February 27, 2011

Live-Blogging the Oscars

Filed under: Event,Film,Gender,Media — Tags: , — Rachel @ 4:34 pm

This liveblog is in reverse-chronological order.  Refresh the page for the latest updates.

8:36 Well it was an underwhelming and mildly offensive show.  Recap with more in-depth thoughts to be posted tomorrow.  Thanks for reading!

8:14 Is there a reason why most of the best actress clips are of the women in pain?  Just wondering.

8:02 Academy brought out a woman to introduce a woman, to introduce a woman, but, whoops, forgot to nominate a woman.

7:50 I find the idea of women’s “goddess”-ness being tied to smooth legs, really, really problematic.

7:41 Well, I’m offended by the lack of diversity throughout the show.

7:28 I seriously do not understand this obsession with the early Oscars, all it does is show how far Hollywood hasn’t come, with about as much diversity in 2011 as there was in the 1950s.

7:24 Sorry for the slow updates, haven’t seen anything offensive or great in a while.

6:48 Well that’s twice that a woman was part of a winning team and didn’t get in a word.  Not sure if it was decided beforehand who would speak, but just an observation.

6:28 Academy is better at recognizing women filmmakers when looking at foreign movies, apparently.

6:26 Disappointed to see cross-dressing being played for laughs.

6:12 Why is this show glamorizing “old” Hollywood so much, conveniently ignoring that it was full of racism, sexism, etc.?

5:57 Aaaand, now he’s hitting on the winner too.

5:55 Hailee Steinfeld is in the wrong category – should be “Best Actress”, she is the star of True Grit.

5:53  The whole Kirk Douglas-Anne Hathaway thing had a cringeworthy “creepy old man” vibe to it.

5:45 Sad to see the woman (set director) not able to get in a word during the first win.

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January 18, 2011

Mattie Ross: True Brat?

Filed under: Film,Gender,Media — Tags: , , , , — Rachel @ 7:53 pm

The following post contains spoilers for the film “True Grit”


This morning Rachel Simmons tweeted a link to a story on her blog – a high school girl’s take on the adolescent female characters in the recent films, Somewhere and True Grit.   I was pleasently surprised when seeing True Grit, that the star of the film is a smart, brave, headstrong, gutsy, no-nonse 14-year old heroine named Mattie.  Unfrotunately the high school blogger who penned ““True Grit” and “Somewhere” Star Girls but Fail Girlhood” didn’t see her in the same positive light.

In fact, Fiona Lowenstein describes Mattie as: one-dimensional, “caricature”, “annoying, impossible to relate to, and not at all believable”, “dislikable”, “a joke”, ” self-satisfied” “irritating”, “rude”, “arrogant”, “braided blowhard”, “grating”, “smug”, and “pushy”.

Even if Mattie does come across this way – let’s look at a few reasons why she might be such a “grating, pushy, blowhard.”  First, when the movie opens, her father has just been murdered by a handyman he had hired to help him.  Then she’s not taken seriously by the horse salesman who tries to screw her out of money that is rightfully hers because he sees her as some silly illiterate 14-year old girl.  She tries to hire Rooster Cogburn, but he also sees her as an idiotic adolescent.  The Texas Ranger La Boeuf informs her the only reason he’s not sexually assaulting her is because she’s so ugly.  Shortly thereafter Cogburn lies and leaves without her.  The La Bouef lies and says he’s taking Tom Chaney when they find him so he can get payout on a contract. Now what could possibly compel Mattie’s character to have a defensive, head-strong attitude?  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that she’s mistreated every step of the way.  Oh, and it’s not the guys who end up taking down Chaney and saving the day.  When Mattie confronts him, she shoots Chaney twice, on two separate occasions.

Additionally, Fiona places the entire blame for her view of the above characteristics of Mattie on the Coen Brothers.  Apparently before going on a completely uninformed rant, she couldn’t be bothered to google to find out any history whatsoever about the film.  Like, that it was originally a book published in 1968 by Charles Portis, or that it was made as a film in 1969, starring John Wayne.  To say that the Coen Brothers may have written Mattie (which they didn’t – Charles Portis did) as “a joke” is to have zero familiarity of the history of their work.  In fact, the Coen Brothers stuck more closely to the source material than the original film adaptation.  (In the John Wayne version, the men do ultimately kill Chaney and save the day.)

The unfortunate thing about Fiona’s post is that it has the potential to turn young women away from the movie, and the Coen Brothers other films, when her piece was neither constructive or researched in any way.  Furthermore, is this the type of post that belongs on the website of an author who uncovered girl-on-girl crime in adolescence?  Is calling a female character a blow-hard helping anyone?  I certainly don’t think so.  An uninformed voice is a potentially harmful one.

September 24, 2010

Top 5 Problems with Glee: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Season 2 Premiere

Filed under: Television — Tags: , , , , — anita @ 6:00 am

by Anita Sarkeesian
Crossposted from Feminist Frequency

Tuesday night’s season premiere of Glee may have been one of the most offensive hours of television I’ve watched in a long time. It seemed like every minute or two they would make another sexist, racist or homophobic joke. I was afraid Glee was going in a bad direction after the first few episodes of season one but none-the-less I kept watching. I understand the popularity surrounding Glee because it’s a fun show with silly over the top characters, and I’m kind of a sucker for musicals, however the offensive stereotypes masked in humour as well as continuous tokenizing has taken it’s toll. The season two premiere had me enraged.

Glee is a show that stars mainly white characters with a secondary cast of token “minorities” which is illustrated by the fact that only the white cast members were featured on the cover of Rolling Stone. The show is notorious for tokenism. It does so by including a limited number of individuals from oppressed groups to make a TV show (or workplace) “feel” more inclusive while maintaining the status quo. In this case the status quo is white and heterosexual. Token characters are usually relegated to a secondary or sidekick role. In Glee, nearly all the secondary characters are tokenized even as the writers attempt to cover it up by “special episodes about —insert oppression here–“.

There were so many problems with the season premiere that it would take me pages and pages to write it all out so here are my top 5 issues.

#1 TRANSPHOBIA & HOMOPHOBIA

In this episode we are introduced to Sannon Beiste (pronounced Beast – I CANNOT believe they had the nerve to name her Beast), the new female football coach at McKinley High. Immediately Beiste is made ridiculous because of her name, her appearance, her gender and her profession. The writers used all this to make jokes at her expense playing up her perceived sexuality and gender identity without ever mentioning it. Although Beiste does not necessarily self identify as lesbian or transgendered the writers are clearly playing on transphobia. I’ve already seen posts on the internet inquiring about the actor’s “real” gender. They did attempt to add complexity to her character by bringing in a bit of a back story which I appreciate but it doesn’t make up for endless homophobic and sexist jokes. Also they consciously chose to name her Beiste, a “butch” and monstrous name to match their casting, costuming and writing of the character. They clearly did this to create a hyper stereotyped caricature of a masculine or ‘butch’ woman with endless possibilities of homophobic and sexist jokes. Characters on the show that have a non normative gender presentation and don’t fit neatly into traditional “male” or “female” identities are often ridiculed; this even happens with Sue, the villain that everyone loves. Beiste is initially made fun of by other characters and framed as an outsider. Later the audience develops more sympathy for her through Will as he begins to see that she is a “person” too despite her monstrous appearance and behaviour. Although we are supposed to have more tolerance and some measure of sympathy by the end of the episode, she is still an over the top stereotyped, caricatured “other”.


#2 “FAKE” SEXUAL ASSAULT & RAPE

I’m so tired of the fake rape plot point in TV shows. Writers often use it because it provides a seemingly unpredictable twist in the narrative, but in this episode it’s just played for comedy. It’s another case of writers having fictional women use the fake accusation of rape or assault to destroy an individual as a personal vendetta. Sue convinces Brittany to accuse Coach Beiste of sexual assualt in order to get her fired. Although it is clearly and obviously a plot point played for laughs, the pervasiveness of this trope creates an environment where real women are thought of as suspect when reporting rapes and assaults. In the real world these sorts of false accusations are extremely rare especially in contrast to the real world epidemic: 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

Read the last 3 issues over at Feminist Frequency >>


September 10, 2010

“Like in Gay”….or not.

With great enthusiasm (despite the trailer – which I’ll point out later) I went to see “The Kids Are All Right” last week. I was pretty stoked to be seeing a mainstream, Hollywood film produced and directed by a lesbian feminist – Lisa Cholodenko – whose other directorial credits include “Hung,” “The L Word,” and “Six Feet Under.”

The film is about two teenagers (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) who are being raised by their lesbian moms (Julianne Moore and Annette Benning). We pick up their story as they decide to contact their biological father/sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo) much to the chagrin of Benning’s character, Nic.

First off, I want to get out of the way that I was really entertained by, and actually, liked the Bechdel-approved, film overall. So, don’t think I’m not a total stick in the mud. BUT, you can assume if that’s the preface to everything else I’m about to say – it was not without its problems. The number one most irritating aspect of this film is its depiction of lesbian sexuality. Surprising, given that it was written and directed by a lesbian…just goes to show how powerful those production dollars are.

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