ShePop: Why Sandra Bullock's big year is good for women

This weekend, The Blind Side became the first female-led movie to cross the $200 million mark at the box office, thus capping off Sandra Bullock’s much-documented super-awesome 2009.  To me, though, it’s not shocking that this movie did so well, and I don’t think it’s all due to Bullock (though a star name of any kind helps any film) or women. Blind Side is a feel-good movie about a real-life football player, which pulls in a whole different demographic (in other words, dudes). Don’t get me wrong, it’s far from bad for women in any way — every time a female star, particularly one over 40, rings up a huge box office hit, an angel gets its wings, as far as I’m concerned. It means more parts for ladies of a certain age, and no one is complaining about that. But her success with The Proposal earlier last year might prove the greater feat for womankind, as it was one more sign (along with Sex and the City‘s blockbuster run and Meryl Streep’s current status as America’s Sweetheart) that the next generation of romantic comedy stars — you know, that “next Julia Roberts” and “next Meg Ryan” Hollywood is always allegedly looking for — might not be the next generation, but the very same generation, doing good work in good films aimed solely at adult women (as opposed to teen Twihards). Good romantic comedies prove the power of the female audience, and the more of them we support, the better they’re going to get. More importantly, we need great, seasoned women in the lead roles. (Julia herself will be getting in on this more next year, with almost-sure-things Valentine’s Day and Eat, Pray, Love; Meg should be calling her agent to figure out how she can jump back into this hopefully-now-recognized market.)

So I’ll lead yet another champagne toast to Bullock’s grand resurgence (since apparently she won’t be drinking to her success), but I’ll save the really good bottle of Cristal for the coming crop of solid films aimed squarely at female audiences that I hope her success ultimately breeds.

What do you think of Bullock’s big year? What will its ultimate legacy be?

Comments (115 total) Add your comment
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  • Huh?

    Let me get this straight: the best thing for the female audience would be more romantic comedies? Really? If a guy came up with this kind of analysis, he’d be called “sexist,” deservedly.

    EW, this is thoughtful commentary?

  • crispy

    Does Sandra Bullock’s agent work at EW? I swear, if she gets cast in a Twilight movie, the EW office will spontaneously implode.

    • paige

      f’real. I still dont see what the appeal of hers is…

    • Ambient Lite

      I am sooo sick of the implication that Sandra Bullock’s one hit wonder role is “finally representing women”.
      As if she’s broken ground with this movie and opened up a world of possibilities for female actresses!
      There is NOTHING about her peroxide-topped, rich, housewife doting on a poor black man role that does anything for the advancement of women in hollywood.
      I really don’t have anything against Sandra Bullock, but this movie was just OKAY, and she got lucky to be associated with the over-hyped piece of boring that is The Blind Side.

      • Sandra Bullock

        BIG UPS!! To all my HATERS!

      • PJ

        Aww ladies, how cute you’re jealous of Sandra Bullock. I’m sure you’re not that fat.

      • AH

        I think it is actually very important to note that mediocre movies with women stars can be successful if the subject matter appeals to the masses. Mediocre movies starring men get made all the time and no one seems surprised when they make money even if they are creatively suspect.

      • Ambient Lite

        Jealous of Sandra Bullock because I think this movie is boring?? I just think she got lucky with the film’s success and their are better actresses out there.
        But you stay classy, PJ. I’m sure they’re lined up at your door.

      • crispy

        A) I ain’t a lady. B) I run a 3:30 marathon. C) Last year, I finished my first triathlon. Fat? LOL Nice try, sugartits.

      • Ambient Lite

        Impressive, crispy! I started running 2 years ago when I quit smoking, but I don’t run competitively. You’re faster than me, but I’m pretty sure I could still outrun PJ!

      • Jennifer

        What AH said!

      • Joe C

        I agree that the movie was overrated, but she was excellent in it.

      • Sheryl LeBlanc

        I’m sure Sandra isn’t losing sleep over your narrow minded opinion. She’s probably laughing all the way to the bank. Get a life.

      • Ambient Lite

        I’m sure you’re right. There are plenty of working actors and actresses that just take whatever roles come their way because that’s how they make a living – not because they consider themselves revolutionary film artists. I’m saying she’s probably one of them. That’s fine. What I don’t understand is how everyone is rallying for her as the champion of this film, when she’s the same person who starred in What About Steve and The Proposal – she’s always virtually the same person. This movie was about the story, not her – yet she is showered with praise.

      • pickle tits

        yikes… hate much?

    • Celia

      Sandra Bullock is awesome, but I doubt she’s the reason The Blind Side is making so much money. The Championship Game is coming up and Nick Saban (ROLL TIDE ROLL) has a special appearance in that film.

      • LD

        Love it!!! Roll Tide!!!!

  • GeeMoney

    I’d like to think that Sandra Bullock’s legacy would just be that she’s a good actress who makes movies people actually want to see, that’s all.

    Meg Ryan is FINISHED. She had too much plastic surgery and she looks god awful. She should shoot the idiot who botched her face and helped ruin her career.

    • Teri

      Poor Meg Ryan….Family Guy had a really mean (but funny) joke about her face on Sunday’s episode. I agree, she’s done.

    • dan

      “The idiot who botched” Meg Ryan’s face is Meg Ryan. No one put a gun to her head.

  • lefty

    Yeah I’m still not woo-ed by Bullock. I don’t know why (maybe Miss Congeniality 2?), but I cannot get on the bandwagon.

    • crispy

      It’s like ordering vanilla ice cream when there are 31 more interesting flavors available.

      • peezy

        I think Sandra Bullock did a great job. I also think she’s hot to be over 40.

      • Celia

        Sandra Bullock is awesome and totally underrated.

  • Jen

    Hey guys, Sandra’s year is a big deal! Most actresses are done once they reach 40 and Bullock is proving bigger than the Megan Fox’s and Jessica Biels Hollywood is trying to force down our throats. I’m happy for her

    • Sarah

      Agreed, and considering that people who don’t have any talent whatsoever are getting tons of media coverage (Kardashians, Gosselins, Speidi), it’s nice to see a talented, well-liked woman (and over 40!) in Hollywood get some recognician.

      • me

        I couldn’t agree with you more, Sarah. What a great way to put it (I mean really, the Jay Leno show isn’t pathetic enough, now Kardashian is a “guest”???) Nobody is claiming she’s the next Katherine Hepburn; she’s just good at what she does and is successful. Good for her.

      • Laura

        Totally agree, Sarah.

    • Telly B

      Meryl Streep’s story is even more extraordinary. A highly respected actress who was never a traditional “beauty” and who never played traditional ingenue roles in crappy romantic films, or women-in-peril potboilers, becomes a box office behemoth in her mid fifties!!! Did you guys know that Meryl Streep’s last five films have grossed close to 2 BILLION DOLLARS worldwide??? THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, MAMMA MIA!, JULIE & JULIA, DOUBT, and IT’S COMPLICATED, and all with her name above the title, her presence being those films’ main selling point. BULLOCK and STREEP prove that you don’t have to be a bimbo or young to be a thriving actress…

      • AH

        I don’t think Meryl Streep’s presence was the main selling point for the Devil Wears Prada and Mamma Mia, but I take your point.

      • crispy

        Wow, I so disagree. Meryl Streep channeling evil betch Anna Wintour was the #1 reason to see Devil Wears Prada.

      • Telly B

        Are you kidding me? Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Miranda was THE best part of the film, and the studio knew what they had before they released the film. The trailers were all about Miranda, even when she wasn’t onscreen. I love Anne Hathaway, but she was just ok. Everytime Blunt or Streep were offscreen, the film’s energy deflated.

      • Sarah

        True crispy, but Anne Hathaway deserves some credit as well. If her role had been miscast, the fashionably challenged assistant vs. psycho biotch boss chemistry may not have worked as well.

      • Ambient Lite

        Indeed, NO ONE could have done Miranda like Meryl Streep did. I sometimes avoid watching movies based on books I’ve read, but when I saw previews prior to the release, I knew she’d only improve in it (and she did).

  • Lemon

    I love Sandra Bullock, Blind Side or no Blind Side. She’s a great actress, an intelligent woman, and an all-around good person. So I’ll raise my glass to that.

    • LD

      I have always said that. I NEVER seen the big deal over Julia Roberts. They can’t make a movie with her without the scretching laugh. Sandra is just enjoyable to watch no mattter what the movie is!

  • Sina

    Every year there is an article about how it’s a good year for women. Every year we read how Hollywood is so shocked women watch movies. You can can just cut and paste those articles instead of writing new ones every year. Yeah Meg Ryan is finished. I have no idea what made her ruin her face but I don’t see her staging a comeback anytime soon. She looks terrible. Meg Ryan’s face 1961-2003 RIP. What happened to Rachel McAdams being the next Julia or Sandra. She was on her way then nothing. I think the thing with Sandra Bullock is she needs to stop with the deja-vu and that mailbox movies she did. those was horrible. Stick to movies where she can make people laugh. Also EW you guys have to stop pimping people. I get your mag and to see Twlight/Tru Blood (which I love)/Sandra or George Clooney all the freakin time gets annoying.

    • lefty

      Rachel McAdams took several years off after her career starting booming. She appeared in Public Enemies and she is currently in Sherlock Holmes. She also has a couple more movies in production…can’t wait for her return. She is the Paul Rudd of women–no one dislikes those two!

      • lefty

        Excuse me, she was in State of Play, not Public Enemies. AND she was in Time Traveler’s Wife. :)

      • Telly B

        Nothing wrong with Rachel McAdams’ career. She has been in plenty of successful films, MEAN GIRLS, WEDDING CRASHERS, THE NOTEBOOK, TIM TRAVELLER’S WIFE, RED EYE, SHERLOCK HOLMES…the problem is that in all of those films she was either a secondary character in a big hit (MEAN GIRLS, WEDDING CRASHERS, SHERLOCK HOLMES), or they were films that while profitable, weren’t blockbusters. (RED EYE, NOTEBOOK, TTW)
        She needs to find her own Pretty Woman, that one film that becomes a blockbuster on her charm alone, and takes her from a charming, likeable working actress to a star.

      • Emily

        I read that her “time off” was in large part due to the demanding nature of her relationship with Ryan Gossling, which ended in mid-2007. Who knows if it’s true, but she also turned down the role of Pepper Potts in Iron Man, as she was their first choice. I really liked her in SH, though…don’t claim to be an SH expert and wasn’t familiar with the IA character per se, but I enjoyed her portrayal. She’s only 31, so we’ll see what lies ahead for her.

  • aurelia

    I’m glad for Sandra Bullock, but I still worry about the “next generation” of female stars. Some friends and I were talking about Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler in “Sherlock Holmes” — how hilariously wrong it is that someone like McAdams would ever be cast as a wily master criminal — and we should have been able to come up with tons of alternatives. Unfortunately, the only actress under the age of 40 in Hollywood right now who is remotely believable as anything other than a generic Perfect Girl is Angelina Jolie. We need more than one! We need some interesting female actresses with individuality and personality to make it through the weird, hyper-corporatized screening grid that seems to be in operation now.

    (To be clear, I actually like Rachel McAdams and think she’s the least generic of the Perfect Girls around. But still — she’s no Irene Adler.)

    • crispy

      How about Brittany Murphy? Oh. Never mind.

      • paige

        bam!- b!tch went down… -Rose McGowan “scream”

    • lefty

      Lizzy Caplan perhaps?

    • stephanie

      but really, angelina jolie is terrible. blegh

      • KEVIN

        yeah, she can’t do comedy. and she is not a box office draw unless she has a gun!

      • Celia

        Lies! I love Angelina Jolie. Not every brilliant actress has to have comedic ability and I think Angelina can do comedy. She’s very subtle with it.

    • C

      How old is Kate Winslet? Or Emily Blunt?

      • Ambient Lite

        Yes and yes.

    • AH

      We went through this exercise a few weeks ago. There are loads of actresses under 40. This list will be 35 and under: Penelope Cruz, Amy Adams, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams, Kate Winslet, Emily Blunt, Scarlett Johansson, Sienna Miller, Rosario Dawson, Zoe Saldana, Ellen Page, Kiera Knightly, Evan Rachel Wood, Marion Cotillard, Daine Kruger, Zhang Ziyi, DAkota Fanning, Christina Ricci, Charlize Theron, etc. etc. etc. It isn’t that hard to come up with a lot of people with proven ability or potential. It is really hard to come up with parts that don’t suck.

      • AH

        Natalie Portman…dude, EW did a freakin photo gallery on this subject. http://www.ew.com/ew/gallery/0,,20179035,00.html?xid=rss-CNNHome-20080229-30%20Under%2030%3A%20The%20Actresses

    • Laura

      Michelle Ryan played a great master criminal on Doctor Who last year. Also, she’s actually British, unlike McAdams. I think the problem is that American and Canadian girls get most of the parts, but the Brit girls are far better trained actresses and hence, better actresses. Why Ritchie, a Brit himself, didn’t go with a Brit for the part is beyond me.

      • AH

        Really? I think there are loads of acting school grads in the U.S. who would take exception to the notion. I watch a lot of British T.V. and don’t find the acting particularly remarkable. Kate Winslet’s awesomeness does not mean every British actress is awesome.

      • MKT

        Where is your proof, or even any evidence, that British “girls” are “far better trained actresses”? And considering the fact that McAdam’s character, as written by Conan Doyle, is American, I fail to see what great scandal there is in Ritchie not casting a precious “Brit” in the part. What a snob you are.

  • Eli

    I don’t think that this is about women in 40 in general. The women you’ve pointed out, Julia, Meryl and Sandra, just have this ability to connect with audiences. At the end of the day, it’s about good actors doing good work, and for that, people will show up. I do love Sandra Bullock, and she’s just, well… it’s nice that she’s having this year. I hope 2010 is even better.

    • ZLostie

      I agree. What Hollywood fails to learn every time is that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. If Sandra Bullock or Meryl Streep or Julia Roberts happens to make a good movie, it does not mean that we need a dozen more of that same movie. Then the formula doesn’t work. Good stories, and good characters, no matter the age, make the movie.

  • Kim

    I don’t get it. How is she the first? There are plenty of female led movies that have past the 200 mil mark. For example: Erin Brockovich.

    • crispy

      They’re talking U.S. box office. “Erin Brockovich” made $125 million in the U.S. But still, it’s a completely ridiculous record probably made up by Sandra Bullock’s own marketing agency that news sites like Variety and EW have run with. “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” made $240 million domestically, and it was female-led.

      • Pete

        Sorry crispy. I hadn’t refreshed since bringing up the page and didn’t see you reply.

      • Telly B

        It has been clearly established that THE BLIND SIDE is the first female led hit THAT UTILIZED ITS FEMALE STAR as its main selling point, with her name above the title, but more importantly, it was clear by exit polls that the majority of people who went to see the film did so compelled by the appeal of its star. GREEK WEDDING did actually have Nia Vardalos’ name above the title, but it also had the male lead’s name. And that film still was not the hit it was because people wanted to see the leads. BLIND SIDE was sold exclusively as a SANDRA BULLOCK film.

      • Sarah

        While “Greek Wedding” was female-led, the feat Sandy achieved was being the first female whose movie was marketed with only her name to top $200 mil. With Greek Wedding, Nia Vardalos was billed along with John Corbett and a few other names. While I get your point, I’m just clarifying the statistic.

      • crispy

        I guess I can’t argue with exit polls (if that’s indeed true). But honestly, I think this movie would have performed just as well with anyone in the role. Sandra Bullock is disposable. And this very article says the “real-life football player” drew men to it.

    • Pete

      Erin Brockovich only made 125 mil. The figures being talked about here are domestic box office.

    • Telly B

      Erin Brockovich didn’t reach 200 million domestically, it topped at 125 million. Although it’s interesting to note, that at her peak, Julia Roberts still had bigger box office power. Several of Roberts’ early hits easily adjust for 2009 inflation with way over 200 million dollars worth of tickets sold…THE PELICAN BRIEF, FLATLINERS,STEEL MAGNOLIAS, and especially her biggest one, PRETTY WOMAN, who made close to 200 million in 1990 dollars, and would translate to close to 400 million today…

      • crispy

        Good point about the inflation. I was starting to wonder how none of Julia Roberts’ movies have crossed $200 million, but now it makes sense.

      • LD

        Every year I say that when a new movie “breaks records”. How stupid to compare a movie with $15+ tickets to movies that was less than $5 a ticket. Why don’t they ever just base it on # of tickets sold not $$. That would be the real proof of a better boxoffice hit.

    • Sarah

      Erin Brockovich “only” made $125 mil in the US. Worldwide it made over $200 mil.

  • Suzy

    I love Sandra Bullock. Always have. And I’m glad for her.

  • dan

    “The more of them we support, the better they are going to get.” Are you kidding? I think the exact opposite is true. The reason there are so many crappy movies out there is because idiots like you go out and support them!

  • Otis

    Did any of you actually see the movie? And if you really did see it, how many of you went only because Sandra Bullock was in it? She is NOT a box office draw. The movie is a success not because of Bullock, any actress could have played the part, but because the movie is well written and the subject matter appeals to men (football) and women (a cryer)!

    • Ambient Lite

      Exactly, it’s a good story and the movie was released during that time of the year when people crave feel-good fuzzy things, THAT’S why it was so successful.

    • Lisa Simpson

      Stereotype much? I haven’t seen the movie, mainly because I don’t like ‘feel good’ movies. (Give me ‘Revolutionary Road’ anyday). I love football, but tend not to go see movies about it, mostly because so many of them are formula jobs. I am a woman who doesn’t care about genre, but wants good, well-written stories with great actors regardless of gender.

    • Teri

      Oh please, you think the movie would’ve been big with Cameron Diaz? Or Renee Zellwegger? Or the queen of flops Nicole Kidman?

      • Teri

        Not saying they are bad actresses (well Diaz is), but none of them have carried movies based on their names for a looooong time.

    • AH

      I don’t think it matters if she herself is a box office draw. The point is that if you write a movie with broad appeal, you can cast a woman in it and it will be successful. By relegating women to “chick flicks” you automatically limit the audience.

      Inflation would probably make Erin Brockovich about $150 million in today’s dollars.

  • Sara

    Am I supposed to be excited that the success of The Proposal means more generic, unfunny, sexist romantic comedies for women, as pretty much the only guaranteed roles they can play? No, what’ll be good for women is when they get cast in a wide variety of roles in good movies that revolve around other things than marriage and babies. Blech.

    • Lisa Simpson

      Ditto. I go to see Meryl Streep movies bacuse she is a great actress who chooses interesting roles and never repeats herself. She was the only reason I went to see “The Devil Wears Prada” (though Emily Blunt was a great discovery, and Anne Hathaway held her own). I don’t want to see the same movie over and over again, just getting worse and worse with each soulless iteration.

  • anoano

    Oh lord if this means Hollywood is going to continue casting the awful one-note Rachel, I mean Jennifer Aniston in MORE lame romcom movies then I am NOT for this female over 40 trend AT ALL!!

    • KEVIN

      if you don’t want to see them then don’t and quit your betching!

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