VIEWSnThe Incredible Shrinking WomannMovies, according to conventional wisdom, reflectnsociety. And so they do. Politically, movies oftennreflect the perspective of Hollywood artistes who think theynpossess a gift for reflecting society. Commercially, moviesnreflect not only audience taste but what some director ornstudio executive assumes is audience taste; they reflect notnonly what we’re willing to buy but what someone elsenbelieves — hopes — is marketable. This odd combination ofnmarketing guesswork and artistic pretension is more evidentnin movies than in any other form of popular entertainment,nand it results in, among other things, film “realism” that hasnnothing to do with reality. This is especially so in currentnmovies about women.nIn an adolescence that spanned the late 50’s and earlyn60’s, I had movie interests rooted in the late 30’s and earlyn40’s, the reason being that everything about the women innthose movies was better. Carole Lombard was funnier thannDoris Day; Irene Dunne was warmer in her femininity thannCrace Kelly; Barbara Stanwyck was a better actress thannNatalie Wood. There was nothing premeditated aboutnKatharine Hepburn’s quirkiness, nothing self-conscious innMyrna Loy’s valor. Rosiland Russell was faster on her feetnthan anybody before or since, and Bette Davis could handlenanything. Collectively, those actresses, and the roles theynplayed, resonated wit, confidence, courage, independence,nand — not the least of it — a desire to please, which is notnquite the same as a desire to be liked (and which explainsnwhy it is more entertaining to watch an old Jean Arthurnmovie than a new Sally Field movie).nJanet Scott Barlow covers popular culture fromnCincinnati.n18/CHRONICLESnby Janet Scott BarlownnnThe actresses of the Colden Age were unique in theirndesire to please, in that the desire was wedded to intelligence,na combination that gave them female size and alsonprecluded any compromise of their status as human beingsn— that they could be hurt made them people, not victims.nBoth their willingness to give and their intelligence shonenbest in their humor. They were funny women and they werengood company, to their male counterparts on screen as wellnas to their audience. Too clever to be merely in on the joke,nthey often drove the joke; too generous — and too selfassured—nto keep the fun to themselves, they spread itnaround, making their humor a bond, not a wall. As thenconstricted “Hopsy” Pike in The Lady Eve, Henry Fondansays to Barbara Stanwyck, “Snakes are my life, in a way.”nWhen she responds, after the most exquisite pause, “What anlife,” she is entertaining herself, us, and, she can only hope,nthe clueless “Hopsy.”nNow flash forward about fifty years, to Postcards From thenEdge, and watch Meryl Streep’s comic turn with DennisnQuaid. Quaid is as irrelevant as the audience, since Streep isntalking to herself, about herself, in a movie that explores herncharacter’s relationship with herself It is a film, like so manyntoday, that presents female confusion as a sign of moralnsuperiority, a film pumped full of feelings but drained ofnheart. The movie is not meant to be experienced; it is meantnto be overheard. (Postcards From the Edge was directed bynMike Nichols, who appears to believe he possesses a gift fornreflecting society, probably because reviewers are very nicenabout ignoring the fact that all of his films display a nearlyncreepy detachment from their subject. Every Mike Nicholsnmovie feels like two movies: the one he makes to amuse hisnfriends, and the other one that is meant for payingn