Women Airbrushed from Summer Movie Screens, Whines Movie Critic

This being the Times, Sunday's special Summer Movie section couldn't just indulge in escapism, but would have to tackle the Big Issues like sexism in Hollywood. Movie critic Manohla Dargis, always up for a liberal cause, came through with a predictable rant, "Is There a Real Woman in This Multiplex?"

Iron Man, Batman, Big Angry Green Man - to judge from the new popcorn season it seems as if Hollywood has realized that the best way to deal with its female troubles is to not have any, women, that is.

Not that it hasn't tried to make nice with the leading ladies, in films like "The Invasion" (with Nicole Kidman) and "The Brave One" (Jodie Foster). Yet, after those Warner Brothers titles fizzled, the online chatter was that the studio's president for production, Jeff Robinov, had vowed it would no longer make movies with female leads. A studio representative denied he made the comments. And, frankly, it is hard to believe that anyone in a position of Hollywood power would be so stupid as to actually say what many in that town think: Women can't direct. Women can't open movies. Women are a niche.

Nobody likes to admit the worst, even when it's right up there on the screen, particularly women in the industry who clutch at every pitiful short straw, insisting that there are, for instance, more female executives in Hollywood than ever before. As if it's done the rest of us any good. All you have to do is look at the movies themselves - at the decorative blondes and brunettes smiling and simpering at the edge of the frame - to see just how irrelevant we have become. That's as true for the dumbest and smartest of comedies as for the most critically revered dramas, from "No Country for Old Men" (but especially for women) to "There Will Be Blood" (but no women). Welcome to the new, post-female American cinema.

Nowhere is our irrelevance more starkly apparent than during the summer, the ultimate boys' club. Over the next few months the screens will reverberate with the romping-stomping of comic book titans like Iron Man and the Hulk.

Dargis only half-facetiously reclassified "Sex and the City" as a gay movie to avoid having to credit it as a movie featuring "real women."

The girls of summer are few in number, and real women are close to extinct. The teenage Emma Roberts plays a Malibu brat shipped off to boarding school in "Wild Child," and little Abigail Breslin has gone blond for "Kit Kittredge," the first big-screen spinoff from American Girl dolls. Meryl Streep stars in the adaptation of the jukebox musical "Mamma Mia!," and the cast from "Sex and the City" hits the big screen, though as that HBO show's fans know, its four bosomy buddies are really gay men in drag. Angelina Jolie flaunts big guns in "Wanted" amid a so-called fraternity of assassins. Cameron Diaz stars opposite Ashton Kutcher in the comedy "What Happens in Vegas," in a role that shrieks Brittany Murphy five years ago.