AWFJ Women On Film – The Week In Women, May 8, 2009 – MaryAnn Johanson

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What’s a gal gotta do to get some attention? Fret over men, cry over being called fat, or fuck on camera. Come on, ladies, it’s fun!

WHAT’S A WOMAN HAS TO DO TO GET SOME COVERAGE BY THE ENTERTAINMENT PRESS. It’s always a chore finding interesting news about women for this column each week. I do try — I’d much rather promote interesting tidbits about creative women doing cool things, but it’s almost impossible to find that news. I’m sure there are plenty of creative women doing cool things — they just never make the news. I scroll through the industry and mainstream news sources, and when the coverage is about women, it’s invariably women coping with the infidelity of their men, or fretting over rumors of such, or beauty queens defending their right to be idiots, or women defending themselves against accusations of bad mothering, or against rumors of drug abuse, or against the supposition that they’re dishonest about their weight-control regimes. Sure, male celebrities do often get the gossipy treatment… but these men have behaved badly in actually felonious ways — they’re actually in legal trouble by having committed crimes, or have at least been accused of committing crimes. That’s what it takes for a man to get smacked around by the media: he has to break the law. The bar of acceptable behavior for female celebrities is much, much lower.

TILDA SPEAKS! Which is why I have to highlight IndieWire’s “13 Things You Want To Know About Tilda Swinton”: because it’s all about her work, her love of cinema, and her disdain for how dull and homogenized movies have, in the mainsteam, become. A few choice excerpts:

2. She and “Julia” director Erick Zonca met when they both tried to break into a Cannes dinner with a fire extinguisher.

7. She has a foundation that gives movies to kids on their 8 1/2th birthday.

9. She and Hollywood “are over.”

“Recently I’ve been working as a kind of industrial spy in Hollywood,” she said. “The truth is… It’s over.”

And there’s not one single thing about her weight, her clothes, her hair, her pets, or what she thinks about Susan Boyle.

MISSING THE POINT. Last month I wrote about the powerful and shocking PSA about domestic violence that Keira Knightley did with director Joe Wright for British TV. Turns out, it’s now been banned by TV honchos for being — wait for it… — too powerful and shocking. The Telegraph quotes Knightley’s boyfriend, actor Rupert Friend, on the banning:

I think that banning an advert because it is shocking is quite the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of. What is shocking is that women are getting hit. The point is to shock people.

At least he gets it.

GIRLS WHO FUCK ON CAMERA GET ALL THE ATTENTION. Who’s the It Girl of the moment? Porn star Sasha Grey, who’s making a crossover to nonporn with Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience… in which she portrays a prostitute. Grey may have talent, and Soderbergh’s track record suggests the film will be intriguing (I haven’t seen the movie yet), but it’s hard to imagine that another young actress in the same role would be getting the kind of attention Grey is: she’s all over Rolling Stone this month. Don’t miss the near-pornographic photo shoot!

I look forward to Rolling Stone putting a young male actor through the same paces.

OPENING THIS WEEK. It’s still all boys, for the most part, making big-screen appearances this weekend. In Star Trek, Uhura has at least gotten a promotion: she’s no longer a mere receptionist, she’s now a brilliant linguist specializing in alien languages. But she’s still not the center of attention: that’s a job for Kirk and Spock… and the Romulan bad guy played by Eric Bana. *sigh*

Next Day Air? All guys… and some skimpily dressed female eye candy. Little Ashes, the gay romance between Robert Pattinson’s Salvador Dali and Javier Beltran’s Federico García Lorca? All guys… except for the one poor woman (Marina Gatell) who’s literally hopelessly in love with Lorca. Atom Egoyan’s Adoration does feature the exquisitely captivating Arsinée Khanjian… but she’s just a prompt for the coming-of-age of the teenage male protagonist (Devon Bostick). And perhaps we should be glad that Kirby Dick’s documentary Outrage, about hypocritical closeted gay politicians who overtly work to quash gay equality, is almost exclusively about men: a few political celebs who are out lesbians are featured, but the scolding is directly entirely at men. Of course, that’s just because there are so few women, gay or straight, in positions of power in the first place.

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  • t6

    Re: Star Trek

    Having just come back from seeing it, Uhura is probably the third biggest part on the hero side after Kirk and Spock. She is no chopped liver!

    But I just want to address the original Uhura, Nichelle Nichols. Yes, she was comms officer (not a recpetionist). But she was one of the first and few black female women on television. Nichelle Nichols’s Uhura (which comes from the word Freedom in Swahili) had a profound effect on many, many black women…my mother being one of them. But not only my mother. She was important enough to Whoopi Goldberg that Whoopi made it a point to get cast in the Next Generation in honor of her. Zoe Saldana was contemplating passing on the role when her own mother insisted she take it.

    Is Uhura Tasha Yar? No, she isn’t. But not all women have to be Tasha Yar, right?

    Some wiki quotes:

    “Nichelle Nichols planned to leave Star Trek in 1967 after its first season, but Martin Luther King, Jr. persuaded her to stay, stating that she was a role model for the black community. Whoopi Goldberg, who later played Guinan on Star Trek: The Next Generation, identified the Uhura character as a role model for her, recalling that she told her family, “I just saw a black woman on television; and she ain’t no maid!” NASA later employed Nichols in a campaign to encourage African Americans to join the service, and Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to fly aboard the Space Shuttle, cited Star Trek as an influence in her decision to join.”

    For those who are invested in Uhura, her role is expanded in the new film, and I can’t wait to see what more J.J. Abrahms will create for the character.

    Lastly, when I met Nichelle Nichols at a Star Trek convention…it was one of the highlights of my convention going experiences. I met Leonard Nimoy, I met William Shatner…but it was Nichelle Nichols and her Uhura that was meaningful for me–when, then meeting George Takei later. Speaking of George Takei, even though he also didn’t have a lot to do in the original series, I know how important he was to many of my Asian-American friends that he was visible and played by an actual Asian-American person.

    Uhura was not the damsel in distress. She was a professional star fleet officer. She attained the rank of Commander and lectured at Starfleet.

    The state of women in the industry is deplorable, but there is no need to diminish a character, one of the few African-American women in all of science fiction in order to make your point.

  • michael brance

    I really liked your blog!