Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Can Men In Hollywood Be Feminists?

People often have a preconceived notion that men cannot be feminists because "feminism only benefits women not men." However what these people fail to realize is that a lot of feminists believe in equality for both genders. In the film industry it can be difficult at times to find a man who would fit the definition of being a supporter of women's rights human rights but a few do exist. Probably one of the most profiled, well, in recent months, is Ryan Gosling.

Sure he has good looks (what a dreamboat *sigh*), and charm, but it's clear from interviews and from his actions that Ryan Gosling is a feminist. When his film, Blue Valentine came out last year, it was given a NC-17 rating by the MPPA. Not because Blue Valentine was horribly violent (which it isn't) but because the film dared to portray a women who enjoyed sex. Quelle horreur! There are plenty of films which depict men receiving oral sex from a women which are rated R but the fact that Blue Valentine was rated NC-17 said something about how the film industry views the two genders. God, forbid a women enjoys having sex! Because that would be morally wrong. However, Ryan Gosling refused to let Blue Valentine be slapped with a rating that was sexist and misogynistic. Instead he commented to the press,

"You have to question a cinematic culture which preaches artistic expression, and yet would support a decision that is clearly a product of a patriarchy-dominant society, which tries to control how women are depicted on screen. The MPAA is okay supporting scenes that portray women in scenarios of sexual torture and violence for entertainment purposes, but they are trying to force us to look away from a scene that shows a women in a sexual scenario, which is both complicit and complex. It's misogynistic in nature to try and control a women's sexual presentation of self. I consider this an issue that is bigger then this film."

Clearly, this quote say's it all, Ryan Gosling is one of us. A feminist. In the end, it was Gosling's comments that persuaded the MPAA to change Blue Valentine's ratings from NC-17 to rated-R. And it is quotes like this one that has made him a favorite amongst women and men.

Actor/Writer/Producer Matt Damon, recently narrated part of the documentary Women, War, & Peace which looks at the affect war has on women. War harms everyone, however, women are increasingly more likely to be used as pawns in war through acts of rape and other forms of violence. Because make no mistake about it, rape is used as psychological warfare, as a way to lower moral and humiliate the victim and their family. Yet, this documentary also looks at how women are making peace after the war's end. The women who are featured in Women, War & Peace are making their voice's herd and making changes which will have positive effects on themselves and their communities. It's so inspiring (and I urge everyone to watch this documentary... it's amazing).

So where does Matt Damon fit into all of this? As he puts it,

"Why I wanted to do Women, War & Peace was because I thought it said something really important about the nature of war and the nature of the experience of women. And- as a guy who's raising four girls- that matters to me. It matters to me anyways, but that makes it matter to me more."

I love that Matt Damon recognizes that women and men's stories are equally important. Throughout history women have too often been pushed to the wayside thus their stories are never herd. But it's through documentaries like Women, War, & Peace and people like Matt Damon who push for not only telling women's stories but also improving the lives of women that are making a difference.

I chose to only highlight Ryan Gosling and Matt Damon, two men in Hollywood who are feminists, because I think I'll save a few other men I have in mind for another blog post. I want to give everyone the attention they deserve!

Shout Out

Notice anything different about Cinematic Women? It has a slightly different layout and a new logo! I'm so excited that the look of the blog is finally coming together. And much of the props have to go to my friend Emily Levine, who designed the amazing logo. Isn't is great? Emily is such an awesome person and I am so lucky to have a talented friend like her. Please check out her own blog as well. It's a place where Emily has posted some of her portfolio work, all which I think are so well done. So once again, thank you so much Emily for all of your help with the blog layout!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Miss Representation

One of the best documentaries I have watched in the year has been, Miss Representation, which is about how women and girls are represented in the media and the repercussions of this. I watched the documentary with my mom when it aired on OWN in October because I had herd about it while trolling the internet. It was a great doc to watch with my mom, throughout the film she kept saying, "omg, this is horrifying" or "wow! I didn't know that." And I often had the same reaction that she did to a lot of the facts and stories which people told. Throughout the film we had an on going conversation about how important this topic is and how we've experienced it in our own life. Women are poorly portrayed in the media and this has a negative effect on all aspects of life; from succeeding in politics, to teaching young girls how to view themselves and young boys how to treat women. The misogyny that currently prevails in our society is harming all of us (no matter what gender you are) and it much be curtailed.

Miss Representation is a wonderful film that I feel should be required viewing by everyone. Everyone should see this movie to understand what is truly wrong with our society. One of the great things about after watching Miss Representation was signing the pledge on the website. It's a pledge to spread the word about the organization's cause and how to end the mistreatment of women. It's so simple and only takes five minutes to do. I urge everyone to take the pledge and then start talking about Miss Representation!

Here are some links to helpful websites:
miss representation twitter

And here is the extended trailer for Miss Representation... prepare to stimultaneously horrified but also feel empowered to do something.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Taking Issue With Elle Magazine's Women In Hollywood Issue

The women's magazine, Elle, recently did a Women In Hollywood issue (October 2011) which in theory sounds fantastic. A women's magazine promoting women working in the film industry! Brilliant! Right? But in actuality who did they choose to feature on the cover? Jennifer Aniston. When was the last time that Jennifer Aniston made a film that truly deserves accolades? That did really well at the box office? When was the last time she chose a role that didn't write her as the girlfriend or wife? Not in a long time. So why did Elle magazine bill her as the top interview for their Women in Hollywood issue? Jennifer Aniston is well liked, I'll give her that, but I don't think she's the right person to highlight in this issue.

Elle had the chance to feature women who are really making a difference in the film industry. Which they did on the inside of the magazine. But not on the cover. They included short interviews with Viola Davis (The Help), Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene), Evan Rachel Wood (The Ides of March), Barbra Streisand, etc. Yet, none of them were on the cover. And all four would have made great cover stars. Especially Viola Davis, 2011 has been considered her breakout year by many, because of her role in The Help. I would have liked them to feature women other then actresses (only one made the list, Stacey Snider, CEO of Dreamworks). Like Kathryn Bigelow, director of the Oscar winning The Hurt Locker, for starters. Or what about Jennifer Yuh Nelson? Who directed Kung Fu Panda 2 the highest grossing film ever by a women. Or The Future's Miranda July and Higher Ground's director Vera Farmiga. Hell, even Angelina Jolie for her upcoming film, In The Land of Blood and Honey, would have been great! Plus many other women behind the camera who made some pretty great films this year. But no, Elle instead went a pretty generic route and choose to focus on a women who is perhaps more known for her personal life then her movie roles.

The Hunger Games

Besides being a massive fan of films I'm a literature lover. Give me a book and I'll devour it. So when I started seeing a lot of articles about The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and hearing friends rave about the series I gave the books a shot. Even though I'm a few years older then the intended audience I loved the series. And I'm not the only one, I know people from ages ranging from ten to fifty who enjoy the books. Heck, even my sister, who hates reading read the series and loved them!

For those who haven't read the books, here is a quick rundown of the story. The Hunger Games centers around Katniss Everdeen in a dystopian future. A future where children aged twelve to eighteen can be sent to fight to the death in an arena (like gladiators in some ways). The games are televised to everyone in Panem (a country where the United States once was) until only one of the twenty four children is left. The victor is rewarded with glory and wealth. It is a very controlling, dangerous world that Katniss lives in. Yet, she manages to stay strong even when everything around her is falling to pieces.

So when I herd that The Hunger Games would be made into a movie I was elated. Finally, a film about a kick-ass female! Katniss is a fighter and she won't go down without making sure she's kicked a few asses. It's quite refreshing to see such a strong-willed female character after the last few years of Twilight craziness. She's strong, cares for her family and friends, is sometimes clueless with interpersonal relationships, funny at times, and has the determinism to survive. Plus, Katniss has flaws too. It always irks me when a fictional character is "perfect." So often characters in movies (and in books too) are perfect and it's a highly idealized view of what a person should be like. But no one is perfect, not even a fictional character.

Hollywood rarely seems to make a female-action type movie and even then they are often highly sexualized. Examples include Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Charlie's Angels. And although at times Katniss is dressed up and shown off she is never asked to compromise herself. She dressed in a way which shows off her beauty rather then forcing her to be sexy. Much of this is because of her stylist, Cinna, who see's that Katniss isn't sexy, she cannot and should not be made into something completely unlike herself. Cinna just highlights Katniss's beauty even more. I remember when I read the books being so excited that Katniss wasn't trying to be someone she was not (she certainly wasn't a girly-girl). After all, she was too busy caring for her family back home in District 12 and trying to stay alive in The Games to care about such things. Some may argue that Katniss, at age sixteen, is a few years younger then Lara Croft or the girls of Charlie's Angels and thus she shouldn't be expected to dress in a sexy manner. Yet, time after time, women are four times more likely to be shown in sexy outfits compared to male characters in movies. So it's almost expected that teenage girls would be dressed in skimpy outfit.

Jennifer Lawrence has been cast as Katniss Everdeen, which I certainly think is a good choice. Just look at her turn as Ree in Winter's Bone. A very gritty, raw story but a role which Lawrence managed to capture it's essence. Recently during an interview with Vanity Fair, Lawerence said that when she was reading for the role she told Gary Ross, the director, "I understand if you don't hire me, but please remember that after Katniss shoots a bow and kills someone, her face cannot be badass." So clearly, Lawrence, understand's her character perfectly. And the rest of the cast of The Hunger Games is just as good. Actors Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and Donald Sutherland are also in the film.

While The Hunger Games hasn't been released in theaters yet (we have to wait until March 23, 2012) the film has give me a lot of hope. Seeing the buzz that the film is creating is fantastic. Not only amongst fans but articles in The Atlantic, Jezebel, and elsewhere makes it all too apparent that young adults (the stories intended audience) are not the only one's looking forward to the film's release. The story has given adults a lot to hope for. To hope that their daughters may be Katniss's rather then Bella's. To hope that this is the beginning of more female characters in films. To hope that women are given/written more roles that take them beyond a wife/daughter/mother and allow the portrayal of all sorts of different characters. Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen, and Jennifer Lawrence have given us a lot to hope for and only when the film is released will we be able to see if it was worth it!

And for those who haven't seen the wonderful trailer... check it out!
The Hunger Games Trailer

Friday, November 18, 2011

Why We Need More Women In The Film Industry

Wertmuller. Campion. Coppola. Bigelow. These are the last names of the only women who have been nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards in it’s eighty-two years. That’s a lot of male winners! Only one of these women, Kathryn Bigelow, has won the coveted award with 2010’s, The Hurt Locker.
Appalling right? How is it that so few women have managed to succeed in the film industry? 
Over the years hundreds of films have been recognized by the Academy. Yet, the Best Director award remained out of reach for a women until 2010. Women have had the right to vote since the 1920’s and Title IX has been in effect since the 1970’s. Both have made equality between men and women somewhat more even (although we still have a long way to go). But one area where women have remained unable to make a name for themselves is the film industry. It is a very male dominated industry. Men dominate in pretty much all areas of the film process except, I suspect, in costume design.
In 2010 only 7% of the top 250 highest grossing films were directed by a women. And only 10% of the top 205 highest grossing films were written by a women. Statistics like this make it all too apparent how little women are in control of the films which are released each year. And women make up more then 50% of movie goers. So one would think that they would be at least half of the people behind the scenes of films. However this isn’t so.  
Think about it, 80% of the films produced are told from the perspective of a man. Even if the story is centered around a female character(s) it is still told through a man’s eyes. Women and men view females differently. Men tend to over-sexualize female characters. Whereas women are likely to create characters that are like how women actually see themselves. And when women are portrayed in an overly sexual manner that doesn’t bode well for anyone. It teaches men to demoralize women and for women to see themselves as inferior.
It’s daunting to any women to think they’d be in the same industry with people who’ve created some of the most misogynistic films to date. But this is precisely the reason why more women need to be an active part of the film industry. So the misogynistic films can be curtailed. And so that more women’s voices can be herd. It’s like Mao Tse-Tung’s quote, “women hold up half the sky,” so shouldn’t women be writing, producing, editing, directing half of the films in Hollywood? 
*I originally wrote this article for my tumblr Cinematic Style but I thought I would share it on this blog. It is after all, the article that convinced me to start Cinematic Women! 

Welcome To Cinematic Women

I created this blog with the intention of establishing a place where I could write about one of my loves; film. As an avid movie watcher I've become a bit disenchanted with what I've seen. Hollywood appears to be a boy's club and women aren't getting much love. So in response to my anger I've created Cinematic Women to further the discussion of women in hollywood. I want to write about the women in front of the camera and behind it too. Because they deserve to be herd. Because we deserve to read about them. And because the more people who understand the realities of how women are treated in the industry, how women are portrayed in films, and of how much women have to struggle to be herd in the industry then perhaps things will change for the better.
I suppose I should share a little about who I am. My name is Jemma and I am college student who's currently trying to figure life out. And while I don't understand everything I do understand movies. So welcome to Cinematic Women!