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.
February 28, 2012 § Leave a comment
As I have mentioned before, I live with several fantastic film and dramatic writing majors. One of my roomates, Kelsi, is midway through shooting her senior thesis film, The Big @#$%! Apple. The story is about Morgan, a recent college graduate, who is facing bleak career prospects in life after college. It’s a funny film that features strong female characters, women in above the line positions, and passes the Bechdel Test.
Films are expensive to make, and students at SCAD must raise the budget for their senior projects themselves. If you like supporting female filmmakers, and have a little cash to spare, please donate at Kelsi’s IndieGoGo page.
June 4, 2011 § 6 Comments
I’m done with finals, and have a brief respite from school, so I can finally collect my thoughts long enough to write a semi-coherent blog post. I’ve also moved into an apartment, and two of my roomates are women who are heavily involved in SCAD’s (Savannah College of Art & Design) film department. One is a film major, the other is a dramatic writing major with a film minor. Both are amazingly talented individuals.
They both went to the Scademy Awards, which is SCAD’s version of the Academy Awards, in which individuals in the film department nominate studeint films for awards.
According to my roommates, not a single woman in the film department was nominated/won an award for their work.
There are approximately 1,000 students in SCAD’s film department. Surely there is at least one woman in the film/dramatic writing department who is making award-winning work.
SCAD loves to boast about preparing their students for the “real world”. But misogyny and underrepresentation of women within the film industry is not a “real world” quality that a very expensive institute of higher learning should be promoting.
May 3, 2011 § 2 Comments
Get. Your. Act. Together.
First Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in The Hunger Games?
Then Bradley Cooper in a remake of The Crow?
And now speculation that Kate Hudson has signed on to another Linda Lovelace
torture porn, i mean biopic featuring torture porn?
Oh, and let’s not forget Rosie Huntington-Whitley in the next Transformers
celebration of boobies and explosions shitshow.
And I still remember the fact that one of you cast a neurotypical woman in Temple Grandin and an able-bodied man on Glee.
I graduate in November. Care to clean up your act and make the industry a little less fucked up when it comes to gender, race, and (dis)ability?
Otherwise, I’m going to be very, very pissed off. And it’s not a good idea to piss of a ginger feminist badass with too much student loan debt and no tolerance for this bullshit.
March 14, 2011 § 6 Comments
It says something (not particularly good) about our culture when a cosmetic company uses its lack of Photoshop as a way to market its foundation:
This campaign is successful: I now want to try their foundation — especially as an actor who spends quite a bit of her time in front of high-definition cameras.
Wearing makeup on a daily basis is pretty much a fact of life for me. And I’m the most appreciative of companies who can sell me a quality product without massive amounts of retouching. I also like how this model isn’t doing SexyFace, she’s taking a photo of herself. She’s doing something that I do whenever I’m dressed up for a special event or party.
So, as a message to other cosmetic companies: More of this, and less crazy retouching. Please.
(Via Beauty High.)
August 12, 2010 § 6 Comments
The film industry has a lady problem.
Genuinely challenging and original leading roles for women are scarce, roles get smaller as women grow older, and many, many serious films that get serious nominations do so because serious men are at the center, experiencing serious, manly situations. No matter how progressive and lefty Hollywood likes to think it is, it is still slave to the power and influence of strict gender roles.
But film is an art form, and no matter how commercialized and consumerist this particular art form may have become, there are still those films that will challenge gender roles, challenge assumptions, and challenge the audience. But what does a feminist film look like?
Is a film that deals explicitly with the struggles of women in a patriarchal society instantly feminist? The Piano, a movie by Jane Campion, is often hailed as a feminist filmmaking feat, and although it’s a picture that I adore, I hesitate to agree (spoiler/vast oversimplification of plot ahead!). A mute woman leaving one repressive relationship by leaping into the arms of a man who essentially forces her to pay for her beloved piano with her sexuality hardly registers as a feminist statement for me. Nor does having a woman behind the camera guarantee a feminist success. Hollywood gave itself a good pat on the back this past March for giving a best directing and a best picture Oscar to Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman ever to win either award. While such a feat is undeniably something to get excited about, her winning would have been much more of a true feminist victory if her film, The Hurt Locker, weren’t a prime example of one of the aforementioned serious manly man movies (a pretty overrated and unoriginal serious manly man movie at that).
In popular culture, women aren’t treated like people, but rather like women. Someone is a man until proven otherwise. Women, despite being pretty much half of the population, are viewed as the “other.” As a result, there are limited roles that they are allowed to occupy, and unjust stereotypes that they are expected to fulfill. Therefore, the films I consider to be truly feminist are the films that do treat women like people, that allow their female characters to take on roles filled with tension and anger and adventure and excitement that female characters are so often denied.
Take Wendy and Lucy, the beautiful 2008 film directed by Kelly Reichardt. The story follows a woman named Wendy (Michelle Williams) as she travels to Alaska in a run down car with no other company than her beloved dog, Lucy, who seems to be her only friend in the world. Wendy is down on her luck, with a cold demeanor and a butch presentation – not the type of character Hollywood usually likes for its delicate lady-flowers. She’s constantly faced with the brutality and indifference of those around her, and experiences incredible sadness and incredible courage as she teeters on the edge of despair. Wendy is a feminist character in that she’s allowed to be distraught. Ugly. Imperfect. Strong. Impatient. There is none of the naiveté that young women are automatically presumed to have, no distracting boyfriend story, nothing that shouts “THIS CHARACTER IS A WOMAN, IN CASE YOU DIDN’T KNOW IT, AND WE WILL DO THIS AND THIS TO HER JUST SO YOU REMEMBER THAT SHE’S A LADY.” She’s a person, with as many flaws as merits, and is treated and examined as such.
In most action movies, women are hot and kind-of-smart-but-not-too-scary-smart babes who come second to the big macho male action star. Not so in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill movies. The central character, The Bride (Uma Thurman), wakes from a coma, then embarks on a violent killing spree, mowing down those who so brutally betrayed her and put her there. The Bride is driven by unabashed, unrelenting ruthlessness – a quality that is hardly traditionally “feminine.” It’s not the bride’s violence and need for revenge that makes her feminist (violence is never, ever the key to true empowerment), but rather the fact that she’s allowed to be so filled to the brim with drama and tension and genuine rage. Women are told to be complacent and submissive, things that The Bride is absolutely not. The morality of her actions is questionable, to say the least, but she sure does rip apart many traditional and annoying notions of femininity during her bloody quest for vengeance.
Movies made for little girls are often about princesses, and tend to equate being rich and married with being beautiful and worthy (I’m lookin’ at you, Disney). Hiyao Miyazaki is, essentially, the anti-Disney – the protagonists of his anime films are little girls, but instead of falling in love or finding happiness through material possessions, they go on adventures. They explore. Satsuki and Chihiro, of the films My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away, are curious and bold. They exemplify genuine compassion and bravery, but without submissiveness or naiveté. The word that you could best use to describe all of Miyazaki’s heroines is “independent” – a feminist word if I ever saw one (hell, he even manages to give the Little Mermaid story a feminist edge in Ponyo).
Women are conditioned and told to strive for “perfection,” to be beautiful, gentle, submissive, and not to cause trouble. But women are human beings, and human beings do cause trouble. When a character breaks the unfair rules of the patriarchy, when she allows the audience to see her during her ugly, human moments, when she can be “unlady-like” and still be a protagonist worthy of our compassion and our sympathy, she’s a badass, gender-role-fucking feminist.