Ever since I’ve known of their existence, I have watched the Oscars every single year, save one. We’re talking decades of Oscar watching. (Why I missed the Oscars that one year is a post in and of itself, but let’s just say there was a pretty girl involved.) I love the Oscars. The era of Billy Crystal hosting the Oscars was a tenet of my childhood. I remember my favorite winners and their speeches and often, yes, what they wore. The Oscars are my Super Bowl. Usually, I throw a fancy little Oscar party, where everyone gets all gussied up, and we drink a lot of champagne and do a lot of celebrating. Sometimes I even roll out a cheap little “red carpet.”
Like everyone else with a sliver of social awareness, I am also very, very tired of the straight white male Hollywood boys club. It’s extremely frustrating every time the nominees are announced, and – once again – people of color and women are not recognized for their cinematic contributions in Hollywood. The #OscarsSoWhite controversy primarily focuses on the acting categories, with some scrutiny of the nominated directors. The sea of white faces (and male, for directors), is tiresome at best, and at worst, it’s a sad reflection of the pervasive racism and sexism that persists in the world’s most dominant creator of cinematic entertainment.
As an actress, I am thrilled whenever I see something different in those categories. “Something different” includes anything other than beautiful, twenty-something white gals. Which isn’t to say that those ladies don’t deserve their spot at the table. It’s to say that the hyper-focus on youth and Hollywood beauty* excludes and invalidates the experiences and stories of older women, women of color, women who aren’t thin or who don’t meet a highly inflated standard of what qualifies as attractive/sexy. Start looking at the women nominated vs. the men. Start paying attention, and you won’t be able to stop.
As a writer, I pay special attention to the Original and Adapted Screenplay nominations, and if a woman or person of color is on either of those lists, it’s like goddamn Christmas. This year, the only women nominated for Original Screenplay are part of writing teams – a phenomenon so common, if you only used the Oscars as a barometer, you’d think women are incapable of writing scripts without the help of a man. In the Adapted category, women fare slightly better, with Phyllis Nagy nominated for Carol, her adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith novel (The Price of Salt) and Emma Donoghue for her adaptation of her own novel, Room.
This brings us to directors. I’m the most tired of sharing these stats (So. Depressing.) but since it’s important to know, here you go:
- 88 years of Oscar
- 4 women nominated for Best Director
- 1 woman has won (Kathryn Bigelow in 2010 for The Hurt Locker)
If inclusive nominations among the writers is like Christmas, when women** show up among the Best Director nominees, it’s f*cking Christmakwanzakah.
The sexism and racism of Hollywood is not a problem that begins and ends with the Oscars. It is inherent and systemic, and needs to be tackled in many different ways from many different arenas if we are to affect real change.
Since the 2016 Oscar nominations were announced, and declarations of boycotting began to surface, I’ve discussed these issues with many admired and trusted people in my life, both within the industry and without. In the end, I’ve decided to go ahead and watch the Oscars. Because I am a writer and an actor, I believe there is more tangible work I can do from the ground up, to ensure that more and more unique voices and stories are heard and recognized. Through the stories I write, the characters I play, and the films I hope to one day produce, I will help make the seats at those coveted tables more far-reaching, inclusive, and welcoming.
That being said, I’m not having a party this year. I’m watching the awards with two friends and my 15-month-old daughter. We aren’t getting dressed up, and we aren’t drinking champagne. The super fab soirée that is E’s Oscar Party is shut down until further notice. I’m going to watch the Oscars, but I’m not going to celebrate them. I won’t celebrate them again until there is truly something to celebrate.
*yes, this is different from Real World Beauty
**I looked for stats on PoC nominated for/winners of Best Director. All I could find were stats that either strictly addressed black nominees (there have only been three), or “foreign born” nominees/winners, many of whom are white. If anyone knows where to find stats on PoC nominated/awarded the Best Director Oscar, I’d love to see them.
As mentioned in Shannon’s post: As S and I embark on the Swiftiest of Swift-Offs, please keep in mind the following… Over the years we have debated Tay Tay to such degrees that we are able to see many sides of this shiny, blonde, leggy enigma. We could deliberate Her Swiftyness for hours, and find certain opinions overlapping. But for the purposes of these posts, we’ve agreed to go full-on Debate Class, with me taking the For argument and S taking the Against. Merry Swiftmas to all, and to all a fair fight!
For the Tay-Nay-Sayers, S got your back during the festive holiday season. Who cares if Swiftmas is a real thing wherein Taylor Swift surprises unsuspecting fans with oodles of holiday treats? S set out all the reasons Tay Tay grates on your Grinchy heartstrings, and I am here to do the opposite. I’m here to kick off 2016 with lots of reasons for loving Taylor Swift, starting with a not-at-all-secret confession:
I’m a fan. Yes, a fan of Taylor Swift’s music, that’s me! To be fair, it only started recently. I couldn’t name a song of hers that happened before Red, and my favorite album is her latest, 1989. The former is just enough pop-country crossover to make an easy fan of me, and the latter is just enough throwback to the music of my youth that I became completely sold. Her sh*t is catchy, y’all. Frankly, if you’ve ever been a teenage/early twenty-something girl, I don’t know how you can listen to this song or this one (or this one) without some real, deep down, Girl, I Feel You feelings.
Which brings me to Point #2: in a world of cookie cutter autotune pop stars who act like little sexy baby divas I can’t help but give props to the woman who has worked her ass off for her fame, and continues to show nothing but gratitude and affection towards her 60 million fans. Sure, maybe it’s an act. But even if it is, it’s a) smart, and b) Really Nice! Think of a musician whose work you admire, whose songs get your toes tapping and your lips synching… If you met that person, would you rather they acted like this:
Or like this:
Sort of sidebar: yes, I just berated human marshmallow fluff Ariana Grande for her “sexy baby” look, but this does NOT mean that I think Taylor Swift is somehow superior for dressing more conservatively.* The sexy baby thing bugs me (an entirely different blog post), but all-in-all I am a very sex positive person and I support women having agency over our bodies and how we dress and presents ourselves and so on and so forth. Suffice it to say, I’d bet a lot of money (and I have no money) that AG doesn’t curate her own image.
Back to Tay!
Not only is Taylor Swift a gracious celeb, she is also genuinely talented. Even if you aren’t a fan of her music, it’s still refreshing to see a young woman carve out a career as a singer/songwriter in this day and age. Country was a logical launchpad for her career, as that’s where you’ll find most singer/songwriters these days, but as Red and 1989 prove, she has other music to share, and she crossed over very successfully.
Which means, the girl also has business sense. So she’s talented, nice to her fans, gracious in the face of crazy huge fame, and a savvy entrepreneur. I have to say it folks… It’s no wonder she’s friends with Beyoncé.
Which brings me to the only point in S’s argument that I cannot debate. While Taylor Swift brings a lot of good into the world, this is in literally no way superior to this. It just… isn’t. Beyoncé wins.
Still, that video (and video awards) blunder aside, there’s a lot to love about Taylor Swift. She’s not only everything I’ve already mentioned, she’s also open to growing and learning from her mistakes, and as a Mega Super Star, that sometimes happens very publicly. Like when Lena Dunham made a feminist out of her, or when Nicki Minaj took her to school on Twitter.
Like all humans, Taylor has her shortcomings, and so in the interest of furthering the debate, I leave you with more Taylor Tidbits to help you decide: Nay Tay or Yay Tay!
Hope everyone had a Merry Swiftmas, and that you’re all looking forward to a bright and shiny Swiftyear!
*disclaimer: I don’t have one type of look, and I love all sorts of fashion, but if I have a fashion spirit animal, it’s a hybrid of Penélope Cruz and Taylor Swift.
In her Bechdel-Wallace Test: 2015 TV Edition post, S reminds us of the what and why of The Test and digs into this year’s small screen offerings. My mission, which I heartily accepted, is to give you rabble-rousers a rundown of the Bechdel-Wallace* Test Approved films of 2015 (thus far; we still have the Awards Push season to scrutinize!)
Herein are the Gold Star Recipients of the Big Screen Bechdel-Wallace Test Passing Adeptly Awards:
As the biopic of the great Bessie Smith (played brilliantly by the great Queen Latifah), there are the inevitable conversations between Bessie and Ma Rainey, Bessie and her sister Viola, and Bessie and her lover (represented in the film by the character Lucille, who is a composite of the women in Bessie’s life). These conversations address careers, lady love, ambition, family, talent, recovery from addiction, and motherhood, to name a few of the Not Men subjects.
- Also passes the racial Bechdel-Wallace Test
- Directed by Dee Rees
- Queen Latifah!
Mad Max: Fury Road
When you see this movie, it may seem like Imperator Furiosa is the only woman who is actually named. In fact the wives have names, too, they’re just weird, post-apocalyptic names. I’d have to watch a second time to be sure, but I believe each of them is even referred to by name at some point in the film: Toast the Knowing, The Splendid Angharad, Capable, The Dag, and Cheedo the Fragile. Some of the elder women also have names, such as The Valkyrie and Keeper of the Seeds.
There isn’t a lot of dialogue in Mad Max, but when these women do talk, they talk to each other and they talk about the green place, survival, hope, repairing the truck, planting seeds, life and death, conquering the Citadel, and so on.
- Great feminist discussions permeated pop culture because of this film. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the key players:
- Charlize Theron (Imperator Furiosa)
- “I knew instantly from understanding the project that George had an innate understanding of what women represent to society and he wanted that to reflect in a post-apocalyptic world in the most truthful way possible. People keep saying ‘strong women’ but we are actually just women. We had a filmmaker that understood the truth of women is powerful enough and we don’t want to be put on pedestals or made to be unnaturally strong. What we are capable of doing is really interesting and informs a story like this.”
- George Miller (director)
- “Initially, there wasn’t a feminist agenda,” Miller insisted. Instead, the movie was simply designed to be an extended chase, and “the thing that people were chasing was to be not an object, but the five wives. I needed a warrior. But it couldn’t be a man taking five wives from another man. That’s an entirely different story. So everything grew out of that.”
- “She (Margaret Sixel, Miller’s wife) had never cut an action movie, and she said, ‘Why on earth would you want me to cut the movie,’ and I said, ‘Because if it were the usual kind of guys, it would look like every other action movie you see,’ and she said, ‘My job here is to stop you from embarrassing yourself.’”
- “I’ve gone from being very male dominant to being surrounded by magnificent women. I can’t help but be a feminist.”
- Charlize Theron (Imperator Furiosa)
Magic Mike XXL
I can see many of you shaking your heads… What is Magic Mike doing on this list? My answer? Oof, so many things.
Magic Mike XXL is a celebration of female sexuality. Yes, really! If you haven’t yet, watch it, and see for yourself. (Also, Channing Tatum, so, you’re welcome.) To pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test, we have Rome naming all of her female customers who she sometimes engages in a (brief) tête–à–tête, and later we get the lovely allusions she shares with Paris regarding their shared past. Almost all of these interactions focus on women’s worth, pleasure, and agency. They cover sexuality, career, skill sets, viability, and the delightful idea that all women are Queens.
- I get to post this gif
Pitch Perfect 2
Becca, Chloe, Fat Amy, new girl Emily, and the rest of the Bellas, talk all things competition, talent, show routines, song selection, confidence, legacy, and sisterhood. PP2 wins all the things.
- Directed by Elizabeth Banks
- Song and dance numbers
- Becca’s aca-awkward interactions with the head of the German team
I didn’t LOL at this movie as much as I thought I would, but it was a refreshing spin on the rom-com and easily passes The Test. Amy talks with her boss Dianne about work, getting a promotion, story ideas (gray area here as they work at a men’s magazine), and her sister Kim about their family and Kim’s family and their sex lives and their childhood and so on. Also LeBron James as himself is amazing.
- Challenges stereotypes faced by men and women by flipping the gender norms about sex and relationships on their ass
- Song and dance number (you’ll see)
Bianca, Jess and Casey, being best friends, talk about plenty of things other than guys. They discuss homework assignments, their friendship, their gifts and flaws, fashion, homecoming, parties (even Queen B Madison gets in on that conversation), and they have a pretty hilarious fight involving social media. Basically they’re actual representations of teenage girls, so The Duff passes with flying colors.
- Bianca also has some interesting chats with her mom, Dottie (Alison Janney always wins)
- Two of the friends ditch their dates for their bestie in need <<— Realness
Here are a few other 2015 movies that pass The Test and are still on my To See list:
Avengers: Age of Ultron
And one that I will probably never see, but if you don’t mind Mush Mouth Lively, then I hear this one passes admirably:
The Age of Adaline
As a small bonus, here are some 2014 films that pass The Test, which we never got around to writing about, because in 2014 I had a baby and S was busy being really there for me.
- The Book of Life
- Dear White People
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- The Lego Movie
- Mockingjay Part 1
- Obvious Child
- The Other Woman
On a final note, a movie does not have to pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test in order to be considered good. The Test is designed as an (absurdly low) barometer for measuring representations of women in film and television. There are so many movies and TV shows (so many) that fail The Test, it would be wildly inaccurate to require passing The Test as a measure of quality. For example, This is Where I Leave You failed, and it’s a great movie.
The point of The Test is to remind us that when it comes to portrayals of women on screen, we can do so so so much better. We have a lot to celebrate when quality films pass, and the abundance of quality films that don’t pass reminds us that we still have quite a lot of work to do. #wegotthis
*Alison Bechdel would like all of us to start giving credit to her friend Liz Wallace, who laid out these rules in a conversation with Bechdel, prompting her to include them in her comic ‘Dykes to Watch Out For.’ We’re all about credit where it’s due, so Beauty Coup will henceforth refer to it as the Bechdel-Wallace test.
Perhaps it was her “Milk Milk Lemonade” video or some of her stand up, or last Friday’s Feminist Funtimes when we discussed the charming notion of what makes a woman f*ckable… or perhaps you still haven’t paid witness to Amy Schumer. Whatever your first exposure to this crass lady of comedy, odds are good that you had a strong reaction to her and her raunchy brand of humor.
Full disclosure: it’s pretty easy to make me laugh. If you’re at all clever, odds are good that I will laugh at your jokes. That being said, I do tend to roll my eyes when I feel like there’s too much Try. If something that’s meant to be funny is also GROSS or CRASS or SHOCKING, then I feel like you’re Trying Really Hard to make me laugh, and instead all you get is this:
That was more or less how I felt about Amy Schumer, at first. So much Try. Her comedy reminded me of the diarrhea scene in Bridesmaids – it was funny for a minute, but quickly (for me) became overkill.
But as I’ve seen more and more of what Ms. Schumer is bringing to the table, the more I’m into it. Her comedy is still raunchy (and I would never want her to change that; it’s who she is), and as it turns out, she is also smart as hell and using the fame and attention she’s generating to make funny about some really serious sh*t. Cases in point:
And the latest: this week’s episode of Inside Amy Schumer is a 20-minute remake of the 1950s film 12 Angry Men. Except it isn’t jurors in a room debating the fate of an accused murderer. In this version, the 12 angry (and sweaty) men are debating whether or not Amy Schumer is hot enough to have her own TV show. They also briefly mention the movie she has coming out, which b.t.dubs, looks hilarious.
The full episode, 12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer (heh) is available on Comedy Central’s website (you have to log in with FB or Twitter), and I highly recommend watching the whole thing. It is absolutely worth 20 minutes of your life. Not only because it’s funny, but because of why it’s funny. (For more on the why of it, read Duana’s post over at Lainey Gossip; she sums it up quite nicely.)
On that note, while we can’t all produce brilliant comedic sketches around them, we should join the Amy crusade and eschew the beauty standard by hashtagging our so-called faults, or something to that effect. Mine would definitely be #clusterteeth and #stonereyes (and since I’ve been breastfeeding for six months, odds are good I can join the #muppettits club).
Thank you, Amy Schumer, for being funny, for being yourself, and for calling attention to all this bullshit that women are inundated with every single day. I am officially a fan. #loveyourcabbagepatchface
While I’ve said it often in conversation, I’m not sure I’ve ever said it on this blog: In my (almost never humble) opinion, Hollywood is the highest glass ceiling left in this country.
The sexism inherent in the entertainment industry first showed itself to me when I was in film school. In Film History, we studied the 1928 film The Passion of Joan of Arc. We were discussing the scene of her trial, and I started making a point about the powerful visual – mind you, this is a silent film – of Joan in her male garb duking it out with her accusers. The professor interrupted me to say, “We’re discussing filmmaking, not feminism.”
A fellow (male) student and I hit it off, until we discussed the dearth of women filmmakers in Hollywood, and he told me that “The movies women make just aren’t as good.” Moments later, it became clear that he was under the impression that I was going to have sex with him, probably because that’s how he envisioned women reacting to him as A Great Director.
These attitudes toward women in Hollywood are not isolated, subjective experiences. An entire Tumblr has popped up, devoted to the things people say to women in the film and television industry. This article in the LA Weekly runs you through some staggering statistics. It’s a relatively long read (I recommend making time for it), so here are some highlights:
“In 2013, 1.9 percent of the directors of Hollywood’s 100 top-grossing films were female, according to a study conducted by USC researcher Stacy L. Smith. In 2011, women held 7.1 percent of U.S. military general and admiral posts, 20 percent of U.S. Senate seats and more than 20 percent of leadership roles at Twitter and Facebook — and both companies now face gender-discrimination lawsuits.”
“…between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2014…
— Warner Bros. released 72 films … 53 of which we produced; 19 were only distributed by WB. Of those 53 films produced and distributed by WB, three were directed by women.
— Twentieth Century Fox, 20th Century Fox Animation and FOX 2000 produced 45 films. One was directed by a woman.
— Combined, Universal and Focus Features produced 101 films. Five were directed by women and one was co-directed by a woman.
— Paramount produced 51 films. One was directed by a woman; one was co-directed by a woman.
— Sony’s largest studios, Columbia and TriStar, produced 62 films. One was directed by a woman.
— Disney Studios and Disney Animation produced 52 films. Two had women as co-directors.”
These statistics focus on directors, but the numbers are not much better for producers, writers, cinematographers… essentially any filmmaking job other than Actress. And how are things for actresses in Hollywood these days? Ask the ladies in Amy Schumer’s recent skit, or Welcome to the Dollhouse star Heather Matarazzo, who all shed light on the significance of being “fuckable” in order to be cast in decent roles. It’s a qualifier that only applies to women, of course. It’s what this author implies is the reason that the very talented Mae Whitman was not re-cast as the President’s daughter in the forthcoming Independence Day sequel, even though she’s proven to be a greater box office draw than the relatively unknown actress who was cast. (Not to mention, she already played this role! She’s still around, and working, and adorable, and charismatic, and making money for studios. How is this even a question??)
Ask Kristen Stewart, Jennifer Garner, and these eight actresses, who are all speaking up about the industry’s blatant sexism. This is my favorite thing about what’s happening in Hollywood right now. The tide hasn’t officially turned, but damn if it hasn’t started to swell.
As frustrating as it is to encounter such reductive attitudes, I think it’s a very exciting time to be a woman working in Hollywood. We are living in an era where the sexism is still pervasive, but women are no longer keeping quiet when it happens to them. It may still be harder and more challenging for women to rise up the ranks, but they aren’t staying silent once they get there, and a lot of them are making noise along the way. Because women are all kinds of Able. We are capable, we are estimable, and we are bankable.
In essence, the tide is turning. We are on the precipice of what I believe will be a great shift in who helms the stories we are told. Don’t you worry, JLo. It is all happening, girl.
I for one can’t wait to be a part of it. #wearebankable
Hooray, it’s Friday Feminist Funtimes! Apropos of FFF, the Identifying as a Feminist debate rages on, as does the What Feminism Needs debate, the Feminism is For All debate, and the I’m An Ism You’re An Ism debate. There’s feminist debate fun to be had by all!
Many of you will recall that Emma Watson (#Hermione4Life) recently gave a killer speech at the UN. Initially it received a lot of attention, which is not surprising considering Ms. Watson’s level of celebrity. What was less publicized was the immediate threat that followed, in the form of a website that popped up, featuring a countdown clock and the implication that nude photos of Ms. Watson would be released when it expired.
As mentioned on Lainey Gossip, Ms. Watson’s fierce reaction to this (baseless) threat, her passionate feminism, and her ambitions for the He For She campaign are not sustaining headlines. Odds are far greater that you’ll come across some new form of “OMG She Lost Her Baby Weight!” than updates on the UN’s Solidarity Movement for Gender Equality, even with Hermione as their ambassador.
Sidebar: I mean no offense to Ms. Gran– um, I mean Watson, by ofttimes referring to her as Hermione. On the contrary, having just re-read the HP series (for the third time <– nerd alert), I consider it to be a form of high praise. Should Ms. Watson ever stumble on to the tiny universe of BeautyCoup, I hope she would agree.
Moving on… A breakdown of Hermione’s interview on the Guardian’s website details many of the kick ass things she had to say, and I highly recommend you take a few moments to read it. Immediately following said article, I discovered some thoughts from Roxane Gay about feminism, specifically as it relates to celebrities like Emma Watson and Jennifer Lawrence embracing the word, ideals, and in Emma’s case, activism.
Fewer of you will be familiar with Roxane Gay. She’s a columnist, an author, and a vocal feminist. I generally like what she has to say, due to the age-old concept of preaching to the choir. But this time around, several things about her article started to make me bristle. Feminism is a movement of inclusion, and her arguments began to sound rather exclusionary. She makes the following points in her article, which I shall address in turn:
- Celebrity endorsements of feminism are infuriating… Hmm. Disagree. I understand her point that wrapping feminism up in a pretty package to make it more palatable is not ideal. However. Fame is not an aspect of our culture that will ever magically disappear. In this age of information and misinformation, we are more saturated than ever with celebrities – their products, their lives, their children, their relationships, and their causes. How we react to celebrity behavior says a lot about who we are as a society. As I set out to raise my own little rabble-rouser, I would much rather see tons of celebrities (regardless of their appearance, age, or gender) embracing the identity of Feminist. We should not discredit ardent feminists because of how they look. If these young, famous women who meet society’s absurd beauty standards want to use their powers for good, then I say:
- The rebranding of feminism is not a magical solution… Agree. With a small caveat. Even with the famous pretty faces waving their feminism flags, there are still so many people (so many women!) who are afraid of the word feminist, let alone actually embracing the work of feminism. Again, with all of the information thrown at us on a daily basis, a sharp way of communicating the true meaning and ambitions of feminism isn’t the worst idea.
- This point I have to quote directly, because it’s the part of Ms. Gay’s article that I struggle with the most:
“This is the real problem feminism faces. Too many people are willfully ignorant about what the word means and what the movement aims to achieve. But when a pretty young woman has something to say about feminism, all of a sudden, that broad ignorance disappears or is set aside because, at last, we have a more tolerable voice proclaiming the very messages feminism has been trying to impart for so damn long.”
To her first point, that too many people are ignorant when it comes to the meaning and movement of feminism: Agree! It’s a huge problem that so many people equate feminist with being anti-man, and the movement of feminism as exclusionary.
To her second point about pretty young women speaking out as feminists: Disagree! Emma Watson and Jennifer Lawrence and Beyoncé have not eradicated broad ignorance about feminism with their declarations. They are chipping away at that ignorance by speaking out as feminists and, to make my final point, one more quote from Ms. Gay:
“We run into trouble, though, when we celebrate celebrity feminism while avoiding the actual work of feminism.”
Agree. Which is why, when we have someone like Emma Hermione Watson standing up as the face of a United Nations campaign in order to clarify what it means to be a feminist, expose those who might not otherwise hear it to the truths of feminism, and yes, do the actual work of feminism, as far as I see it, that’s something to celebrate.
Now I’d like to see this Moment turned into some Serious Action:
What will it be?? Beyoncé-themed confidence building curriculum for girls in junior high? Beyoncé Love Your Body dance classes?? A Beyoncé Feminism 101 website? I have big dreams, because if anyone can do it, it’s Queen B.
Ps. An FFF Morsel: Julianne Moore stomps on the “mani cam”