Tron: Legacy: Where are all the women?

The Poster

I’m the first to admit that sexism and lack of reasonable representations of women in movies doesn’t always bother me, especially if the movie is entertaining otherwise.  The original Star Wars Trilogy, for example, didn’t pass the Bechdel test at all, but I still love them.  So, my extreme dislike of the movie Tron: Legacy is not just because it’s terrible at representing women, but also because it’s terrible generally.  It’s just that a lot of my inability to appreciate even the special effects and music comes from the ridiculous treatment of women in this film.

The Bechdel test, for those unfamiliar with it, is a very simple test about the representation of women in a movie.  Passing doesn’t mean a film isn’t sexist, but it is useful in showing how few films actually do the following:

1. Have at least two named female characters
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something other than a man

Fembot/Siren

Tron: Legacy passes the first one, and only just, having the characters of Quorra (Olivia Wilde) and Gem (Beau Garrett). All the other women in the film have names like “Siren #4″.  There is only one line in the entire movie spoken between two women and it is “He’s different,” spoken by fembots, excuse me, “Sirens” about a recently en-spandexed Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund).

What I don’t understand about this movie is that there are so many opportunities to put women into it, why couldn’t there be some in minor roles?  Why couldn’t they be in major roles?

Why couldn’t Sam have been a woman?  Would a story about Flynn’s daughter not have been equally compelling?  I think it could have only helped the film, and it would have been a much more original piece to have a young woman who refused to take up responsibility at her father’s company, than having yet another rich boy who won’t take up his father’s mantle.  The movie could have been exactly the same, but with a Samantha instead of a Samuel, it would have been much better and much more original.

But let’s accept for the moment that the world is just not ready for girl slackers even though it loves the infantilized Apatow boys, surely there could have been a woman in the real world that had an impact on Sam’s life, right?  Instead, the evil CEO and the young Encom programmer they set up as Sam’s rival, and then drop without a second thought, are both men, as is Sam’s only living mentor.  The security guard and police that chase him?  Men.  Even his dog is a boy.  As for his grandmother, she’s just dead, as is his mother — both of them unceremoniously dumped from the film for fear of encumbering it with nuances in the presentation of women.

Jeri Ellsworth: Real Life Awesome Programmer

But surely within the world of the computer there is room for females, right?  After all, there are women programmers, women love the internet, and within a computer it doesn’t really matter if you’re a man or a woman.  The freedom in the semi-anonymous enclave of the computer has been a source of great empowerment for women, surely the creators of the film would give a little something back to all the women who go to Comic Con.  Because women are actually a huge part of geek culture, and the last people who are going to trivialize women and make them into mere sexual toys are the nerds, right?

I have to admit that I was shocked at the fembots/sirens scene — it pulled me right out of the movie.  When Sam Flynn goes into the Grid world, he is immediately taken into a room with four super sexy women — the kind of ridiculous, hyper-sexed women I haven’t seen in a theater since Dude, Where’s my Car? — they strip him down and then dress him.  Why does this scene exist?  There is no new information given and surely they could have introduced Gem, who appears later, in a much less embarrassing way.

"First you give us the continuum transfunctioner, then we give you oral pleasure."

So then Sam goes to fight in the Neon Frisbee games, and all of his competitors are men, because hurling a frisbee is bad for female programs’ delicate sensibilities, and then he goes to talk to the evil Clu, who has a strictly XY inner circle.  I will refrain from complaining too much, because James Frain was brilliant and I love him, but is there any reason the major domo couldn’t have been a woman?  Or maybe the guards or people working on computers nearby could have been female.  Or just one person in the light cycle bike racing fight.

I find these heels incredibly practical for fighting and driving

When Quorra finally makes an appearance, it’s almost a relief to remember that non-fembot women are, in fact, allowed to be on screen.  Unfortunately, Quorra is a hyper-sexualized, wide-eyed, male fantasy.  She only wears skintight clothing, can fight and drive fast cars, but doesn’t know anything and needs men to teach her about the world and make decisions for her.  I love Olivia Wilde, but this character is embarrassing — after seeing how brilliant and nuanced she can be on House, it’s incredibly depressing to see her made into nothing more than fodder for fanboy fantasy.

At this point the film just gets dull and repetitive until we are reintroduced to the siren Gem, and meet Zeus, played to manic David Bowie extremes by Michael Sheen.  Once again, there is an opportunity here for a meaty secondary role to be given to a woman, and once again they give it to a man.  I love Michael Sheen, but what if Cate Blanchett or Tilda Swinton had had this role?  It would have meant giving lines to a woman who wasn’t a smoking hot 25 year old, I know.

Quorra gets injured and has to be saved by Flynn the elder.  And then she gets captured by Tron and has to be rescued by Flynn the younger.  And then there’s a chase scene in which she flies a plane, as directed by the men, and Flynn the younger shoots at people and Flynn the elder uses his magic godlike powers to fight Clu.  At the end our intrepid hero gets the girl and drives her around on the back of his bike, where women belong.

Why is it necessary to have this shot, and why am I sitting like this?

There were so many opportunities for this film to treat women as anything other than sexual objects and so many good reasons for it to have done so.  It’s very difficult for me, as someone who loves and identifies strongly with geek culture, to put up with the complete lack of reasonable female characters in almost every major release that is supposed to appeal to me.  This stuff isn’t hard and it doesn’t require that much thought, but of course the only female with a major role in the creation of the film was the woman who wrote the original screenplay to Tron 30 years ago.

Advice for 2010 Grads Coming to LA; 15 things

The Bitter Script Reader posted some advice about how to survive to move to LA.  I tried to comment over there and it won’t let me, but this is what I said.

1) Get settled so that you’re as comfortable as possible — living out of boxes makes everything seem transient. Have roommates or whatever, but make sure that you’ve got a space, however small, that is yours. Spend some time driving around the city and getting to know places. Find the studios. (Have a car!)

2) I really love Glendale, it’s safe and cheapish. Frogtown is super cheap. North Hollywood is becoming a lot safer, the parts closer to the 134 are totally fine for a single girl to live in.

2) I would say you probably need at least 7k in the bank before coming out here and at least two finished scripts and some outlines for more. Basically, you need enough money that you can go several months without making much money at all and enough written that if you’re too discombobulated to write, you’ve got something to work with. I applied for internships and jobs for 6 months before I moved out and it still took me 3 months to land a part time paid gig, though I did have an internship lined up.

3) Apply to every job you can find, do things for free, take an internship in the industry if you can afford it and then work at whatever you can in the rest of the time. It doesn’t matter if it’s an industry job, making contacts of all sorts is important, life experience, all that jazz. I’m not super social and I don’t like to drink, but working on other people’s projects is a great way to meet people and learn useful skills.

4) Find something else you can do in the industry besides writing. Can you edit? Can you gaff? Find a way to make yourself useful. Pursue every avenue. Learn to script supe, that’s easy and low impact.  Find something you like to do that isn’t writing.

5) A lot of people would say find a writing group. I personally am not in one, but I have a large group of friends who I can get advice from. Writing groups are pretty useful if you don’t have that.

6) Apply selectively to contests, but do apply. I’ve definitely gotten contacts from agents and managers and earned some street cred by placing in contests people had heard of.

7) Mandy.com, realitystaff.com, and craigslist are your new friends. I personally don’t really like the UTA job list, but it’s out there too.

8) Figure out a way to make your commute worthwhile. A voice recorder is great if you can think outloud for writing purposes. I listen to a lot of audiobooks.

9) Do things that have nothing to do with film because people who only talk about film are boring. Read books, magazines, go do stuff that’s got seriously zero to do with film and then you’ll have something interesting to talk about. The reason Hollywood loves young blood is because they have experience outside of the Hollywood system and they haven’t quite yet been turned into normal LA people who can only talk about themselves and movies.

10) Write genre scripts that can be produced cheaply if you’re really out to make a sell.

11) Don’t ever be a douchebag. Don’t have a temper. If you talk shit online, don’t use names.  (Unless revealing scam artists!)

12) Conversely, if you’re working for free, you have the right to be treated well and to learn something from the experience. Don’t be afraid of anyone. And don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself, just don’t be aggressive. Along these lines, know how much you should be getting paid, even if you’re not being paid that. This is useful info.

13) Be on the look out for scams. Not all competitions are worthwhile. Not all agents are legit. If someone asks you for money upfront to be your agent, that guy is a scam artist. (google Eddie Kritzer)

14) If you’re a lady writer with a girly name, I’d recommend using your initials. That sounds terrible, but there’s genuine gender bias out here and I’m super lucky that all the other Ashleys out here are guys. This is especially true if you’re replying to internet ad, because internet people are super creepy.

15) Give yourself deadlines so that you’re not constantly second guessing yourself and make sure they’re reasonable. I, for example, haven’t always been totally sure LA is the place for me, but I’m only allowed to seriously think about moving during the month of August. So I don’t dwell on it in general.

(I never had a problem with the tap water, don’t know what people are talking about)

Hello people from Writer Beware Blogs!

There is always a surge in traffic around here when another blogger has an encounter with Eddie Kritzer.  His comments now go directly to spam here because they’ve become a bit graphic and horrifying.  My favorite excerpts from the e-mail he sent to Victoria Strauss.

“Your to busy being a busy body “old decrepit lady with all wrinkly skin; IM sure your husband (if you still have one) which I doubt; because all you do is complain, you are the negative Nelly of the Internet, your so fucken boring, and bored.And “all you do is bitch and moan and groan [except when you have sex; then you just lay there like a lump of coal, which is what your personality is.”

In other news, I didn’t finish the rewrite for today’s deadline due to a lot of stuff that’s happened in the last month, good and bad, but all time consuming.  So, I’m planning on getting it rewritten and polished by the Nicholl.  I’m going to set writing aside right now to try to get through this project I’m editing.  I need to get it done by Feb 1 because I won’t have time for a side job at that point.  Of course, I don’t feel great right now, but hopefully that’s going to do nothing but get better.  Starting Wednesday I get to start working on scar reduction!

Weekend Recap: Nominate me for Awards!

I am still sick, I have been sick for so so long.  I mean, I’m 87% better.  Which is to say I’m not totally exhausted but I’m still coughing and my nose is still icky.  I finished my course of antibiotics, so I’m guessing there’s nothing to do now but hope.

My posting is probably going to be erratic at best starting Tuesday — I’m going to be in South Carolina for a week.  I’m hoping to start getting some feelers for raising money there.

I was on set all weekend, shooting two different things.  I was script supervising the pilot for Alice and the Monster, which is from the same creative team as Gold: The Series, and then I “starred” in a makeover shoot from which I got a super cute dress that I wore to my company’s holiday party.  So, huzzah.

Also, you can nominate Gold: The Series and/or my editing of Gold for the Streamys.  They’re pushing for Gold to get Best Comedy and Best Ensemble.  Under individuals, you can nominate me for Best Editing, and you can nominate the super awesome Frederick Snyder for Best Director.  The site address is www.goldtheseries.com

That’s all for now!

Lost Weekend

I had a weekend that was no good for writing. I’ve set myself a deadline of end of Thanksgiving holiday for a rewrite of Bible Con and a Polished first draft of Dyke for a Day. I had time to work on it this weekend because all of my editing projects are floating in nebulous waiting for other people to do things. But I didn’t work because my shoulder is messed up. This didn’t make it impossible to write, but it was really uncomfortable to sit in front of my computer or look down. It’s still killing me. Maybe I should start dictating.

Instead, I just watched a lot of Christopher Hitchens. I try to imagine the God/No God debate from the other point of view and find I just cannot. Cannot imagine it. I suppose I am like Hitchens, I never lost my faith, I just realized I didn’t have it. I was eight, I found all my teeth that I’d lost in my mom’s room (why she kept them, I don’t know). And there it was, proof that there was no tooth fairy. And that meant no Easter Bunny, no Santa Claus, and no Jesus.

I am going back to Columbia, SC this weekend. Doing the red-eye Wednesday night/Thursday morning. I’m seriously considering trying to raise money and film my feature in SC. I think it could be done for a modest budget, and I think the idea of a Native Daughter shooting in SC is something that could raise some money. I have a lot of connections there, including with the university. I hold secret hopes that somehow I could tie it into the university and get a lot of young people involved with the production. There aren’t a lot of opportunities in film in South Carolina.

Maybe I’ll get some writing done on the plane. We’re going to not put odds on this.

I started watching Jeeves and Wooster. I highly recommend it.

100 Favorite Female Characters OnScreen

This was actually really hard.  I could shoot you off 100 dudes in no time, but I had to do a lot of IMDb surfing to find these.  So, who am I missing?

1. Abbey Bartlett, Stockard Channing (The West Wing)
2. Ainsley Hayes, Emily Procter (West Wing)
3. Anna, Jodie Foster (Anna and the King)
4. Anne Shirley, Megan Follows (Anne of Green Gables)
5. Annie Wilkes, Kathy Bates (Misery)
6. Ariel (The Little Mermaid)
7. Aurora (Sleeping Beauty)
8. Barbara Novak, Renee Zellweger (Down with Love)
9. Baroness, Anjelica Huston (Ever After)
10. Beatrix Kiddo, Uma Thurman (Kill Bill)
11. Belle (Beauty and the Beast)
12. Brenda, Bette Midler (First Wives Club)
13. Buffy, Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy)
14. Cady, Lindsay Lohan (Mean Girls)
15. Carrie, Sissy Spacek (Carrie)
16. Catwoman, Eartha Kitt (Batman)
17. Charlotte (Charlotte’s Web)
18. Cinderella, Lesley Ann Warren (Cinderella)
19. CJ Craig, Allison Janney (The West Wing)
20. Clarice Starling, Jodie Foster (The Silence of the Lambs)
21. Clarissa, Melissa Joan Hart (Clarissa Explains it All)
22. Cruella de Vil, Glenn Close (101/102 Dalmatians)
23. Danielle, Drew Barrymore (Ever After)
24. Debbie, Joan Cusack (Addams Family)
25. Eddie, Jennifer Saunders (Ab Fab)
26. Elena, Catherine Zeta Jones (Chicago)
27. Elise, Goldie Hawn (First Wives Club)
28. Elizabeth Bennett, Jennifer Ehle (Pride & Prejudice)
29. Elizabeth II, Helen Mirren (The Queen)
30. Elizabeth, Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth)
31. Elle, Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blonde)
32. Emily, Joan Cusack (In & Out)
33. Grace, Brenda Blethyn (Saving Grace)
34. Gracie Lou Freebush, Sandra Bullock (Miss Congeniality)
35. Gwen, Sigourney Weaver (Galaxy Quest)
36. Helen, Jamie Lee Curtis (True Lies)
37. Jane Tennison, Helen Mirren (Prime Suspect)
38. Jane, Susan Sarandon (Witches of Eastwick)
39. Jean Brodie, Maggie Smith (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie)
40. Julia Child, Meryl Streep (Julie & Julie)
41. Karen, Megan Mullaly (Will & Grace)
42. Laine Hanson, Joan Allen (The Contender)
43. Lamia, Michelle Pfeiffer (Stardust)
44. Laurie, Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween)
45. Leeloo Dallas Multipass, Milla Jovovich (5th Element)
46. Leontine, Fiona Shaw (Triumph of Love)
47. Lisa Cuddy, Lisa Edelstein (House)
48. Madeleine Kahn (Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, History of the World Part 1)
49. Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty)
50. Marge, Frances McDormand (Fargo)
51. Marquise de Merteuil, Glenn Close (Dangerous Liaisons)
52. Mary Poppins, Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins)
53. Matilda, Mara Wilson (Matilda)
54. Matron Mama Morton, Queen Latifah (Chicago)
55. Melinda, Kristen Stewart (Speak)
56. Merryweather (Sleeping Beauty)
57. Mia Thermopolis, Anne Hathaway (Princess Diaries)
58. Mildred Hubble, Georgina Sherrington (The Worst Witch)
59. Miranda, Meryl Streep (Devil Wears Prada)
60. Miss Minchin, Eleanor Bron (A Little Princess)
61. Miss Perky, Allison Janney (10 Things I Hate About You)
62. Molly Weasley, Julie Waters (Harry Potter)
63. Morticia Addams, Anjelica Huston (Addams Family)
64. Mrs. Macbeth, Maureen Tierney (Scotland PA)
65. Mrs. Tingle, Helen Mirren (Teaching Mrs. Tingle)
66. Mrs. Wilkinson, Julie Waters (Billy Elliot)
67. Nina Garcia (Project Runway)
68. Ofelia, Ivana Baquero (Pan’s Labyrinth)
69. Patsy, Joanna Lumley (Absolutely Fabulous)
70. Pippi Longstocking (Pippi Longstocking)
71. Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher (Star Wars)
72. Princess, Mira Sorvino (Triumph of Love)
73. Principal, Joan Cusack (School of Rock)
74. Private Benjamin, Goldie Hawn (Private Benjamin)
75. Rainbow Brite (Rainbow Brite)
76. Raymond’s mother, Angela Lansbury (The Manchurian Candidate)
77. Ripley, Sigourney Weaver (Alien)
78. Sally, Catherine O’Hara (Nightmare Before Christmas)
79. Sally, Meg Ryan (When Harry Met Sally)
80. Samantha, Kim Cattrall (Sex and the City)
81. Sara Crewe, Liesel Matthews (A Little Princess)
82. Sarah, Jennifer Connolley (The Labyrinth)
83. Scarlett O’Hara, Vivien Leigh (Gone With the Wind)
84. Serafina Pekkala, Eva Green (The Golden Compass)
85. She-Ra (She-Ra)
86. Susan Stanton, Emma Thompson (Primary Colors)
87. Susan, Meryl Streep (Adaptation)
88. Terry, Joyce Hyser (Just one of the guys)
89. Tina Fey (Mean Girls, SNL, 30 Rock)
90. Tommy, Pam Ferris (Death to Smoochy)
91. Tracy Turnblad, Nikki Blonsky (Hairspray)
92. Velma Kelly, Catherine Zeta Jones (Chicago)
93. Veronica, Winona Rider (Heathers)
94. Victoria, Julie Andrews (Victor/Victoria)
95. Warden Walker, Sigourney Weaver (Holes)
96. Wednesday Addams, Christina Ricci (Addams Family)
97. Willow, Alyson Hannigan (Buffy)
98. Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman)
99. Xena, Lucy Lawless (Xena)
100. Yzma, Eartha Kitt (The Emperor’s New Groove)

Female Filmmakers; Women Directors

There’s an interesting article over at Film School Rejects which basically lists about a hundred films directed by women.  Now, I do appreciate that there are not very many women directors, or at least, not a lot of successful ones, but I do think that it’s useful to look at the entire field of filmmaking.  After all, directing is just one part of the puzzle — movies are written, edited, produced, and a million other things.  Even movies with leading females aren’t that common.  Statistics from San Diego State University.  Last Year (2008):

  • Only 6 of the top 50 grossing films (12 of the top 100 films) starred or were focused on women.
  • Women comprised 9% of all directors.
  • Women accounted for 12% of writers.
  • Women comprised 16% of all executive producers.
  • Women accounted for 23% of all producers.
  • Women accounted for 17% of all editors.
  • Women accounted for 25% of production managers.
  • Women comprised 44% of production supervisors.
  • Women accounted for 20% of all production designers working on the top 250 films.
  • Women comprised 5% of sound designers.
  • Women accounted for 5% of supervising sound editors working on the top 250 films.
  • Women comprised 1% of key grips.
  • Women accounted for 1% of gaffers working on the top 250 films of 2008.

Even film critics are overwhelmingly male:

In Fall 2007, men penned 70% and women 30% of all reviews.  Furthermore, of the newspapers featuring film reviews, 47% had no reviews written by women critics, writers or freelancers. In contrast, only 12% had no reviews written by men critics, writers or freelancers.

So what do I have to offer as a way to remedy this?  Not much.  There are some resources out there, but you usually have to pay money to join.  Or else they’re just not updated that often.

Go and be depressed now.

http://www.allianceofwomendirectors.org/

http://www.wif.org/

http://blog.moviesbywomen.com/