Only 4%

In the past 13 years, women only directed 4% of the top Hollywood movies. Movies and media become a part of our understanding of the world and our culture, so wouldn’t the world be better off if the “other” half of the population also were enabled to create and direct movies?

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#chicagoGirl: The Social Network Takes on a Dictator

MV5BMTgwODIxMjM3NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzYzODA2NjE@._V1_UY268_CR9,0,182,268_AL_As the Syrian revolution has been fighting long for their freedom from the brutal dictatorship of Bashar Hafez al-Assad, and as the refugee crisis intensifies, this documentary offers a harrowing, and incredible perspective about these massive, current issues. With the immense help of gathering people via Facebook and other social networks, the regimes of Egypt, Tunisia and and Libya had successfully been dismantled by the people, and Syria was attempting to follow suite. But al-Assad’s reign of terror has continued.

This documentary titled, #chicagogirl: The Social Network Takes on a Dictator, takes you into the world of a Syrian activist fighting for her people through the power of the connections through social networks.  This film is available on Netflix, and follows the life of Ala’a Basatneh, the young woman leading the revolution in Syria from her home in Chicago. Through the power of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, Basatneh functions as the main person bringing the pieces of the revolution together on the internet. Be aware that this documentary shows graphic scenes of the violence and terrifying real footage of people outrunning snipers and blasts from the regimes army. I highly recommend this film for the understanding it provides in relation to the Syrian conflict and for the incredible young woman behind the scenes in the revolution.

 

The Force Awakened My Love of Star Wars

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Notice in this official movie poster, the female character isn’t below the male characters for a change, and has a fierce stance, instead of a sexualized position, as we are used to seeing. Photo Credit: StarWars.com

(No spoilers here.)

The new Star Wars movie, the Force Awakens, which has already set records and earned $813 million dollars worldwide, has a fierce female lead and demonstrates how epic movies can be when they utilize a female character fully. Just check out how refreshing, and awesome this movie is! Go see it.

Us ladies are just so used to not seeing women getting to do anything interesting in films, cause it’s so few and far between, when they actually do get to be an integral part of the story, it’s very refreshing. Movies like this, (Mad Max, Fury Road is another great example) are going to set the trend going forward, showing that women are real people, with depth of character and extraordinary talents that make movies epic. These new movies are going to make the films that exclude women look very old fashioned. People are hungry for characters who aren’t just white males, and Star Wars delivered.

Rey, the female lead, has depth of character, tremendous fight in her, a mysterious back story, and she kicks ass and takes names. Also, it passes the simple Bechdel Test, something majority of films amazingly cannot do. (A movie that has more than 2 female characters who have names, who talk to each other, about something besides men.) Throughout the movie, I saw many scenes where at least one woman was present, (also something most movies cannot do) and there were many occasions, where women were an integral part of the story line, not just on the side lines of the story.

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Photo credit: Comicbookmovie.com

During a scene where the Resistance is fighting back, there is a female character flying one of the planes and shooting at the evil First Order and taking part in discussions with her fellow fighters. Lupita Nyong’o’s character, Maz Kanata, makes me think of Yoda, except even more quirky and interesting. Maz Kanata runs her own business and is a crucial source of information in the story and supplies something very critical to Rey. And a certain female General commands a terrific presence in which she is a confident leader. There were females on the dark side though too, including a robot leader.

Why is all this so important? It is important to have women in roles where they are a part of the story, because, in the real world, women are a part of the story of life too, something that should be reflected in media so girls (and boys) aren’t brought up thinking women can’t, or shouldn’t, do things. It’s amazing what having role models in movies can do. The alternative to having women in movies is to ignore women’s existence in films, something I think we all can agree is not only old fashioned, but a rough deal for everyone involved, particularly women. I was also glad to see a man who is black as a lead role too, changing the dynamic of whiteness, at least a little bit, in the film. He was an integral part of the story as well and emerged as a moral hero from the beginning.There could have been more female characters at the table making decisions in some scenes, but overall this film was wonderfully refreshing and the lead character, Rey, was a ruler of her own destiny and a crucial leader propelling the storyline forward. I am now a huge fan of Star Wars and hope they continue to include epic female leads going forward in the remaining Star Wars films. 

 

Something is Missing

One night, I decided to sit down, relax and watch a little Apple TV. So I cruised the gazillion channel options and landed on the History Channel. These were the TV show options I faced:

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Photo credit: Screen shot of History Channel options, Julia View

The above options, (Mankind, The Men Who Built America, Mississippi Men, Monument Guys, Mountain Men, No Man’s Land, Noreaster Men) were only a smattering of my choices. Don’t worry, there was also, Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy, Rivermen, The Woodsmen, The Great Satini Brothers and Axmen, among similar others,  to choose from. Who can tell me what’s missing from these TV show choices? Yes, you  in the back. Women. Yes, women are missing.

Out of the entire 84 TV show choices available to choose from, only one seemed to have anything to do with a woman: Bonnie & Clyde. That’s it. The rest were staggeringly lacking in a key ingredient to humankind: Women. Oh, and there was one small History Special about the sex lives of “our nation’s leaders” and how said sex lives changed America. So there were probably some sexual female bodies in that show, draped across men who did stuff. Great.

I’ve watched many other TV shows from the History Channel, ( including the entire series called Mankind: The Story of All of Us) and this trend of the near-nonexistence of women appears to be nothing new. Mankind: The Story of All of Us is intended to be a show about all of humankind. But, in the entire series, it is rare to see a female face or even hear the mention of a female figure in history.

According to the History Channel, women have done nothing of value to contribute to society and we have nothing to see. This is the message they are sending to the general public, whether it was their intention or not. I guess, after all, it is called his-story…

Let’s get some herstory up in here. Better yet, some heristory.

Mad Max: Fury Road is Epic

MM-Main-Poster Wow. What a crazy, kick-ass movie. I absolutely recommend this film for several reasons:

1. Firstly, there is an incredible female protagonist in the forefront, a rarity in movies. Holy shit, it is so refreshing to actually have an interesting female front runner in such a movie! I’m consistently disappointed by the nearly-complete absence of female faces on movie screens, but it looks like that’s starting to change for the better. Charlize Theron plays Furiosa, a powerful hero who drives her own destiny and steers other characters in the direction of the insane plot. (Both puns intended because she drives a semi truck. Har-di-har.)

2. Secondly, the desolate world these mad-characters live in is a stark and horrifying depiction of our obsession with oil and how we are effectively destroying the planet. “Who killed the world” is a phrase heard throughout the film. Water and plants are a rarity in the ravaged wasteland and human suffering is a clear symptom.

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Photo credit abc.net.au

3. Thirdly, it’s just a mind-blowing action film. The way it’s filmed is thrilling. The cars and trucks (and characters) were all created to look vastly unusual, the action never stops and it was all filmed in real life settings in Namibia.

4. Last, and certainly not least, I also recommend the film for how it admonishes the way women are treated in our real world by demonstrating the grotesque treatment of women in the movie as baby-ovens, mere sexual bodies and  milk producers. Director George Miller said, “I can’t help but be a feminist.” And who could help it when feminism means equality and respect? Who wouldn’t want women to be equally represented in films, unless they were blatantly sexist and wanting to keep women in their ‘place’?

One outspoken, small-potatoes opponent of the film decries it saying “It looks like that action guy flick we’ve desperately been waiting for” but instead he calls it “feminist propaganda.” Yeah, cause women finally playing interesting roles for a change is ‘propaganda’. Is he sad because he’s been desperately waiting for yet another guys-action film? Women have been waiting for any interesting film about them. Hollywood gives us nearly nothing. I think this guy is a pretty good representation of  the people who wouldn’t like the film because, waaaaah, women get to do stuff in it.

He calls himself the “Captain of Capitalism” and runs an advisory for “Asshole Consulting.” Well, at least he admits it. Ha. You just can’t make this stuff up. So the film has had some meager push-back from people like him,  for having strong female leads and I just find that argument more and more absurd. Every time a woman gets to play an interesting or complex role and gets to be on camera doing something on her own instead of being a sexual toy for a man, or a token character, all of a sudden it’s like “Woah, woah! Feminism! All these women in movies!” That mentality is just sad. But this movie goes above and beyond being awesome allowing women to be awesome too.

So of course, it passes the Bechdel Test hands down with several female characters acting in valiant and plot-driving ways. Who’da thought women could be entertaining heroes to a diverse set of Americans? Turns out, a lot of people. $109 million dollars opening weekend says a lot of people will pay to see an action movie with not just men being incredible, but women too.

P.S. For those of you ladies who like to dress up as kick-ass women for Halloween, but have trouble finding decent ones in the media, Furiosa is definitely at the top of the list.

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Photo credit: Carboncostume.com 

The Rum-running Queen

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1921 photo of confiscated barrels and bottles.                                       (Photo source: Library of Congress)

I was just nerding-out to a show about American history on Netflix when something captivated all my attention: The mention of a woman by the name of Willie Carter Sharpe who was an outlaw in 1928 during prohibition. At 26 years old, she ran bootleg-liquor across the border of Virginia, to other states, often with police chasing her, shooting at her tires. They called her the Rum-running Queen.

“It was the excitement that got me… Cars skattering, dashing along the streets.” -Willie Carter Sharpe.

Wouldn’t that be an awesome premise for a movie? “The Rum-Running Queen”

When you look her up on Google, there is very little information about her: Just a few blurbs here and there including this brief mention from the Franklin News Post.

“Some of those witnesses [from a trial], called rumrunners, said they had moved more than a million gallons of whiskey out of the county during the period covered in the indictment, traveling in caravans at high speed with ‘pilot’ cars running interference to ‘ward off any officers that tried to stop them.’ (One of those rumrunners was a woman, Mrs. Willie Carter Sharpe, who said she moved more than 220,000 gallons between 1926 and 1931.” 

I would love to know more about this interesting historical figure.

Here is the brief clip about her from the history show. For whatever reason, I could only find it in French. But it gives you the idea. (Fast forward to :39 to see Ms. Willie Carter Sharpe)

Sources:

Franklin News Post. “Moonshining built on long history” 2015. Web. 2015. http://www.thefranklinnewspost.com/article.cfm?ID=9297 

“America: The Story of Us” Season 1 Episode 8. Directors, Marion Milne, Jenny Ash, Clare Beavan, Andrew Chater, Nick Green, and Renny Bartlett. Netflix. April 2010. Web. April 2015.