Friday, March 26, 2010

Combat Barbie Saves the Day!

You may have already heard about "Combat Barbie" who is supposedly changing the world of beauty pageants as we know it! Apparently Lance Cpl. Katrina Hodge, a soldier in the British army and last year's Miss England, asked the organizers of the Miss England pageant to remove the swimsuit portion of the competition. The swimsuit competition will be replaced with a sports challenge.

Now on the surface, we think this is a great idea. However, we're not exactly cheering over this news story...

First of all, it's still a beauty pageant. They can take away the swimsuit competition but what's left is still a sexist, antiquated contest. While it's true that "beauty pageants" aren't just about beauty (the Miss England pageant features talent, charity, and "eco" segments in addition to the new sports challenges) women are primarily judged on their looks and ability to fit some society construct of "femininity".

Second, her reasoning is off. Hodge was quoted in England's Daily Telegraph that the swimsuit portion was unfair because "it's nerve-racking enough to girls to get up on a stage and speak, let alone in a swimsuit." Yes, that's true. But that's not why they should do away with it. It's unfair because not only is it irrelevent (winners are rarely asked to appear in swimwear for public events) and objectifying, but because it's wrong to judge women based on how closely they match a sexist, unfair expectation of "beauty" and body type.

It's also a little condescending on Hodge's part if you think about it... As a part time model for the lingerie firm La Senza, Hodge spends a good deal of time in the public eye in various forms of undress but doesn't seem to have a problem with "nerves". But she's trying to protect all the contestants who aren't as strong as she supposedly is. No woman should have to be judged based on how she wears a bathing suit, but I think these types of pageants should be more about the ability to "get up on stage and speak". If that's so nerve-wracking, then maybe this isn't the competition for you. (I'm not trying to discredit anyone who does find it nerve-wracking. I certainly would - swimsuit or not - but that's why I don't enter pageants. I hide behind a computer screen.)

The news coverage about Hodge has especially irked me, particularly her nickname "Combat Barbie". I don't know if she actually likes and accepts this title or if the media has just taken it and run with, but either way it's annoying. A beautiful woman in the army? OMGZ NO WAY! What is this Private Benjamin? In 2010 is it really such of an anomaly for a member of the military to be feminine and attractive (whatever that means)?

This isn't the first time Hodge has made the news. She first became well known in 2005 after she wrestled rifles away from a suspected rebel fighter with her bare hands in Iraq. This is definitely something commendable, but we have to wonder if the press would have cared at all if she was male... or, you know, "ugly".

Hodges is currently on leave from the Army, so she can be the front person for the military dating site Uniform Dating. I wonder if the military gives everyone leave for that sort of thing or if just the pretty pageant winners get this kind of special treatment. I know that women in the U.S. military aren't always given this kind of leniency, but maybe this is a U.K. thing and not just a beauty queen thing?

Now we're not trying to be party poopers here. It's clear that Hodge is an excellent soldier and well-rounded, intelligent - and yes, beautiful - young woman. We think it's great that Hodge wants to help military personnel find love and wants to improve the Miss England pageant.

Out of curiosity, we looked into the history of the Miss World Organization and oddly enough Miss World started in the 1950s as the Festival Bikini Contest. In the 1980s, tests of intelligence and personality were added, along with the new slogan "Beauty With a Purpose". Over the years, the organization has raised millions for charities around the globe. Clearly it keeps evolving, so the removal of the swimsuit segment is hopefully just one step on the way towards a pageant that doesn't judge women based on their looks at all.

Our dream pageant - you know, the Ms. Evil Slutopia Pageant - would be open to all genders, all races, and all sizes. There would be no swimsuit competition or evening wear. We can just imagine the talent competition! Do that Corona-lime-thumb trick without spilling a drop and then reenact one of the dance scenes from The American Mall. Or the Q&A portion: "What's the dumbest thing a guy has ever said to you?" and "Would you agree that Rush Limbaugh can suck it?"

What else would you like to see in your dream pageant?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Kathryn Bigelow: Queen of the World!

SHE DID IT!!!!!!!

Kathryn Bigelow made history last night when she won Best Director - the first woman ever to receive the honor.

Her film, The Hurt Locker, also took home Oscars for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing (winning a total of six of its nine nominations).

Congrats to Bigelow! The media has been going wild over the fact that she won, which is great because she deserves the attention, but also sad... that it has taken so long. In fact, in the past 82 years there have only been three other women nominated for this award (Lina Wertmüller for Seven Beauties in 1975, Jane Campion for The Piano in 1993, and Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation in 2003) so yeah, it's about damn time.

"I hope I'm the first of many, and of course, I'd love to just think of myself as a filmmaker. And I long for the day when that modifier can be a moot point. But I'm very grateful if I can inspire some young, intrepid, tenacious male or female filmmaker and have them feel that the impossible is possible, and never give up on your dream." -- Kathryn Bigelow [Washington Examiner]

Of course, as with any groundbreaking or glass-ceiling shattering incident involving women... some of the stories tend to lean toward the sexist. (We all remember how the media obsessed over Diablo Cody being a "former stripper" after her win for Best Screenplay for Juno.) So what has the media decided to obsess over when it comes to Bigelow? Her ex and her looks. Of course. Who cares about the movies... when it comes to women, all anyone really cares about is her physical appearance and who she is or isn't fucking.

For those of you who don't know (although how could you not, the way the media has been shoving it down our throats for so long) Kathryn Bigelow and Avatar's James Cameron used to be married. And they both happened to have movies in the running for Best Picture. OMG! It's a battle of the sexes and a battle of the exes! Only... not so much. If you only read gossip blogs and entertainment websites, you'd think that The Hurt Locker and Avatar were the only films nominated for any awards all year and the Oscars would be the culmination of the biggest showdown in movie history!!!!!! (Even "bigger" than the uneventful Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie/Jennifer Aniston Oscar Ex-Plosion! from last year.)

Check out some actual story titles and quotes from this year's pre-Oscar award season coverage...

Kathryn Bigelow Looks Younger, Wins More Awards Than Ex, James Cameron

Bigelow beats her ex in a second category, her oddly youthful appearance. Believe it or not, Bigelow is 58. Cameron is 55. [Huffington Post]

Best-picture Oscar race is pure drama

James Cameron's Avatar was named best drama at Sunday's Golden Globe Awards. But Kathryn Bigelow, his ex-wife, picked up the best-film prize for Hurt Locker from the Broadcast Film Critics Association on Friday. The directors and their films are likely to square off at the Oscars. [USA Today]

James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow: Exes go from divorce contention to Oscar contention

This year's Oscars are being billed as the "battle of the exes," with flamboyant tech wizard James Cameron on one side, and Kathryn Bigelow, his thoughtful, shrinking violet of a former wife, on the other. [...]

But is this mutual "play nice" policy only to be expected in a town built on posture and artifice? Some within the industry suspect Bigelow would relish the opportunity to wipe the floor with her ex. [NY Daily News]

It's James Cameron vs. Kathryn Bigelow!

Forget saving the Navis. James Cameron's biggest mission these days should be to beat his ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow, for a slew of awards! [...]

Even if there's not much animosity between these two anymore, it must be galling to compete with your ex spouse for a Golden Globe (and then there'll be the DGA and the Oscar and God knows what else).No matter how much affection might linger, it has to be the most awful thing on earth to risk losing an important trophy to the life partner you dumped! It's like having someone run you over, then take your limb 20 years later!

I mean, if an old boyfriend of mine beat me for the Oscar, I'd beat him WITH the Oscar. [Village Voice]

The Bigelow/Cameron Oscar Face-Off Is a Battle of Good vs. Evil

Kathryn Bigelow, Cameron's ex-wife and the director of The Hurt Locker, has a good shot at beating him for both the best director and best picture Oscars this year gives me a sense of anticipatory schadenfreude like you would not believe. For all I know, James and Kathryn speak on the phone every day and wish each other's movies nothing but good fortune, but anyone who's ever watched as a smug ex goes on to enormous success has to place him- or herself squarely in Bigelow's camp. It's almost a good-vs.-evil thing. [Slate]

Avatar Owes Hurt Locker Alimony

What really added the sting to Cameron’s second victory was Kathryn Bigelow in the audience, who directed the Iraq war drama TheHurt Locker. Seven critics' groups named Bigelow the year’s best director, while five called her film best picture. No critical circle gave Cameron a best director nod for Avatar. [The XX Factor]

Well, Kathryn Bigelow is hotter than James Cameron

While The Hurt Locker isn't exactly my favorite film of last year, it's the perfect "I'm okay with _____ winning so long as ______ and _______ doesn't." [Fin de Cinema]

James Cameron And Kathryn Bigelow Oscar Rivalry Is Just One Of Many Feuds Between Famous Former Flames

While vengeful grudges are more often seen in Hollywood's fictional output, there is the occasional awkward scrap between the industry's creative minds — and it only gets more awkward when former flames are involved.

At this year's Academy Awards, filmmakers James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow will go head-to-head in the Best Director category. It's a tight showdown between two deserving nominees to be sure, but it's made all the more interesting by the fact that Cameron and Bigelow were once married to one another. [MTV]

James Cameron and ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow vie for awards glory

Now, as the nominations for the Bafta awards appear to confirm, he faces one final adversary in the run-up to an apparently inevitable haul of Oscars: his former wife. [Times Online]

Kathryn Bigelow Vs. James Cameron: An Oscar-Themed Battle Of The Exes

Kathryn Bigelow, nominated for The Hurt Locker, is leading the pack of Vegas odds makers with her closest rival none other than her ex-husband, James Cameron. Don't you hate it when an ex spoils the party?

[...] This time, it's head to head. This time, it's personal. Why wouldn't Bigelow want to best her ex, especially when he reportedly left her for his lead actress in The Terminator? [Forbes]

Divorced Couple James Cameron & Kathryn Bigelow Make Oscar History -- Will Compete Against Each Other

Bigelow was Cameron’s third of five wives and she never re-married. Ironically it took him 15 years to release his sci-fi spectacular Avatar, yet it came-out in the same year as his former wife’s movie. [Radar Online]

And our personal "favorite" from The XX Factor:
James Cameron Is More "Feminine" Than Kathryn Bigelow
Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker has earned as many Oscar nominations as her ex-husband James Cameron's Avatar, meaning that the media narrative of this Oscar season will surely constellate around the "Battle of the Sexes"—or "Battle of the Exes." A tiresome narrative, perhaps, but there is a way that their films do represent polar extremes.
No, really.  Of course, then when you click on the 'Read More' link, it brings you to the full article that has a different title...
James Cameron is More Sentimental Than Kathryn Bigelow

Cameron has a lavish feel for the tenderness (and violence) that springs up between men and aliens, whether the "aliens" be robotic machines or acid-blooded creatures who want to lay eggs in your throat. The dialogue in a Cameron movie is usually, as Hanna put it to me the other day, aggressively bad; Cameron is interested in dialogue only insofar as it positions the characters in his films for disaster. His characters are archetypes, always rushing onto the next archetypal moment, whether DiCaprio's Jack screaming "I'm on top of the world" from a boat, or Sigourney Weaver's Ripley growling "Get away from her, bitch!" as the queen alien menaces poor orphaned Newt.
Bigelow, by contrast, has a great directorial feel for the way dialogue creates texture and drama, and an eerie feel for the kinds of male relationships Cameron seems to care less about; you can see the evidence in The Hurt Locker and in Point Break. While Bigelow didn't write The Hurt Locker (Mark Boal did) or Point Break, she knows how to establish charged masculine space, and the dialogue between men in her films is at once natural and poignant. Perhaps that could seem like another version of men-are-action, women-are-talk, but it's not that simple, somehow. Cameron is, I think, the more sentimental filmmaker of the two; Bigelow may understand words, but it's the nonverbal energy between men she most memorably evokes.
Yep, because Sentimental = Feminine. And apparently Shitty Dialogue = Feminine.

The post-Oscar coverage hasn't been any less annoying...
And the Oscar for sweetest revenge on the ex? James Cameron won the divorce... but Kathryn Bigelow got the top prize

It was the night when the ex-wife finally had her revenge - and more than 80 years of Oscar history was overturned. [...]

Meanwhile, 58-year-old Bigelow - director of the Iraq war thriller The Hurt Locker - had slightly different motives for wanting the Oscar. Even if she is too polite to say it, what could be better than beating a former husband at his own game (particularly when the consensus is that he won hands- down in the divorce courts)? [Daily Mail]

Happiness Is The Best Revenge
James Cameron mimes choking his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow after she beat him out for Best Director and Best Picture last night at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards. [Guanabee]

How about Yahoo Movie's Oscar Red Carpet Fashion Report Card? We confess, we do love to look at the red carpet fashion.... but it's annoying that the women of the Oscars are still "judged" by what they wear - and "how well" they wear it, while the men get high scores for all wearing practically the exact same thing.
Kathryn Bigelow - Grade: D

Although she looked a tad uncomfortable in her taupe gown, the night belonged to “The Hurt Locker’s” Bigelow, who became the first woman ever to win an Oscar for Best Director. Can you believe James Cameron’s Amazonian ex is 58?!
And of course, leave it to Perez Hilton to always get right to the heart of the issue:
Kathryn Bigelow Got Better Seat At he Oscars Than Ex James Cameron!
But we don't want to dwell on the negative. Oh who are we kidding, we live to dwell on the negative! But we're not going to anymore. No matter how stupid the press coverage might be, this is still a momentous occasion. After 82 years of Academy Awards, we finally have the first female Best Director.

And it makes it all the more special that the award for Best Picture was announced at just about midnight last night/this morning... on International Women's Day. That timing also reminds us that there are lots of talented women around the world making films and being artistic and creative, and we've got to pay attention and be supportive of them so that we'll have more Kathryn Bigelow moments to look forward to in the future.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Can Oscar ever really be gender neutral?

Kim Elsesser wrote a recent opinion piece for the New York Times that has everybody talking about whether a gender-neutral Oscars is really possible.

She proposed that having separate categories for best actor and best actress is the equivalent of segregating actors by race and while we can't help but agree with her... we're still torn on this issue. Mainly because we fear that if there was one Best Acting category for men and women together, men would likely dominate it - the same as they do almost every other category of the Oscars. Elsesser did address this concern:

While it is certainly acceptable for sports competitions like the Olympics to have separate events for male and female athletes, the biological differences do not affect acting performances. The divided Oscar categories merely insult women, because they suggest that women would not be victorious if the categories were combined. In addition, this segregation helps perpetuate the stereotype that the differences between men and women are so great that the two sexes cannot be evaluated as equals in their professions.
I do worry that women would not be victorious against men, but not because I think that female actors are less capable than male actors... but because I think that the Academy does not give women the respect and accolades they deserve. Although there are more and more good roles for women every year, there are still more good roles for men. Hollywood is still a man's world.

Just look at the nominees for the already "gender-neutral" Best Director: Only one woman - Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker - is nominated. If she wins, she will be the first woman to ever win Best Director. Clearly gender neutrality isn't working out for women too well so far. Also, it's worth noting that a lot of people have praised The Hurt Locker for not seeming like it was made by a woman:

"No one without advance knowledge would look at The Hurt Locker and say, 'Oh, a woman made that film.'"

"... made a great film that is more a 'guy movie' than a 'chick-flick'"

"Much has been made (way too much if you ask me) of Bigelow’s handling of manly action-oriented The Hurt Locker"

"...she has directed a film that seems to not be a typical 'woman directed' film"

"The Hurt Locker is so rigorously masculine, with action and tension to spare"
Let's look at the nominees for Best Picture too... Only a handful of the ten films have a center on strong female characters (The Blind Side, Precious, An Education). And don't even get me started on the fact that the sexist, racist and ableist - and with the exception of the visual effects, ultimately worthless - Avatar was nominated in so many categories.

We'd love to live in a world where a gender-neutral Oscars not only existed but worked but sadly, we don't live in that world yet. The movie industry is still biased towards men, the Academy Awards still snub women for the most part, and the awards coverage typically focuses more heavily on what women are wearing than what they're directing or how they're acting. Even the statuette itself is a man. The Guerrilla Girls put it best via their Oscar billboard:

Deep Thoughts on the Academy Awards

We're not really watching the Oscars - obviously - but we're still checking in on a few of the happenings thanks to a few brave people live-blogging, posting pics and videos. Even if we don't want to support ABC right now, we do need to know if Kathryn Bigelow wins Best Director or not! But we just had to comment on a few even more pressing concerns...

Why is Zac Efron at the Oscars?

I mean, why not I guess, but that's random. Was 17 Again nominated for Oh wait... Nicole Richie is there too. My apologies to Zac Efron. He's like an honored guest compared to her. At least he's been in a movie.

Why is Miley Cyrus at the Oscars?

Good God. Not only is Miley Cyrus there, she's fucking presenting an award with Amanda Seyfried. And of course Miley fucks up reading the teleprompter and goes "Oh, we're both nervous". And Amanda Seyfried looks at her like Bitch, don't bring me into your fuckup, I read my part. Do they think they're going to pull in the tween audience to the Oscars by having her present? Get a real musical artist. I mean, was Taylor Swift busy? Ke$ha? Anyone?

Who thought it would be a good idea to let Ben Stiller wear that?

Ben Stiller is dressed like one of the blue Avatar people. Good God. Seriously, what the fuck? Words fail me on this one.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Hey Look It's A Johnny Weir Post!

You know you love them. To start this one off I'm going to provide you with the best 30 seconds of your day, courtesy of Johnny's appearance on Larry King Barely Live:

Larry: Another question from facebook. Johnny, the question is 'how does it feel to be so fierce?'

Johnny: [laughs and laughs] Larry, I never thought I'd hear you call something "fierce", even if -

Larry: I didn't, the facebook did.

Johnny: I know, but still you said fierce. Kathy Griffin would be very excited for you right now. But I suppose being "fierce" is a very good thing and a very cool thing, but more than being fierce I think I'm a strong person and a strong individual and that's what I take with me every day.

The funniest thing about this, besides the pure awesome of the question itself, was Larry referring to "the facebook", like "the internet machine" or "a series of tubes". Oh Larry.

Johnny is the Gay of the Week over at After Elton:
...He may be coy about coming out explicitly (possibly for fear of being punished by the skating powers that be), but he's never denied being gay and if anything he's invited people to assume he's gay and not straight. And there is absolutely nothing about his coyness that reads as shameful or embarrassed. To us, he seems like a pretty good role model for kids, regardless of orientation or gender, who feel like they don't fit into traditional gender norms.
Johnny the good role model is on full display in this quote from an interview that he did with NBC Philadelphia:
If I have to go through some hard times, I’m completely fine with that as long as it’s beneficial to the next crop of skaters, the next generation of young people who are individual people.
I think that the only thing that people take away from me is to be unique and to be yourself and to feel powerful enough as a human being to be yourself no matter who is trying to knock you down or push you down or keep you down. You always have the power within yourself to stand up and fight and be yourself...That’s something that I hope all my fans and all the young people who watch the Olympic Games can learn from me.
...I think that ultimate happiness in my life would be to be great, really, at everything that I do. To be somebody that can’t be compared to anyone else. That’s something that I’ll strive for in any realm of my life whether it’s a love life, a fashion line or raising kids. Whatever it has to be it has to be great.

He also got a mention on the Yahoo music blog for the karaoke version of Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats" that he did as part of NBC's random Olympics fluff:

But here's some good news: Be Good Johnny Weir, the Sundance Channel reality series chronicling the glittery life of magical snow angel Johnny Weir, is still awesomely airing. And a video of the skating sensation occasionally known as "Adam Lambert On Ice," singing a song by another genuinely talented, non-season 9 American Idol, still exists on the Interweb. And thus, my television-hardened heart is thawed.
Johnny certainly deserves an honorary gold medal of some kind for this karaoke cover of Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats." Enjoy:

Andrew Sharp from SB Nation has a proposition for Johnny to consider:
This gives me an opportunity to unveil a little thing I like to call the "Best Idea Ever." When all the hype from the Olympics dies down, Johnny Weir should marry Lady Gaga, giving us the weirdest, most awesomely flamboyant couple in the history of sexually ambiguous celebrity couples. Plus, it'd keep Johnny in the spotlight, which I think everyone can abide by. More Johnny Weir is always a good thing.

Let's all take a moment to thank Vanity Fair for realizing that Johnny Weir + body paint = fabulous.

What are your post-Vancouver plans?
After the Olympics I have the world championships in Italy and then I’m going to take a vacation to Mongolia because I want to ride a yak. And after that, I’ll go to Moscow and see some friends, and after that I’m going to go lay on a beach for a little while, and then maybe continue skating, but if not, I want a career in fashion.

Because who doesn't have Mongolian yak riding penciled in somewhere on their calendars, right? I'm totally going this weekend.

Johnny was on Regis & Kelly this morning, and Kelly Ripa was so excited and fangirl giddy that it made me like her a whole lot more. She even busted out her false eyelashes for the occasion.

~The J.Weir media tour continued with an appearance on Extra. I thought this Q&A moment was the highlight:

Random Extra Dude Whose Name I Don't Know Because I Don't Watch Extra Unless Johnny Weir Is On: Now is it true that you feel that the costumes are taking away from the skating and you're gonna start dressing more conservatively?

Johnny Weir: Never in my life. Conservative is the dirtiest word to me.

Finally, Johnny went on The Joy Behar Show to talk about some of the controversy that surrounds him, including the idiotic notion that he's somehow "too gay" for figure skating. Here's the preview clip.

Between "it's figure skating, hello" and "I think Jesus was a woman", what more could you ask for from an interview? And on that note, I think we should end this post with a blessing from St. Weirsus himself. We'll return to regularly scheduled posting about various, eventually.

[The gif is from the ontd_skating LJ community, which I highly recommend to all fans of Johnny in particular and the wacky hijinks of figure skating in general. You will LOL and OMG and UNF and probably do many other combinations of letters as well. I found it while I was researching Johnny Weir: Evil Slut and I'm addicted now. I don't know exactly who made this particular gif, but if someone lets me know in comments I'll add the well-deserved credit.]