the ladies guide to dude cinema
Sydney comedians Bec Charlwood and Alex Jae spend their spare time dissecting films “aggressively recommended” by men.
In the grand tradition of awesome ideas, the Ladies Guide to Dude Cinema podcast began with a cathartic bitch session between best mates. In late 2018, Sydney comedians Bec Charlwood and Alex Jae were drinking “quite a bit” of rosé on Alex’s couch, chatting about that weird (usually male) tendency to shame others (usually women) for their pop-cultural taste. In this case, Alex was seeing a guy who’d discovered – to his utter bewilderment – that she’d never watched the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. She had to change that, he said.
“I started feeling really self-conscious that I’d never seen it,” says Alex, who doesn’t like fantasy films, but now felt she owed it to this otherwise pleasant man. “She was stressing, thinking she might not watch it right,” Bec remembers, “but it shouldn’t matter. It’s just a movie. She shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about something a dude thinks is good.”
The pair expanded this phenomenon to a genre they now lovingly call ‘dude cinema’, defined as any movie that comes “aggressively recommended” by men – or opinionated film obsessives of any gender. With the help of their producer pal Alexei Toliopoulos, Bec and Alex launched the Ladies Guide podcast in 2019, and have spent nearly 100 episodes dissecting the peculiarities of films that straight guys “can’t believe you haven’t seen”. Think Top Gun, Rocky, Platoon, Fight Club, or any maddeningly inscrutable movie by Inception director Christopher Nolan.
“It’s often something with action scenes or that artistic Tarantino-y bullshit,” Alex says. “A recurring theme is revenge for a dead wife or female family member.” John Wick? Check. Gladiator? Check. Braveheart? Check. Bec and Alex have also learnt if there are any living female characters, they usually have paper-thin personalities and very little to do. “We don’t just focus on feminist issues, but they do naturally come up,” Bec says. “I’ve seen how much we need more stories about women. Some of the movies we’ve watched – supposedly among the greatest of all time – are so dude-heavy, and geared towards the male experience. And a lot have very violent themes towards women. Why would you want to sit down with a date and show them?”
Each episode of the podcast focuses on a single film and the ladies’ reactions to it (sometimes with a helpful guest). Neither Bec nor Alex claims to be a movie buff – Bec has “actor face blindness” and Alex has spent most of her life rewatching her five favourite flicks – but they’ve since caught up on heaps of classics, from Indiana Jones to The Usual Suspects. They’ve learnt to like a lot of things, too, like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and anything to do with Keanu Reeves. They’ve also developed some theories about what unites ‘dude cinema’ films, and what makes men feel so compelled to recommend them. “Dudes aren't traditionally in touch with their emotions, and how they connect to people can be very basic: we like the same things, so we’re friends,” says Bec, pointing to main character Rob’s mantra in High Fidelity: “what matters is what you like, not what you’re like”.
Though the podcast received a little pushback in the early days – particularly their Blade Runner episode, which seemed to hit a nerve with guys who accused them of missing the film’s Cold War subtext – Ladies Guide to Dude Cinema has built a growing audience of folks who can relate to their experience. In fact, Bec and Alex receive heaps of listener requests – even from male listeners, who are keen to hear alternative perspectives on their favourite films.
“We’ve had a few dude cinema converts who tell us, ‘Oh my god, I’ve been doing this my whole life and I just found your podcast. I’m so sorry’,” Alex says. So, what’s up next on their list? Why, every dude’s favourite Christmas film, Die Hard, of course. You have to watch it.