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One Week Out- A Last Look at the 2013 Oscars

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by Melissa Silverstein
March 4, 2013 2:00 PM
3 Comments
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Oscar

I left town the morning after the Oscars on a much needed vacation.  While I wasn't writing last week (and a big thanks goes out to Women and Hollywood writer Kerensa Cadenas for taking care of the site while I was gone), I didn't shut off my brain completely.  I was able to read all the post Oscar commentary from a different perspective, one where I could process it without having to immediately react.

I'm really glad that people reacted to the misogyny that was rampant on the stage the night of the Oscars. I read letters to the editor from concerned citizens who were shocked, to Hollywood insiders like Jamie Lee Curtis and Jane Fonda who made their discomfort with the boob song publicly known. 

Here's what Fonda said on her blog which she attended and presented the best director award:

"What I really didn’t like was the song and dance number about seeing actresses boobs. I agree with someone who said, if they want to stoop to that, why not list all the penises we’ve seen? Better yet, remember that this is a telecast seen around the world watched by families with their children and to many this is neither appropriate or funny. I also didn’t like the remark made about Quvenzhane and Clooney, or the stuff out of Ted’s mouth and all the comments about what women do to get thin for their dresses. Waaaay too much stuff about women and bodies, as though that’s what defines us."

Actress Jamie Lee Curtis took to the Huffington Post and discusses how she bread her breast for roles (she didn't like it) after trying to communicate her concerns privately:

"The "boob" song, as it will be known in perpetuity, may go down as the highest-rated Oscar number in history, but at what cost? I'm sure public executions would get big ratings too, but is that what the Oscars are truly about? Ratings? When did they turn into a "roast"? At least at a roast you know what's in store. What if actors and actresses stopped attending the Oscars because it was deemed open session to ridicule and parody them? Would the Academy be so cavalier then?"

The thing is that the regular folks who drop into the business of Hollywood one weekend at year were surprised at how blatantly anti-woman the Oscars were.  But I'm not surprised, and neither were both Jamie Lee Curtis and Jane Fonda.  What surprised me was how overt it was.  It's usually more subtle in public.  We display the pretty actresses, we honor the men and everyone goes home happy and then the cycle begins anew.  The bold public display of misogyny showed me that the folks in charge have gotten so comfortable with their status and power that they could show to the entire world their feelings about women.  While Hollywood pretends to be a progressive place we know it's not especially in regards to its treatment of women.  The evening felt to me like it was a push back to the incremental forward motion of women in the business.  The message was loud and clear message, be pretty and shut the fuck up.

The goal for the Academy in hiring Seth MacFarlane was to get more young white males to watch the show.  They accomplished their task and are defending their host because he did what he was supposed to do.  While I hated MacFarlane's humor, a week later, I don't blame him.  I blame the people in charge.  They wanted to pander to young men because they are not going to the movies anymore.  This scares the shit out of them because movies targeted at young men are all that they they know how to make.  The fact that these boys are more comfortable with the hand held devices is one of the biggest concerns to the power brokers, as if there are no other people who go to the movies.

It is not easy to stand up and take on the Academy (which is run by a woman Dawn Hudson- wonder how she felt?) I am glad the Cathy Schulman an Oscar winner herself for Crash and the head of Women in Film spoke with the press about the show:  "Among the women I’ve talked to today I would say I haven’t heard from any who thought it was in good taste."  And props go to Elizabeth Cantillon, film producer and executive vice president of production at Sony who also went on the record about her feelings:

"I was with a number of women in the movie business who were shocked that that's what the Academy Awards chose to emphasize when really what we should be doing is promoting growth to our business and what's great about our business."

You're talking about the great American actresses, you're talking about Angelina Jolie and Meryl Streep. People who have had long and successful careers, have won awards, and objectifying them and it's not right — even if you're trying to be humorous it's identifying a select group and picking on them for ridicule. Which I would think, with the history of the Academy and people who are contributors in Hollywood, that wouldn't be okay.

Even if it had been hilariously funny, I don't know that that should be the source of comedy on a show that is meant to promote our business around the world. These women are international stars, that's their business, they're important businesswomen as well as artists and that's key to success in our business and appreciating them.

Tabloids can do what they do, that's the cross of the business, but not the Oscars. I would be surprised if there was any woman in the movie business who was at the Oscars or watched the Oscars who wasn't offended by that."

But the best piece is the anonymous piece sent by a female development executive.  She is not surprised at what happened at the Oscars.  Sadly, to her, the Oscars was the tip of the iceberg of what women go through every day when they work in the business.

"I, for one, laughed heartily at Sunday night's award show, and probably for one fundamental reason: as a female executive in the movie business, I felt that McFarlane's jokes were grounded in very serious truths. Watching the "blatant sexism" of his performance doesn't even hold a candle to what I have witnessed on a day-to-day basis in this field.

This is a business in which actors are regularly judged for their financial value, and not for their creative merits. I have sat through development meetings in which actresses over the age of 34 are cast aside as "too old", those who have had babies or families come with "baggage," and whether or not they are willing to get nude on film plays into their chances of getting an offer, when these same traits are not deal-breakers in their male counterparts, or even mentioned for that matter.

I have had debates with coworkers in which I had to explain why a female character shouldn't be topless when it has nothing to do with the plot or character arc. I continuously joke that I have only ever won the Oscar pool when I successfully don my "80 year old white guy hat" in order to make my selections. And, whether we'd like to admit it or not, awards ceremonies have generally seemed to favor actresses who have had some form of nudity in their films.

She had to send this piece out anonymously, because like so many others, she is afraid of losing the job she loves very much. It's all about the small victories as she states:

"In fact, every time I express even the slightest opinion that is given due consideration by my male colleagues, it feels like a small victory (particularly if said opinion addresses their views towards women)."

While it was painful to watch, in hindsight, this was the best thing that could have happened.

It made people who don't pay attention to the lack of equity and the misogyny in Hollywood take notice, it emboldened women who might not otherwise talk about the sexism, and revealed what those of us who follow Hollywood regularly know so very well -- that Hollywood has a really big women's problem.

Now it's time to do something about it.

Academy Award Show Raises Ratings and Hackles (NY Times)

Seth MacFarlane got higher ratings for the Oscars, but he disrespected women along the way (NY Daily News)

And the Oscar Goes to... Hell (Huffington Post)

My Night at the Oscars And After (Jane Fonda)

Academy Defends Seth MacFarlane Despite Charges of Sexism (The Wrap)

Seth MacFarlane's 'We Saw Your Boobs' Song Outraged Women In Hollywood (Business Insider)

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3 Comments

  • Star | March 4, 2013 8:38 PMReply

    Tina Fey said Seth MacFarlane did a great job.

  • Jean Tait | March 4, 2013 4:38 PMReply

    " This scares the shit out of them because movies targeted at young men are all that they they know how to make. " 1) Amen to that and 2) It's all they know how to make because they don't value women's voices or women's stories.

  • manon banta | March 4, 2013 3:51 PMReply

    Seems depressing to know there was more respect and equality for women in the first years of the Academy Awards than now.

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