Kyle Smith, “Goodfellas” and Gender Simplification
Kyle Smith, a resident film critic for the New York Post, wrote a laughably stupid piece about Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” on the eve of its 25th anniversary. His piece claims that women “aren’t capable of understanding” the appeal of the film (made clear by the cynical, attention grabbing headline). Although this should go without saying, Smith’s assertion is wildly sexist and also just plain wrong. These assumptions about what types of films are either exclusively for masculine audiences or feminine audiences have been made many times before (the term “chick flick” comes to mind) and they are all retrograde and counterproductive.
I believe Smith’s purpose for writing this piece was mostly to bait controversy and, while I don’t want to feed into that brand of cynical, attention grabbing writing, it’s clear that whether or not Smith entirely believes this overly simplistic view of gender, there are many who do. This thought may be a bit too radical for Smith to wrap his conservative brain around, but one’s gender does not automatically pre-determine their taste for particular kinds of music, literature or, yes, even film. Though “Goodfellas” is certainly a movie about the relationships that men share with one another, that doesn’t mean women “are not capable of understanding” it. Their are many intelligent women I know personally that are passionate fans of film and many of them cite movies like “Goodfellas” among their all time favorites. Smith’s claim is insulting to these women because it makes an assumption about their taste based on something completely arbitrary. While their are certain assumptions that exist about “guy movies” (many of which don’t match my own personal taste) an article like Smith’s directed instead at male viewers inability to understand a particular classic would never get written, let alone published.
The other laughable aspect of Smith’s piece is that he seems to entirely miss the point of the film, viewing these men as heroes and a standard to idolize and aspire to. There was much discussion around “The Wolf of Wall Street” (another Scorsese film touching similar stylistic and thematic ground), regarding whether or not that film was a critique of the hedonistic culture it was depicting. I found that debate silly because if anyone were to watch that film and come out thinking that lifestyle was something to aspire to, they would be a rotten and hollow person to their core. Yet here Smith is, offering those exact sentiments, but instead about the characters of “Goodfellas”. Given Smith’s simplistic view of gender, I guess it isn’t really that surprising he views “Goodfellas” as an inspirational story.