old) and they were talking about ‘when they were children’ and books they loved ‘back in the day’.

These questions seemed to them to be just fun questions to ask but they are the basis for a lot of English Literature analysis and certainly for good writing.  What qualities make a good hero?  How can you write a convincing villain?  What are the important elements of world-building?  All questions that authors ask throughout their career.

It was a fun lesson, it enthused the pupils about reading again, and it formed the basis for discussion later in the term.  It was a win.

Where did World Book Day go?

When I left teaching and ended up in an office, suddenly it was ‘weird’ to dress up for World Book Day.  Why are adults so boring?  What’s wrong with coming in to work to find a Winnie the Witch or a Hagrid sat at the desk?  Seems like a good way to start the day to me, saying, “Morning, Alex, great costume.  Don’t tell me, let me guess…”

I can see why it wouldn’t be appropriate for every office (“Morning, Doctor- I mean Katniss?”) and, if you work outside doing construction or gardening or in a zoo, then it might not be the best idea.

But a bit of book-talk at work would make my day.  I think we should bring World Book Day back for adults.

Let me know what you think

If you’re thinking, “Yeah, why can’t I dress up as Dracula to go to work?  It’s literary,” then let me know in the comments section below.

You can follow me on Twitter @AlisonJanetBro1.  Say hello and let me know who you’d dress up as if you were given the opportunity.

See you next week

I hope you enjoyed this post.  Please come back and read next week’s post about how to get children to read ‘more advanced’ books.

Welcome to my blog

In this blog, I will:

  • Introduce myself
  • Give you my entire life history
  • Let you know what you can expect to read on here
What I would look like if I were eight years old and owned a cat

Welcome to my first blog!

I’m going to give you a little background information about me before we start.

Reading

My first love is fiction.  When I was younger, my passion was solely for novels but, as I have grown older, I have discovered the joys of non-fiction. 

I suspect that both of these things will make an appearance in this blog.  I will be talking about books I have read and loved.  I will not be talking about books I haven’t liked, so don’t be surprised that all my reviews are positive.  If I read it and didn’t like it, it goes to the charity shop and I don’t mention it again.

Fantasy

Although I have quite an eclectic taste in fiction, I always come back to Fantasy. 

There are lots of reasons I love it.  Mostly, Fantasy books are just cool, aren’t they?

I am particularly interested in world-building.  I’ll discuss that at more length later but, to me, world-building is about the connection between the environment, the social systems and the characters, and how they affect each other.

I will definitely be mentioning Fantasy fiction here and analysing some of my favourite books, films and TV shows.

Writing

My professional career has revolved around reading and writing.

I currently work as a Copy Writer for a local company.  Anything they want written, I write.  It sounds simple.  Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.

Teaching

Before I worked as a Copy Writer, I was an English Teacher in a Secondary School.  It was a job I enjoyed in many ways and I’m certainly glad I did it.

One of the reasons I became a teacher – and, ironically, one of the reasons I left teaching – is that I care about children’s education.  That might pop up on this blog a few times, too.  I will try to keep my anger to a minimum.

My history of teaching means that I have an interest in Children’s Fiction (both Middle Grade and Young Adult).  I used to get to call it ‘work’ but now I just have to confess I love it.

Hobbies

It’s difficult to say what a hobby is.  Is talking to friends a hobby?  Is going to the cinema a hobby?  I will talk about these things as they arise and as I try new hobbies.

I love trying new things, particularly creative things and crafts.  I have recently learned how to crochet and am still making my first blanket.  I suspect I will be stuck at the first stage (making lots of little squares) for a long time but, no matter, I am enjoying it.  If ever you want a square crocheted very, very slowly, let me know.

Things I am interested in (which therefore might end up on this blog):

  • Fantasy fiction (books, films and television)
  • Gender equality
  • How to write well (and to audience)
  • Representation in fiction (including classism, ageism, racism and ableism)
  • World-building for fiction
  • Weird stuff you learn about in history
  • Education
  • Any new hobby I pick up along the way

Let me know what you think

If any of this sounds up your street, let me know!

I’d love to get in touch with more people who want to read fiction, write Fantasy and put the world to rights.

You can follow me on Twitter @AlisonJanetBro1.  Say hi and let me know what you’re up to.

See you on Wednesday

I hope you’ll come back and read my next post, where I’ll be talking about World Book Day and why it’s fabulous.  I’ll also give you a really easy lesson to get your class talking about books.