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...)