Posted in Arts and Letters, Gender, Race, TV Time, tagged Adele, Beyonce, Formation, Memoirs of a SLACer, Saturday Night Live, Super Bowl, Super Bowl Halftime Show on February 14, 2016|
For your viewing pleasure, and in light of the response to her video for “Formation” and Super Bowl appearance (backlash to which, according to one Fox News writer, “continues to grow”), here is Saturday Night Live’s brilliant response, “The Day Beyoncé Turned Black”:
Keep in mind that if your workplace is freaking out over the realization that Beyoncé is, and has always been, black, you might need to put on some Adele to sooth them:
Update: Here is a more detailed discussion from Doug Hartmann.
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Posted in Gender, Moving Pictures, Popular Press, tagged Female Heroes, Gender, J. J. Abrams, Leia, Memoirs of a SLACer, Mike Adamick, Rey, Star Wars, Star Wars Gender, Star Wars Monopoly, The Force Awakens on January 24, 2016|
A long time ago in the Milky Way galaxy, Star Wars came out and prominently featured one woman with a lot of lines and… basically no other notable women. In December, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens came out and prominently featured another woman with a lot of lines and… a few other women. There was a crucial difference between the prominent women in each of these movies, though. While Leia in Star Wars was undoubtedly a main character, the movie was centered on her brother, Luke, to the extent that at one point Leia is rescued by men like another princess would be (repeatedly) starting a few years later. The Force Awakens, however, undoubtedly centers on Rey.
That Rey was a major (if not the major) character was not surprising to anybody who followed the early rumors about the movie, but it might have been surprising to anybody who purchased some of the toys that came out before the movie was released. In response to her absence from a Star Wars Monopoly game, Hasbro claimed that it was intended to “avoid spoilers.” Even J. J. Abrams, the movie’s director, called her absence “preposterous,” noting sarcastically that “It doesn’t quite make sense why she wouldn’t be there. She’s somewhat important in the story.” An updated version of the game will feature Rey, but the situation also prompted some to wonder what toys for other movies would look like with their starring women removed. (Saturday Night Live‘s recent sketch about whites receiving awards in movies about blacks is also reminiscent of this.)
Why is this important? Many have praised Rey for being a feminist hero but not a “female hero,” meaning that she gets to do the same things that a male hero would do. (Not surprisingly, there have also been some complaints.) Rey is obviously important to young girls but I also like Mike Adamick’s argument that Rey is the hero that young boys need. As Adamick states, “She’s a role model for the boys in front of me — and the millions like them — who continue to grow up under a steady drip drip drip of societal sexism that says even fictionalized female heroes are unbelievable, let alone that our real life heroes shouldn’t be paid as much as their male counterparts or be in control of their own bodies.” Rey contradicts these ideas and we need more characters like her.
I should note that although Hasbro doesn’t seem to get this, at least the creators of a few commercials for Disney (the company that now owns the Star Wars franchise) and Toys ‘R Us do:
I guess that companies hear us most loudly when we speak up for women’s representation with our wallets.
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Much has been written about the feminism of Mad Max: Fury Road, but in light of my recent post noting that we still expect female musical artists to be all things to all people, the importance of seeing women onscreen in a wide variety of roles cannot be overstated. Young women, old women, pregnant women, women without arms, women who kill, women who die. When there is more than one woman with a speaking part in a movie, all of these representations are possible. Unlike movies where women die in order to provide motivation for men to become heroes, in Fury Road, women die because they are fighting for themselves.
As important as the numerous women in the movie is the way that they are framed. I am referring to the literal framing of each scene in the camera. In order to allow audiences to follow the action during fast cuts, director George Miller employed the use of “center framing,” in which the main focal point is in the center of each frame. Equally important was what he perceived the main focal point to be. This post compares the focal points of trailers for Fury Road to those of San Andreas and Avengers: Age of Ultron. The latter focuses on women’s bodies while the others focus on their faces. No amount of women will make a movie “feminist” if they are just there as objects for the male gaze.
To return to the title of this post, I should note that the actual future depicted in Fury Road is terrible, but Fury Road itself shows that an action movie centered on female characters can be successful on both cinematic and financial levels if they are treated as characters rather than objects. It is true that there is more room for racial diversity in Fury Road‘s cast, but on that front at least the “bad guys” are pale white instead of dark-skinned.
Maybe the real lesson of Fury Road is that the best big-budget action directors are those who have been making movies focused on animals for the past fifteen years. (Something about staring at penguins and pigs all day must wash away the need for objectification.) Until this is true, at least we have the miracle that is Mad Max: Fury Road.
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