Boycott Oscar? Take These Three Positive Steps Instead!
Friday, Soraya Chemaly posted a passionate cri de coeur urging us to boycott tonight’s Oscar broadcast.
Soraya, I feel your pain! Furthermore the situation is even worse than you have described it. Not only was the only female contender with buzz swiftboated (making this the 81st year out of 85 in which all Best Director nominees are male), but this year only one woman is nominated for her screenplay and she has become an “invisible woman.” Furthermore, the likely winner of this year’s Best Actress Oscar isn’t even playing a lead role, and the Best Picture Oscar is likely to go to a film that has no major female characters at all.
So yes, in my heart-of-hearts, I would also like to boycott this year’s Oscar ceremony, but even if I did—even if we all did—that would be too little too late. So if you are concerned about women’s issues, I urge you take any or all of these three positive steps right now:
1.) Go on to Google, find a movie theater showing Zero Dark Thirty, and purchase a ticket to one of today’s remaining screenings. As of last Friday, gross domestic revenue for Zero Dark Thirty was $89,879,000. So if enough of us do this, we can put Zero Dark Thirty over $100 million and make Kathryn Bigelow one of the very few women directors in history to cross this critical financial barrier.
(You do not have to feel any guilt whatsoever about this. At this point, there has been so much debate about the assertion that “Kathryn Bigelow endorses torture” that it is at least open to challenge. Me, I have seen Zero Dark Thirty four times, and I do not believe “Kathryn Bigelow endorses torture.” So I just walked my talk and bought a ticket online for tonight’s 10:15 PM screening at my local multiplex, the UA Court Street 12.)
1.) Go to Facebook and send Lucy Alibar a “You Go, Girl!” message on her Facebook page, so she will know that you know she is Hushpuppy’s Mama.
2.) Make plans to celebrate International SWAN Day on March 30, 2013. SWAN stands for “Support Women Artists Now,” and International SWAN Day, now in its 6th year, is a day for all of us to walk our talk by using our “power of the purse” to effect positive societal change.
And with that, I’m sending a big cyberhug to Soraya Chemaly and friends of women filmmakers all around the world. Hang in there! Women hold up half the sky and we are on the right side of history!
Best Screenplay Contenders?
The name of this year’s sole female contender in either screenplay category (Best Adapted Screenplay/Best Original Screenplay) is Lucy Alibar. Alibar wrote a play called Juicy and Delicious in which she created the character of “Hushpuppy,” a southern child who transposes concern about the imminent death of a parent onto an imaginary battle with monstrous aurochs.
But the media has become so enamored with director Benh Zeitlin (Hollywood’s new “Boy Wonder”) and star Quvenzhané Wallis (Hollywood’s new “pixie”) that Alibar’s very existence has been completely eliminated from all the pre-Oscar hype about this year’s Indie phenom Beasts of the Southern Wild even though she is the credited co-writer of this screenplay.
Best Actress Contenders?
The likely winner is Jennifer Lawrence, an actress I love. But let’s be clear here: in Silver Linings Playbook she plays a supporting role, not a lead role. She has no independent arc or separate POV, and she has no scenes of her own that don’t also include lead actor Bradley Cooper.
Whatever you think of Zero Dark Thirty, there is no question that Jessica Chastain’s character, “Maya,” has an independent arc, and her own unique POV, and she goes toe-to-toe with multiple actors (male and female, major and minor) in the course of this film.
Best Picture Contender?
The Internet Movie Database’s Argo page shows 114 names listed in the top category “in credits order,” beginning with Ben Affleck as “Tony Mendez.” More names appear below these in the category called: “rest of cast listed alphabetically.”
Of these 114 names, 24 are women, including women with names like “Cora Lijek” (one of the American diplomats) and “Pat Taylor” (the wife of the Canadian Ambassador), plus nameless women like Angry Woman, British Airways Flight Attendant, Lady with Radio, Persian Dancer, and Swissair Gate Agent. Ironically, the last name on this list belongs to Taylor Schilling as “Christine Mendez” the wife of the male lead.
In other words, only 20% of the characters in the film likely to be named Best Picture of 2013 are female, and none of these women plays a major character. This is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. My all-time favorite film is Lawrence of Arabia, which has no female characters at all. But in combination with the other details provided in this post, this should be a sobering fact.
I used to joke that if SuperBowl Sunday was the planetary holiday on Mars, then OscarBowl Sunday was the planetary holiday on Venus. But this is no longer funny. In both cases, women have been relegated to spectators who are expected to applaud decorously while the men–and only the men–battle for the prizes.