Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In which I talk about something important.

I tend to think about this sort of stuff a lot, and I read about it on twitter and on other people's blogs, but I haven't really written about it myself. This time, however, I feel like I need to say something and add my voice to the mix because something has happened that has reminded me about this problem. 

The problem is women being objectified as sex objects purely for the pleasure of men. 

Even deeper, often the problem is that women think being objectified in this way is ok. In fact, if given the opportunity it seems that some women are more than happy to be a sex symbol. Take Cameron Diaz, for example, in a recent article from The Sunday Times: "I think every woman does want to be objectified. There's a little part of you at all times that hopes to be somewhat objectified, and I think it's healthy... "

It's not healthy. I agree with Mary McGill who quoted Cameron in this article. My post is kind of connected with that so I suggest you read her words as well. 

Anyway, onto my particular vexation. 

Anyone who knows me well knows I'm a pretty big fan of the actress Jessica Chastain. Right now my head is almost exploding with anticipation for her latest flick, Zero Dark Thirty. If you go onto my tumblr, Jessica's face is my icon and sidebar picture. I reblog images of her in films and in photoshoots (I reblog loads of other non-Jessica things too, just putting that out there. Don't worry). I've seen almost every film she's been in so far. She even has a tag on this blog. I had a mini bout of insanity last month and thought I could work out a way to go see her performing in a play on Broadway in New York, and then came to my senses and realised it was near impossible, and was a bit disappointed. 

There are three reasons that I like Jessica. One is that I think she is a phenomenal actress, one of the absolute best in Hollywood at the moment. She's only been a known name in the industry for a few years and yet the latest gossip expects she'll be celebrating her second nomination at the next Academy Awards, and possibly her first win. 

The second is that she comes across as a lovely, funny, humble person in her interviews. I try and keep up with a lot of film-related news and often read about actors' and actresses' latest projects, so it's nice when a person seems to very genuine and enjoyable to read about. 

The third reason is that after years of hard work going through acting school in New York and doing small jobs,  Jessica got a big break and with all of her major films (shot over about five years) unusually all pushed back to 2011 releases, she had a bit of a dream run into the film industry. She's worked with Al Pacino, Terrence Malick, Kathryn Bigelow, Guillermo Del Toro, Ralph Fiennes, and Brad Pitt and is sure to be flagged down by many other big names in the near future. It's pretty lucky and doesn't happen very often but I like knowing that it can happen, because I hope one day to be in the film industry and it's encouraging to see what some people can achieve if they are passionate and determined. 

Anyway, back to the tumblr thing. I was on tumblr this morning and I follow quite a few people who post pictures of Jessica Chastain, so there's often a lot of her on my feed. I've seen hundreds of photoshoot images of her before, but when I saw the latest ones that had everyone else abuzz I was surprised (even a little shocked) to find myself feeling uncomfortable when I looked at them. It wasn't anything like I'd seen her do before. Here are the pictures: 
photo credit
photo credit
 If you haven't figured it out, GQ is a men's magazine. The header for the article is "IN BED WITH JESSICA CHASTAIN". Well, that's great, isn't it Jessica? You have reduced yourself to a hot redhead lying ready for however many men would like to picture themselves in that bed with you. Which is, I would think, every man that reads this magazine. 

I'm so disappointed that I feel a little sick. I feel like this photoshoot undermines Jessica's character in Zero Dark Thirty, which she made under the direction of Kathryn Bigelow. Bigelow is a great filmmaker and is, unfortunately, the only woman to ever win an Oscar for directing. There are a lot of great female directors out there and I hope that the number of those who have won an Acadamy Award increases soon. Zero Dark Thirty is yet to be released, but from what I've read, the story centers around Jessica Chastain's character, who is an independent, driven woman. There is not a hint of a love interest in her story. She is portrayed as the strongest, smartest character in the film. 

Why, then, does she choose to have that character cheapened by doing this photoshoot accompanied by an article where she talks about that character? I went on the GQ site to get these photos, and to get to it you have to click on the navigation button "GIRLS". 
The "article" is just below that page, so thankfully I didn't have to click on any of the sub-headings that you can see above. Ugh. The funny thing is that the actual article, or even part of it, isn't available on the website. You have to buy the magazine to read anything that Jessica said, so for anyone who doesn't fork over the £4 to read it gets to keep on imagining that she's just a sex symbol. Yay. 

I did track down parts of the article on other websites, so I found a little of what Jessica had to say: 

"It’s a huge compliment when someone says you’re attractive, especially when I was such an awkward kid – I was very tomboyish, with very short red hair, running around with cowboy boots on. So when someone tells me I’m a sex symbol I’m like, "what?".  But I’ll take what I can get.  That’ll teach all those boys back in Junior High! In fact, I hope my very first boyfriend, the guy I dated for one month and who broke up with me at the Valentine’s Day Dance – I hope that boy reads this article."

Jessica, I have to say that I hope he doesn't read it. I hope he came to his senses and realised that love and appreciation should not be based purely on a person's looks. And I hope you realise that too. I hope you realise that you don't need these kinds of photoshoots, that you don't need to use your body to prove something to someone. That you are enough without objectifying yourself. 

I feel affected by this because in some ways I look up to Miss Chastain. Sometimes I wish I could have her success, her beauty, her talents. But these pictures serve as a reminder to me that I am enough, that God made me the way he made me for a reason, and that I don't need to wish for something else because God loves me just the way I am, and other people will too. 

I shouldn't worry about what other people think of my body. About whether a guy will find me attractive because of the way I cut my hair. Or the kind of clothes I wear. Or how I sit or stand or speak. But it's hard sometimes. Especially when the examples placed before us tell us that we aren't good enough. 

To all the tomboys out there, the girls with short hair, the girls who run around in cowboy boots, the girls whose first boyfriends broke up with them because they didn't think you were pretty ... don't change yourself. You are beautiful and you are enough. 

Jessica, I'm still going to watch your movies and enjoy reading your interviews, but I hope you realise the affect that these kinds of things have on people. Even though you're not a household name all over the world, there are many, many people that you influence. I hope you will choose not to do these kinds of shoots in the future and that you will become an example that women can follow. There is no place in this world for objectification of anyone. Please don't do it to yourself. You deserve more than that.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Andersonian Kingdom

I can't pretend to know a whole heap about Wes Anderson's film world - I've only seen a couple of his films, but I'm going to throw it out there that Moonrise Kingdom might possibly be one of his best.

My experience so far of anything Andersonian (Life Aquatic, Fantastic Mr. Fox ... The Darjeeling Limited is also patiently awaiting me in a pile of rentals in the living room) has been enjoyable enough, but I still hadn't fallen altogether in love with his style. Nevertheless, I knew Moonrise Kingdom would be worth a watch ... but I really underestimated the power and beauty of this film.

Moonrise is the story of twelve-year-olds Sam and Suzy: penpals who fall in love and decide to run away together, causing a party of boy scouts, parents, island police and even Social Services to go gallivanting around in search of them.

The great thing about this film compared to the rest of Anderson's is that he's finally decided to go period - which actually fits his filming style. Anderson is extremely old-fashioned is his framing and shooting techniques so setting his story in 1965 is just about the best timezone he could possible throw himself into. Surprisingly, he was born in 1969 ... definitely one of those people not quite born in the right era.

I love it when new films makes reference to older classic films, stories or directors that started a genre or a movement or a style, and Anderson pays homage to many greats in Moonrise, including Shawshank Redemption, Stanley Kubrick, and Peter Pan ... but his biggest influence is most certainly Pierrot Le Fou by Jean-Luc Godard.

Obviously Anderson has a huge love for this film, as there are some uncanny resemblances: Pierrot Le Fou was filmed in 1965, for one; both films center around a couple on the run, Suzy's clothing reflects style icon Anna Karina, and the female protagonists of both films use scissors as a weapon. The scene in Moonrise that most brings Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anna Karina to mind is, of course, the beach scene.

I couldn't find amazing pictures of either film, but below you can see how watching Sam and Suzy dance together on the beach instantly reminded me of a Godard film.

The only things I can really fault are the cinematography - incredible shots most of the time but the occasional sloppy/soft frames - and the use of some of the cameos. I'm a big Coen Brothers fan so it was a shame to see Frances McDormand's amazing talent go a little to waste, as well as Tilda Swinton. Both these women rock on screen so I was disappointed that they weren't really in it much. At the same time I'm not sure how I would have felt if Anderson had used lesser known or even unknown actors for the parts, because there's still a great magic and nostalgia brought by the various big-name supports; you remember all the other films you've seen them in as you're watching it, which is part of what makes Moonrise special. It conjures up memories of past stories, real and fictional, and you start wishing you were a kid again. I think most Anderson films give you that feeling.

For all it's bizarreness, I absolutely loved this movie, and I really recommend you go and see it, especially if you're a lover of classics, or you're feeling nostalgic for your childhood, or you just want to run away and fall in love.