As I said goodbye to everyone after my kickboxing class tonight, this little queen stopped me right in my tracks. She had a cardboard box slung over her shoulders like a backpack, with a paper towel tube affixed to the side of it with yarn. Does it look familiar to you?
You guys, she’s a Ghostbuster:
This young child is out here busting ghosts with her lonchera cookie box and I am LIVING FOR IT.
If you think that movies are “just movies”, I hope you’ll see that this is a perfect example of why representation matters. Cookie box backpack girl saw a big summer movie about a group of smart, funny women who save New York City, where she lives. It affected her. She now wants to be like them: a scientist and a hero at the center of her own narrative.
This is exactly why I was obsessed with Special Agent Dana Scully as a child. She was not secondary to her male partner, Agent Mulder. She totally kicked ass on the X-Files, furrowing her brow skeptically at Agent Mulder’s nonsense, frequently shutting it down with a simple “I’m a medical doctor, Mulder.” She saved the day on multiple occasions…with science. Apparently, actress Kate McKinnon (who plays Dr. Holtz in the Ghostbusters reboot) was obsessed with Agent Scully as a child also:
Amazing right? Still, though we have our Scullys and our Holtzs, when I think about the other women this little girl sees depicted in movies and on television, I am reminded of just how much work there is left to do. When her parents watch TV, she sees women who only speak about the male character’s story. She sees women who don’t speak at all. Women who only look a certain way. Women who are props. Women who are punchlines. Soon enough she’ll get the message that we don’t really care about women that much, and she’ll be right.
The 2016 Ghostbusters reboot was the subject of vitriol, before it even came out, just because it featured women. It is the most “disliked” movie trailer on YouTube. After its release, actress Leslie Jones was harassed on Twitter by a bunch of racist trolls for daring to be a non-white, non-model-sized, non-model-aged woman in a movie.
But it doesn’t stop us. We demand better. We demand to be seen and heard. We tell our stories anyway.
AND we support films with women in front of the camera and behind it. I hope you went to go see Ghostbusters opening weekend, as we discussed, and if you didn’t, I hope you saw it shortly after. I went opening weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie in a packed theater. Everyone was cracking up.
And I really hope I see more little girls with ghostbusting cookie box backpacks around Brooklyn as a result.
GHOSTBUSTERS (2016) is directed by Paul Feig, produced by Ivan Reitman & Amy Pascal, and written by Katie Dippold & Paul Feig. So this definitely counts! Let’s go rouse some rabble, rabble rousers!
Also, I don’t know if you’ve heard this, but all the Ghostbusters are… um…women.
I know you all love rabble rousing, so you probably already have tickets. Further, do I really need to convince you to go see a remake of a beloved 80s movie starring Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy?
Based on the trailer alone, it obviously passes the Bechdel-Wallace test and will likely top our Beauty Coup list of passing movies for 2016. Honestly, I hope there are so many passing films that it doesn’t even make sense to have a list this year. We’ll just say, hey, there were multiple movies that featured women talking to each other about something other than a man this year. Was that really so hard?
So, it’s a date I hope. GHOSTBUSTERS comes out this Friday, July 15th. I’m really excited.
I’m a white actress and writer, and I’ve been auditioning for theatre, film, and TV for over 20 years. The majority of the casting calls I see and receive include specifications about race. We’re talking at least 90%, probably more. They also always specify gender, frequently include age ranges, physical descriptors, and often absurd “qualifications” (especially for women). Casting is a world that operates very differently from your typical employer/employee relationship. I’m not here to argue the legality or moral implications of these facts. I’m telling you that when it comes to casting, this is the current reality.
Hamilton is a revelation. It’s a brilliant and captivating piece of theatre like nothing we’ve ever seen before. It’s “not a moment it’s a movement.” Whether you know it or see it or like it, Hamilton reflects the world that we live in. As creator Lin Manuel Miranda said, Hamilton is
If you’re a white actor feeling left out of this opportunity because of your race, well… take a minute to imagine feeling that way every single day, in damn near everything that you do. Then take another minute to acknowledge the privilege of a life where you almost never, ever, ever have to think about that.
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!
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.
A Note From E: 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!
Dear readers, as you have probably guessed, my dear friend Elizabeth and I agree on a lot of things. Taylor Swift is not one of them. While E is on Team Swift (or Squad Swift, I guess?), I am just not, and it’s high time we hashed this thing out.
As you may or may not know, Ms. Swift was born on a Christmas tree farm (because she’s just that magical), so December seems like the perfect time of year to finally hold our Great Swift Debate. When I started working on this post, I also discovered that Swiftmas is a thing where Taylor Swift buys you presents, and that the word Swiftmasmay soon be trademarked.In the spirit of the holidays, Beauty Coup presents our latest two parter: The Swift-Off. AKA The Swiftening. The Twelve Days of Swiftmas. (Realistically, it’ll probably be more like two days.) I’ll have the first word, then E will have her rebuttal in Round 2.
A bit of Swiftstory
Two years ago, right here at Beauty Coup, I pointed out that Taylor Swift hates girls with brown hair, probably because they stole her boyfriend. She didn’t know what Feminism meant, but she DID know that she looked great in virginal white. But that was 2013, baby, and we’re living in a whole new world now. 2015 Taylor Swift doesn’t hate any girls– in fact, she’s best friends with ALL of them. Just look at her having a blast with all of her female friends:
I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it. I chose those words carefully, because Taylor Swift is a savvy business woman with a well crafted brand. She didn’t make $365 million dollars this year by accident. Seems to me like there was a lot of criticism about the negativity towards other women in her earlier work, she saw the writing on the wall, and took it as an opportunity to adjust her brand– right along with her shift away from country music. SMART. Now any time another woman has something to say about her, THAT woman looks like an asshole. Even Amy Poehler and Tina Fey!
Taylor took this performative friendship act with her on the road for her 1989 tour. She may be famous, but she’s so down to earth. She’s such a supporter of women. Just look at how she brings them onstage with her to share the spotlight. That’s what’s she’s selling– and lots are buying!
Now, you may be wondering how I can really fault her for any of this. This is her job, you know? She’s good at it– and good for her. I’m just saying it’s phony and I don’t think it’s cute, cause it ain’t. Onto her real crimes.
Such as, talking in the middle of your song using words you never say. An incomplete list of words that Taylor Swift would never use in conversation but appear in her songs:
But seriously though:
Beyoncé Really Did Have the Best Video of All Time
I should probably amend my whole jam right now by saying that I’m not against Taylor Swift, The Person. It might not be reading this way so far, but I’m having a hard time writing this because I really do feel conflicted. I will go to the mat for Taylor whenever I hear anyone trivialize her success. I think she has put in the work. She had to go on tour opening for Brad Paisley, the poor thing. Her songwriting, which isn’t to my personal taste, speaks to a lot women (and young women) and that is valuable. My beef is that I think she’s celebrated disproportionately and for the wrong reasons, and the best way to illustrate that is to point out the ways other women are not celebrated.
It turns out that the crux of my Taylor Swift-aversion is that Beyoncé really did have the greatest video of all time. The 2009 VMAS are infamous as the origin of the Kanye West “Imma let you finish…” meme. We all looked on, mouths open, as Kanye strode on stage and interrupted Taylor during her win for Best Female Video, proclaiming he was going to let her finish her “little old me?” act, but first it needed to be said that Beyoncé had the greatest video of all time. The interrupting (and the Kanye-ness of it all) overshadowed his point, but I have to say that Kanye was one hundred percent right on this one. In what universe is this shit better than the Single Ladies video? Honestly. Re-watch this.
Heavy handed, predictable, trope-laden, slut-shaming (!!!), Americana milquetoast bullshit. I can’t decide if I want to PUKE or FALL ASLEEP. Oh, Taylor’s so “ugly” in those glasses. That brown-haired girl is so mean and slutty in her red car. That football boy is so good. But she won for this, you guys! Over Single Ladies. I don’t need to post the Single Ladies music video for you. Why? Because it’s ICONIC! Never mind that Single Ladies is just a better song than You Belong with Me, this was the Video Music Awards. And Taylor’s video is better? You’re going to look me in the eye and tell me it’s BETTER? No, you’re not, and yet, Taylor Swift has SEVEN GRAMMYS. This. Drives. Me. INSANE! NO WONDER KANYE WAS MAD AT THE VMAS.
I AGREE WITH KANYE
So you may be saying, but Shannon, You Belong with Me is her old stuff, from when she was still pretending to be a country singer. According to the person who lives with me, who grew up with two country music stations on his TV, You Belong with Me is marginally better than your average country music video. FINE. She didn’t win Best Country Music Video. Back to my original point: her shit is phony. Boys didn’t like Taylor Swift in high school? YEAH RIGHT, STOP LYING. Her faux-shock face, her “humble” routine, her “I’m awkward, just like you!” shtick is still going on and it’s still ridiculous. Take the Shake it Off video. Taylor Swift can’t dance and I’m supposed to think it’s cute? Why the hell is she dancing, then?
Oh, but she’s such a good role model for young women. Why? Because for some reason she reads “Christian”? Nary a cross to be seen, I might point out. It’s because she doesn’t “take her clothes off”. That’s her choice, and I won’t trivialize the importance of that choice. She shouldn’t have to. But valuing a woman for her “purity” is just as negative as casting her as a sex object. It’s the same thing. And if you think what she’s bringing is maturity to the table with those lyrics, you’re wrong. She’s still singing aboutbad boys breaking her heart and it’s conveniently never her fault. (There’s also one song about being in a fight with another girl). That’s great role modeling?
When Nicki Minaj spoke out earlier this year with a critique on racism in the music industry, Taylor made a mistake by taking it personally and accusing Nicki of tearing down her fellow woman (because Taylor was nominated and Nicki wasn’t). Taylor graciously invited Nicki to come up on stage with her if she won (wow, gee, thanks). Nicki ended up taking the opportunity to educate Taylor by sharing information on the issue. Taylor ended up apologizing and agreeing she had missed the point. Unfortunately, most of the coverage labeled it as a cat fight, belittling what it really was– a real moment between two women. Not a fake ‘get on stage with me’ performance. A real moment of solidarity about a real issue, a woman of color and a white woman illustrating inclusive feminism! That’s a headline! (It wasn’t the headline).
I love this. Honestly, this is what I want to hear from Taylor– about all of it. I wish she would stop the “lucky girl” routine. She isn’t lucky. It’s a combination of working hard, being a gifted story-teller, and happening to be thin, white, and blonde in a culture that values that. I just wish she would acknowledge this. I understand why she doesn’t, though. She is celebrated for being “humble”, read: grateful. A woman should not be too proud, lest she be considered vain and stuck-up. She can’t be sexual, unless it’s in a little innocent package. It makes me crazy. It isn’t her fault that is this way, but couldn’t she use her position to do something about it?
It seems as though things could be moving in that direction. Until that time, I guess I’m with Kanye.
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:
Bessie 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
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.”
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
Trainwreck 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)
The DUFF 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 Inside Out Spy
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
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 Youfailed, 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.