As any disaffected Hillary Clinton supporter will tell you, women are the only oppressed minority who are actually in the majority. It’s enough to drive a feminist radical.
A new comedy from director Jamie Babbit (“But I’m a Cheerleader”) takes a humorous look at a group of these radical feminists, their goals and methods. The movie has the funny title of “Itty Bitty Titty Committee” and was just released on DVD.
The film focuses on Ana (Melonie Diaz), a lesbian who works as a receptionist at a plastic surgery clinic which specializes in breast implants. One night, as she is leaving work late, she meets Sadie (Nicole Vicius) who is vandalizing the building, spray-painting an anti breast enlargement slogan. Sadie tells Ana that women shouldn’t have to mutilate their bodies to conform to an idealized male version of female beauty and that she represents a fringe group called Clits in Action (or CIA) who want to make the world better for women. Ana is intrigued and soon becomes an active member of the group.
The CIA is made up of young women who are gay, straight, bi, and transsexual; they try to spread their message by working outside the system, pulling pranks such as breaking into a department store and replacing idealized manikins with more realistic ones and spray-painting “Real women come in all shapes and sizes” on the store window. They also deface billboards advertising sexy bikinis and put up statues of feminist icons like Emma Goldman and Angela Davis in the park.
As both Ana and Sadie are lesbians, a natural attraction develops between them. But this is complicated by the fact that Sadie once had affairs with other members of the group and is also currently involved with an older woman, Courtney (Melanie Mayron), who heads a more mainstream, non-profit group that advocates for women’s rights—a fictional version of NOW.
The two groups make an interesting contrast, as Courtney tries to straddle both the fringe and the mainstream. She may agree with the CIA’s ultimate goals—to make the world better for women—but deplores their tactics. It’s the difference between working within the system to change it, and working outside the system to overthrow it. Sadie lives in a world of secret missions, pranks, and late-night raids, while Courtney lives in a world of budgets and committee meetings. Courtney is invited to go on national television to express her view while the best the CIA can hope for is a few lines in a column in a local weekly paper which actually gets the name of the group wrong.
The political conflict between Sadie and Courtney spills over into their sex-life. Sadie’s radical views lead to a more casual attitude toward sex; she ends up sleeping with Ana during a road trip to Sacramento where they plan to disrupt a gay-marriage rally. As you can imagine this further increases the sexual tension within the group dynamic and threatens to break up the CIA. Can they get over their personal BS and unite for their common cause?
I have some mixed feelings about the film. On the one hand, I’m glad to see a mostly-positive portrayal of the radical left on film, which is rare, and I appreciate the issues the film brings up. On the other hand, I find some of the comedy a bit juvenile for my taste. For example, in one scene members of the CIA replace a women’s restroom door sign with one that says “Men,” causing a man to walk into the woman’s room. They all laugh hysterically, but I fail to see the point in it. Does it in any way raise consciousness about women’s issues, the stated goal of the group?
The final 20 to 25 minutes of the film take, what is in my view, an unpleasant turn. It becomes a screwball comedy focusing on a lame-brained scheme which undercuts the seriousness of the issues raised by the film. Since my critics’ code forbids me from revealing the ending, I cannot enumerate all my objections to it. But I will say one positive thing, though: I applaud the filmmakers for having the courage to portray a seemingly-serious terrorist-style event in a light-hearted, positive manner. In a post-9/11 world which has lost much of its sense of humor regarding anything mildly related to terrorism, they risk some serious, though unwarranted, criticism. As juvenile as the stunt is, I actually think it’s good to take a jocular attitude in this case.
So whether or not I personally believe in the political goals and tactics of the group is irrelevant. As a film, I felt overall it was a cute comedy that raises important women’s issues, although some of the jokes are a bit too silly for my taste. But perhaps you might feel differently, so feel free to check it out.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that a friend of mine was actually in this movie in the background as an extra in two scenes. While I, in no way, allowed that to consciously influence my opinion of the film as an independent critic, I cannot rule out the possibility that it might have had a subconscious effect.)