"Brave Dames and Wimpettes," by Susan Isaacs. Ballantine...

Book Brief

April 11, 1999|By Marla Matzer | Marla Matzer,Knight Ridder/Tribune

"Brave Dames and Wimpettes," by Susan Isaacs. Ballantine Books. 112 pages. $8.95.

Women as doctors. Women as lawyers. TV and movies are doing a good job of depicting strong, accomplished women, right?

Not really, according to Susan Isaacs. The best-selling author of "Compromising Positions" and "Almost Paradise" has written the very readable "Brave Dames and Wimpettes" for Ballantine's Library of Contemporary Thought. The book examines, as its subtitle states, "What Women Are Really Doing on Page and Screen."

Take Ally McBeal. Please. Isaacs bluntly says, "When Mary Tyler Moore threw her hat in the air (at the opening of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"), she was saying, I love my life, I love my job ... Ally McBeal, on the other hand, could be living in the Eisenhower era and been forced to go to work. She's not all bad, but she's a pain in the ass."

The short, paperback format of the Library of Contemporary Thought allows well-known authors to write essays that are topical and easily read in one sitting (or over a couple of evenings before bed). Since the production schedule is short, Isaacs is able to discuss such recent films as "There's Something About Mary" ("Cameron Diaz ... as an orthopedic surgeon who is never actually seen in surgery but who is seen undressing before an open window") and "Fargo" (Isaacs calls Frances McDormand's Marge Gunderson "one of the finest women characters in film"). You may not agree with all her observations, but it's fun to read and compare notes with Isaacs.

Especially for women in their 20s and 30s who think feminism is dead, here's a way to expand your horizons in three easy steps:

1. Vow not to buy Cosmopolitan magazine for the next three months.

2. Take the $8.85 you'll save, throw in a dime and buy a copy of "Brave Dames."

3. Read book.

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