Women in Hollywood

“ Nobody’s to blame for the situation in Hollywood. But you can either sit around and talk about how bad it is, or you can do something about it”. Reese Witherspoon.

For many, Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress in the film ‘Boyhood’ at the 2015 Oscars is unforgettable. Why? She utilised the time to address gender inequality in Hollywood, attributing her award “To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation: we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and to fight for equal rights for women in America.”
And if Arquette’s powerful plea wasn’t memorable enough, Meryl Streep’s reaction is pretty hard to forget.

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Arquette isn’t the first Hollywood celebrity to raise the issue. Cate Blanchett used her Oscars 2014 Best Actress in Blue Jasmine speech to chastise Hollywood for not valuing female protagonists, berating those, “who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the centre are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them, and in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people.”

Outside of passionate Oscars speeches, word has also been leaked that stars such as Amanda Seyfried and Jennifer Lawrence have been paid only a fraction of what their fellow male co-stars have been paid in big budget films. So what exactly is being done in order to change this inherent gap?

As it turns out, there are actually plenty of female Hollywood icons that are empowering their fellow female workers via a means of platforms. For instance, in 2012 Reese Witherspoon teamed up with Australian Producer Bruna Papandrea to create Pacific Standard, a production company run by women, with the aim to create more meaningful roles for women. Within two years the company has already produced three major-hit films including Gone Girl, Wild and Hot Pursuit, with several more films in production now.

Also in America is The Writers Lab, an initiative run by New York Women in Film and Television, and funded by Meryl Streep, which annually brings together 12 women over the age of 40 for an intimate gathering and intense workshop.

Locally, there is The Dollhouse Collective, a Sydney based Production Company run by Rose Byrne, Krew Boylan, Shannon Murphy, Gracie Otto and Jessica Carrera whose aim is to produce films from a female perspective.

With statistics reported by Stacey Smith of the University of Southern California showing a sad reality (Of the top 250 grossing films of 2014, only 17% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers were women. And of 5799 characters of 120 popular global films of the same year, only 30.9% were female, with only 23.3% of those films having a female lead or co-lead) I think it’s gone past the time that we need to band together as women to make a change. Change needs to happen now! So whether it is supporting the films that are produced by these female-empowering companies or protesting in equal rights rallies, I think it’s important that we all do our bit to make a difference.

References:

Dimmitt M (2015), ‘Girls on Film’, Renegade Collective, no. 22, pp. 52 – 55.

Manelis M (2015), ‘Reese Witherspoon’, Renegade Collective, no. 23, pp.47 – 49

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Differentiating Between Cultural Appropriation and Appreciation

The last couple of years have seen a rise in the popularity of Native American ‘inspired/themed’ clothing, events and keepsakes. I never understood why, but I always felt a pang of annoyance whenever someone would post a photo of his or her new dream catcher tattoo, or their arrow tattoo or really anything that popularized these symbols for their aesthetics. I’m not saying that I don’t think these items are pretty – they are beautiful – but I always felt that these people who were tattooing these sacred images on their bodies or buying them from non-Native market sellers were not appreciative (or even aware of) the sacred meaning these items behold.

I am not of Native American heritage; however growing up I did spend some time at the Hopi Reservation (where my name originates from) in North-Eastern Arizona, where I learnt a lot about the Native American history, their beliefs and sacred practices. As a little girl I would make dream catchers and hang them in my room in an area where the sun could reach the circle in the centre so that my bad dreams would disappear and only good thoughts could enter my mind. Whilst the dream catcher has been used cross-culturally, it originally comes from the Ojibwe tribe, where it is still considered sacred.

This is where my frustration with the dream catcher tattoos and general popularization of the figure stemmed from. I had grown up knowing and respecting the traditions surrounding the dream catcher, and I couldn’t (and still can’t) help but shake the feeling that a lot of people decorating their bodies and personal spaces with this sacred item had/have no clue of its meaning, and instead enjoy the item for its pretty appearance.

Learning about cultural appropriation helped me make sense of the dream catcher’s popularity in the Western world and explained my annoyance with people exploiting it. So what is cultural appropriation? Scafidi, the author of ‘Who owns culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law’, describes it as “Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artefacts from someone else’s culture without permission … This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc. It’s most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.”

In a Jezebel article by Katie Baker, the journalist asks Scafidi if non-Natives should refrain from buying Native American made or inspired goods out of respect. Scafidi denied this notion, but advises considering what she calls the 3 S’s; Source (has the source community invited you to share this particular part of its culture?), Significance/Sacredness (what is the cultural significance of the item – is it an everyday item or a religious artefact that requires greater respect?) and Similarity (How similar is it to the original?).
Or if you are still troubled, Taté Walker outlines 4 ways in which one can honour Native Americans without Appropriating, including supporting Native Artists, Considering Native-led movements, by calling out appropriation and supporting non-Native companies or organisations that actively honour Native Culture.

Because dream catchers have been adapted cross-culturally, a Non-Native adorning their space with dream catchers is less problematic than, for example, wearing a war bonnet, however when considering purchasing Native American inspired goods, I think it’s very important that one researches the item before buying it.

Further References:

Johnson M, 2015, What’s Wrong with Cultural Appropriation? These 9 Answers Reveal Its Harm, Everyday Feminism, weblog, 14 June, viewed 31 August, <http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/06/cultural-appropriation-wrong/?utm_source=SocialWarfare&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=SocialWarfare&gt;

Native Appropriations, 2010, Native Appropriations, Weblog, viewed 31 August 2015 <http://nativeappropriations.com&gt;

Walsh K, 2015, IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Have a Culturally Insensitive Tattoo, xojane, weblog, 9 June, viewed 31 August, <http://www.xojane.com/it-happened-to-me/cultural-appropriation-tattoo&gt;

Ghost in the Shell Analysis

When comparing my two previous posts on Ghost in the Shell, it becomes very apparent that I was somewhat out of depth to begin with. But not being one to fall in defeat, I pushed myself to learn what I could in order to make sense of my experience.

This auto-ethnographic experience has been a real learning curve for myself. Whilst the study of ethnography isn’t new to me, anime as a genre is. I found grasping the plot of the film difficult to begin with as not only was anime a whole new concept for me to deal with, there were a lot of new conventions being played out in front of me. After viewing the film for the first time, all that I had gathered was that it was another film that questioned what it means to be human. A theme that has been used in many films before, and is continuously questioned by many a philosopher time and time again.

However, upon commencing research on the genre of anime, I learnt of a lot of conventions that were utilised in this particular film and found that it actually connected a lot of dots in my head. Suddenly the film’s plot wasn’t so simple anymore. The way in which defining what it means to be human in this film is backed up by theories of evolution that have the potential to one day become a reality.

Now that I have found clarity in the films theme, I am left wondering two things:
1: Obviously not to the extent in Ghost in the Shell, but I wonder if we would be able to utilise using mechanical body parts to help people with illnesses such as Motor Neurone Disease, MS, people who have lost sensations due to stroke and even amputees. I know that there are prosthetics and some mechanical body parts available, but what if we were able to give these people fully working (ie. touch sensitive) mechanical body parts that look like a normal body part?

2: I’m very curious to see how Hollywood adapt this film in 2017.

SIDENOTE: Just as I was about to click ‘Publish’ I saw this article. It’s about body parts that are being recreated by science 🙂

An Anime Auto-ethnographic Experience Take 2.

Watching ‘Ghost in the Shell’ was a whole new experience for me. Whilst I didn’t particularly enjoy the film, it was a genre that I don’t often (if ever) watch. As I wrote in my previous post, I found it hard to keep up with the film as my mind was constantly wandering elsewhere. What I did gather from the film was a strong theme of questioning what it means to be human.
When it was put to the class that we had to continue from our previous posts, I found myself at a mental standstill. I had no idea what further thoughts I had of the film. And to be really honest, I hadn’t given the film a single thought since watching it. In a somewhat confused state, I began analysing my previous post and looking at ways in which I could progress in examining Ghost in the Shell.
My first thought was that I don’t really have a great understanding of what anime is. I knew that anime is a Japanese animated production and that the genre became particularly popular in the Western world during the 60’s when Astro Boy was produced in English.
So I started researching the history of Anime and found that I was able to make sense of some things that had confused me with a basic understanding of anime conventions. Here are some things that I found interesting with regards to the history of anime and Ghost in the Shell:
– Anime is a diverse art form with distinctive production methods (eg. There is less focus on movement and more on the realism of settings) and techniques that have been adapted over time in response to emergent technologies.
As it turns out, the film ‘Ghost in the Shell’ was one of the first films to be produced using a combination of both cel animation and computer generated images.
I also wondered how the philosophy behind the futuristic setting of the film (2029) would be conveyed in other genres. The production of Ghost in the Shell as an anime seems to perfectly fit the genres production techniques, allowing for heavier themes to underlie the storyline. I wonder how well the moral of the film will adapt to the forthcoming Hollywood release.

– Diverse art styles are used and character proportions and features can be quite varied, including characteristically large emotive eyes or realistically sized eyes. Body proportions also tend to accurately reflect the proportions of the human body in reality.
This particular convention lit a light bulb in my head and made me think straight away of the nudity in the film. The nudity was not overly sexualised, it was just showing a human body, although it was a point that a lot of students in the class (including myself) raised as somewhat odd. Perhaps the nudity in this film was to make Kusanagi seem more “real”, more “human” in a world where the meaning of being human was constantly being contested.

With a basic understanding of anime conventions under my belt, I found that I was able to understand the films theme with a lot more clarity.
This futuristic film questions what it means to be human in a world where a vast electronic network pervades all aspects of life.
In the film, the term ‘ghost’ is used to define an individual’s conscious. Science has redefined the ‘ghost’ as the thing that differentiates a human being from a biological robot, meaning that as long as an individual retains their ghost, they retain their humanity.
The process of evolution in the film also acts as a major theme. Except that in this world, evolution is a process of merging two sets of DNA together in order to create a third. An example of this is the story of Kusanagi, a cyborg who was once a human, although due to an illness as a child had most of her body replaced with cybernetic prosthetics. Throughout the film we see Kusanagi continuously question whether or not she was actually once a human. At the end of the film Kusanagi’s body is destroyed and her brain is put in a new body.
Whilst this demonstrates the process of evolution in the film, it also questions what it means to be human beyond having the ability to think. If all bodies were replaced with cybernetic parts would you still be human? Does replacing the brain still make one human? What exactly does being human mean?!

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The Truth Within the Paleo Diet

“ADHD, Autism, Allergies, Anxiety, Asthma, Bi-Polar, Cancer, Chronic Fatigue, Depression, Dementia, Diabetes, Dyslexia, Heart Disease, Schizophrenia, Obesity are all diseases that begin in the gut…. You know what else begins in the gut? A great big load of shit.” Charlie Pickering, 2015.

The Paleo Diet. A “new” fad diet that by now, I’m sure everyone has heard of. But just in case you haven’t, here’s a quick lowdown. The Paleo diet, or Palaeolithic Diet is a diet based on what our ancestors of the Palaeolithic era would have eaten. It avoids foods such as grains, legumes and many dairy foods and instead opts for lean meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, non-starchy vegetables and nuts. This highly celebrity-endorsed diet claims to cure many diseases and guarantees rapid weight-loss results.

Balzer, 2007

Balzer, 2014

Well known Australian chef and Paleo-Diet-Endorser Chris Evans (AKA ‘Paleo Pete’) was put under public scrutiny when ABC’s ‘The Weekly’ host Charlie Pickering gave a lengthy rant about the fad diet after both Channels 7 and 10 aired segments on the movement.

While the clip that Pickering is making a point about about does showcase the fad diet in all its glory, it also fails to mention how harmful the diet can be.
In Channel 7’s segment, we see that reporter Mike Willesee loses a noticeable amount of weight in the 5-week period, but when comparing the paleo food regime to his former “ice cream and coca cola” diet, it comes with no surprise that his weight improved!

“Advice such as ‘avoid all grains or all dairy’ only ensures people will miss out on vital nutrients, and adds confusion to an already noisy world filled with fad diets and empty promises of rapid weight loss.” Emma Bourke, Australian Heart Foundation, 2014

While the paleo diet does encourage eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, the exclusion of grains and dairy from a healthy diet means that people are missing out on vital nutrients. For example, grains (and other carbohydrate foods) are a good source of energy that provides essential nutrients and fibres, so the cutting out of this particular food group from a diet is not helpful in maintaining a healthy weight.

paleo_pyramids

Whilst the paleo diet has gained a large amount of interest (largely through celebrity endorsement), the Dieticians Association of Australia (DAA) is warning against the diet, saying there is no evidence supporting the advantages of the diet.
In fact, the DAA have conducted some of their own research, where participant’s paleo experiences were followed for three months. They found that in the short term, the diet was hard to adhere to and very costly, with some participants even dropping out! They also reinforce that with fad diets such as the paleo diet, which are promoted by celebrities, there is no responsibility held with regards to individual diet and health advice. Proving that, seeking the advice of an Accredited Practicing Dietician (APD) is the most beneficial avenue.

Reference List:

Balzer, B 2014, Paleo in 25 Words, Ben Balzer’s Palaeolithic Diet Site, weblog post, 2 July, viewed 23 August 2015, <http://benbalzer.com/?s=paleo+in+25+words&gt;

Bourke, E 2014, Heart Foundation Comment on Paleo Diet, Heart Foundation, viewed 23 August, <http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/news-media/Media-Releases-2014/Pages/heart-foundation-comment-paleo-diet.aspx&gt;

Dieticians Association of Australia 2015, Paleo Diet, Dieticians Association of Australia, viewed 23 August, <http://daa.asn.au/for-the-public/smart-eating-for-you/nutrition-a-z/paleo-diet/&gt;

Pickering, C 2015, The Weekly: Paleo Diet, online video, 19 August, Youtube, viewed 23 August, <https://youtu.be/gHOZhkjOclI&gt;

An Anime Experience

Being told that you’ll be watching a film during your first class for the session is always an exciting event. This unusual happening was made even more thrilling when we were given an option as to which film we wanted to watch. My attention had been grabbed. When we were asked if we’d prefer to watch Godzilla or a film that I didn’t quite catch the title of, I was really hoping that the majority vote was for the former, as I had no idea what the ‘Ghost’ movie was, and being a class about Digital Asia I was pretty safe in assuming that it wasn’t Patrick Swayze’s ‘Ghost’. But, alas, the majority vote went to ‘Ghost in the Shell’, an anime film. My heart dropped. I’m not a fan nor do I follow anime (outside of some childhood fave’s including Pokémon and Sailor Moon), so I was somewhat hesitant as the film began.

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Perhaps it was due to my lack of understanding of anime, but I found myself rather disinterested in the film, and spent the time distracting myself with thoughts about travel, market stalls and motorbikes.
However, there were a few times that the film did manage to grab my attention. The first being the use of the thermal invisi-shield, which I admit, I thought was a pretty cool inclusion for a 90’s film. Sci-fi digs aside though, I found that a lot of the film seemed to be questioning what it means to be human. It went beyond the ‘I think; therefore I am’ stigma and instead delved further into being human via means of showing feelings such as empathy and vulnerability, both of which were displayed with nudity and the desire to reproduce.
I don’t think that I’ll be watching anime films at leisure anytime soon, however I did find it interesting that Dreamworks have recently announced that they will be doing their own adaptation of the film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Scarlett Johansson. However, this has been greeted with much dismay from fans of the original Japanese anime form, who have created a petition and have so far got over 15,000 signatures in order to have Johansson’s role dismissed and instead replaced with an actress of Asian heritage.