Featured Post

Book Review: Wolfpack by Abby Wambach

Showing posts with label TV. Show all posts
Showing posts with label TV. Show all posts

23 August 2017

Why Joss Matters


He left evidence along the way like pieces of bread crumbs. Angel's curse, that Wonder Woman script, and Black Widow as a Hulk pacifier. I saw it. I acknowledged it, but I still saw Joss Whedon as a feminist. "My feminism is not perfect. No one's is!" I would cry. But over the weekend I cried for yet another loss in the battle for men to be included in feminism.

Buffy arrived in my life at the tail end of my college years. She took the baton from Xena to fulfill my need for feminist television. As a pop culture junkie I was desperate to watch something that not just validated my world view but also most importantly did not make me feel bad for being overweight, for liking to hang out in a library, and yes even just wanting to have fun despite the weight of the world on my shoulders. The series finale will always be the best finale ever. It depicted what I feel is the true spirit of feminism - that we are in this together. That together we kick the patriarchy's ass and ride off into the sunset. There is no hero to wait for, we are that hero.


When word came on Monday that Whedonesque closed down my heart shattered and yet it is fitting. If Joss built a universe that collected feminist pop culture junkies like Giles rounded up Slayers, then it is perfect that we read Kai Cole's statement and realized we had to break up with Joss. We looked into his eyes and knew we had to stab him with the weapon he forged.


Buffy will always stand as the most important show in my life. I will continue to egg my 14-year-old daughter to watch it. At 25 I thought Xander was adorable, even if a jerk. At 42 I see more jerk than adorable, but I also see how fragile men can be in our world of toxic masculinity. I see his sarcasm as his mask, his superpower. I see how the weight of Buffy's burden was too much, even for a superhuman, and how she had to delegate. She had to learn to lean on her friends. How long did it take each of us to learn those lessons ourselves?

Joss being a terrible husband is not what broke my heart. We never spent this much time on Brad Pitt or any other horrible husband. Instead we wore Team Angie and Team Jen tees. It is what Joss has done to the feminist community itself that broke me. 

I am a feminist who eagerly wants men to identify in the struggle. When a friend found out she was having a boy she turned to me and said, "How did this feminist body do that?" I told her that means she was charged with raising a feminist boy who would be a feminist man. I know many feminists doing exactly that. They do this in simple ways such as validating their sons when they are hurt, physically or emotionally. Feminist moms make their sons do women's work around the house. Feminist moms do work that is normally men's work.They live feminist lives so their sons know the new rules and hopefully reject society's norms.

Yet here we go again. Another high profile man who claimed to be a feminist turned out to be a fraud. Maybe Joss was a feminist once upon a time, but quickly realized that his feminist card opened bedroom doors too and he was hooked. I do not know and honestly I do not care how he lost his way. See, there I go again, holding on to the fact that he truly is his mother's son and did believe in feminism.

Joss embodied what feminists had been and continues to demand from Hollywood - that men start carrying the weight of feminist work. And he fucked that up. When the next screenwriter pens the brilliant film what will we do for him? Will we ignore it thinking he's just another Joss? Will we watch the film, but keep a safe distance from its creator?

For many, Joss was never a feminist. His flaws were too great to look past and I respect that. But I feel terrible for everyone who has built a very feminist career upon Joss' pile of lies. Whedonesque, where I posted a bit in the early days. The Whedon Studies Association, which I had one my bucket list to write for and present at a conference. And my current fave Joss-related item, Buffering the Vampire Slayer, where they do a fair amount of Joss critiquing already.

I've written about Buffy over the years. Being a Buffy fan is part of who I am and how people view me. Within hours of the Kai statement a dear friend text me as he was beside himself. I ordered cocktail after cocktail as he caught me at a bar on eclipse eve. We were debating Joss, feminism, and if men should ever call themselves feminists. My friend is fantastic. He's married to a kick ass feminist and they are raising a girl who will surely grow up to be a kick ass feminist. I dislike the term feminist ally. For me, you're either with us or not. Maybe as my friend suggests men get to do feminist things, but should stay away from the label. I dunno. This is why I'm writing this. I'm trying to figure it all out with you.

I'm concerned because this relates to the growing issue of men using feminism as currency.



Not only in how men identify, but the growing movement to include men in all conversations about feminism. On one hand, I totally get it. We need men to push the agenda forward. On the other hand, we have Joss & scores of other dudes who pay the dues, but don't read the back of their membership cards.

I know that there are people waiting to see if I renounce my Buffy fandom and stop quoting the show now that Joss is fully revealed. You too might have that person in your life salivating at watching you squirm and ready to remind you of your Cosby, Woody Allen, and Casey Affleck boycotts. They are probably the same people who ask you to outline in detail why you go to Target, but won't set foot in a Wal-Mart. Well ignore them. If you are like me, Joss and the universe he created means so much to you that you need time to mourn the myth.

If you cry at the end of "Chosen" and "The Body" is the only piece of pop culture that brings you solace after your mom's death, I get ya. He made that for us. His art is still beautiful, even with the gigantic hole he blasted through it. But I am filling for custody.

But the hole he shot through the idea of feminist men is the hole I'm most worried about. Where is the line between men who support feminism, do the work, but stay back versus men who support the work but don't show up? Is it as simple as asking them to step back and girls to the front?

I don't have the answers. If I did, I might have a book deal. Well I'd also need time to write too. But I'm just saying that this is why this is a post on my blog. No need conclusion. No list of recommendations. Other than, men...dudes! Do better. 

26 March 2017

Review: Ovarian Psycos on PBS

In the fifth grade a few of my friends & I wanted to feel connected. We decided to always were jean jackets and call ourselves a gang. Of course our teacher stepped in and said it was ok to want to band together, but not call ourselves a gang. She never fully explained it, or I have forgotten, but it was clear that as working class kids, most of us Latin@, that calling ourselves a gang was not cool.at.all. But while we couldn't call ourselves a gang, we still stuck together until we grew apart. Nevertheless I would continue to want to organize my groups of friends into tight circles.

That is why when I watched Ovarian Psycos I was emotional. While my working class upbringing is far from the life we see in this new documentary, that sense of wanting to create your own family struck me to my core. What we get in this documentary are tales of young women seeking to strengthen their community by banding together, riding their bikes around LA, and being bad ass. Ovarian Psycos is a tale of love and determination. I highly recommend this documentary.     

Ovarian Psycos is a documentary about a new generation of young women of color from the Eastside of Los Angeles who are confronting injustice, building community, and redefining identity through a raucous, irreverently named bicycle crew: The Ovarian Psycos Cycle Brigade. Produced and directed by Joanna Sokolowski and Kate Trumbull-LaValle, Ovarian Psycos premieres on Independent Lens Monday, March 27, 2017, 10:00-11:00 PM ET (check local listings) on PBS.

15 February 2017

AMERICAN MASTERS "Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise"

Credit: Ron Groeper
The first feature documentary about Maya Angelou, American Masters – Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, premieres nationwide Tuesday, February 21 at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) during Black History Month as part of the 31st season of THIRTEEN’s American Masters series. PBS Distribution will release the film on DVD the same day, with additional bonus features, and on Digital HD February 22.

Most people know Angelou as a writer, but this documentary showcases all of her geniuses in literature, speaking, acting, signing, and dancing. The best part of a full-length documentary on Maya Angelou are the moments when she is reciting a poem while footage of the world runs.

This documentary is touching, but most importantly it is funny. Angelou's laughter rings throughout the film. It wraps around your heart like a warm hug...just the type of hug we need during these dark times. Seriously though, for progressives and feminists, these are dark days. Days when we lose hope than we can imagine before we even finish our commute to work. Days when we feel extra guilty of tuning out the world in fluffy and stupid pop culture. But watching this documentary will reground you in the belief that justice will prevail. Angelou does not promise us a happy ending, but her words, her breath, fill you with hope. Even when she speaks of dark times! I do not know how she does it, even years after her death.

Catch it. DVR it and save it for viewing when you lose hope.

Disclaimer: Thanks to PBS for letting me preview this documentary in order to review it for VLF.

05 October 2016

Review: Insecure

http://www.hbo.com/insecure

 
Issa Rae gained wide recognition through an honest look at life in her YouTube series, “The Misadventures of AWKWARD Black Girl.” This weekend Rae’s HBO series Insecure debuts and you really shouldn't miss it.

Insecure introduces us to Issa Dee as a late-20s single woman in a dead-end relationship and possibly dead-end job. But it is the awkwardness of Issa’s human interactions that are the star of the show. From her half-assed way of breaking up with her utterly unromantic boyfriend to her spectacular fail at a new guy, Issa is living up to the show’s name. Issa's bestie, Molly, who appears to have it all together, doesn't. It's their friendship that will carry this show through the exploration of being modern-day Black women.

The scene that best exhibits the brilliance of Insecure's writing team and the promise of the show is when Issa and her coworkers are brainstorming at the nonprofit. Despite being a nonprofit that works with youth of color Issa is the only visibly person of color on the staff. And the rest of the staff’s view of what will help youth of color will seem all too real for those of us who have been "the only" in a room. I truly believe that if this scene offends you, you have some issues to address. If you get this scene and laugh, you get it. You get why the white savior complex is a real issue and that good intentions are not good enough. You get why it is wrong to serve a population yet have almost no one from that population on your staff.

A photo posted by Veronica (@veronicaeye) on


I was lucky enough to attend the Chicago premiere showing. This means that I got to hear hoots and hollers when the best scenes occurred. This show is funny has hell, people. If you have HBO or HBO Go, make time to watch.

Insecure premieres
Saturday, October 9th
10:30 PM Eastern



The half-hour comedy series Insecure, starring Issa Rae, Yvonne Orji, Jay Ellis and Lisa Joyce, looks at the friendship, experiences and tribulations of two black women. Created and executive produced by Issa Rae, this eight-episode series is also executive produced by Prentice Penny, Melina Matsoukas, Michael Rotenberg, Dave Beck, Jonathan Berry, and Larry Wilmore as a consultant.



Disclaimer: I was invited by HBO to attend the premiere. Outside of apps and a free beer, I received no compensation for this review.

13 April 2016

Review: Confirmation

Kerry Washington (Credit: Frank Masi/courtesy of HBO)
Twenty-five years ago the country, if not the world, were flung into a crash course on sexual harassment. A staffer’s call to a legal professor in Oklahoma ignited a fire that has yet to be extinguished. That professor was of course Anita F. Hill and that call asked her if she knew anything about her former boss Clarence Thomas that should be known before his confirmation hearing to join the U.S. Supreme Court. What came next is still hotly debated and is now a dramatized movie on HBO starring Kerry Washington as Hill, Wendell Pierce as Thomas and Greg Kinnear as then-Senator Joe Biden sporting an excellent accent.

Confirmation dives right into the intrigue and suspense of how does the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee handle the discovery that a number of young women claim to have been harassed by Thomas. Considering that we know the outcome of the hearings as Justice Thomas just asked his first question in a decade from the Supreme Court bench, the movie still had me at the edge of my seat. The movie focuses on the time when Anita Hill is brought into the confirmation process, Thomas’ reaction and how the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee handles the entire situation. I found myself cheering on Biden, then screaming at the screen later into the hearings.

Among the many heart wrenching scenes, the one that broke was when Hill had to sit down and not just inform her parents of what Thomas did to her, but also prepare them for the onslaught of attacks. Thomas is portrayed as angry and aloof. At one point he refuses to even watch Hill’s testimony on TV despite, as his wife points out, he will be questioned about her accusations. The movie is almost stolen from Washington’s excellent portrayal of Hill by the dance Senate staffers Carolyn Hart (Senator Biden) and Ricki Seidman (Senator Kennedy), engage in to attempt to ensure Hill gets a fair hearing.

I was in high school when the confirmation hearings occurred. When I saw her speak a few years ago at a luncheon in Chicago, I was reminded of her bravery. I was reminded of how she gave me language for what I was experiencing in school. She remarked how she knows this is her legacy - she taught us what sexual harassment was and how to speak up about it. Watching this movie you are reminded of the price Hill paid, especially at the time, to make sure the Senate knew everything possible about Thomas before voting on his lifetime appointment to the court.

Confirmation debuts on HBO on Saturday, April 16, 2016


03 March 2016

American Masters -- Loretta Lynn: Still a Mountain Girl


On Friday American Masters premieres Loretta Lynn: Still a Mountain Girl. In Chicago it will air at 9:30 PM. Everyone else, check your local listings. I haven't had time to preview this documentary for a review, but I am excited for this! When I was growing up, much of the music in our house was country and western music. My first concert was seeing Kenny Rogers. We watched Hee Haw and Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters. Loretta Lynn was everything back then. I did not realize how revolutionary she was until I was older. I do remember not quite understanding how popular culture reduced women in country music to "Stand By Your Man," when I knew them by Loretta, Dolly and Barbara. If you need evidence of Loretta's feminist ways, take a peek at the clip below. Then check out the full documentary Friday night.

EDITED TO ADD: It has come to my attention that Loretta is a Trump supporter. My heart is crushed. More evidence that even bad ass women are not perfect.



American Masters -- Loretta Lynn: Still a Mountain Girl explores Lynn's hard-fought road to stardom, her struggles to balance her marriage to Oliver "Doolittle" Lynn and six children with her music career, her friendships and collaborations with Spacek, Patsy Cline, Conway Twitty, Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash and music producer Owen Bradley, along with her life on the road, her Nashville and Hurricane Mills communities, her songwriting inspirations and her music's lasting impact on her peers and fans.

31 January 2016

No Más Bebés Premieres on Independent Lens

No Más Bebés tells the story of a little-known but landmark event in reproductive justice, when a small group of Mexican immigrant women sued county doctors, the state, and the U.S. government after they were sterilized while giving birth at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center during the late 1960s and early 1970s.



This moving (seriously, have tissues at hand!) documentary about the human rights abuses inflicted on Latinas in the 1960s and 1970s will have you up in arms. My friend and colleague, Elena R. Gutiérrez did a lot of the research work to help put together this puzzle. In a blog post about the film she says:
“No Más Bebés” also shows that socially grounded attitudes relating to ethnicity and gender can play a role in the provision of reproductive health care services; a message that is important for us to hear today. In my own research I show that the abusive practices that occurred at LACMC were not only shaped by debates on population control, but also by concerns about increased immigration from Mexico and the stereotype that Mexican women gave birth to too many children. Through tracing newspaper articles, organizational records and scholarly research in Fertile Matters: The Politics of Mexican-origin Women’s Reproduction, I show how these “stereotypes” about Mexican immigrant women being hyper-fertile and “having too many children” are deeply-rooted beliefs that are part and parcel of institutionalized racism and were perpetuated by the media, social science, and immigration control activists throughout the 20th century carrying into the 21st century. Beyond representations of the perpetually “pregnant pilgrim” who came to the United States purposefully to have children born on US soil so that that they could become American citizens (an idea perpetuated in both Mexican news media and popular culture), “hyperfertility” as a social construct became significantly entrenched in academia, and has thus gained legitimacy in both scholarly research and policy response. I argue that this context and the general public perception that Latina women are significantly more “fertile” than women of other races and ethnicities influenced medical practitioners’ behaviors.
Elena R. Gutierrez is an Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of Illinois, Chicago. She is also co-author of Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organizing for Reproductive Justice, which will be reprinted by Haymarket Press in April and director of the Reproductive Justice Virtual Library.

This is an important film to view and discuss. I do not want you to just watch it, think and stop there. No. This film calls for action. It demands it. I saw a sneak preview of No Mas Bebes about a year ago and was floored. And I know much of the history already. What makes this such a powerful film is that you hear from the women who were robbed of future children. They were robbed of that decision to even have future children. You hear from their families. It is just, gah...

At the moment we are in the midst of the 2016 Presidential campaign. We have candidates who are railing against anchor babies, wanting to use religious tests on refugees and then those who are calling for the end of the Hyde Amendment in order to increase women's access to reproductive services. All of these moments are connected because the government wants to say who is welcome not just in the USA, but who is welcome to reproduce and parent. Too often the feminist movement is seen as just about abortion, but an intersectional feminist movement is concerned about parenting as well.

On top of this political conversation is the recent worry over the Zika virus. A health issue that is worth of concern over who is getting pregnant, the governments that are calling for women to hold off on getting pregnant and failing to give them access to the tools (birth control and abortion) to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. 

This film premieres on February 1st on your loca PBS station. Watch it, tweet it, share it, discuss it. It's that important and not just to Latinas around the world.


28 November 2015

Jessica Jones is not the superhero girls want, but she is the one they need


B.................
I.................
G.................
..................
S.................
P.................
O.................
I.................
L.................
E.................
R.................
S.................
..................
B.................
E.................
W.................
A.................
R.................
E.................
..................

One of the biggest take home messages from my meeting at Mattel was that according to their research, girls want their superheroes to also save the villain.

Jessica Jones blows that out of the water.

Ok, sure, few of us are going to have our kids watch "Jessica Jones" as it is quite violent, deals with rape and PTSD and has some hot and heavy sex scenes. But I know that many of us comic book geeks allow our kids to idolize superheroes that they don't really know the whole story for. Take for example Xena. My daughter loved Xena well before she ever watched an episode. Ditto for Buffy.

What we can do is start priming our daughters to fall in love with "Jessica Jones."

For those of us who have seen it or don't care about spoilers, let me state my case.

Why Jessica Jones Needs to Be Our Daughters' Hero

  1. She gives no fucks about people liking her: She even spends the first few episodes not returning her best friend/sister's phone calls. Jessica has a mission and will stop at nothing to get that done, even if it means pissing people off. 
  2. She leans all the way in: Jessica would rather be a freelance detective than to be under the thumb of a boss. She is the boss. She makes sure she is paid what she is worth too. I'm pretty sure Jessica is the poster child for "Ban Bossy." 
  3. She calls rape, rape: Jessica was forced to have sex with Killgrave due to his mind control. When he tries to reframe it as romantic, she says hell no and calls him a rapist to his face. 
  4. Her superpower is to see through bullshit: When Killgrave attempts to rewrite their relationship to make it look like Jessica wanted to stay with him, she gives him another serving of "Hell no!" She will accept no gaslighting!
  5. She is comfortable with her sexuality:  Too often girls are raised to believe we do not like sex or should never admit when we do. Jessica is comfortable with her sexuality and unlike other superheros such as Xena and Black Widow, does not use her sexuality to get what she needs.
And back to what girls like to see in a superhero. Jessica tries mightily to not have to kill Killgrave. First she does it because she wants to save Hope from murder charges. Then when she realizes she has her own power over him, she thinks she can harness his powers for good. She does everything she can to NOT kill him. But ultimately she realizes that his evil can't be allowed to live in our world.

Perhaps with guidance our daughters can see that Jessica tried. She did her best to not kill Killgrave. Does that make this anti-death penalty advocate squirm? Hell yes. But even I was questioning keeping him alive at a certain point. Certainly Jessica was smart enough to get Hope off without Killgrave being exposed! At least that was my wish.

In the end, I think that one big reason that Jessica Jones should be a superhero for our daughters is that she is flawed. She is not perfect like Wonder Woman. Jessica has fallen and is trying to make amends while saving the world, much like Xena. As she tells Killgrave, saving a life after taking one is not a way to erase the harm done, but it does help. And really, isn't that what we want our kids to know? That even when you royally screw up, you own up, and work hard the rest of your life to do better?

Now to watch this show again. And again.

16 November 2015

A Love Letter to Jane Villanueva

Dear Jane,

I know life doesn't seem to be going your way all the time, but I want you to know you are the best. While most viewers may be fixated on your agonizing decision between Michael and Rafael, I am all in for your story.


I envy your relationship with your mom and grandma. My mom has been gone for 12 years, her mom 19 years. I miss them. I don't kid myself to think we had that type of relationship you have with yours. But I love how it seems like it not you against the world, but the Villanueva mujeres against the world!

But I am really loving how you are dealing with the push and pull of being a mom and grad student so well. Your breaking down at the baby play group as you were deciding on going back to school was so real. Then tonight's talk with Rafael about it being selfish to stop pumping even after Mateo has weened from breast feeding. Then your WOOHOO about ending pumping. I was truly teary-eyed. THEN when you were totally honest with Petra about the on the job training moms endure. Well, I'm surprised I wasn't bawling on my couch. I bet someone somewhere was.

Your show is built around drug and arms dealers, but at the heart is the story of young woman just trying to figure out how to reach her dreams. I'm rooting for ya. We all are.

Your Chicago BFF,
Veronica

PS: #TeamJane


I am trying to raise $1,000 for Bitch Media by December 31st. Please consider supporting this almost-20-year-old independent feminist media organization by:
  1. Simply donating $10 or $100.Whatever you can give will help!
  2. Subscribe! Right now subscriptions are 20% off AND you get a geeky pencil set.
  3. Gift a subscription! Perfect for your favorite feminist pop culture junkie!
  4. Join me in being a sustaining member of Bitch Media by giving a small amount every month.

13 November 2015

Checking in on Supergirl


SPOILERS AHEAD!
.
.
.
.
.
.
Super spoilers!
.
.
.
.
.
 .
After three episodes of "Supergirl" I am still waiting for Kara to reach her full potential. As I mentioned in my review after the first episode I would hope that the writers would get past the fact she is a woman by now. But no. Three full episodes full of Kara complaining that villains snark about her being a "girl," the endless comparisons to Superman (ok, kinda expected) and almost everyone waiting for her to call Superman for help.

And of course he does swoop in to save her. Why? Because James freakin' Olsen thinks that she can't handle a villain that once kicked Clark's butt. All this to set up Kara kicking said villain's butt herself and giving Superman a chance to chat, "I guess this was a job for Supergirl!" I see what you did there, Clark!

While I totally get that Supergirl is going to be compared to Superman, I think three episodes of her blunting fighting against this theme is a bit much. Considering that the show continues to drop in ratings perhaps a move away from this theme might help retain viewers. I don't think that CBS is going to pull the plug so quickly, but let's not give them a chance to even consider it. Maybe just let her be a superhero?


18 August 2015

Review: "Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted" on HBO


If you don't know who Tig Notaro is, you may recall hearing about a stand-up comic who opened up a show with, "Good evening. Hello. I have cancer." That was Tig Notaro. I haven't kept up with her career and appearances on "Inside Amy Schumer" or "Transparent," so getting a chance to preview her new HBO special, "Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted," was exciting.

Notaro's style of comedy is slyly smart. Sometimes her jokes take a moment longer to get to the kick than you expect. But for the most part, they stick their landing. She laughs about her inability to hang in Vegas, which all the introverts will LOVE, not to mention how she utterly bombed in Vegas all the while inadvertently wearing a mustache. Notaro also reminds us that sometimes the funniest moments are those that we make as we seek out the perfect man or planning for our burials.

Her comedy is personal and considering that this includes laughing at her history of breast cancer, it is deeply so. In one moving scene the audience eggs her on to take off her shirt. Apparently a woman can go topless when her breasts have been removed. Still, it is a sexy, moving and funny scene...especially considering that some people have tried to reframe her double mastectomy as top surgery. Really? Good gawd, people!

So if boyish ladies are your style along with sly smart humor, check out Tig Notaro on Saturday, August 22nd at 10 pm ET/9 pm CT and be prepared to want some ice cream afterward.

06 October 2014

Quick Hit: Selfie the TV Show

Because I launched the #365FeministSelfie project, I have been asked a few times what I thought of . And I finally had a chance to watch it tonight, after a fairly boring episode of "Once Upon A Time," we'll discuss that show's fall from awesomeness another time. Back to "Selfie."

As most of the comments at "The Mary Sue" said, the first half of the show was sooooo hard to get through. It was seriously painful to watch as I could not feel anything for any of the characters. But the last half...now this is where we were able to see some real action. There were a few "really?" moments such as a certain character living in a glass house. Come on!

What struck me is that the premise of the show is completely the opposite of #365FeministSelfie. Almost two weeks ago we rolled past the 265 mark meaning that we're into the last 100 days of this project. The premise of "Selfie" is that Eliza is beautiful on the outside and not-so-much on the inside. The premise of #365FeministSelfie is for us to realize our beauty everywhere despite our insecurities, body issues, and sometimes emotional abuse that makes us feel ugly everywhere. I think the wedding scene is where the show hooked me - Eliza is not just using selfies to be popular, but to hide. And part of why I started the project was to ask women, especially moms, to stop hiding behind the camera and get in front.

So maybe the premise is similar, even if every five minutes they are slandering the selfie. I guess I'll just have to keep watching to find out.

16 July 2013

Review: "Let Them Wear Towels" a film by #NineforIX


This week's installment of espnW's Nine for IX documentary series is, the story of a small group of pioneering women sports reporters who dared to enter the locker room.

How bad was it when women decided they too wanted to report on the goings on in sports? My childhood hero,
Dave Kingman once threw buckets of water on Jane Gross and cussed her out. Hey, I wasn't even four when he came to Chicago to play for my Cubbies, so I forgive myself. Then there was a time when a hockey player lifted & escorted out another woman reporter.

The old boys club was still located in the locker room, so most men in sports did what they could to maintain that power differential.

Consider what a sports reporter has to accomplish in their daily reports and you can see where the power struggle fits in. If a player blows a save in the ninth inning (something us Cubs fans are far too familiar with), you have to ask what happened. And that asking usually happens in the locker room.

In "Let Them Wear Towels," we hear tale after tale of women trying to just do their job, but being told to stand in the hallway. Sometimes the team's press person would bring a player to the door for an interview. Other times, she would send her questions with a sympathetic male reporter. Melissa  Ludtke outlines how difficult it was for her to do her job without being in the locker room. Often guys would get to her in the hallway exhausted and would apologize, then go home.

Some felt it was easier for women to ask questions of the sport as they did not have to appear as if they knew it all, as men needed to do.They also felt they changed the way questions were asked. Instead of just asking, "What happened when you threw that curve ball that went for a homerun?" the women would ask, "How did you feel when you gave up the winning home run?"

Despite the hostility that these women faced, they did have some strong allies. Tommy John was fine with women reporters and even helped to gain one reporter access to the locker room but once Major League Baseball's commissioner heard about it, he rescinded permission. He claimed he needed to get permission from players' wives.*EPIC EYE ROLL*

Claire Smith had a super-ally in Steve Garvey. Once he came out into the hall and stayed there as long as she needed. But that's not all. He filed a grievance with team as to how they treated her. Garvey saw it as an issue as to how they communicate to baseball fans. Smith was his conduit to the fans, so why exclude her from doing that?

The women sports journalists quickly learned that access is not enough. Once inside, women were harassed. They mostly assumed that access would result in respect for the job and for them.

I highly recommend this for everyone to see. The battles fought were huge and done on an individual basis. It is also a huge testament to the need to engage men in feminist issues.

Tune in tonight at 8 pm ET/7 pm CT (seriously, you really want to watch the All-Star game!?).


01 July 2013

Review: Venus Vs. - A #NineforIX Film by Ava DuVernay

Venus Vs. Premiere Date | July 2nd at 8:00PM ET on ESPN

People, pop the popcorn, grab your sodas and get comfy because "Venus Vs." is a must watch film. And no, you don't have to be a sports fan. Let me tell you why.

I love tennis, but I don't follow it very closely. When the Williams sisters arrived on the tennis scene, I fell in love. They were brassy and definitely not "country club" players. In Serena William's memoir, she discussed some of the racism that the sisters have experienced at the professional level. In "Venus Vs." this racism is addressed via the and other incidents.

But most of this film focuses on Venus' decision to take on the decades long battle to obtain equal prize money for women players at Wimbledon. When Billie Jean King won Wimboldon in 1968, her prize money was equal to 37% of the men's pay package. In 2005, Venus joins the off-and-on fight for equal money. And in 2007 when women finally go equal pay, Venus is the one who wins the championship.

What truly had me glued to my screen was the fact that Billie Jean King kept going back to the idea that women's tennis needed that "one voice" to bring about this equality. Chris Evert is shown saying that the unequal prize money wasn't really a big issue for her, showing that even a superstar like her went along with the inequality. And when Venus came along and took the issue up as her cause, stuff got done.

Perhaps it was all Venus. She is definitely a superstar who did command attention to the issue. So much that the women of Parliament joined her. There's one amazing scene where the power of the red jacket is shown and now I need to get myself one. But do things really get done because of one person? Was it the right voice at the right time? Was it the right catalyst to get others moving on the issue? Who knows. But it's an amazing path to watch.

So if you are a tennis fan, sports fan, fan of women's equality or hell, even the political process, you are going to love this film. After the film, leave comments here or head over to the "
I Pledge to Attend a Women's Sports Event" Facebook Page to discuss.



Venus Vs. Premiere Date | July 2nd at 8:00PM ET on ESPN

Director | Ava DuVernay
Producers | Ava DuVernay, Howard Barish, Tilane Jones, Libby Geist, Deirdre Fenton
Cast | Venus Williams, Billie Jean King, John McEnroe


23 May 2013

Review: Rebel on PBS


Loreta Velazquez was no normal little girl. Even as the young daughter of Cuban aristocrats, she railed against the injustice of being a girl in a world that privileged boys. Her story is told in ", premiering Friday, May 24th.

Velazquez was sent to New Orleans as a child to live with an aunt, who was supposed to "finish" turning Velazquez into a proper young lady. Alas, love had a different plan.

How this headstrong Cuban woman went from eloping with a Texan Army officer to becoming a Confederate soldier, then a spy for the Union is filled with tragedy and yearning. Velazquez fulfills her dream of following in the steps of her idol, Joan of Arc, but quickly realizes how unglamorous war actually is.

What is known of Velazquez we know from her 1876 memoir A Woman in Battle. She published it a few years after the Civil War ends and it is scandalous! So scandalous that the book is quickly labeled a hoax. Some who do admit that Velazquez was in the Army, accuse her of being a prostitute.

Velazquez is literally erased from history because her memoir challenges the view of Southern men, the valor of war and the real reason that the Civil War was fought. Her narrative does not fit the official view of the Civil War, on either side.

Her story is fascinating, but the controversy over her memoir is equally amazing.

After viewing "Rebel," you will be left pondering how history is written, what we know, and why. Which is exactly what writer and director Maria Agui Carter wants us to do.


Watch Rebel - Preview on PBS. See more from VOCES.

Velazquez's book is still in print and can be purchased from Powells or Indiebooks.  

Disclaimer: Latino Public Broadcasting provided me with a preview DVD of the episode. Book links are affiliate links and if you purchase a book, I might make enough money for a soy chai latte. 

03 April 2013

Review: Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines

Perhaps you might remember a Kickstarter from last year that was about Wonder Woman? Well, the final product is finally here! And it kicks ass.

by Vaquera Productions premieres on Independent Lens on PBS April 15th (check your local listings) and it is a much watch.

Ella, my 9-year-old daughter, and I watched the preview DVD together on a Saturday afternoon during a study break. Bottomline? We loved it.

I grew up on the Linda Carter "Wonder Women," so I enjoyed learning about Wonder Woman's history. I knew she was created to fight the Nazis - that you could get from the show, but I also picked up that elsewhere. But I did not know, or forgot, that Wonder Woman was stripped of her powers at one point! And other lady comic book heroes turned away from saving the day to pining over men. Talk about feminist backlash!

Along the way, we not only learn more about our favorite Amazon princess (Sorry, Gabby), but we  hear from Linda Carter and Lindsay Wagner about how playing feminist icons changed them. We also hear from Gloria Steinem,
Shelby Knox, and other women on their view of Wonder Woman. Thus, the title, "Wonder Women."

I tried to keep a tally of men versus women experts and that went out the window once Jack Halberstam, a queer* person, popped up on screen. I can't remember any other time seeing a documentary, even feminist ones, where someone was clearly not gender conforming. So yes, I cheered. Honestly, the overwhelming number of experts used were women, so that was good. I mean, come on, this is Wonder Woman, we need women's voices! I was disappointed in the lack of women of color voices though. I could only identify one Latina, one Asian-American and one African-American, Jamia Wilson of the Women's Media Center (founded by Gloria Steniem).

The best part of the documentary though was Kathleen Hanna's take on the "Spice Girls." I won't spoil it for you, because you must watch it.

Edited on 4/5/2013 to add:
One theme of this documentary is that Wonder Woman wasn't created to be a feminist icon and as I mentioned before, was stripped of her feminist agency at one point. But in the end, it doesn't matter. We made her the feminist icon. There are plenty of critiques, especially of her costume, that go along with critiques of Xena, Buffy, and every other kick ass feminist icon that is not a perfect icon. Perhaps Joss did set out to create a feminist character, but it is our fandom that really molded Buffy in a feminist icon. If we hadn't done that, would Joss still have given us such a powerful Season 7 finale? Perhaps. I'm rewatching Xena with my 9-year-old daughter and it is far more apparent of Xena's use of her sexiness to beat the bad guys. Does that negate her strength, courage and intellect? OK, I'm drifting into another blog post...Don't forget to watch "Wonder Women" when it comes to a TV near you.



Watch Coming Soon to Independent Lens: Wonder Women! on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

* When I looked Jack up I enjoyed reading his struggle with whether to label himself transgender or not, as well as if he will transition or not. Jack also still uses women's locker rooms, which I presume as a safety issue with men's locker rooms. Thus I went with queer. If this is incorrect, please just let me know.

Disclaimer

This blog is my personal blog and is not reflective of my employer or what I do for them.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

As Seen On