I’m hoping to catch Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing at South By Southwest, though it looks like scheduling may not allow for it. But looking at the trailer, I’ve got two thoughts:
First, I love me some Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker, but I think it’s going to be hard for me to see them not in the context of Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson’s performances in those roles in from twenty years ago. Acker’s so good at retiring roles that it’s hard for me to really imagine her with a delightfully poisonous tongue.
And second, I’m curious as to how the adaptation is going to handle Hero and Claudio, played respectively by Jillian Morgese and Fran Kranz. Their story, in which Hero’s chastity is called into question, the wedding between the young lovers is called off, and Claudio is made to feel guilty by being told that Hero’s literally died of grief is a much harder thing to bring into the moder era than a clash of wits between a much more contemporary couple like Beatrice and Benedick. There’s very interesting stuff to be done with Hero and Claudio about anxiety about relative sexual experience, slut-shaming, and the anxiety of marriage. But getting there and doing it right in this setting probably means jettisoning the set-up in which Claudio believes that Hero is dead. I’m curious to see how Whedon will work it all out. Giving us modern screwball with Beatrice and Benedick is awfully fun, but it’s the easy lift here. Transforming Hero and Claudio and doing it well will be the much more impressive feat.
The Nigerian Football Federation has officially banned lesbians from participating in competition in the country, the chair of the Nigeria Women’s Football League announced Thursday. The move has drawn an inquiry from FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, since such a ban would violate its anti-discrimination policy.
Nigeria is one of several African countries that have moved to legally ban homosexuality, and Nigerian club officials have boasted of driving lesbians from the game before, but under the new policy, lesbian players will be disqualified from competition and won’t be allowed to join the national team, NWFL chair Dilichukwu Onyedinma said, according to Inside World Football:
“Any player that we find is associated with it will be disqualified.
“We will call the club chairmen to control their players, and such players will not be able to play for the national team,” said Onyedinma. She said the governing body will work with clubs to stop the practice.”
While outright bans on lesbians are obviously (and thankfully) rare, discrimination aimed at gay female athletes is hardly limited to soccer or to Nigeria. The push for LGBT equality in sports has largely focused on men while gay women athletes get ignored, since the stereotypical female athlete is often already presumed to be gay. As Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky wrote when American soccer star Megan Rapinoe came out ahead of the 2012 Olympics, “An openly gay female athlete almost isn’t news. A lesbian in the locker room conforms to a stereotype, just as a straight male athlete is a stereotype.”
But in both American and international sports, there is “an amazing division between lesbians and straight women in sports” that persists because straight women don’t want to be stereotyped as gay, Dr. Pat Griffin, a professor and advocate for LGBT rights in sports, has said before. That has led to discrimination against female athletes who actually are gay and a culture, particularly in American college sports, where both coaches and players are expected to “be straight, or at the very least, act straight.” It’s no wonder then, that many lesbian athletes wait until their careers are over to come out of the closet.
So while Nigeria’s ban is uniquely horrific, and while FIFA will hopefully help put an end to it, it is emblematic of a larger sports culture that remains tilted against LGBT equality not just for men but for women too.
If you’ll be in Austin for SXSW, starting today, I hope you’ll consider dropping by the panels I’ll be moderating on Saturday and Sunday, both at 3:30, both in room 16AB of the Austin Convention Center at 500 E Cesar Chavez Street.
On Saturday, with some of my Slate buddies, including David Haglund and Noreen Malone, as well as director Sarah Gertrude Shapiro and the hilarious and wonderful actress Anna Camp, the panel is Changing Rules for Women and Sex on TV. We’ll be talking a lot about who gets to have sex on TV, what our expectations are for what kinds of sex people will be having based on their ages, body types, etc., what sort of sex television is selling us on, how TV handles sexual assault, and TV’s fertility panic.
And on Sunday, I’ll be MCing This Panel is Not Yet Rated, a conversation with Chairman of the Classification and Rating Administration Joan Graves, film critic Scott Weinberg, director Vincenzo Natali, and producer Travis Stevens. On the menu: the history of the MPAA ratings system, our tangled-up attitudes about media violence, and the different treatment of sexuality and violence in on-screen entertainment.
I think they’ll both be great events, so if you’re around, please consider coming by! And I’ll try to hang out after both panels as long as possible, if folks want to meet up. I am always game for coffee, or more importantly, for Shiner Bock and meeting all of you.
It’s International Women’s Day, an occasion that often focuses on human rights and gender issues around the world. But I wanted to take today to remember that pop culture is a global enterprise, and women are doing amazing work as actors, directors, and writers all over the globe. Hollywood is such an international environment that I think we don’t always acknowledge the debts we owe to countries ranging from New Zealand to Malaysia. So today, here are five women in pop culture who make me thankful for the international community of film and television:
1. Jane Campion: This New Zealand-born writer and director is one of the fiercest champions for women’s stories out there, particularly ones that don’t fit neatly into romantic comedy story arcs or bandage dresses. The Piano, her story about a mute artist who is effectively sold off in marriage and shipped to the New Zealand frontier, is probably Campion’s most important work. But her new mini-series, detective story Top of The Lake, which premieres on the Sundance Channel on March 18, is a fascinating, twisty story, featuring Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss as a cop investigating a sex crime in a remote region where a colony of feminists is set to collide with the local culture.
2. Gurinder Chadha: One of the best stories about female athletes in recent years? Check. One of the best Jane Austen modernizations in recent years? Check. With movies like Bend It Like Beckham and Bride & Prejudice, Chadha, born in Nairobi to Sikh parents who were part of the Indian diaspora, and settled in the UK, has painted vivid portraits of immigrants and explored how culture survives outside its point of origin. And she’s done so while being funny, wildly romantic, and narratively rich.
3. Michelle Yeoh: News that we might finally get a sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that focuses on Yeoh’s character Yu Shu Lien is a welcome chance to celebrate this incredible, athletic Malaysian actress yet again. Famous for doing her own stunts, Yeoh also was a bright spot in the Pierce Brosnan years as one of the few characters to actually qualify as a Bond Woman, rather than an arm-candy Bond Girl, and recently turned in a fantastic performance as Aung San Suu Kyi in The Lady. Yeoh’s a constant reminder that women deserve better as characters, and as action stars, not least because she raises the ceiling on what everyone in her genre is capable of.
4. Salma Hayek: Born in Mexico and now a naturalized United States citizen, Hayek isn’t just a versatile actress who can segue easily between comedy and drama, and fim and television. She’s a producer who gave us Ugly Betty, one of very few shows about immigrant families, working-class neighborhoods in New York, and what it takes to actually break into the glamorous jobs in fashion and journalism so much other pop culture took for granted. And when she’s not making great pop culture, Hayek’s an advocate against domestic violence—she’s testified in support of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act—and for immigrants.
5. Emma Thompson: What more needs to be said about the British actress and screenwriter who’s transitioned from romantic comedy heroine (and great Shakespearean actress) to one of the few women who can still act and not be a joke or a sidshow at middle age, who turned in the never-to-be-topped performance as a veiled Hillary Clinton in Primary Colors, who gave us the brilliant adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, who gave Sybill Trelawney dignity in the Harry Potter movies, and who reminds us how much we all love Joni Mitchell?
After launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund a long-term project that would examine the roles women play—or are consigned to—in video games, Feminist Frequency video blogger Anita Sarkeesian was subject to a vicious, violence-saturated campaign of harassment. While it was awful to watch Sarkeesian be threatened and slandered for the sin of wanting to do her job well and comprehensively, the utter inability of her harassers to shut her work down has been wonderful to watch.
And I’m cheering Sarkeesian’s perseverance even harder now that the first installment of her project, titled Tropes Vs. Women, is out—and it’s terrific. Examining both the depiction and gameplay of characters like Pauline, Princess Peach and Zelda, Sarkeesian goes back to the origins of the Damsels In Distress trope art and literature, explores how the trope migrated into video games after the rights to Popeye characters couldn’t be secured for a video game, and examines how the trope became valuable to the video game industry:
At the beginning of the video, Sarkeesian, explaining that “This series will include critical analysis of many beloved games and characters,” says something that everyone who loves a piece of culture ought to be required to recite five times every morning while looking in the mirror: “Remember that it’s both possible and even necessary to simultaneously enjoy media while being critical of its more problematic or pernicious aspects.” If that ability to hold two ideas in your head at the same time, to enjoy something while recognizing that it might have problems, is what the people who tried to harass Sarkeesian into silence are so afraid of, it only reinforces how intellectually cowardly and inept they are. The need for something to be immune from criticism isn’t a sign that it’s perfect and everyone else is wrong: it’s a sign you can’t defend the things you love. That’s a position any self-aware person ought to be embarrassed to defend.
My friend Alan Pyke eviscerated Sen. Marco Rubio’s understanding of the issues that animate hip-hop, a genre he repeatedly claims to love, and that’s become the basis of his claim to be youthful and relatable, in a post here a month ago. In the time since, it’s been amusing to watch Rubio embrace this part of his cultural tastes that the mainstream media seems to find amusing, even to the point of absurdity, as happened when he joined Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster of John Brennan, President Obama’s nominee to run the Central Intelligence Agency, earlier this week.
Now, filibusters often have a reputation for silliness, whether it’s Senators reading from phone books, the question of how someone can go that long without relieving him or herself, or merely because of the futility of the event. But Paul’s filibuster, for all that I disagree with him on nearly every issue, and for all that I wish his concerns about the use of drones wasn’t limited to the use of them against United States citizens on U.S. soil, was a substantive, serious affair for the most part. So it was entertaining, and maybe a little jarring, to watch Rubio use the event not just as a way to poke the administration with a sharp stick, but to reinforce his credentials as a hip-hop head.
And make no mistake, he was diving for opportunities to mention rappers like a Hail Mary pass was on its way to his fingertips. When Rubio took the floor, he started out by telling his colleagues that: “In that question, he used Shakespeare references, he used a reference to the movie Patton, which is one of the great movies. I didn’t bring my Shakespeare book, so let me just begin by quoting a modern-day poet. His name is Whiz Khalifa. He has a song called ‘Work Hard, Play Hard.’ If you look at the time, it’s a time when many of our colleagues expected to be in the home state playing hard, but I’m happy that we’re here still working hard on this issue.” Later, discussion how former President George W. Bush’s use of drones would have been received by the Senate, Rubio mused: “That takes me back to another modern-day poet by the name of Jay-Z. In one of his songs, he wrote ‘It’s funny what seven days can change. It was all good a week ago.’ I don’t know if it was all good a week ago, but I can tell you that things have really changed. Because if the question was George W. Bush and this was a question being asked of him, and his response was the silence that we’ve gotten, we’d have a very different scenario here tonight.” Rubio even pulls hip-hop’s own cultural obsessions into the mix, saying he’ll “Go to a movie, one of the great American movies, The Godfather. There’s a quote in this movie—I don’t have the Patton quotes, but I have The Godfather quotes. This is one of the best-known ones. It says, ‘I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.’ To me, these are offers you can’t refuse.”
There’s something terribly middle-brow about Rubio’s attempts to demonstrate his cred, the equivalent of a college freshman proffering up Atlas Shrugged quotes as proof of erudition and a sophisticated worldview. It’s even tackier to watch him scramble, Patton quotations aside, given the general seriousness of Paul’s filibuster. And it raises the question of what Rubio expects to get out of the fact that liking hip-hop has become a critical part of his brand.
Is it supposed to signal that he’s young? President Obama is ten years Rubio’s senior and has had plenty of opportunities to demonstrate that he hasn’t just surfed Rap Genius, he’ conversant with ongoing issues like the genre’s gender politics and has beefed with Kanye West from the White House podium. Is it meant to reel in rappers as endorsers when 2016 rolls around? Somehow I doubt that Jay-Z will be so flattered that Rubio knows the lyrics to “A Week Ago,” even if he’s reversing their order—interestingly enough for a song about drone strikes, the track is about snitching—that he and Beyonce will suddenly switch parties. It’s not bad campaign strategy that Rubio knows how to surf a meme, as he did when a sale of water bottles raised $125,000 for his political action committee after he got gif.-ed reaching for a drink during his State of the Union rebuttal. But cleverness and snappiness aren’t the same things as wisdom. And if I were Rubio’s advisors, I’d be concerned that the candidate’s fondness for hip-hop and ability to roll with a joke were becoming the core of his brand. Those are better credentials to be someone’s frat brother than to be president.
Alyssa Rosenberg is the Features Editor for ThinkProgress.org. She is a columnist for the XX Factor at Slate, and a correspondent for TheAtlantic.com Alyssa grew up in Massachusetts and holds a B.A. in humanities from Yale University. Before joining ThinkProgress, she was editor of Washingtonian.com and a staff correspondent at Government Executive. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Daily Beast,The New Republic, Esquire.com, The Daily, The American Prospect, and National Journal. Read more.