Thursday, April 3, 2008

Let's Watch a Girl Get Beaten to Death - Revisited

(This post is from guest-blogger TonyaJ, who sent this as a comment - but it needed to be a post. Here also are a couple of featured links: the Nothing But Red book project to benefit Equality Now and Amnesty International's International Violence Against Women Act. )

On May 20, 2007, Joss wrote a stunning essay about Du'a Khalil Aswad's murder, violence against women depicted on film, and violence against women in general. Because of this impassioned plea for sanity in the world, I started doing more, a little at a time. I joined Equality Now awhile back and contribute "X" dollars a month to their causes. I write blogs once in awhile on subjects that are meaningful to me and try to be more aware and compassionate about what is happening to people, every single day.

Joss's essay: Let's Watch A Girl Get Beaten To Death.

It's also on the main page of this blog.

I received the email below last Friday morning, the 28th. Below the text of the email are three links; one is to a gathering honoring Du'a Khalil and other women who were victims of honor killings, as well as what you personally can do to honor Du'a on April 7th, 2008, the anniversary of her murder. Last is a link to a discussion blog:

From The International Campaign Against Honour Killings

Date: Saturday 12 April, 2008
Time: 5.00-9:00pm
Address: University of London Union (ULU)
Room 3D, Malet Street London WC1E 7HY
Closest underground: Russell Square


A year after the world was stunned by images of a 17 year old girl being stoned to death in Iraqi Kurdistan; an international panel will debate the rise of honour killings, violence against women, gender apartheid and political Islam in Kurdistan/Iraq and the Middle East.

The high profile speakers are women’s rights activists, academics and experts from Kurdistan, Iraq, Iran, Sweden, New Zealand, and Britain and include:

• Dr Sandra Phelps: Head of Sociology Department, Kurdistan University
Houzan Mahmoud: representative of Organisation Women’s Freedom in Iraq
Heather Harvey: head of women’s campaign-Amnesty International in UK
Maryam Namazie: Spokesperson of Equal Rights Now
Maria Hagberg: Cofounder of Network against Honour Killings in Sweden
Azar Majedi: Chair of Organisation for Women’s Liberation in Iran
Chair: Maria Exall, Communication Workers' Union National Executive in UK

For more information and to confirm please contact the organiser:
Houzan Mahmoud, Tel: 07534264481
Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq - Abroad representative

• 7th April: A day against 'honour' killings - What you can do
• Conference in San Francisco: Violence Against Women, Honor Killings

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(from QuoterGal: I haven't been at all active on this blog... got all strikey-involved and then there's that other RL stuff... but if you send me comments, I will post them as guest blogs...)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

RUN FROM "CAPTIVITY": New York Times review of torture-porn flick "Captivity"

Well, hah! And not surprisingly, the reviews, including of course this one from Jeannette Catsoulis at The New York Times, are confirming that Captivity is pretty stinkola.

I loved this from the review, especially the last line:

"By the time those heightened expectations are dashed (What? No chain saw?), the money is in and the sequel already in the works. There are no refunds on your innocence."

Though from the sounds of it, I suspect the likelihood of that particular sequel is slim to none.'s Ryan Stewart has also reviewed Captivity, but I must say I was kinda revolted by his review, and felt compelled to leave a comment.

IGN also reviews the film, saying:

"There is precious little to recommend "Captivity." It is an ultimately pointless tale that throws in anything and everything that might offend -- misogyny, cruelty to animals, patricide, incest, pedophilia, mutilation, cannibalism -- in the hopes of being shocking."

The L.A. Times is reviewing it Monday, due to the lack of a press preview screening. They did, however, review this week's Captivity party in which they quote After Dark promoter Courtney Solomon:

"Solomon claims that Joffé was supportive of the revisions to the film, returning to do reshoots, if not perhaps to the test-marketed ending. 'He's a really nice man,' says Solomon."

Huh. I do wonder what the real story on that is...

They also note, "The original billboards made a cameo appearance at the party, when they were affixed to the outside of the building during early evening hours, easily visible from Sunset Boulevard, until representatives from the MPAA showed up on-site and demanded their removal."

How very socially-conscious and green of After Dark to recycle their discarded billboards. also sent someone to the party:

"If you're wondering why all the hardware stores in LA were sold out of electrical tape, it's because much of it was stuck to the nipples of the models at the Captivity premiere party last night."

Classy. From the descriptions of the party, I guess Solomon has given up all of his earlier pretense that the film is "also about female empowerment...". By the way, the star and most of the announced celebrities, including the director, failed to attend this glittering soirée, which is sad, because they missed, among other empowering moments, this:

"The music takes a turn, buckling from a poppy remix of The Bravery's 'An Honest Mistake' to the grind of Pantera's 'Walk.' And on cue, like a magician removing a cloth to reveal his latest bit of trickery, the curtain drops and a steel cage full of Suicide Girls spill out, teasing on-lookers, teasing each other, dancing to the music. Hallelujah. This moment crescendos with the entrance of a bald fella who proceeds to hang himself from the top of the cage by hooks in his chest. His skin stretches like rubber. The audience gasps. Those aforementioned tanned bedmates who befriended Navarro? They stand by the sidelines, cameras in hand. Eyes wide and flawless lips curled up in shock. It becomes apparent these are not Suicide Girls by any means. Likely wannabe actresses/models hired for the show. Sheep in a den of wolves."

Oddly, for what seemed an obvious attempt to court additional publicity-arousing controversy and protest, the event-planners were a tad ambivalent about the party's media coverage, according to Condé Nast/ Hollywood Deal, first inviting, uninviting, and then re-inviting three reporters.

" was hard to understand why the party set-up had been handled by super crisis-management firm Sitrick & Co., or why three female reporters--from Portfolio, the Wall Street Journal and the New Yorker--had been told over the weekend they were uninvited to the party. After kicking up dust, they (we) were let back in. When asked about the initially rescinded invitation last night, Solomon said, "there had been a lot of sketchy people on the list " and that we had been flagged. Hmmm. Portfolio? WSJ? New Yorker? Sketchy publications indeed." also reported:

"Toward the end of the night, Solomon, who stood watching as a pale and bare chested man was suspended from a rack by pins in his flesh, ruminated on what might be the sunset of the torture-porn genre. 'It's at the end of a movie cycle,' he said. 'This is like a party for the end.' "

OMFG, one can only hope.

This party was held just around the corner from me, at a club charmingly-named "Privilege." I think probably if I had just dressed in black, stuck a prop axe through my head and carried a blender, I could've gotten in. Unfortunately, I had to wash my hair or something, I forget what exactly.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Why actresses do nude scenes...

Well, I got a little ticky today - not terribly ticky, since you have to consider the source - but medium annoyed. I shot off a quick email to Walter Scott's "Personality Parade" for his response to this question:

"Q: Why do so many good actresses - including Helen Mirren, Jane Seymour and Ashley Judd - do nude scenes? -- G.A., Richardson, Tex.

A: For the paycheck or because they enjoy showing off their bodies. Seymour, 56, says she had fun doing her hilarious topless scene in Wedding Crashers. On the other hand, we predict that Judd, 39, will regret her explicit scenes as a bisexual, coke-addicted abuse victim in Bug, a distasteful new film."

A paycheck and enjoyment are okay answers, as far as they go. But as I wrote to Parade, this answer leaves out one really important reason:

"...the one that takes women seriously as professional actors.

I found your answer to the 5/27/06 question just a tad patronizing - there is one other reason - the main one, I believe - that actresses do nude scenes -- because they believe it is in service to the story.

They may be correct, or they may be mistaken. It may be integral to the story, or simply gratuitous.

But it is quite often the reason that serious, good actresses agree to do nude scenes, and I have to say I think it was glib and sexist not to mention it.

As actresses helping to tell a story, nudity may be one part of that story, and it is integral to their professions to assist in telling the story.

I think Helen Mirren and others deserve better than the response you gave about paychecks or showing off.

Thanks for considering my opinion."

Just thought it needed sayin'.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Let's Watch A Girl Get Beaten To Death.

A seventeen-year-old girl named Dua Khalil Aswad was killed in Northern Iraq in April, 2007 by a group of more than twenty young men, including family members, in a so-called "honor killing." They recorded her murder on their cell phones.

Joss Whedon posted his passionate reaction to this outrage on the fan-blog whedonesque, as well as his thoughts about the continued oppression of women worldwide, and asked whedonesque members - and anyone reading his post - to do something about it. This blog will be one of the ways we record what we do.

These efforts are in memory of Dua Khalil - and in honor of Joss Whedon.

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by Joss Whedon
May 20, 2007

Let's Watch A Girl Get Beaten To Death.

This is not my blog, but I don’t have a blog, or a space, and I’d like to be heard for a bit.

Last month seventeen year old Dua Khalil was pulled into a crowd of young men, some of them (the instigators) family, who then kicked and stoned her to death. This is an example of the breath-taking oxymoron “honor killing”, in which a family member (almost always female) is murdered for some religious or ethical transgression. Dua Khalil, who was of the Yazidi faith, had been seen in the company of a Sunni Muslim, and possibly suspected of having married him or converted. That she was torturously murdered for this is not, in fact, a particularly uncommon story. But now you can watch the action up close on CNN. Because as the girl was on the ground trying to get up, her face nothing but red, the few in the group of more than twenty men who were not busy kicking her and hurling stones at her were filming the event with their camera-phones.

There were security officers standing outside the area doing nothing, but the footage of the murder was taken – by more than one phone – from the front row. Which means whoever shot it did so not to record the horror of the event, but to commemorate it. To share it. Because it was cool.

I could start a rant about the level to which we have become desensitized to violence, about the evils of the voyeuristic digital world in which everything is shown and everything is game, but honestly, it’s been said. And I certainly have no jingoistic cultural agenda. I like to think that in America this would be considered unbearably appalling, that Kitty Genovese is still remembered, that we are more evolved. But coincidentally, right before I stumbled on this vid I watched the trailer for “Captivity”.

A few of you may know that I took public exception to the billboard campaign for this film, which showed a concise narrative of the kidnapping, torture and murder of a sexy young woman. I wanted to see if the film was perhaps more substantial (especially given the fact that it was directed by “The Killing Fields” Roland Joffe) than the exploitive ad campaign had painted it. The trailer resembles nothing so much as the CNN story on Dua Khalil. Pretty much all you learn is that Elisha Cuthbert is beautiful, then kidnapped, inventively, repeatedly and horrifically tortured, and that the first thing she screams is “I’m sorry”.

“I’m sorry.”

What is wrong with women?

I mean wrong. Physically. Spiritually. Something unnatural, something destructive, something that needs to be corrected.

How did more than half the people in the world come out incorrectly? I have spent a good part of my life trying to do that math, and I’m no closer to a viable equation. And I have yet to find a culture that doesn’t buy into it. Women’s inferiority – in fact, their malevolence -- is as ingrained in American popular culture as it is anywhere they’re sporting burkhas. I find it in movies, I hear it in the jokes of colleagues, I see it plastered on billboards, and not just the ones for horror movies. Women are weak. Women are manipulative. Women are somehow morally unfinished. (Objectification: another tangential rant avoided.) And the logical extension of this line of thinking is that women are, at the very least, expendable.

I try to think how we got here. The theory I developed in college (shared by many I’m sure) is one I have yet to beat: Womb Envy. Biology: women are generally smaller and weaker than men. But they’re also much tougher. Put simply, men are strong enough to overpower a woman and propagate. Women are tough enough to have and nurture children, with or without the aid of a man. Oh, and they’ve also got the equipment to do that, to be part of the life cycle, to create and bond in a way no man ever really will. Somewhere a long time ago a bunch of men got together and said, “If all we do is hunt and gather, let’s make hunting and gathering the awesomest achievement, and let’s make childbirth kinda weak and shameful.” It’s a rather silly simplification, but I believe on a mass, unconscious level, it’s entirely true. How else to explain the fact that cultures who would die to eradicate each other have always agreed on one issue? That every popular religion puts restrictions on women’s behavior that are practically untenable? That the act of being a free, attractive, self-assertive woman is punishable by torture and death? In the case of this upcoming torture-porn, fictional. In the case of Dua Khalil, mundanely, unthinkably real. And both available for your viewing pleasure.

It’s safe to say that I’ve snapped. That something broke, like one of those robots you can conquer with a logical conundrum. All my life I’ve looked at this faulty equation, trying to understand, and I’ve shorted out. I don’t pretend to be a great guy; I know really really well about objectification, trust me. And I’m not for a second going down the “women are saints” route – that just leads to more stone-throwing (and occasional Joan-burning). I just think there is the staggering imbalance in the world that we all just take for granted. If we were all told the sky was evil, or at best a little embarrassing, and we ought not look at it, wouldn’t that tradition eventually fall apart? (I was going to use ‘trees’ as my example, but at the rate we’re getting rid of them I’m pretty sure we really do think they’re evil. See how all rants become one?)

Now those of you who frequent this site are, in my wildly biased opinion, fairly evolved. You may hear nothing new here. You may be way ahead of me. But I can’t contain my despair, for Dua Khalil, for humanity, for the world we’re shaping. Those of you who have followed the link I set up know that it doesn’t bring you to a video of a murder. It brings you to a place of sanity, of people who have never stopped asking the question of what is wrong with this world and have set about trying to change the answer. Because it’s no longer enough to be a decent person. It’s no longer enough to shake our heads and make concerned grimaces at the news. True enlightened activism is the only thing that can save humanity from itself. I’ve always had a bent towards apocalyptic fiction, and I’m beginning to understand why. I look and I see the earth in flames. Her face was nothing but red.

All I ask is this: Do something. Try something. Speaking out, showing up, writing a letter, a check, a strongly worded e-mail. Pick a cause – there are few unworthy ones. And nudge yourself past the brink of tacit support to action. Once a month, once a year, or just once. If you can’t think of what to do, there is this handy link. Even just learning enough about a subject so you can speak against an opponent eloquently makes you an unusual personage. Start with that. Any one of you would have cried out, would have intervened, had you been in that crowd in Bashiqa. Well thanks to digital technology, you’re all in it now.

I have never had any faith in humanity. But I will give us props on this: if we can evolve, invent and theorize our way into the technologically magical, culturally diverse and artistically magnificent race we are and still get people to buy the idiotic idea that half of us are inferior, we’re pretty amazing. Let our next sleight of hand be to make that myth disappear.

The sky isn’t evil. Try looking up.

joss | General | 05:35 CET | 382 comments total | tags: joss post

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You are encouraged to post your actions in a comment (or multiple comments) on this (or upcoming) post(s). Feel free to email me via this blog if you are planning an event and would like me to post something special for you, and/or if you have relevant links. Quotes are nifty, too.

(And please note: being technologically somewhat challenged, I have disappeared the first version of this post - and I believe that means the comments, as well. If you sent a comment earlier today, and do not see it posted, that is probably what happened. Sorry, and feel free to send them again, if they are still pertinent...)