Do A Better Job On The Wings…

15 Jun

A video of Kubrick being awesome accepting the DGA Griffith Award.   Good words to remember when taking on acts of folly like making movies.

I’ve compared Griffith’s career to the Icarus myth, but at the same time I have never been certain whether the moral of the Icarus story should only be, as is generally accepted, ‘don’t try to fly too high,’ or whether it might also be thought of as ‘forget the wax and feathers, and do a better job on the wings.’

You Must Be This Feminist To Ride This Movie

8 Jun

My name is Beth.

I am a feminist filmmaker.

(hi Beth)

The thing is, I’ve never not been a feminist.   I was raised to believe that women deserve equal pay for equal work, in all its many iterations.  That reproductive health is a right, not a privilege.  That women are not victims and should not be victimized.  And that I could do whatever I wanted.

So I want to do what I do and I don’t want the fact that I have girl parts to be a part of the dialogue.

But it always will be.

See, the assumption is that because I have female parts I have some sort of special sense of what makes women tick.  I’m “writing what I know” which is exactly what every 11th grade English teacher implores you to do.  I should be writing from a place of authority.

And this is just one of the reasons the Bechdel test rubs me the wrong way.  In case you haven’t heard of it, go here, read this.

Now John is making a great point and an interesting observation about his own writing.  And about the obligation writers may have to presenting women as something other than craven lovers of product and penis (hi, SATC2!)

And still, the whole thing rubs me the wrong way.  For a few reasons.  First, I think that trying to balance romantic love and personal fulfillment is one of the great dilemmas of the third-wave feminist world.  Secondly, it concerns me that this is a random bar that doesn’t create equality.  And third, no movie I have written would have passed the Bechdel test.

Let me say that again.  I do not pass this test.  And my feminist credentials are tattooed next to my Bikini Kill tattoo.

Why don’t I pass the test?  Because the things I am writing about – sex, culture, the idea of who we are as women and as people – all these things require girls and women to discuss stuff like sex and relationships exclusively.  Normal Adolescent Behavior is exclusively about sex, love and identity.   I went back into AVM and thought about rewriting a scene to pass the test.  I felt awful.  I was subjecting the script to an arbitrary line in the sand.  Someone wanted to be the boss of me.  Isn’t feminism supposed to do away with the bosses of me?

And more importantly, shouldn’t the development of well rounded female characters be about the full inclusion of the various elements involved in being a well rounded female?  If two women, with names, discuss how they aren’t skinny enough to feel good about themselves, are they somehow better than the women who discuss wanting to get married to a guy who doesn’t make them feel like shit?  When a character spends an entire movie debating the health of her marriage and going to comical and pathetic ends to prove herself right or wrong – is she somehow damaging the progress of women?

There are real problems for real and imagined women.  I’m not sure this is one of them.  I don’t think that women need to discuss one thing or another to be more or less real or inspiring or ground breaking.

I think the Bechdel test is an imperfect gauge for an entirely different problem – women in films who are not fully developed and who are written in such a way that “wanting a man” becomes shorthand for “having a character arc.”  Show me three dimensional fictional characters whose problems are huge, seemingly insurmountable and I will forget any sort of “you must be this feminist to ride this movie” test.  I’ll go with you to the ends of the earth.

ps – John August’s comment is a really good one:

I don’t think Dogma95 proves anything either, or that a director whose movie meets some published standard is somehow more real and worthy. What struck me as odd about the Bechdel test is that it seems like such an unbelievably low bar to clear, but it isn’t. Adding a scene just to pass the test is unnatural. Asking “what would change if” is natural, and generally useful. A good half of story development is this process of shifting things around. If Tom were Tara, what would that do the plot? It might not be anything good. But if the Bechdel test got you thinking about it, that’s positive, just the way Dogma95 arguably got filmmakers thinking about the crutches they were relying on.

The crutches go both ways.  Relying on a single matrix may be as much of a crutch as relying on previous archetypes.  Asking the hard questions about characters will always bring out the best in a script.  Asking the hard questions about feminism will hopefully always bring about more change.   It’s the dialogue that I think counts the most.  Inside the script, and out in the world.

Quitting Facebook

1 Jun

I just deactivated my account.

I’m giving myself a month, Facebook free.  Why?  A bunch of reasons.  It’s very public, it has no privacy and it is very time-consuming are the big three.  But also I get the sense that the Facebook party may be winding down and I like to leave a party before it ends.  Social networking is great and Twitter is perfect for me.  I can post pictures on Flickr.  I can post rambling, profanity laced missives on my blog.  I do not need to share every detail of my life with 400 friends.  I do not need to have 400 friends to prove things to.  I do not need to play Scrabble day in and day out to prove I have a good vocabulary.

In theory.

Of course in reality I may just be the needy, horrible person who needs to see every picture my sister posts on-line of my nephew.  I may need to follow everything everyone does on Facebook.  What about the first pre-sale for a show I miss?  What about that great video every sees before me?

Can I deal with potentially slightly behind the curve?  Will Twitter and a blog and Geekweek be enough?

I hope so.

Can Virginity Be An Ironic T-Shirt?

28 May

You wanna wear a Grosse Pointe Shooting Range tshirt that’s all vintagey, rock it. You think those old Harley black shirts should be resewn as a sexy tank top, go for it Ed Hardy.

But this is pretty out three.

Urban Outfitters.  Staying Classy.

And who wears that shirt?  A single straight dude?  A gay guy?  A girl?  Who the hell wears that shirt and pulls it off?  Could I pull it off?  I mean, I don’t even think the artwork on it is from any sort of Virgin Movement but from a WPA mural where Uncle Sam is preserving Liberty.  But if I could find a “Father/Daughter Purity Ball” tshirt I’d probably buy it.

Huh, maybe this shirt is for me.

How To Lose Your Virginity

21 May

Therese Shechter is the filmmaker behind How To Lose Your Virginity, a documentary about virginity culture and why we are so obsessed with virgins (and slutting them up then judging them.)  She’s in Istanbul right now because she’s fancy, and so we did a virtual interview.

Beth: I’m diving right in with this one, because as someone who had no business wearing white at my wedding (and didn’t) I’m wondering how much of the virgin-ey stuff did you have at your wedding?

Therese: The ‘white wedding’ construct disturbed me but, I decided that I would try on some white gowns with an open heart and see if I really did feel like a ‘princess.’ And of course I also filmed it for the documentary, with the amusing results you see in the trailer. It turned out I was excruciatingly uncomfortable being in those dresses, and I ended up wearing a gorgeous long  lime green and black dress for my wedding.

My total discomfort with chastity-based wedding rituals went further than the gown, though. I refused to wear a veil even though it was sort of part of the Jewish ceremony. I wore a big red flower in my hair instead. And I really  didn’t want to be ‘given away’ by anyone, so my groom and I walked down the aisle together.

Beth: And is virginity being redefined or are we just talking about it more?

Pre-marital sex is nothing new, I just think we’re talking about it a lot more, and we’re more open about sex in general which is a good thing. It’s allowing people to see that their own feelings about sexuality are shared by many others, and that there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to our intimate lives.

Not only can more open conversation give young women the space to be sexual beings on their own terms without shame, but it also tells people who don’t feel ready for sex, or aren’t into it at all, that they’re not freaks. I get a lot of letters along the lines of: “I generally feel like I’m harboring a shameful secret, and before I found your blog was pretty convinced that I was the only woman in her mid-twenties who had never had sex.” Speaking as someone who became sexually active only after college, I can really relate and am making that dynamic part of the film.

One thing that’s very important to talk about is the complexity of the virginity construct. How do we define virginity? If it’s penis-in-vagina, where does that leave people who identify as queer? If it’s something else, then why are we so obsessed with hymens? Do we suddenly become sexual beings or is it gradual? What are we losing, if anything? My film is called “How to Lose Your Virginity,” and ultimately I’d like to show how absurd every part of that familiar phrase is. I sort of like  “making your sexual debut,” even if it does sound a little too elegant for good old-fashioned sex.

Beth: Where does abstinence only “education” fall into all of this?  How much did the teens you interviewed know about sex?

Therese: Shelby Knox, who is also in the film, (and starred in the doc The Education of Shelby Knox) speaks movingly about the shame and misinformation doled out in equal measures in her abstinence classes. Things like if you have sex, you’re nothing but a dirty used toothbrush. And the lack of information on preventing pregnancy and STIs is just plain criminal. Shelby told me a story about a young woman she met who asked Shelby about using birth control pills correctly. Seems she was inserting them into her vagina instead of swallowing them.

Nothing good comes of keeping information from young people. It creates a vacuum that gets filled with even more mis-information, usually from popular culture. If someone tells me everything they know about sex came from watching porn, it just makes me really sad. That’s fantasy, not reality.

Beth: The big one: what are you telling your kids about sex?  What happened to Our Bodies Ourselves being the go-to guide for teen girls?  I loved that book.

Therese: I don’t have kids, but I can see how it might be uncomfortable to discuss it, and my parents didn’t really talk to me about sex. I learned everything I know from Judy Blume, The Joy of Sex and Letters to Penthouse Forum! When I got to college, I bought my first copy of OBOS and I still refer to it today.

I’ve interviewed some really sex-savvy teens, and I think that’s thanks to some great sex-ed programs like peer sex education in high schools and online sex-ed sites like scarleteen.com. Heather Corinna, who founded and
runs the site, is in my film, and she’s awe inspiring in the way she provides judgment-free answers to questions from young people all over the world. Not surprisingly, a large proportion of the questions relate to virginity.

I was also a fan of the now-gone CosmoGirl! Magazine, whose editor Susan Schulz is also in my film. Despite the ‘Cosmo’ connection, I think that magazine provided a lot of good, frank and age-appropriate information to its readers. They once ran a little story on the vulva, complete with a whimsical diagram pointing out all the anatomy. They got more hate mail from parents for that than almost anything else. I think some people are freaked out by the idea that their kids know anything about sex. Like it will make them run out and do it right away!

And let’s not even get started on talking to teens about the fact that sex feels good! Even the most progressive programs still seem to stress all the bad stuff that will happen if you have sex.

Beth: Talk to me about The Sasha Grey phenomenon – porn, intelligent porn, all the 3rd and 4th wave stuff.

Therese: Conversations about porn are complex. I’ll just say that it’s not going away, and everyone likes different flavors of it. I think the most important thing is to help people understand that it’s fantasy. We get into trouble when we start believing that it’s the how-to guide for having sex in your real life. Also, sometimes people lose sight of the fact that the reason the actors look like they love everything they’re doing is because they’re being *paid* to.

I spent an eye-opening day on the set of the virgin-fetish porn outfit Barely Legal, shooting what I think is one of the most interesting parts of my doc. Everyone was fun and nice, and in a lot of ways, it was like any other well-run film set I’ve been on. Except that people were having sex on the hood of a car. And no, no one actually lost their virginity. They’re professional actors.

Beth: And one for the cheap seats: favorite/least favorite cherry popping moments in film/tv/literature

Therese: I have a few favorites:

A classic for me is “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” where Buffy has sex with Angel for the first time. The pleasure it gives him breaks an ancient curse that’s been placed on him and he becomes a vicious vampire again – which Buffy cruelly finds out the morning after. It speaks to that classic fear that once you have sex with a guy, he’ll treat you totally differently. Joss Whedon was great at reflecting the everyday pains of high school into the world of demons, and this scene is a great exammple.

(I love this promo video for the episode Therese talked about – can you imagine someone saying your first time was going to be a spectacular event that lasted two hours? Score! -Beth)

In “Real Women Have Curves,” I love that America Ferrara’s character has non-melodramatic sex with her boyfriend, enjoys it, doesn’t get pregnant or die, and when her mother finds out, she stands up the her. Then she gets into a great university and moves on with her life. Sex is just one part of her coming-of-age-story.

In “The Wackness,” the teenage male protagonist is your typical horndog chasing after the girl of his dreams. When they do finally hook up, his total awkwardness in bed leads to his confession that he’s a virgin. Her reaction is to say she’s had sex lots of times and can show him how it’s done. He reacts to the news with great joy. There’s never any commentary about her sexual experience defining her in any way that’s shameful or judgmental.

I think it’s telling that the best examples come from indy films, not mainstream Hollywood ones.

So now I have to implore you, all of you, to go to Kickstarter and help Therese out with her movie.  We spend a lot of time here and on GeekWeek complaining about the lack of smart versions of women and how movies all suck and how we can never get what we want and blah blah blah blah blah.  Skip two drinks tonight.  Take that $20 and put it towards a movie getting made.

The New Twist On Nigerian Scams: The Barrister is Afraid To Fly

17 May

There is nothing quite so disheartening as spending the day trying to be a smart/funny/semi-coherent writer only to discover the guy trying to Nigerian Scam you is smarter/funnier and way more creative.

Dear Friend,

This is a Management Placement on behalf Mrs. Chung Hee- Ja, wife of Mr. KimWoo Choong the founder and former chairman of the Daewoo Motors Group in South Korea who vocationally live here in Manchester and have been my client for the past nine years.

I am Barr. David Smith, Legal advocate/Solicitor and owner of David Smith &Associates Law Firm located in Manchester UK .

We officially consult for NGO’s and companies on legal/allied issues, Family Law; IntellectualProperty; Real Estate; Wills, Trusts and Tax. I have a legitimate contract job offer for you, I want to know if you have the ability, workforce andstrength to help my client invest in the following sectors; real estate,hotel management/tourism, stock management and commercial agriculture in your country and get rewarded financially without affecting your convenience.

Upon her instruction, I am consulting on business grounds as she seeks for a reputable real estate firm, foreign partner or an individual that can assistwith scouting of a well sited landed estate she can invest into outside Manchester and UK or other lucrative sectors that can yield her good returnsfrom her investment.

Most importantly, you will be required to inspect, monitor and close uptransactions on our behalf because my phobia for flight will not grant me the privilege to travel down to your country or outside Manchester for inspection but for transfer of paper work or pictures of the property, can be exchanged through email attachment of preferably fax so if you have anyworthy property within your disposal or can help scout for any available valued landed property or estate preferably in your country Chung Hee- JaKim Choong is willing to reward you with 10% of the value of what ever you are able to wrap up as agent commission and for your partnership role as I have made it clear to her understanding that I was contacting you for this purpose.

Well I believe this is once in a life time opportunity for us to carve out an edge in exploring the vitals of your country real estate market and otherlucrative sectors and your profession as it is your field or even outside your field once the venture is economic oriented, as my client is ready withdown finances to invest, although she has declared the amount and value she wants to invest, but I for security reasons cannot disclose or make it known to you until I know your faith and have a proof of your ability to handle atransaction of such magnitude so you can kindly send me your work experience profile or any paper work that can justify the authenticity of your CV. If you prefer to be re-contacted for more express information, write Back promptly attaching your contact telephone numbers, I look forward to it.

I expect your correspondence as my response with more information on this profiting offer will be swift.
You can contact me on my Direct email:barrdavidsmith.law@live.com

Yours faithfully

Barr. David Smith


Flag Football is Sexist?

16 May

So there’s this article in the NY Times today about girls playing flag football.  And the women who claim that since it isn’t a “real” sport with scholarships and national teams, it violates Title IX.

I no longer care if I sound like a cranky old man screaming get off my lawn.  I really don’t.  What the f*ck is wrong with people?  Girls are playing a competitive sport and you guys have to say it isn’t real?  Sometimes the people who are “protecting” women from sexism are the problem and this is one of those times.  Actually they aren’t protecting girls from sexism, they are fake protecting them from fake sexism.

A real sport is not a sport that gives colleges money via massive corporate endorsement.  And if it is, I quit being a fan of real sports.  A real sport is anything that creates a team that plays well and honestly against another team.  There are lots of real Title IX issues, real disparities in how men and women get treated in school sports from middle school all the way through college.  But a sport doesn’t have to have the potential get you a scholarship or a Nike deal to be real.

And when I read shit like this:

Ms. Hogshead-Makar, who also serves as the senior director for advocacy at the Women’s Sports Foundation, said girls missed the educational benefits if they did not take a sport seriously.

“That’s one of the things that makes sports such an important experience,” she said. “You’re always striving to get to that next rung.”

Ms. Hogshead-Makar said flag football’s time should be up.

“We’ve had 10 years of girls who have not been given other sports opportunities,” she said. But she said she would be open to changing her stance if she saw commitment by universities or the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

I want to scream and punch things.  They don’t take it seriously?  It is a sport.  They take it seriously when they play it.  They take it as seriously as they need to.  Presuming girls aren’t taking something seriously is actual sexism, not trumped up, I need publicity sexism.

Ms. Hogshead-Makar, you are making it harder for women to thrive by being so obsessed with leveling the playing field that you’ll spout misogynistic bullshit like this to do it.  Little tip: if you have to trash 16 year old girls to get your point across you’re not an adult advocate, you’re a cranky teenager masquerading as a grown up.

Play on, Flag Football players.  Have fun, compete as hard as you can, and stop worrying about what people like Ms. Hogshead-Makar says because I can guarantee you, she is 100% wrong.

And yes, I really like writing her name.  Hogshead-Makar.  It is very fun.

Sweet Sixteen And Never Been Kissed

15 May

Found on the always awsome Four Four

So many things geniusely wrong about this video.  Of course we have the father entrusted with the daughter’s virginity because she can’t be trusted to keep it all alone.  Then we have the slutty girl (blond, while the brunette is good) and we have the perfect wavy haired husband who shows up… how the hell old is Pamela when she gets married?  I can’t tell.  Either 18 or 32.  Either way, she’s been living with dad and parking that pillow on her lap for far too long.

I Won’t Be Buying The Daria Box Set

12 May

So, Daria is being released as a box set.  For those of you who don’t know who she is here she is being Daria:

Now, I loved Daria.  Seriously obsessed.  She was me.  I was her.  We were the same.  But they have taken out all the original awesome 90’s music and replaced it with non-awesome music.  Half the reason I watched Daria was to see how they used L7 or Fiona Apple or REM songs.  Instead they have new music because the old music would “cost too much.”

If Glee can cover sixteen songs in an episode and the music industry is currently having the economic woes they claim to be having, I don’t believe it.  I think this was just a “we can charge $45 and keep $40 instead of charging $45 and keeping $30” decision by MTV.  Which is their right.

It is also my right to say hell no.  Because Daria without the music is like Frozen Embryos without Tino.  Just Residue.

It Got All Virginey In Here…

11 May

What the hell?  I was so ready to just post and then ignore for a few weeks and then this hit my inbox:

Some guy is making a documentary where people auction off their virginity and it is taped. That seems very… well… listen I’m all for sexual autonomy.  But you have to do what you are doing because you want to and not because you think you should.  It’s the whole point of the movie I’m making.  I just have such a hard time believing that auctioning off virginity in a Nevada brothel is actually what someone wants.  I want to understand why (which is why I’ll end up watching this doc and then feeling really dirty about it.)

On the other side we have the amazing HOW TO LOSE YOUR VIRGINITY documentary that I am currently obsessed with.

From the filmmakers:

HOW TO LOSE YOUR VIRGINITY is the new
documentary-in-progress by Therese Shechter, director of the
award-winning and provocative I WAS A TEENAGE FEMINIST.

When a bridal consultant effusively tells Therese, a
40-something sex-savvy feminist planning her first wedding,
she looks virginal in her white wedding dress, it sets
her on a journey to uncover why virginity still holds
such importance in our hyper-sexualized society.

Her growing tension around chastity-based wedding rituals
is the narrative backbone of the film, but the true target
is idealized, fetishized virginity: its historical role in
U.S. culture, its power to mold and damage a girlºs
self-image and self-worth; its commodification as something
manufactured, sold, given away, taken.

You really have to see the whole site (and donate a few bucks on kickstarter, won’t you?)

I love all these movies about virginity and what it means.  So much more fun to watch than actually working on writing.