Death of the Chick Flick: What ‘Bridesmaids’ Accomplishes for Women, Comedy, and Hollywood

Written for and originally posted at Gozamos.

By now, you’ve probably heard a lot about the new comedy, Bridesmaids. It’s been called The Hangover for women and there’s a hilarious but disgusting food poisoning scene that you should really look out for (as if you could miss it). Now that the movie is out in theaters and opened in second at the box office (with Thor in first), the real question is: What does this successful comedy with an all-female cast mean for women and the future of film?

It seems a shame that in 2011 this is still up for discussion, but it’s true that Hollywood has been churning out tons of successful “bro” comedies lately, and somehow leaving plenty of room for dramatic female roles and little room for good, solid female comedies. On average, the most you’re going to get in that arena in a given year is another Reese Witherspoon rom-com – not exactly gut-splitting.

Bridesmaids is not only hysterical, it’s genius both dramatically and comically. It’s not “pretty funny for a chick flick” – this time, it sets the bar. The script was co-written by Saturday Night Live star Kristen Wiig (who also stars in the film as the lead and Maid of Honor, Annie), and Annie Mumolo – an improv actor and screenwriter who makes a brief cameo during the airplane scene.

By no means is Bridesmaids a film that will be used in Women’s Studies classes, but it is definitely the first since Mean Girls (2004 film written by and starring yet another Saturday Night Live star, Tina Fey) to truly succeed as a female-led blockbuster comedy that appeals to a general audience. The latter part is the most significant: for a female comedy to land as high as second at the box office, it must have universal appeal, and it must also surpass the bemoaned stamp of “chick flick.” (Read: men won’t voluntarily and excitedly run to a “chick flick,” and many women nowadays won’t either.)

Here’s the thing: the Bridesmaids plot is exactly as the title suggests. It’s a film about women in a bridal party (the bride is Lillian, played by Maya Rudolph) going through the standard, albeit sometimes cliché motions leading up to a wedding. While sitting in the theater before the movie, I looked around and realized that yes, indeed there was a pretty equal amount of men and women in the audience – and it was packed. Tons of men were here to see a movie about a bunch of women and bridal showers and bachelorette parties, and not because their girlfriends and wives dragged them.

But how and why? While the film is about gals and girly things, the jokes in this movie are too funny for anyone not to laugh regardless of gender. Wiig and Rudolph are already regarded as a few of the funniest women in comedy today and the supporting characters and numerous conflicts only make them shine more. Wiig’s performance is one of the most impressive parts of the movie as she transitions with ease from comedy to drama throughout.

Sure, scenes like a gross but roaring-laughter-inducing food poisoning scene at a bridal store help. However, Bridesmaids works for a general audience because it doesn’t have to rely on the gross-out jokes. Additionally, while Lillian’s other best friend, the wealthy and proper Helen (played by Rose Byrne) is competing with Annie for the power over the wedding festivities throughout the whole film, there are no cat fights just for the sake of humor. Real motives and feelings propel every funny aspect of the movie. The wedding events drive Annie and Lillian apart and challenge their longtime friendship. Meanwhile, Annie is falling apart professionally and personally, it explains her actions when she, say, starts destroying the flamboyant decorations at the bridal shower thrown by Helen. In Bridesmaids, believable human emotions and the valid complexities of friendship lead to many hilarious, over-the-top, but essentially plausible outbursts, fights, and mishaps. There’s a realistic storyline to Bridesmaids that strengthens its outlandish, shocking comedy.

These women are not only funny, but they feel real – something very welcome after too many stock, shrill, unremarkable female characters in romantic comedies. The dialogue between the characters – especially Annie and Lillian – is something that most women will find true to life. Thus, the whole film feels accessible: neither women nor men will find the friendships and situations out of reach or unbelievable. (After all, men can recognize realistic women characters too, you know.)

Simply put, there is no one scene where only women “get the joke” and men are left clueless. Everyone is clued in, which is no easy feat for a movie written by and revolving around women. Bridesmaids is overall a refreshing success and a big step forward for female comedies in Hollywood. For all the boys clubs and The Hangovers in the movie business, Kristen Wiig and company have overcome the stigmas and impressed all kinds of audiences – from feminists to men who love bro-coms to the most respected of movie critics.

On the official poster for the film, the very top quote from a movie critic reads in bold, pink letters: “Chick flicks don’t have to suck!” This is undoubtedly Bridesmaids’ most important contribution to the industry and to audiences. In the past, a movie with this plot could have and did suck. But this time, with all the elements of comedy and female power combined, the opportunity was seized, and it was universally awesome.

Champagne in a Can

Sofia Coppola “canned champagne.” Yes, it really is the best thing in a can. Go buy it at your nearest alcoholic beverages depot now. It’s a tiny pink can filled with bubbly sparkling wine and even has a tiny pink straw attached, picnic-ready. So obviously, I drank all 4 of my 4-pack while watching the Oscars this year. Someone online said to me, “I hope it’s better than her movies.” And if you could hear a guffaw over the internet, I swore I heard one.

Susanne Bier got up there later and accepted the award for Best Foreign Film, awarded to her work, In a Better World. An intense lover of modern Danish film (it’s a specific type of love, I guess), I was shocked (thought Biutiful would win, honestly) but excited. I love all of Bier’s films and felt them all under-appreciated, so this was big. While she gave her speech, I cheered for her, alone on my couch, as everyone in the Kodak Theatre resounded in a unanimous, stiff and silent, “Who the fuck is this?”

Sometimes, I vote for someone in a petty or serious poll just because she’s one female choice out of a handful of male choices (Please note: Sarah Palin is exempt from this juvenile logic of mine). The “girl power” in me says this is not wrong at all, that it is actually 150% right, the most right I could ever be. The other part of me isn’t sure what’s so moral about blindly becoming the cheerleader for anyone with a vagina. But, sometimes, I do it anyway.

In the Barry Jenkins film Medicine for Melancholy, the main female character asks the main male character if he’s ever wondered what her t-shirt means. It reads, simply, “loden.” He shakes his head “no.” She explains to him that she does this for a living – she prints t-shirts with the last names of female directors on them. Hers in particular is a tribute to Barbara Loden, film actress and director of Wanda (1970). Mostly, this scene inspires me – women recognizing and honoring other women’s achievements, out in the open for all to see. It’s kind of cheeky, in a way. But then there’s the tail end of this whole sentiment, where I picture this young woman walking around in these t-shirts lauding lowercase last names that no passersby recognize or care about.

Jo (Tracey Heggins) and Micah (Wyatt Cenac) in Medicine for Melancholy

When Tina Fey accepted her more-than-deserved Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, she said poignantly: “I do hope that women are achieving at a rate these days that we can stop counting what number they are at things.”

Which leads me to wonder: If women’s achievements in predominantly male-dominated roles – especially in the world of entertainment – inspire and encourage a certain group of women, then does it matter if these achievements are whittled down to mere numbers or vaguely cool t-shirts to the rest?

Oh hell, let the men figure it out. Bring me some more champagne.

‘The Social Network’: Stop Calling it Sexist

Dear feminists: Can we please stop arguing how sexist The Social Network is? Signed, a fellow feminist.

I hadn’t even seen the movie yet when I came across an article on Jezebel’s homepage, entitled: “The Social Network, Where Women Never Have Ideas.” Sounded pretty brutal. And then soon after, I noticed an onslaught of similar accusations aimed at the filmmakers.

Trust me, I am extremely sensitive to representations of women and minorities in film and television (and how these representations in media reflect our culture and society), but The Social Network? Virtual feminists, you’re barking up the wrong tree on this one. Is it a good example of feminism in film? Probably not. But I think it deserves more credit than it’s getting in that arena.

There are two ways to view this: 1) The film is a biopic about Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, and a bunch of other dudes who want his money for various reasons; thus, it doesn’t seem to leave much room for strong, female characters; and 2) The film actually does have a few strong female characters, but they’re overlooked because of a few scenes filled with lingerie-clad drunk girls at a frat party and many scenes filled with nerdy dudes.

My viewing of this film combined these two notions: I say, The Social Network is a film that – as a biopic – didn’t seem to allow much room for strong female characters, but it did anyway with a few very important scenes.

I love a good opening scene, and this film definitely has one. From the first few seconds, you are drawn into quick and ultimately harsh dialogue between Zuckerberg (played by the fitting Jesse Eisenberg) and his girlfriend, Erica (played by Rooney Mara). One thing leads to another, and the next thing you know, Zuckerberg thinks he’s far superior to Erica because he goes to Harvard and she to BU (just one example.) Needless to say, she calls it off then and there.

Am I crazy, or did anyone else read this scene positively in terms of female character? Erica does not seem dwarfed or dominated by Zuckerberg to me at all – in fact, she comes out the winner, the one with the harsh last word. If anything, her observance of Zuckerberg and his true motives and thought processes only makes him look bad as he sits babbling on and on at lightning speed. More importantly, Erica makes the audience aware of something very crucial in the first few minutes of the movie: that is, Zuckerberg is socially inept, especially when it comes to women. She walks away, in my eyes, looking valiant – on a crusade to call out pretentious, insecure nerdy assholes everywhere…If you will.

And in a movie about the latter type of people (insecure, nerdy asshole males), why would there be a surplus of strong female characters surrounding them? To me, it has been made clear in the first few minutes of The Social Network that this is frankly not a movie about men and women forming mutually respectful relationships. It’s a movie about Mark Zuckerberg and his failure to communicate with others, and yet how he goes on to become the founder of what would become a true reinvention of the way our generation communicates with one another. As for the lack of communication and connection skills with women, it’s unfortunate for Zuckerberg; it’s not unfortunate for the women involved. At no point do I remember the film making me feel that I should think otherwise.

As Aaron Sorkin – screenwriter of the film and the one carrying the weight of most sexist allegations – said in an interview with Stephen Colbert:

I was writing about a very angry and deeply misogynistic group of people. These aren’t the cuddly nerds we made movies about in the 80’s. They’re very angry that the cheerleader still wants to go out with the quarterback instead of the men (boys) who are running the universe right now. The women they surround themselves with aren’t women who challenge them (and frankly, no woman who could challenge them would be interested in being anywhere near them.)

This makes sense to me, and it made sense even before I had time to think about sexism and feminism in the context of this movie.

The other female character I appreciated (and yes, the only other truly strong female character, as the third main female was made out to be the “hot, psycho girl”) – is Marilyn, a law intern who sits in on the legal battles, played by the versatile Rashida Jones. She might not say much, but again, she is observant. And like Erica, Marilyn seems to elicit a rare sense of respect and curiosity from Zuckerberg. (He spends a few more scenes in the film seeking Erica’s approval long after their breakup, and his seeking of approval seemed almost sincere.) The film ends on a solid note, which is without a doubt due to Marilyn’s dialogue with Zuckerberg, and the theme of “asshole-ness” comes back again. Like Erica, she questions Zuckerberg about his inner self, and thus, he questions himself for once.

Though brief, the appearances made by the two strong female characters are essential. Meaning, the movie would not be the same without them. The movie would be weaker. Because as bookends to the beginning and end of the film, both women stop to make Zuckerberg (and the audience) think, “Is he really an asshole or not?” I sat back and said “huh” thoughtfully to myself as the credits rolled. The whole story is based around the creator of Facebook and all the people who were out to get a piece of him for various reasons. But no lawyers in a room or vengeful former best friends seemed to make Zuckerberg pause and wonder about his true self for one moment. Only these two women in the film had this effect on him. Or at least, their words and observations had a stronger effect on him than anyone else’s.

So while there were sexist representations of women undoubtedly, let’s not forget the female characters who added positively to the story. Sure, it’s a film about a bunch of pretentious, nerdy guys. But women played a vital role that should not go overlooked. And unfortunately it seems that for many feminists, it did.

Trailer for Sofia Coppola’s New Film, ‘Somewhere’

The trailer for Sofia Coppola’s upcoming movie Somewhere made its way around the internet today, and the overall response seems to be positive. Even from people who claim they are not fans of Sofia Coppola. I am incredibly biased, I guess, because I’ve always been a big fan of Coppola. (Don’t even get me started on what I view as the undeserved general hatred of Marie Antoinette.) So of course, I think this new trailer looks darling – in that fluff-meets-profound-meets-utterly-cool sort of way that only Coppola herself can pull off with ease.

Wikipedia’s synopsis:

Stephen Dorff plays Johnny Marco, a Hollywood bad-boy stumbling through a life of excess at the Chateau Marmont when he receives an unexpected visit from his 11-year-old daughter, played by Elle Fanning. Their meeting challenges his lifestyle and forces him to make necessary changes.

Following her trend of casting blonde female main characters, I think it will be very interesting to see how Coppola directs the adult-child interaction in this story. Also, how sweet that her husband’s band, Phoenix, provides the movie’s soundtrack.

The film’s release date is set for December 22. And I don’t care what the non-fans say – which apparently is something like, “This one actually looks good” – I’m looking forward to Somewhere not only because it looks good, but because Sofia Coppola is a damn good storyteller who knows what she’s doing. Maybe this film will set the record straight.

Tweet-Sized Thoughts on Media-Related Things: p1

In honor of my recent inability to write anything of length, I felt I had to post something for my own sake. So I think I will take a cue from my friend Britt Julious and her Sunday column idea…Though with this blog, it will just be a collection of my recent tweets on Twitter that happen to be media-related. (Note: Hopefully, on another day, some of these tweet-sized bites will grow into essays or articles.)

First impressions of a commercial for Sex and the City 2.

‘Sex and the City 2′ looks like a hackneyed, slightly racist mess. #SATC 8:44 PM May 6th

Update: Solange is still cooler than you, even while singing on one of those LSD-induced kids’ shows.

Dear @solangeknowles: Will you please make a full-length song of this Yo Gabba Gabba! thing? It’s damn catchy. http://bit.ly/cHDOR6 3:45 PM May 8th

A film I revisited and found it’s still one of my all-time favorites: Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas.

“I walked around for months talking to you. Now I don’t know what to say. It was easier when I just imagined you.” Damn good film, Paris, TX 5:31 PM May 8th

Betty White hosting SNL Mother’s Day Episode. I basically live-tweeted the Betty White-hosted SNL episode…along with dozens of my friends. In a nutshell? It was glorious. Undoubtedly one of the best episodes SNL has had in a lonnnnnnng time. Because of Betty White AND the fact that they brought back a lot of the former female favorites for the Mother’s Day episode. They have to know that they can’t really make it any better than that ever again…But we’ll see with the Alec Baldwin episode tonight. (Which, in the promos for, they’ve already made fun of themselves and their one-time success with Betty White.) Key tweets include…

Betty White on #SNL! Awesome already. Just to hear her say, ‘Jay-Z is here!’ 10:40 PM May 8th

NPR ladies!! Muffin!! Betty White!! #SNL 10:49 PM May 8th

TINA!!!! #SNL 11:00 PM May 8th

Jay-Z medley!!! This is the best #SNL episode ever. 11:12 PM May 8th

Omg. Maya’s Whitney impression is always gold. #SNL 11:21 PM May 8th

Cannes Film Festival 2010 starts; French New Wave pioneer Jean-Luc Godard’s new film Socialisme.

The trailers for #Godard‘s new #film just speed up the whole movie in its entirety, instead of highlighting scenes http://bit.ly/9fSymX 10:27 AM May 10th

RT: Racialicious explores Lady Gaga and white privilege.

Great read, fascinating. RT @britticisms Racialicious on how Lady Gaga’s white privilege makes her transgressive: http://bit.ly/gagawoc 2:35 PM May 10th

RT: Salon.com on the 90s MTV show Daria finally being released on DVD.

SalonMedia Remember the old MTV? “Daria” comes out on DVD http://bit.ly/a2ruwh 8:57 AM May 12th

“‘Daria’ could have only happened at that time, during that strange, transitional period after the grunge and gangsta rap of the early ’90s” 9:11 AM May 12th

RT: A friend lets me know about a development in the Polanski case.

DrMcButtcheeks @colleenclaes http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/05/14/polanski.second.accuser/index.html Honestly. Who saw this coming? about 22 hours ago

@DrMcButtcheeks But this just reminds me how I don’t even WANNA know how many old pervo Polanski did this to… about 22 hours ago

And that’s all for now. If you see anything you’d like me to elaborate on, please let me know! (Unfortunately, I don’t think my heart/anxiety can bear doing another lengthy post on Polanski…)

More 2010 Music Video Goodness: Beyonce’s ‘Why Don’t You Love Me’

Seriously – 2010 is already a year marked by amazing music videos that just so happen to be made mostly by female artists. (i.e.: Janelle Monae’s “Tightrope,” Eyrkah Badu’s “Window Seat,” and M.I.A.’s “Born Free”). And now THIS by Queen B. Amazing. I love the look of the video, the song (a bonus track on Sasha Fierce, sounds to me like a little channeling of sister Solange), and the OUTFITS! Oh, the outfits…

I would write more about this, but it’d basically just be a regurgitation of everything Jezebel already said.

Also, the director of this video should not go unnamed. Melina Matsoukas graduated from NYU and did her thesis on music videos. She has a pretty envy-inducing music video filmography as well.

“Remain Silent No Longer”: Rage Against the Polanski

I’ve written a lot about Roman Polanski since he was arrested – after 30+ years – for raping a 13-year-old girl back in the 70s. So now that he chose to speak out for the first time this weekend, it just seems right to “Rage Against the Polanski” once again. Because after all, “Polanski” has become a machine in itself – made up of pompous, privileged and delusional supporters in Hollywood and Europe who seem to think Polanski is above being punished for committing rape.

The main reason? “It was so long ago!” The other reason? Well, let’s let Polanski explain that one to us:

“I can remain silent no longer because the request for my extradition addressed to the Swiss authorities is founded on a lie,” writes Polanski, who blames Marina Zenovich’s HBO documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired for stirring up career-mongering LA prosecutors into acting on his long dormant case.

Oh, of course. The Wanted and Desired documentary from 2008…Which, as illuminating as it was, didn’t exactly vilify Polanski as much as it should or could have. It was fairly balanced as far as “telling both sides” goes. And it even ended with a close friend of the director’s saying – oh so poetically – how Polanski became “wanted” in the U.S. after he fled his crime, and then “desired” in France/Europe (but particularly France, with their odd glamorization and defensiveness of him). This seemed to me as if the documentary might be ultimately glorifying Polanski as some sort of misunderstood but irresistible legend – which sounds a hell of a lot better than “pervert-turned-fugitive who fled his rape crime.”

You can download Polanski’s full statement here. It’s basically everything you’ve already heard from the “Free Polanski” crowd but with added melodrama – as Polanski highlights the “injustices” of his case with the prefaced statement in bold, “I can remain silent no longer because…”

Best part:

I can remain silent no longer because I have been placed under house
arrest in Gstaad and bailed in very large sum of money which I have
managed to raise only by mortgaging the apartment that has been my
home for over 30 years, and because I am far from my family and unable to
work.

Aside from the fact that I just don’t give a…, this heap of “boo-hoo-poor-me” B.S. completely contradicts Polanski’s opening sentences: “I have had my share of dramas and joys, as we all have, and I am not going to try to ask you to pity my lot in life.” No. That’s exactly what you’re doing. And that’s exactly what everyone in support of you has been doing since September.

And ahhh yes. The media is just “out to get” Polanski. To make an example of him. Yeah. That’s it. Sure, the media loves it. But what really happened is that the U.S. finally ARRESTED him for his RAPE CRIME. I mean, some people agree with me on this, right?!

Oh, and then this happened on indieWIRE:

While I object to people who suggest that Polanski never did anything terribly wrong—he did—I do think that at his advanced age he bears little threat to anyone and has been punished, served time, and should be able to break out of this impasse. Was he a libertine and a reprobate, did he behave criminally and break the law? Yes. I’d like to see him cop to what he did. But this case is old and cold. There must be a way to fix this.

By the way, The Ghost Writer was one of Polanski’s best, sharpest, most personal films in a long while. I want to see him make more films.

Really, Anne Thompson?

And with that, I’ve unfortunately exhausted most words that I can muster up for this argument. All I have left to say is this:

I can remain silent no longer because Roman Polanski is a rapist who never served time for raping a 13-year-old girl; because I don’t care how old he is, or how long ago it was; because as The New Yorker explored, Polanski relished girls who were minors and showed no remorse for raping or engaging in sex with them; because someone needs to put his old, perverted, privileged, “above-statused” ass in jail already; because anyone who still thinks Polanski is either innocent or should be “let go” of the case needs to seriously reevaluate themselves; and because reallywhat’s not to understand?

Tina Fey: Victim of ‘Superior’ Feminism

Writers: Do you ever get that feeling when you read something truly spectacular – whether it be a novel, a poem, or a commentary – and think, “Damn! I wish I wrote that…” Most likely you do, and I refer to this as “Writer’s Envy.” (Surely I am not the first to dub it this, and again, I feel that self-loathing setting in…)

Well, I felt that this morning when I read Rebecca Traister’s “The Tina Fey backlash” on Salon.com. (Don’t be put off by the length – it’s totally worth the read.) It was everything I’ve been wanting to say since I read Sady Doyle’s post ripping Tina Fey and her character Liz Lemon to ideological bits and pieces. Though I can never say it better than Rebecca Traister did, I feel the need to add on/give my two cents anyhow.

Back in January, I wrote a post entitled “Liz Lemon: Feminist Icon (Havin’ It All).”Ahh, those were the days when I felt that Liz Lemon as a character on 30 Rock was a favorite amongst feminists, standing out as probably the best female role model on current-day television. Boy, was I wrong!

Turns out, some feminists in the blogosphere are displeased with Tina Fey and Liz Lemon in terms of feminist rank. Because apparently, there’s a hierarchy of feminism now, and the “superior” ones (like Doyle) know far better than the ones who are not quite up to par (like Fey).

In a nutshell: Tina Fey’s satirization of insecurities marked by the independent, career-oriented woman used to be funny and loveable, but are now offensive and non-progressive in the world of feminism. And then the Fey-hosted SNL episode happened, and online commentaries exploded with disappointment – most notably with Fey’s use of the word “whore” when taking jabs at Michelle “Bombshell” McGee. (In my opinion: totally hilarious. Is that so wrong?) If it had only just been creeping in before, the backlash was now officially solidified.

How did we get to this point? As Traister poignantly says:

“While it might be fair to argue that Fey has profited from a feminist embrace, she did not ever pretend to be a standard bearer for contemporary feminism. We’re the ones who made her that, who overidentified with her, or with Liz Lemon, or with the Weekend Update host who declared that bitch was the new black, and attached to her a passel of our highest expectations and ideals.”

Yes, WE projected this feminist role model onto her ourselves. Hence, my blog post in January. Though at the time, it was a light-hearted, short and sweet kind of post embracing Lemon’s differences from other female TV icons (i.e.: Carrie Bradshaw), as well as her relatability.

Here’s the thing though: I should not have to feel ashamed for liking Liz Lemon and being a feminist at the same time. I should also not have to be ashamed for thinking Liz is a good female character on TV right now. But most people who have the “Liz Lemon is not a true feminist” debate have this holier-than-thou attitude, thinking they possess some secret, hidden key to “real, truer” feminism – something that Tina Fey is supposedly failing at implementing.

It’s annoying. It’s also pretty insulting, because the arguer is most likely assuming that Tina Fey and her fans are too shallow or stupid to comprehend this “truer” version of feminism. It’s kind of like, “You know, even though I also watch 30 Rock regularly and probably laugh throughout the episodes, I am a distinguished feminist amongst you all for dissecting Liz Lemon and outing her as a fake.”

These feminists expect too much of Tina Fey. Realistically, how can anyone expect a comedy like 30 Rock to be politically correct and perfect in ideology when it’s whole premise is based upon calling out stereotypes by employing them comedically? Traister beautifully ponders this notion of “where to draw the line” between feminism and humor, saying point blank:

Tina Fey is a professional comedian. She is not a professional feminist.

Thank God. Someone finally said what I was thinking in two succinct sentences. Rebecca Traister, I might just start projecting a feminist role model onto you.

The last thing that bothers me about this backlash? Liz Lemon is growing as a character. Because – imagine that – most main characters grow as the show goes on! (The idea!) So why are we expecting perfection and feminist-to-a-tee behaviors and decisions from a character who is clearly still figuring her shit out in her late thirties? This is another reason why some of us women love Liz Lemon: She’s figuring it out, just like the rest of us. No one is a textbook feminist at all times. (And if you think you are, don’t kid yourself.) Liz becomes more confident as time goes on. She refuses to settle. She starts to realize her true worth. I believe the last few episodes of this season have started to point towards that.

A feminist is not just born; she is grown into throughout life. And who’s to say that by age such-and-such (late thirties, in Fey’s case), you need to have developed all capabilities of the ideal feminist? Regardless, every woman is an individual, and I think sometimes feminism forgets that. Or ceases to care, at least when trying to prove its point.

Hell, maybe I’m a bad feminist for all I know. But for me, feminism should never have hierarchies. This isn’t a goddamned hazing initiation, after all. It’s not about weeding out the bad feminists from the good ones, and it’s not about shaming other feminists for not being feminist “enough.” Let’s all learn from one another, yes. I’m glad that articles like these help me to engage in discourse on women’s issues. And trust me, it’s complicated and difficult when writing a feminist post criticizing feminists who critize women for not being feminist enough.

Last time I checked though, feminism was about equality. And one would hope that a group aspiring towards true equality would at least cheer on and support the ones who are trying – in whatever way that is their own – to break the mold in places where there was little room to make a dent in the first place.

Instead, we find part of that group tearing apart one of the few women in entertainment today who profoundly resonates with us.

And you wanna talk about progressiveness?

Jane Velez-Mitchell: ‘Wearing a Bikini on Spring Break is Asking for Rape’

Listen. I didn’t ask for HLN to be on when I turned on my television after work today. And I didn’t want Jane Velez-Mitchell’s awful show, Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell, to be on either, mishandling the topic of rape.

The “issue” at hand was the number of young women who have been raped in Daytona Beach while on Spring Break. The tacky, insensitive graphic on the bottom of the screen read: “SPRING BREAK RAPES!” in screeching italics. The sorry-ass-excuse of a “debate” going on behind the graphics was far worse.

Given that I have apparently been the sole outraged Tweeter of this show (believe me – I searched for it), and am probably one of five people in the country watching it this evening, let me fill you in on the highlights (or lowlights):

  • A female psychologist (the most educated-sounding of the three on the panel) explains that women have a hard time coming forth with a rape crime because it is “the only crime where you are forced to participate, and you feel the shame of participating.” While “participate” is probably not the best verb choice, it’s still a good stab at meaningful insight.
  • Host Jane Velez-Mitchell’s response? Word for word: “Listen, I don’t like to blame the victim, BUT…” As she goes on to – seriously – say, “If you’re scantily-clad, wearing nothing but a skimpy bikini, I mean…You’re making yourself vulnerable.” (OH. MY. GOD.) Then she claims that everyone has to “respect the gavel” as she holds one up and goes to commercial break. (Since I don’t watch, ever, I’m assuming this is some kind of gimmick.)
  • Random ex-frat-boy-looking dude on the panel’s response after the commercial break? He was going to say the same thing Jane said, but did not out of fear that he’d be attacked because, as he says with dripping sarcasm…Are you ready? “These women are SUPPOSEDLY wearing this ‘burka’ of shame…” (Oh. And then my conscience imploded.) REALLY, dude?! A BURKA of shame? You somehow managed to offend both rape survivors and Muslim women who wear the burka in one short sentence. Kudos.
  • Psychologist woman shakes her head. Old random dude makes generic “Where are the parents?” argument, and everyone snickers at him for thinking parents would ever be present on Spring Break.
  • Final verdict from Jane: Her life experience as a “recovering alcoholic” makes her credible, of course, on the subject of drunken black-outs. And since you CAN “function” and yet “not remember” what you did the night before, this makes for a very fuzzy rape crime case. And again, she says it:”I’m the LAST person to blame the victim, but.” And then something that’s supposed to sound like logical thought spews out of her mouth.
  • Final verdict from ex-frat boy dude: “Listen, we can’t stop rapists from committing rape. But we can reduce the number of rapes that occur by women not walking around scantily-clad and drinking so much on Spring Break.” (Um…excuse me?! Who the hell bred this jackass?!)

Conclusively, ladies, beware: If you go on Spring Break and drink, wear a bikini, go to the beach, travel without your parents, or do anything that you would normally do while on Spring Break – you are partially to blame for being raped if this tragically occurs. Well, at least according to Ms. Jane “Send Females Back 70 years” Velez-Mitchell and her Broski.

I realize that this is opening myself up to a debate from men and women alike, with opinions of either “females should not be blamed for their rape” (my point of view) or “well, there are certain cases where they’re kind of asking for it.” Believe me, I’ve heard every argument that could ever enrage me on the subject of rape, but the point I’m making here is how tactlessly, insultingly, and plain disgustingly the topic was approached on this show. That’s the thing.

She ended the debate by saying, “Thank you panel! Great insight.” And then her producers cut to the newest, sensational story about a kidnapped woman. Oh, and a Jesse James/Sandra Bullock update. Such a sensitive and meaningful handling of the subject of rape, Jane. You should really be proud of yourself. (See, bro? That’s how you do sarcasm.)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Excuse me, the Frat-like dude’s actual burka comment was: “the psychological BURKA that these women are forced to wear, why shouldn`t they be able to dress scantily — as scantily clad—” And then he was interrupted. The dripping sarcasm was still there though, might I add.

I tried to get this as word-for-word as possible whenever quotation marks were used, but this post was written in the heat of the moment before I had an official transcript. Thanks to Zelda Lily for making me aware of such a thing on her blog! If you’d like to read for yourself, here’s the official CNN transcript of the show.

If you just can’t bring yourself to read through it, here’s something else that should be noted – also left out in this original “heat of the moment” post. Jane Velez-Mitchell says (and this is pulled directly from the transcript):

“OK. I think that there`s a difference between a woman who`s walking alone on a country road being abducted and never seen again, as we see happen so often. A woman who is at home, like the beautiful Tennessee anchorwoman, minding her business, where some creep breaks in and rapes her and kills her. And these women, who are drinking excessively on the beach, wearing G-strings, and engaging in hypersexual behavior, like doing that dance where they`re simulating sex. I think that we have to distinguish between those two groups of women.”

There it is in a nutshell, folks: Some women really DON’T deserve to be raped, and some women kind of DO. According to Ms. Velez-Mitchell.

I appreciate anyone who has commented on, retweeted, or blogged this.

Kathryn Bigelow: An End to the ‘Chick Flick’ Stereotype?

Kathryn Bigelow with her DGA Award, Jan. 31st

EDITOR’S NOTE: An updated post borrowing a little from my article at the end of last year, “The December Issue: Women in Film.”

Last night, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the top honor at the Directors Guild of America Awards. She won Best Director of a Feature Film for her movie, The Hurt Locker. Now with the 2010 Oscars coming in March, could Bigelow be the first woman to win the Best Director Academy Award?

Call me an overzealous feminist (making it extra deadly with a film degree), but the mere fact that she’s a female breaking ground for women filmmakers makes me want to root for her at all these awards – regardless of whether the movie was good or not. But as it turns out, The Hurt Locker is good. It’s being heralded as one of the best of the year, receiving acclaim as a terrific film that shows war in a way that no other “war movie” really has.

Since the end of 2009, movie critics and feminist writers have been predicting that Bigelow would become a sort of “power to the women!” darling in the awards season of 2010. When James Cameron (who also happens to be Bigelow’s ex-husband) won Best Director for Avatar at the Golden Globes this year, those rooting for Bigelow began to feel discouraged in terms of her Oscar standing. But this big win at the DGA Awards re-cements her solid chance at getting the award from the Academy this year.

It would not only be a significant moment for Bigelow and all of her accomplishments; it would also be a landmark for women in the film industry. Because the main problem is not just that women don’t win these kinds of awards, but that – more distressingly – there are very few who “make it” and are widely recognized.

Sure, I could make an inclusive list of plenty of women filmmakers who have made brilliant, under-the-radar movies. But as for those I can name off the top of my head? Let’s see…Sofia Coppola (always first)…Um…Nancy Meyer? (Something’s Gotta Give and the like)…Nora Ephron, I guess (You’ve Got Mail, Julie & Julia)…and now, Kathryn Bigelow.

Notice that two of those names are known for their romantic comedies, unfortunately referred to as “chick flicks.” While this does not dismiss their talents and abilities, needless to say it would be glorious for a woman to win for a well-executed action film. It’s glorious enough that she’s being recognized. Maybe audiences will catch on that not all women filmmakers are magnets to sappy romantic comedies. And maybe Hollywood and the industry will eventually stop pigeonholing women directors’ success.

My (female) film history teacher once said (and I apologize for the language): “They call them ‘chick flicks,’ but do you realize that all the other movies are ‘dick flicks?’”

Yes, most of them are. But let’s hold out and hope that one day soon we will be able to count female directors on more than just the fingers of one hand. And recognizing Kathryn Bigelow wouldn’t be a bad start.