Category Archives: Movies + TV

We’re Obsessed With: The Headless Women of Hollywood

Started by comedian Marcia Belsky, the new Tumblr The Headless Women of Hollywood draws attention to the all-too-common practice of featuring fragmented, objectified images of women’s bodies in advertising for movies and TV.

 

From the Tumblr’s “About” page:

“The head is first and foremost the thinking part of the human body, where our motivations and feelings are located. So, these images we are bombarded with on a daily basis tell us persistently that women’s thoughts, feelings and personal agency either don’t exist or are of no interest.

Further, facial features are the way we recognize other people. It’s the face that makes us individuals. That too is taken away, and we are taught that all women, especially ones that match the ideal, are the same and interchangeable.

We are made numb in pop culture to female bodies remaining background to male-centered action. A right for men to focus on or ignore, but always there if and when he so chooses. And always there explicitly, first and foremost, for his intent.”

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Rejecting Forgiveness Culture: Women in Revenge Films

Lady Snowblood (1973) Directed by Toshiya Fujita

I have an affinity for revenge stories. Three of my favorite movies are revenge films. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, Lady Snowblood and Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 have a special place in my heart. I love the ruthlessness that accompanies the main female characters in these films. I love the unapologetic politics of killing those who have wronged you in the past. I love the lack of forgiveness. These women have lost a part of their humanity and this is what is left. The anger. The rage. The power to delve into a dark part of themselves because this is what is necessary to get rid of the evil men. They will not be silenced.

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FUNNY FEMINISM #7: The Sex Drive of a Woman — An Interview with Mary Neely

A regular column, Funny Feminism features conversations with feminist-identifying artists who use humor in their creative work.

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Mary Neely is a (now) 25-year-old actress, writer, feminist, filmmaker, and web-series-creator. She can do it all. Based in Los Angeles, her debut short film, “The Dresser” played at film festivals all over the world. Her web series, Wacko Smacko launched last year, and her first feature screenplay, The Dark Room was nominated for an Academy Nicholl Fellowship. I don’t just get immense joy from watching Mary’s work, I also get inspired just thinking about Mary’s work ethic. Talking to her over the phone for this interview, I caught the sort of infectious enthusiasm she has for filmmaking that made me want to jump on a plane and go and work on one of Mary’s films for free. Mary has a vision, but also the guts to set her vision free into the world. I can’t wait to see what she does next and hope you’ll feel compelled to binge-watch her web series after reading this interview.

Mary

Cathy de la Cruz: I’m wondering if first you could begin by giving me some background on yourself since I don’t really know that much about you. I’ve seen your work, but I don’t know much about you as a person. I’m interested to hear how you describe yourself i.e., do you describe yourself as an artist or as a comedian or as a filmmaker or as a performer? You do so many things.

Mary Neely:  I’m 23, actually 24; I don’t know why I said 23. I feel old, right now. I grew up in Los Angeles, a lot of different parts of L.A. My parents moved around a lot of different neighborhoods, but I was always living in L.A. and I got really really into community theater when I was in elementary school and became obsessed with theater and Broadway and I wanted to move to New York and do acting, like Shakespeare and low-budget plays but I ended up going to UCLA for college and studied acting there.

While I was there I kinda started taking film history classes mainly in Scandinavian film. I got really into Danish films. It kinda became a crazy obsession where I would just be in UCLA’s video archives all the time.

I always primarily thought of myself as an actor and I studied acting and I thought that I would start auditioning as soon as I got out of school, but then I started doing more film stuff with the film students at UCLA and became really obsessed with film in general and I remember having moments on sets where I thought,  “Oh, I could like do that person’s job better than them.” So once I got out of school, I was really disappointed in the kinds of roles I was going out for. I just think there’s a huge problem with the kind of roles that are written for women and for me specifically as a young woman–I was just like, “This is just really depressing,” and I wasn’t really excited about anything so I just decided, “You know, I’m just gonna do it myself.”

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Growing Up Xicana: Looking back on La Reina Selena 21 Years After Her Death


Selena Quintanilla

I am seven years old and one of the kids in class starts singing “Bidi bidi bom bom” and I am ready to sing along because I love this song so much and I want to be Selena so bad. The kid continues singing and then ends the song with “Selena is a dumb dumb.” I turned so fast, gasped, and pointed my finger at the kid. “You cannot talk about her like that. Selena does not deserve your ugly words, pendejo.” I was ready to fight for my queen. I am still seven and it is time to take school photos, I specify to my cousin Omar, “I want my hair to look like Selena’s.” He curled my hair into tight swirls and then put it into a high ponytail and I never felt so beautiful in a school photo before. Anytime Selena’s videos played on TV, I was enchanted. Her energy was magnetic and I loved watching her perform. I am eight years old and I get home from school and turn on the TV. The news reporter is explaining that Selena was pronounced dead in the afternoon. I turned the TV off and stared up at the ceiling in silence for a long time, I didn’t cry, but my head felt light and I couldn’t think about anything else that day. I moved to Colorado that summer to live with my Tía Irma. For the sake of bonding, she used to drive me around in her red Toyota with the radio blasting. We danced and sang as  loud as we could in the car. I remember we made it back to the apartment in the evening after a session of karaoke in the car together and Selena’s newest song, “Dreaming of You” vibrated through the speakers. We sat in silence and let Selena finish singing before we got out of the car. Today is the 21st anniversary of her passing and I still think of her often, as a light and as someone who was taken from earth too early (she was 23). Even with her tragic departure, she is still an icon. She radiates power and what it means to be a xingona (a badass).
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10 Images of Women Writing on Screen

During a recent first-time viewing of Romancing the Stone, I found myself transfixed by the opening scene: the protagonist is alone in her work space, deep in the throes of her writing process. As I watched, I wondered—how many similar scenes of women writers at work had filmmakers captured, and what themes could I make out across them? Would I spot my own writing habits at play in their fictionalized ones? I set out to find more of these depictions in movies and TV shows, pressing pause whenever I spotted a lady-identified writer mid-scribe. Behold these ten examples of women writers at work, presented chronologically, spanning 30 years of TV and film.

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1.

Romancing the Stone, on-screen woman writer

Adventure novelist sobs while completing her manuscript in Romancing the Stone [1984]. Visible writerly equipment: oversized plaid nightshirt with sound-canceling headphones, overturned Chinese takeout box, lit tapered candle, typewriter, can of Tab, an empty box of tissues, the silhouette of Texas on a cork board. Not pictured: a cat named Romeo, tiny airplane-style liquor bottles, a post-it note reminding her to buy more tissues. Continue reading

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Girl Meets Girl Meets World

I was interviewed as a Boy Meets World superfan in a January 2013 issue of the Canadian magazine Macleans. For the last three years this has been my fun fact whenever I have to introduce myself at a company icebreaker. Apparently there is no bigger fan of Boy Meets World on the Internet.

Boy Meets World, in case you were not a TV-binging latchkey kid in the 1990s, is a sitcom about a boy named Cory who is supposed to be fairly average in every way: average student, average nuclear family with 2.5 kids (literally, he has a brother all the time and a sister only some of the time, due to standard 90s sitcom continuity problems). Notable characters in Cory’s life include Mr. Feeny, the impossibly wise history teacher, who is also his next-door neighbor; best friend Shawn, who is from the Wrong Side of the Tracks and has Tremendously Important Father Issues; and Cory’s on-again, off-again girlfriend Topanga, who started out as a comical weirdo but morphed into a standard Pretty Girl Love Interest, for which I hated her.

It’s not a particularly notable show. Starlee Kine described its comforting blandness on the This American Life episode “Reruns”: “It didn’t even matter that I didn’t watch it as a little kid. I can imagine little kids being in really comfortable, carpeted family rooms and laying with their elbows propped up and watching Boy Meets World and feeling really safe. Because it’s like the safest thing in the world.”

Boy Meets World cast

Boy Meets World season one cast. Cory kneels in front, wearing primary colors red and blue to denote him as the hero, and holds the hand of his sometimes-nonexistent little sister, Morgan. Cool big brother Eric leans in from the left, while parents Amy and Alan hug and judge behind. Blazer-wearing history teacher/crotchety neighbor/stalker Mr. Feeny frowns imperiously, while Rebel Friend Shawn smirks and wears a tie-dye T-shirt with sharks on it like a boss. Not pictured: the love of Cory’s life, Topanga. She wasn’t that important in season one.

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Shocking News from The Bachelorette: One Solitary Woman Was Harassed on the Internet!!!

Image via Caroline Gormley

Image via Caroline Gormley

OMG you guys—so, I’m getting caught up on The Bachelorette for tonight’s FINALE!!! and just needed to report back on some important findings from the “Men Tell All” episode that aired last Monday! So like, color me shocked-as-fuck—my jaw is literally hanging open; YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE THIS: I learned on “The Men Tell All” that Kaitlyn had the extremely rare and shocking experience of being a female public figure who was slut-shamed and harassed on the internet! She even received death threats! Continue reading

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The Emotional Stages of Realizing The Phantom of the Opera Actually Sucks

Are you trying to control me with your sexy hand?

I used to be one of those ideological pseudo-purists that only engaged with media that jived with my politics—a totally sustainable way of life if you want to think about !!Important Issues!! 24/7. Don’t get me wrong: I’m still all about Racebending and #WeNeedDiverseBooks, but American popular culture sure doesn’t make the struggle easy. Before I started working full-time, I had the mental fortitude to read plot summaries and cast lists to seek out media that passed the Bechdel Test at the very least, but the pacifying ease of shitty media slowly brought me over to the Dark Bland Side. I had so few fucks to spare after standing in a 120˚F kitchen for 10 hours, and that’s how I ended up watching The Phantom of the Opera productions every night for three months.

Of course I rationalized it, passionately defended it to friends, and parroted a line found in every think piece: “But it’s actually really smart!” I’m standing in the cold, unfeeling light of Acceptance now, but it’s been a struggle. Here’s how it went down: Continue reading

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The Bachelorette Is Changing the Rules to Accommodate Kaitlyn’s Sluttiness and I Love It

I realized something this past week: The Bachelorette is my favorite show. I can’t say why, and I don’t know that I’ll always feel this way, but like drunkenly pulling smarmy, ugly leather jacket-clad Nick into your Ireland hotel room in a feverish passion, the heart wants what the heart wants. And this week, I’ve just wanted The Bachelorette.

As a show, The Bachelor is a really straightforward narrative of patriarchy: there’s a single boring white dude, and 30 women with blonde highlights and unthreatening careers fighting over him. The Bachelorette, however, is more of a mind-fuck. It more or less always brings us the same tired cliches about hetero romance and gender, the same negative stereotypes and narrow views of womanhood as its brother program, but it’s all wrapped up in a kind of faux female empowerment—a crowd of HOT TOPLESS GUYS with SIX-PACKS, OMG, fawning over one lucky single gal in a glorious triumph for feminism and equal opportunity. This is our turn, ladiesssss!

Sluttiness montage via Inquisitr.com

For a brief moment on this past week’s episode though, it felt like it kind of was. There was indeed a tiny glimmer of feminism, in which the show decided to cater to Kaitlyn’s sluttiness. To be perfectly clear, by saying sluttiness I of course am joking about the double standards that the show and our horrid patriarchal culture perpetuate around female sexuality; by Kaitlyn’s sluttiness I do of course mean her Totally Healthy Female Sexuality. The show saw that Kaitlyn was being unapologetically sexual, and they did some helpful rearranging to cater to it. Continue reading

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Translating Djuna Barnes to Film: An Interview with Daviel Shy

daviel

My heart gaped when I learned that Chicago-based filmmaker Daviel Shy‘s next project would be a feature-length film based on Djuna Barnes’s novel Ladies Almanack. If you, like me, are enthusiastic about lesbian communities, ex-pat literary culture, fashion, and temporal wormholes, you’ll be as impatient as I am to see it. It won’t be long: the film is currently in production, with an ETA of early next year.

Barnes’s Ladies Almanack, first published in 1928 (full title: Ladies Almanack: showing their Signs and their Tides; their Moons and their Changes; the Seasons as it is with them; their Eclipses and Equinoxes; as well as a full Record of diurnal and nocturnal Distempers, written & illustrated by a lady of fashion), is a sly roman à clef chronicling Barnes’s (mostly lesbian) circle of friends and lovers, and their HQ in Natalie Clifford Barney’s long-running Parisian salon. In reinventing it as a film, Shy is creating a hybrid Chicago-Paris setting and what she calls a “triple time” zone where three distinct periods collide. The film follows characters based not only on Barney (played by Brie Roland) and other thinly veiled figures in the book, including Mina Loy (Brenna Kail) and Radclyffe Hall (Deborah Bright), anchored by narration from French feminists of a later time: Luce Irigaray (Elesa Rosasco), Monique Wittig (Eileen Myles), and Hélène Cixous (as herself). All of these characters blur into the present as they find form in the bodies of contemporary artists and writers. I spoke with Shy about the genesis of the project, her relationship to the book and the community to which it pays homage, and what it was like to work with the great Cixous. Continue reading

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