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It’s My Turn August 29, 2010

Posted by Sarah in Uncategorized.
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This is from a movie called It’s My Turn starring Jill Clayburgh. I’m pretty impressed. Notice that this is perfectly correct math that belongs in a college course. Also notice that Jill Clayburgh is a woman mathematician, she is not reclusive or schizophrenic, and if you watch the whole movie she’s actually a pretty interesting character. She has normal worries — problems in love, doubts about a new job that might require her to do mostly administration, the sort of thing that actual academics stress out about.

When was the last time you saw any of this in a movie?

I don’t just mean the math (which is really remarkable, given how bad a job Hollywood usually does.) You just don’t see that kind of a female lead in movies today: actually intelligent, confused about life, falls in love but isn’t defined by the men in her life.

There’s a period in the late 70’s-early 80’s where you see a lot of movies that have a similar quality. (Offhand list: Kramer vs. Kramer, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Paper Chase, 84 Charing Cross Road, Manhattan.) Movies about smart grown-ups, usually living in New York, having complicated modern problems with their love lives. Strong (if neurotic) female characters, sort of feminist. Montages with happy Baroque music in Central Park in the fall. It’s kind of a vanished type — maybe Aaron Sorkin is a little bit in that tradition, in that he writes intelligent adult characters and makes maturity look cool. But really: can you imagine a romantic comedy written today, with a heroine who’s a mathematician, that doesn’t make fun of her “geeky” job or completely mangle the details?

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