April 18, 2012 § Leave a comment
Lena Dunham’s new series Girls has been hotly anticipated, to put it mildly. It’s produced by Judd Apatow. It is directed, written by, and starring Lena Dunham. It has been Tweeted. A lot. Girls will supposedly be the new show that will be scarily relevant for young women who still hadn’t gone through puberty when Sex and the City premiered. I wanted to like Girls, because the current entertainment landscape is deviod of television and shows that include women in above-the-line positions, or barely pass the Bechdel Test.
However, my lovely roomate Rachel could have written a much funnier, relevant, and heartbreaking show about young women in their twenties sturggling to make it in a world where a college degree no longer guarantees a decent job.
Hannah (played by Dunham) is distraught when her parents announce that they will no longer be “bankrolling her groovy lifestyle”. Subsequently, Hannah is fired from her internship when she informs her boss that she can no longer work for free. Both of these situations are not uncommon for young twentysomething women. Unpaid internships in the world of theatre, media, and publishing seem to be the new way that many employers get around pesky fair-pay laws and devalue the earning power of women. So while I share Hannah’s frustrations about being mistreated as an intern, her opiomtastic plea for more money from her parents was bizarre and unrealistic. When I asked my parents to send me money for rent after I lost my low-paying, soul-crushing food service job, I broke down and cried. Money is a very sensitive subject, and whenever my friends confess that they have no way to pay for rent, food, bills, and loans without outside help from relatives, they do so with shame.
While Hannah is spoiled and shameless, she is the only character so far that has at least some dimension and vulnerabity. Jessa is the stereotypical bohemian Brit, and Shoshanna, in her one major scene in the pilot rambles on about nothing but Sex and the City. And while I have met women who talked about nothing but SATC they were slightly more interesting to be around than Shoshanna.
Being a young woman with a degree and far too much student loan debt is hard. And occaisonally, frightening. But most of the people I know wound up moving back in with their parents after graduation due to the lackluster job market, or worked multiple jobs in order to stay afloat with bills. They didn’t get the privilege of a financial crisis after 2 free years of rent. The girl-Women of Girls seem to be living in an alternate universe where moving back home is worse than death and Brooklyn is an exclusively white borough, with soft, photo-ready lighting. If Girls is the new Sex and the City, the show is following in its predecessor’s footsteps of featuireing a New York City exclusively populated by white people, save for that one black catcaller, since apparently all black men ever do is yell at white women.
The one thing Dunham did get right in the pilot was Hannah’s (deeply dysfunctional) relationship with Adam. Some writers have criticized the sex xcene between Hannah and Adam as being unglamorous and degrading. And that is the point. While I don’t have parents willing to pay for two years worth of my rent and bills while I try to “find myself” in New York, I know far too many men who believed that condom use was optional, and thought that a women willing to have sex was also willing to have anal sex. And I can understand why Hannah went out of her way to contact this slimy, somewhat abusive, habitual non-texter. Even smart, college-educated young women have a hard time turning off the voice that says everyewhere, in books, tv, movies, and magazines that bad (or even not especially consensual) sex is better than being alone, especially after your boss has fired you from your unpaid internship because you don’t know PhotoShop.
Girls should not be a unique show because it is written and directed by a woman. There should be so many shows directed, written, and produced by women that viewers should not have to feel like they should settle for a mediocre one in order to support female writers and directors. If the girls of Girls don’t grow up soon and move beyond their Gen Y versions of SATC charictatures, I won’t have a reason to keep tuning in. Especially because HBO gives the show a late evening time slot, and I’ve got work the next morning.
August 15, 2010 § 4 Comments
The last couple of posts have been about women in film (and the occaisonal woman who directs/shoots/produces films). If I am lucky, I will be one of those women in front of the camera. If I am even luckier, I’ll actually enjoy the project that I’m shooting.
That’s the challenge of being a woman in the performing arts field, who is also a feminist. So much of the available jobs in TV/film/commercials are total and complete crap. Because plays are so expensive to produce (a three-person play with one set will cost at least six figures to produce in New York), casts are shrinking, and so are, you guessed it, roles for women.
One of our first assignments in our Acting For The Camera class was to talk about our classmates’ “types”. My professor was straightforward about what we would be most likely to be cast as [Evidently, I'm a quirky "character" type, who would be good in Meg-Ryan type roles]. Frankly, I don’t always appreciate it when people tell me, as a 20-year-old student, what I’ll likely be doing, based on my looks, for the majority of my career. And this year, the projects I filmed included:
-A wheelchair bound wife, having difficulty handling her disability.
-A bobby-soxer in the Fifties.
-A vagabond, living with a collective of people out of the bed of a pickup truck.
-A German prostitute.
-A cancer patient who makes a suicide pact with another cancer patient
Ie, things not in my supposed “type”.
At my first college, I saw talk of “types” totally destroy my classmates, who were convinced that they would not be able to do anything other than what another classmate or professor suggested. There is nothing more tragic in my mind than a bunch of 18-year-old college students that have been convinced that they cannot do anything other than one specific “type”.
As I think about my post-graduate opportunities, I’m leaning more towards jobs not directly related to performing arts, but ones where I could use some of my strengths that I’ve learned as an actor. Why? Because I would have more freedom than having to go on audition after audition, only to be told that I’m “not right for the job” because I am short/have red hair/do not look like Megan Fox.
One of the best things that I learned at my previous college was to make my own work, rather than waiting for good work to come my way. That has to be the future for film, television, and theatre if we want to see things other than Two and a Half Men and Paul Blart: Mall Cop.
I don’t want to be in the position to have to take the horribly sexist commercial/sitcom/film gig because that is the only work available for me. I’d rather break out, and set my own rules, than be stuck having to follow the rules of an industry that occasionally produces brilliant work, but is so stuck in a mentality of “if it doesn’t make money, it will fail” that they keep on doing the same thing, with the same shitty stereotypes, over and over again.
Plus, why would I want to work in the same industry that still employs Charlie Sheen?
August 8, 2010 § 2 Comments
MTV seems to be confused, or having an identity crisis. On one hand, programs such as the reality series If You Really Knew Me and Teen Mom are tackling sensitive issues such as the stresses of being in high school, and the challenges of being a teenage parent. On the other, they are responsible for the drunken shenanigans of the Jersey Shore cast and the “fame” of Mr. Ryan Leslie, member of Real World: New Orleans, who loves making homophobic remarks on camera, and on his Twitter page.
I was impressed by If You Really Knew Me, because I have gone through the Challenge Day retreat that the MTV cameras are documenting, and I think that it’s great that such an awesome organization is getting more publicity. One of the things that was discussed at my Challenge Day was the pressure for many teenage boys to deliberately harass other people, in order to prove that they were “manly” enough. We also did exercises to show how hurtful bullying/name calling/teasing were, and that ridiculing someone based on their appearance, sexual orientation, etc was wrong.
Perhaps the Challenge Day people should host a retreat for the casts of the Jersey Shore and Real World NOLA. The fact that MTV decided to cast such a cruel bigot as Ryan (most likely for his “shock value”), and has done little to hold him accountable for his actions makes me sick. Did producers really think that by having Ryan on the show, that people like me (young college students) would watch in droves? Are advertisers really okay with selling their products during this trainwreck of a show?
Here’s some suggestions for MTV to increase viewership:
1. In the words of the great troubadour Justin Timberlake, PLAY MORE DAMN VIDEOS.
2. When not doing number 1, promote shows such as If You Really Knew Me, True Life, Teen Mom, and other programming that does not include fist pumping, drunken shenanigans, or total assholes all living together in one McMansion
3. Perhaps take a page from Current, and promote viewer created content. Young people + cameras + subjects they are passionate about = content that would be vastly superior to Date My Mom.
I wonder if MTV fears that if they promote more non-shitty programming, they will lose viewers/revenue. Honestly, losing the viewership of total and complete douchenozzles in favor of gaining the viewership of people like me (who have a disposable income that could be spent on advertisers *cough unsubtle hint cough cough*) is no tragedy.
Also, why the crap is MTV doing a US remake of Skins? Is this really necessary? [Answer: because they think it will make them money, and no.]
July 21, 2010 § 5 Comments
Eighteen-year-old Filipina singer Charice Pempengco underwent a Botox procedure to prepare for her upcoming role on Fox’s Glee.
If you are like me, you are wondering: WHY?!?! The AP reports on some diverging perspectives:
Pempengco’s publicist Liz Rosenberg said the procedure was “absolutely not cosmetic,” but rather to treat pain in the muscles of her jaw.
The “celebrity cosmetic surgeon” (oops! There’s that word, cosmetic, which this is “absolutely not”…) Vicki Belo, who performed the procedure, said that it was intended to make Charice’s “naturally round face,” um, less round (and less natural?). “You chew gum and it turns out to be a favorite super-exercise for these muscles, your chewing muscles. So we will show you, this muscle here it’s a bit protruding… It’s like a ball, so we are going to Botox that in order to get it flat so she will have a cuter face…we want to give you the apple cheek look because it’s cute, right?”
Charice herself says that the she got the procedure “to look fresh on camera.” Further, “all people will be anticipating how will Charice look? Is she good enough to pit against Rachel Berry? So of course there is tremendous pressure.”
So, to review: the procedure is “not cosmetic,” but serves to make Charice look “cute” and “fresh,” a look which she has received “tremendous pressure” to embody.
Um. Do we know what cosmetic means? (“Serving to beautify the body… serving to modify or improve the appearance of a physical feature… decorative rather than functional.” So, all of the above.)
Just for reference, here’s a photo of Charice before the procedure. (Not, of course, to imply that if she looked older or different, then a Botox procedure would be warranted, expected, or necessary — only to provide evidence that even someone who is praised for her beauty, and who has likely undergone a rigorous audition process based heavily on physical appearance, is simply never beautiful enough.)
In patriarchy, women are told that our lives will be gloriously happy if only we achieve physical, aesthetic perfection. What we’re not told is that such perfection is impossible. And the looming irony is that we’re inundated with messages that CONFIDENCE IS SEXY!, messages produced by a culture that makes it so damn difficult to be confident (and even demonizes women who are “too confident” by deriding them as sluts and bitches).
Let’s talk about me. Though I don’t wear makeup and I couldn’t be called busty, I benefit from almost every other kind of beauty privilege you can imagine. I’m white, I’m thin. I don’t use glasses, my hair isn’t too frizzy, I’m not acne-prone, I shave lots of places. But still! Still, even with all this privilege that lands me very, very close to my culture’s beauty ideal, and even with all the strength of my feminist backbone, still I have days and moments where I feel hideous and self-conscious and unworthy because I feel unbeautiful. It is staggering to imagine the hatred that women are expected to direct inward.
Charice’s case is not an anomaly. It’s indicative of the grossly disturbing prevalence of ever-unachievable beauty standards.
July 15, 2010 § 3 Comments
I saw a commercial for CW’s new reality show, “Plain Jane,” last night. This morning I found this preview on the channel’s website.
The title “Plain Jane” alone should have been enough of a warning. I saw this preview and didn’t have the strength or emotional energy to continue looking into it. I think the most offensive part is at the end when the creepy announcer voice says, “Every dream will become real.” Thanks, CW! Thanks so much for realizing the only dreams young women have, to receive highlights, strappy heels and some lip gloss! How else can women become confident, self-loving individuals?!?
Actually, I changed my mind. The part where the “plain Jane” is strapped with a zapper and is LITERALLY ZAPPED by the hosts of the show when she “falls back into her plain Jane ways” is the most heinous. I don’t even know where to begin talking about how demeaning and dehumanizing that is. Thanks for the soulache, CW.
April 9, 2010 § 1 Comment
A lot of you are probably already familiar with Jay Smooth (Feministing links to him all the time), but in case you’re not, just let me say… He is incredibly, ridiculously, undeniably awesome and, as you can definitely tell from the title, I have a huge crush on him. He does web videos at Illdoctrine on topics such as pop culture, current events, and music. Anyway, his most recent video is one on Sarah Palin’s new show on Fox: