Badass or Bad: Represent

Badass: We want to start out this installment by recognizing some of the BAMFs who spent yesterday fighting to save the ACA (Obamacare) on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives – particularly those whose names are not so well known. Rep. Marcia Fudge (OH-11) argued that “mercy is caring for the sick, the poor, our elders. Mercy is extending a hand to those in need.” Rep. Frederica Wilson (F-24), who is to hats what Hillary Clinton is to pantsuits, was the last speaker before the GOP’s AHCA bill was pulled. She reminded her colleagues that they all had health insurance, as well as a clinic in the Capitol itself, and demanded to know whether every American deserves the same treatment. Rep. Susan Davis (CA-53) emphasized the toll the new bill would have on women, while fellow Californian Rep. Anna Eshoo (CA-18) asked “who comes to the Congress to hurt people?”

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Badass: The film A Woman, A Part is a sort of narrative extension of director/writer Elisabeth Subrin’s really, really topical tumblr Who Cares About Actresses. Both the film and Subrin’s blog align with the goals of this project (Telefeminism) and speak to the emotional and psychological toll that a poorly-written female character can have on both viewers and actors. As Subrin says on her tumblr, “Actresses matter profoundly. It is a political act when they (and we) question the patriarchal Hollywood (i.e. global) media machine, when they (and we) fight for and choose roles that offer the world a broader and more diverse understanding of what it means to be a woman, and when they (and we) have the courage to present alternative images of women to the world.” (The New York Times)

Badass: Tema L. Staig of Women in Media, “a networking group for above and below the line women,” wrote about the need for gender parity behind the scenes, handily taking down the “lack of available, qualified women” excuse with her Women In Media Crew List, an open, organized doc to help identify female crew members across an array of roles and locations. Staig points to Ava DuVernay’s all-female Queen Sugar directorial slate (mentioned in last week’s list), as well as the planned all-female-directed second season of Jessica Jones and Hulu’s Harlots, as proof that where there’s a will, there’s a way. (Women and Hollywood)

Badass: The premiere of Shots Fired was so replete with talented women that it was borderline ridiculous – except it wasn’t, because it was really, really good. Sanaa Lathan, Aisha Hinds, Jill Hennessy, DeWanda Wise, and Helen Hunt all brought it, and so far, it seems to be doing a pretty good job of representing complex, autonomous women whose perspectives will be relevant as the story unfolds. And apparently, the diversity behind the scenes is enough to have made an impression on Helen Hunt, who told Entertainment Weekly,

“I’ve never worked on a show where above the line and below the line, there were more people of color. When I went back to work on shows after, I was horrified that I show up all the time on these sets where there’s one [or two] black crew members and rarely a black director on great shows made by smart, progressive people.”

Obviously, it’s not thrilling that this is only now becoming troubling enough for her to speak up about it, but we’re going to call this a win, anyway – it’s rare that actors, especially white actors, ever acknowledge the lack of diversity behind the scenes.

Badass: Sesame Street – you know, that beloved institution currently under threat by a guy who looks an awful lot like a Muppet himself – will be introducing a character with autism to its live-action show next month. Responses to Julia, the new Muppet, have lauded the show for working with experts to present a sensitive, nuanced character, and they do have a pretty good track record of dealing with difficult subjects. It’s also worth noting that Sesame Street can have an extraordinary impact on young lives, as demonstrated by professional violinist Laura Scalzo, who was inspired as a three-year-old to take up the instrument after seeing Itzhak Perlman perform on Sesame Street. (The Mary Sue, CBS)


Bad: Amazon Studios is apparently making a movie about Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for President of the United States – four decades before women even had the right to vote. Which would be good news, except for one little issue – that it’s being written by Ben Kopit, whose only other screenplay is about a fictionalized version of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former French IMF director accused of sexually assaulting a hotel employee in 2011. From the few reviews of the script we could find (trigger warning for graphic descriptions of abhorrent behavior in that last link), it looks like one of those all-too-easily-accepted character studies of a disgusting predator, replete with long, contemplative looks at horrifying behavior for the sake of “art” – while the toll on the victims goes completely unmentioned. So this is not the guy we’d pick to write a script about a pioneer of women’s rights.

We’re also a little annoyed that Brie Larson is now attached to another project where age is an issue (the other being Captain Marvel, and no, the screenwriter’s reassurances were not in any way reassuring). Woodhull’s age is and was a matter of debate in terms of the legality of her run, because she would not have turned 35 – the constitutionally mandated age requirement for a president – until several months after the inauguration. Granted, the difference between Larson’s age (she’s 27 now, so let’s say 29 by the time the movie is released) and the age of her character is not as pronounced as with Captain Marvel (who would need to be at least 40 years old), but it’s still an aggravating reminder that Hollywood can tag a film as being about female empowerment all it wants, but actions speak louder than branding, and even a difference of five years is indicative of the ageism that runs rampant in Tinseltown. (Deadline)

Bad: The A.V. Club, which we usually love for its dogged commitment to investigative reporting finding embarrassing videos of Paget Brewster and unflinching look at hot-button political issues Ewoks as a metaphor for feminism posted an article titled “Who’s the most annoying Grey’s Anatomy character: Maggie or Amelia?” Now, some people may not like Grey’s Anatomy (hi) and some people may even find everything about it annoying (hi) but this is one of those things that wanders into seriously sexist trope terrain. Male characters don’t get called annoying and there aren’t polls asking which one is worse: those are things explicitly reserved for female characters, whose “annoying” characteristics tend to either be the result of writers giving in to sexist tropes or viewers interpreting actions through subconscious, socially accepted sexist lenses. So, A.V. Club, you know what you have to do to make up for it: find a video of Paget Brewster talking about feminism while dressed like an Ewok. Or, you know, just refrain from resorting to sexist tropes.


This week’s recommended readings:

Meg Sri – From Kuchibhotla to Kal Penn: How Hate Crimes Build Off Liberal Media

Alison Willmore – Hollywood Is Getting Outsized Credit For Seriously Small Moments Of LGBT Inclusivity

Carrie Rickey – What Happened to the Female Directors of Hollywood (Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5)

A quick note – as of now, we will continue with the plan of posting on either Friday or Saturday, depending on circumstances. If you see a story or come across something related to television during the week that you think we might want to include in the weekly list, please let us know – preferably by Thursday night.

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