Oscars 2014- when Hollywood finally found diversity (just a little)

It’s been 86 years since Hollywood first gave out awards to honor their own and until last night there hasn’t been near enough diversity among nominees and winners. Hollywood still has a lot of work to do not only in movies but also in television, however, last night was a good start. See this article for more information http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/03/oscars-diversity_n_4889293.html?utm_hp_ref=entertainment. (Full disclosure I am a white lesbian so I to these issues from two marginalized groups while also being a part of a majority group)
I blame the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the lack of diversity since 94 percent of the members are white while 6 percent are members of other racial groups and 77 percent of members are male while only 23 percent are female. Also, they are overwhelmingly older which translates into a lack of understanding of the multicultural world that we live in today. As for television the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences that votes for the Emmy’s has the same problem. If membership in these two organizations keeps skewing white and male and execs at movie studios and television networks keep putting media out that doesn’t represent the world around us they will lose out to the web. Look at how the Veronica Mars movie got made. Producers, writers and directors are increasingly bringing content directly to the web so their stories can get told without studio and network influence. The ability to get financing via Kickstarter and other means has also freed up creators in ways that society is only beginning to grasp.
Last night the Academy showcased a group of young filmmakers (3 women and 3 men) from colleges around the country and what struck me was their diversity. This is what the country looks like and what the Academy needs to work towards. See this article for more about them http://www.arabnews.com/news/532306. I hope the new Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first African-American president, stays strong and commits to diversity among the membership of the Academy.
Also, a study was recently done that showed among the Oscar nominated films male leads averaged 85 minutes of screen time, while female leads averaged only 57 minutes. One only has to look at television credits to see how many males are on shows VS females. One network that reverses these numbers is ABC Family with their female fronted shows Switched at Birth, The Fosters and Pretty Little Liars.
While I take issue with a Woody Allen movie being recognized by the Academy (due to Dylan Farrow’s molestation accusations- which I believe BTW), I did appreciate Cate Blanchett calling out Hollywood to make more female fronted films. They should take note of the fact that The Hunger Games-Catching Fire (with Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role) was the highest grossing film of last year. The movie also passed the Bechdel test which should be an important part of how films are constructed.
They say that culture moves society faster than legislation and the courts and if that’s the case we still have a long ways to go regarding representation in movies and TV. I hope that the next ten years sees a sea change in representation similar to the advancements that the LGBT community has made since former President Bush waged a war on my community with his call for a ban on same-sex marriage across the country in 2004.

The awesomeness that is Sleepy Hollow

When I first read about Sleepy Hollow this past summer I was drawn to the show for so many reasons including my love of history and science fiction/fantasy as well as fish out of water stories. The show hits all the right notes with all of these aspects of storytelling, however, the best part of the show is how the creators/writers have crafted every character.

What I mean by this is that the lead characters Ichabod Crane (played by British actor Tom Mison), who is a white man, and Leftenant (what Icabod calls her) Abbie Mills (played by Nicole Beharie), who is an African-American woman, are treated equally with compelling back stories and each of them getting to be each other’s heroes/sheroes throughout the season.

In the interest of full disclosure I am a white woman who happens to be a lesbian.

On most shows the African-American characters are given supporting character status but this show bucks that trend. It took me awhile to realize this but in one of the scenes in the 11th episode “Vessel” this past season (the one where Macey is being rescued by a demon who has possessed her) the only white person in the scene is Icabod. The rest of the characters are African-American: Abbie, her sister Jenny (played by Lyndie Greenwood), and Macey’s (played by the Hunger Games Amandla Stenberg) parents Captain Frank Irving (played by Orlando Jones) and his estranged wife Cynthia (played by Jill Marie Jones). Most shows would never dare to show that many strong African-American characters in one scene.

Asian-Americans and Latino-Americans also have representation on the show with Officer Andy Brooks (played by John Cho) and Detective Luke Morales (played by Nicholas Gonzalez). So far there haven’t been any LGBT characters but I wouldn’t be surprised if that didn’t happen in the second season beginning this coming fall.

Ichabod’s wife Katrina (played by Katia Winter), Abbie’s mentor Sheriff August Corbin (played by Clancy Brown) and Icabod and Katrina’s son Jeffrey/Henry (played by John Nobel) round out the rest of the cast (they are all white) and everyone’s stories for the most part are woven seamlessly into each other.

Only a few other shows get this kind of integrated casting correct which is a sad comment on our media culture. They are Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Orange is the New Black, and The Fosters.

Recently the writer/creator of Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy received the Diversity Award from the Directors Guild of America and she expressed her irritation that there even needs to be a diversity award. More of her comments can be found here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/27/shonda-rhimes-diversity-award_n_4674147.html.

While shows like Sleepy Hollow and the others I mentioned above should be applauded for their inclusive nature I feel like we shouldn’t even be talking about this anymore, however, just like with LGBT representation in the media we will never achieve full parity until the executives in charge of the networks, cable outlets and movie studios get their heads out of the sand and realize that it is 2014 and they should wake up to the reality of the world around them.

Why visibility and representation matters!

I’ve been away for quite some time doing some soul searching about the direction I want to take this blog. I will continue to talk about LGBT issues as they relate to pop culture and politics, however, I will also be expanding my reach to include representation of women and POC in all areas of life.

As I’ve been reading online articles and blog posts its becoming clear to me that unless we continue to speak out places like twitter will get away with not having any women on its board of directors (they finally added one woman to their ranks late last year but it took people pointing it out for twitter to make that change). Business, politics and the media are still mostly run by white straight men and unless we speak out things won’t change so I will be dedicating this space to that effort. I hope to be a catalyst for change so young people can focus on other things when they get older.

Stay tuned for my first official blog post of the new year in the next few days. Think Hollywood and award season. Also, you will still hear from me about my latest pop culture obsessions.

The Fosters on ABC Family, marriage equality and visibility

On the second episode of The Fosters a conversation took place between Lena (one of the mom’s on the show) and one of the new foster kids that Lena and Stef (Lena’s partner) took in. Jude (the foster kid who is 12) asked Lena if she was married to Stef. Lena explained that they weren’t legally married, however, they were married in their own hearts. Jude commented that being married in their hearts is the same thing. Now I don’t expect a 12 year old boy to be able to grasp all of the ways that his statement was false on a legal front. I am glad that the show addressed the fact that since they live in San Diego and same-sex marriage isn’t legal in California because of Prop 8 that their relationship will never be treated the same way as an opposite sex couple’s marriage is treated.

This brings me to the current debacle going on in Illinois regarding marriage equality. The IL House, specifically Rep. Greg Harris (who is openly gay and the bill’s sponsor) didn’t call the vote for marriage equality on May 31st as promised. In numerous conversations with LGBT leaders since the IL Senate voted to approve marriage equality I have gotten nothing but encouraging news that the bill had enough votes and that it would pass. I am so disappointed with LGBT leaders in IL since I did my part to reach out to my state representative Alan Turner who eventually came out and said he would vote yes on the bill. Recently, I read a great editorial here http://www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/EDITORIAL-Marriage-and-Equality-A-Way-Forward/43240.html and I agree wholeheartedly with what Tracy Baim had to say.

In her editorial Tracy explains that the only way forward is through grassroots activism. Another example of grassroots movement that worked was when American women got the right to vote.

Without the likes of Alice Paul, Lucy Burns and other members of the National Women’s Party protesting outside of the White House (during World War I when Wilson was president) demanding the right to vote with signs that said “We women of America tell you that America is not a democracy. Twenty million women are denied the right to vote. President Wilson is the chief opponent of their national enfranchisement” we wouldn’t have gotten the right to vote in 1920. They got arrested and were sent to Occoquan workhouse. Alice went on a hunger strike and the prison officials force fed raw eggs to her so she would stay alive. That action along with continued protests and media coverage shamed the Wilson administration to act. If it were left up to the likes of Carrie Chapman Catt (who spent time currying favor with Wilson and who disagreed with Paul and Burns tactics) we would’ve waited even longer for the right to vote.

We need the same kind of commitment now to achieve full LGBT equality nationwide.

My thoughts on the FX show “The Americans”

I was a weird kid. Weird in a way that I was acutely aware of the world around me at an early age. I became obsessed with the presidency and politics in general as early as January of 1980 when we were vacationing in Florida at Disney World. (I was almost 9 years old at the time.) We were in our hotel room and President Carter’s State of the Union address was on TV. Instead of playing with my younger siblings I sat there mesmerized by the TV and what Carter was saying. Fast forward to early 1981 where I distinctly remember watching President Reagan being sworn into office and minutes later the hostages getting released from Iran. I was also aware that the show Nightline was created just to update Americans about the hostage crisis. (This was before the advent of CNN BTW!) I really don’t know where this interest began, however, I do remember my parents having the news on everyday and newspapers and magazines in the house.

Which brings me to the show “The Americans”. I personally love it. I’ve never really seen Keri Russell in anything else before so she is a revelation to me as Elizabeth Jennings. Matthew Rhys, on the other hand did a fantastic job playing openly-gay Kevin on “Brothers and Sisters” and does a marvelous job here as Phillip Jennings. Others have written great reviews about the actors and overall storytelling but what gets me excited is the portrayal of historical events within the context of the show. Last night’s episode (which centered around Reagan’s assassination attempt) brought me back to my childhood. Again, I remember Reagan’s assassination attempt as if it happened last month.

I really can’t wait to see this show delve into other historical events in the 1980’s. Since Phillip and Elizabeth (Keri’s character) have a 13-year old daughter Paige and a 10-year old son Henry it will be interesting to see which pop culture events and fads the show chooses to portray. I did notice that Paige was reading a teen magazine in the scene with Phillip in the diner. Nice touch showrunners! I also appreciate the period details. I know that some viewers and critics have noted that some of the fashion and hairstyles are not as period as they could be but that is not as important to me as them getting the vehicles, decor and technology (or lack of it) correct.

The flashbacks to Phillip and Elizabeth’s younger years are fascinating. The show does a great job showing the stark environment that was the post WWII Soviet Union era. I wonder how much we are going to see of their past as the show goes along?

It’s weird to think that this show is set a little over 30 years ago especially since one of my friends is only 28 years old.

Some other musings…

Do the Jenning’s have a VCR? We were the second family on the block to buy one in 1978.

Will Paige beg her parents for a Walkman?

Will Henry convince his parents to get him an Atari game system?

How will Elizabeth cope as she witnesses the Soviet Empire crumble?

Will their kids ever find out who they really are and if so what will their response be?

Will they eventually defect or will they be jailed?

 

Golden Globes 2013…or the night when Jodie Foster upstaged Bubba

Setting aside the winners in each category, the 2013 Golden Globes will go down in history as the most interesting, funny and newsworthy awards ceremony in recent memory.

As others have mentioned on twitter and other social media/blog sites, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler should host the Golden Globe, Oscar and Emmy shows for as long as they want to do the job. Their humor was timely and appropriate for the occasion and they also didn’t have a problem poking fun at themselves when necessary. For all the naysayers who say that women aren’t as funny as men, they need only to look at all the ways in which Fey and Poehler and later Wiig kept the Golden Globes from turning into three hours of self-congratulatory narcissism. My only complaint- I really wish they were used more throughout the ceremony.

Also, in a moment that almost always falls flat during these ceremonies (when awards officials take the stage) Dr. Aida Takla-O’Reilly, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, made the most of her three minutes on stage. In an almost grandmotherly fashion, she chided the control booth when they didn’t follow her instructions to pan the audience, called out industry people for not knowing who she was in the first place and name checked Bradley Cooper at the end of her speech imploring him to “Call me maybe?”. She changed the game and effectively made it harder for other awards officials to just come out and make a bland statement during awards ceremonies. Rock on Dr. Aida for adding to the funny!

I also noticed that with women at the helm the ceremony was almost free of the usual testosterone filled bluster that pervades most of society including Hollywood.

It was also a night full of surprises. First Bubba aka Mr. Hillary Rodham Clinton introducing a clip from “Lincoln”. For most of the people in the room his arrival was like the second coming of Jesus…except for Tommy Lee Jones. Bitter much? I guess he’s still mad that Bubba didn’t help Al Gore enough in the 2000 campaign (Jones and Gore were college roommates). It was amusing to see Hollywood celebs snapping pictures and fawning all over him.

Also, Bubba is so damn mesmerizing. He can make the most mundane of topics the most exciting thing you’ve heard all day. For all of his faults (DOMA, DADT and Monica) he still has it.

Only in the United States would Jodie Foster upstage a former President but she did it. In what will go down in history as the most non-coming out coming out speech ever, Foster finally acknowledged what most of Hollywood, her closest friends and family and the wider LGBTQ community already knew. That she is a lesbian (of course in pure Jodie fashion she didn’t utter the word nor did she say the word gay) and has been raising two boys with her former partner Cydney Bernard (they started dating in 1993 and broke up in 2008).

Many people have already weighed in on her coming out speech and the opinions are all over the map. I personally believe that every person’s journey towards coming out to the public is as unique as the person coming out. My coming out was vastly different from everyone I’ve met or read about. Look at how long it took for Meredith Baxter, Kristy McNichol and Kelly McGillis to come out to name just a few slightly older women in Hollywood.

Also, Foster has had to deal with being a public figure for 47 years (she is 50 now) and is the only person to have a someone (John Hinckley) try to assassinate a president (Ronald Reagan) in order to impress her. Ironically, Hinckley shot Reagan at a time when Foster was out of the limelight attending Yale (Hinckley began stalking Foster while Foster was at Yale). I think these two incidents, being a working actor beginning at the age of 3 and the Hinckley situation, have caused Foster to retreat from society in a way that other celebs haven’t.

Prior to posting my thoughts on the Golden Globes I read Alison Arngrim (she is a former child star aka Nellie Olson from Little House on the Prairie) twitter feed since she had some very cogent points about being a child star and the effects it has on your pysche. I agree with everything Arngrim said. Her twitter feed is https://twitter.com/arngrim.

The one message I want to convey to the LGBTQ organizations who are itching to give Foster some award. Wait until she does something meaningful for our community. I’m looking at you HRC and GLAAD!