euphoriafish: Avar photo I took in Japan of the Great Buddha statue in Kamakura. (Default)
[personal profile] euphoriafish
Reading Hollywood Reporter, I came across reaction punditry on the recent UCSB shooting and defense of a movie that had nothing to do with the shooting. Ugh at this in all directions. Please hear me out because I'm going to play both sides and search for my own opinion.

I really like Seth Rogen, first of all. He's right in so far as it was a really poor example to use in an article. Judd Apatow comedies have nothing whatsoever to do with shootings and the sort of characters Rogen plays are actually a good example of what personality to adopt to be well-liked and win friends. Sometimes he's a jerk but mostly he's a brother figure who's a good man to have in a tight corner and wins over the ladies with his humility, worldly wisdom, and good sense of humor. Why don't would-be shooters go watch Undeclared and find themselves through collegiate friendship?

Anne Hornaday chose the wrong example. She already had a good example by connecting American Psycho, a movie which has a message about how jaded we are about violence and how hypercapitalism has both made and ruined American society. Why else is it important to not be rejected by a house of sorority girls or frat boys? She could have done better by going into exact details about that and also connecting Natural Born Killers which would actually have been the perfect example of the media looking at how the media is breeding violent masculine fantasies and a devaluation of human life in return for a brief ploy for attention.

By choosing a recent movie and a comedy that promotes good feelings more than negative ones, she just got in her own way. It's somewhat fair for Apatow to say she's being self promotional just because she chose a trendy new movie rather than finding the best example. "Neighbors" centers around a young couple of parents, not an alienated macho soldier. It's no "Taxi Driver." It is, however, about revenge against frat boy hazing and exclusion, which is relevant to Ann Hornaday's argument if she had focused on alienation and elitist exclusion instead of the reckless violence. The Eliot Rodgers video made before the shooting seems to place him in both camps, the excluded outcast and the entitled elitist son of an industry professional. He seems to have a chip on his shoulder about popularity and sexual conquest he feels entitled to but hasn't achieved. So it's relevant to discuss Hollywood entitlement, but bad form to connect it to a current movie that has good intentions to send a message overall about the need to come of age and accept adult responsibilities while developing mature coping mechanisms for emotional disappointment.


It doesn't look good for two men to attack a female Pulitzer-nominated journalist who is making valid points about the underrepresentation of women in film.

Also, I think "Neighbors" is still going to make a lot of money. Rogen and Apatow are not at their first rodeo and have already tasted success. And outside of her poor example, Ann Hornaday had a good point to make about the still overwhelmingly male fantasy dominated tastes of studio executives or whatever factors lead them to greenlight overwhelmingly sexist stories.

Hornaday's quote that particularly spoke to me is:

" If our cinematic grammar is one of violence, sexual conquest and macho swagger — thanks to male studio executives
who green-light projects according to their own pathetic predilections — no one should be surprised when those impulses
take luridly literal form in the culture at large."

It reminded me of an article on Aaron Sorkin that one of the entertainment industry professionals linked to a month or so ago,

wherein he said basically that he doesn't know why there aren't more films with strong female characters being made. My friend got angry with me for my comments where I was trying to understand why Sorkin answered the way he did, and for commenting in a way that could be taken as defending The Man who has the power of the patriarchy and is still keeping women down. I was also speaking intuitively and citing generalities from a place of inexperience, and for that I deserved to be shouted down. I myself was ignoring the important points made because I was distracted by the confrontational biased language the reporter was using in her article. Ann Hornaday makes similar points in her article but used a really bad example of movie that is just as distracting and confrontational.

But it's not just one man's success keeping empowered female characters off the screen. He doesn't write any of the popular super hero movies or police procedurals on television[maybe one of those?], and I thought maybe if we could understand where he was coming from, that understanding would lead to asking the right questions and exposing men whose perspective doesn't encourage thoughts of equality to think harder about diversity in film and helping create a supportive atmosphere and tell stories that appeal to a wider and more diverse audience. What about the hypercapitalist nature of the Hollywood system that leads people to make these decisions based on what has made money before rather than based upon what we haven't seen yet and what is good art?

There ARE female executives greenlighting films. Sorkin named a handful and pointed out that that doesn't explain why there aren't more empowered female characters. And that didn't really answer the question that was asked of him about why HE doesn't write more important female characters in his movies. I only have The Social Network to go on from personal viewing experience, and women weren't important in that film at all. Sheryl Sandburg may not have been a player in the part of the story he adapted, but what about Mark Zuckerberg's wife?

Most of Anne Hornaday's article was about the repetition of a single note of power and conquest through violence in entertainment. I don't see any fair comparison between the gunman's video and Hollywood movies except that he had a decent camera in his car, perfect lighting, and he was using a sort of rhetoric like movie villains. Mostly what I heard was self absorbed apathy toward other people that probably alienated him from most of his peers. He needed mental healthcare and for someone to give him the sort of attention he wanted while trying to change his mind about how he related to other people.

So why AREN't there more films passing the Bechdel test, and didn't we used to say something else to identify a good movie portrayal of women before the Bechdel test became a Facebook and blog meme?

I am annoyed at the way these arguments are being presented but don't hate any of the people presenting them. Not even Aaron Sorkin, who is at a point in his life where he has power to make a difference and is being lazy on an issue I care about. I just think there are better ways to make people aware of their own privilege than by tasking them with an agenda outside their perspective which they have been lazy in taking on. Convincing them that it is in their best interest to is harder, but gets a result that is not trolling of feminist reporters or apathy toward the issue from someone who can make a difference from their platform.

Maybe I should stay on this for a while and cross post it to the research blog I'm starting so I'll remember to come back to my own questions.

I'm left with the following:
* How much control does the studio executive have when greenlighting a film?
* How much of the decision is based on corporate sponsorship presumably by elderly white male conservative CEOs?
* How many stories being turned down as unprofitable contain empowered female characters?
* How many submitted stories are by female screenwriters?
* How many female executives who greenlight scripts are there at each major studio? Sorkin named three, one per studio mentioned.
* Considering Aaron Sorkin has achieved a high level of success, how much of a gatekeeper is he and how can he be helping female professionals out?
* What is in it for studio executives and companies to choose against instead of for violent male fantasies?

I hate having questions but not answers, and I also hate seeing male bias and confrontational language in web articles.



I lack a platform other than this blog/Twitter/fledgling research project to influence people on, so it's back to my own scriptwriting and comedy. I'm thinking about the above stories while co-writing a web serial about super heroes titled River City Heroes. I was brought onto the project because the creator loves plotting action but doesn't enjoy writing dialogue and said he would like someone to flesh out the characters through dialogue. Matt Hibbs and I complement each other writing-wise perfectly, and I get to do what I enjoy most-- creating character details-- while he and Trevor Adler are planning fight choreography and special effects.

I haven't worked with anyone on a script before and I want to make friends with the team, so I've been trying to not alter the plot and just do dialogue passes mostly, but I'm sort of a producer on the project too and facilitating communication by asking questions and writing reports on what was decided as a group so we all stay on the same page.

I was initially turned off by some secondary female characters in the first episode. The women in the draft I was handed didn't have very many lines and were only there to be victims. So, I gave them more lines and verbal self defense. Well, for the girl in the garage anyway. I left the girl in the dream sequence alone because she is part of a male fantasy and a young male character's perspective would not necessarily be concerned with feminism. I had fun with it. I exaggerated the action movie dialogue cliches and made it funny. I think I ended up with something sort of like Ace Rimmer in Red Dwarf.

But in the reality sequences I am trying to make the women behave realistically and not be silent, and not have things said that would make me turn the show off. I'm also trying to call attention to the inherently male tropes of action movies and police procedurals, and then address them. I intend for there to be more than one female character before the story is through. It will pass the Bechdel test.

Yet, I'm worried about a joke I made in the pilot. I wrote something that is rather offensive toward sex workers and states a faulty assumption about women hanging out on the streets at night, yet I find myself defending it. It's also a dick line assigned to a hero I want the audience to like. And yet, I am defending it.

My thinking is, there are several factors in the plot that are cliches in entertainment and viewers aren't thinking about where they come from when they watch them. So I am stating and then countering assumptions through dialogue. I've decided both the hero and the victim he is slamming/saving/hitting on have arcs and his dick joke comes of speaking too quickly as a shortcut to confidence. His lines will show some evolution of thought in the scene, and he will be called out both by his partner and by the female victim. And Matt has said he thinks hero and victim should date in future episodes, so the hero will be called out further then. I think there will be more development for the woman as well. And there's our Bechdel test certification. Gold star.

But the offensive joke remains. I'm not sure how original it is but I'm hanging onto it.
I hope I won't be judged just on the episode it's in, but I probably will be. I hope nobody attacks Matt about it either, because it was my idea to put that joke in. I just want to add context and make absolutely clear what the writer perspective is on victims, female or otherwise, and feminism. This is no grand criminal plot in the first episode, just regular old street crime.
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euphoriafish: Avar photo I took in Japan of the Great Buddha statue in Kamakura. (Default)

November 2015


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