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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Joan Rivers

Remembering Joan Rivers

Born in Brooklyn in 1933, Joan Rivers had a long and varied career in the entertainment industry before passing away on September 4, 2014 at the age of 81.

Joan Rivers’ began her career in New York City, performing stand-up in Greenwich Village. She was first introduced to a national audience when she appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1965. Her appearances with Carson were groundbreaking for women in comedy, and particularly women on late-night television. Seeing a female face in that male-dominated field was unusual at the time, if not unheard of.

Rivers appeared on the show repeatedly, until breaking ties in 1986 when she agreed to host her own show on a rival network (The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers). Although that show flopped, Rivers went on to host The Joan Rivers Show. She was awarded a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show Host (1989) after the show’s first year, and it continued to air for another four seasons, ending in 1993.

It was also unusual to see female directors at that time (something that we are still sadly struggling with), yet Rivers co-wrote and directed Rabbit Test (1978), a quirky film that was Billy Crystal’s first movie.

Beginning in the mid-90’s Rivers began working as an entertainment commentator, and first hosted Live from the Red Carpet for E! in 1996. It was the beginning of a long-lasting relationship with the network.

Rivers is perhaps best known to the millennial generation as the host of Fashion Police (2010-present). The show dissected celebrity fashion, more often than not relying on Rivers’ trademark humor.

While her jokes were not for everyone, Rivers’ story is an important part of the history of women in film and television.

Many female comedians (Whitney Cummings, Sarah Silverman) list Rivers among their inspiration. However, Rivers herself never liked to be called a pioneer.  I don't like when the ladies come up and say, 'Oh, you broke barriers for women.' ….You asked me am I proud to be a pioneer? I'm not a pioneer. I'm still in the trenches, I'm still breaking ground." The full interview can be seen here:

Rivers may have been attempting to break ground throughout her life, but that does nothing to negate the importance that she played in encouraging women to have a career within the entertainment industry.

For her snarky wit, often offense humor, and refusal to let her gender define her, Rivers will be sorely missed.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Tina Fey, Steven Seagel, and Women Behind the Scenes

Tina Fey, who we honored at New York Women in Film & Television's 2005 Muse Awards*, is in the news again.

This time it's not a brand new project or further mention of her non-existent sequel to Hocus Pocus. Instead, Tina Fey has had a grading scale named after her.

Yesterday, Stephen Follows released a study entitled ‘Gender within Film Crews’, which examines the gender divide in the top 2,000 grossing films of the last 20 years (1994-2013).

The statistics are not shocking to those who are well versed in what is happening behind the scenes in the industry. When Follows looked at all crew members on those 2,000 films, he found that only 22% were women.

Again, that will not come as a surprise to people within the industry. If you've worked in film or television in any capacity you're seen firsthand the skewed ratios.

Still, what is particularly disappointing is that there has not been a large jump in the percentage of women on film crews from 1994 until today. Indeed, if anything the percentage of women working behind the scenes has shrunk. According to Follows’ data, in 1994 22.7% of top grossing films had female crew members. In 2013 it was 21.8%.

In other words, on most studio films only 1 out of every 5 crew members is a woman.

To further the depressing news, the percentage of women hired to be writers, producers, editors, animators, and directors has decreased over the last twenty years.

The only fields that have seen growth have been roles within the makeup, art, and costume departments.

But where does Tina Fey come in?

As part of his study Follows looked at how many women were involved behind the scenes for each film. He found that although the average hovered around the 22% range, there was a large continuum.

On one end was Fey, whose crew for Mean Girls was 45% female. On the other end was Steven Seagel, who had a crew that was only 10% female.

Hence the moniker the Fey-Segel scale.

It’s great that Tina Fey is making news again, but wouldn’t it be even better if the percentage of female crew members that she hires wasn’t news at all?

 At NYWIFT a key part of our mission revolves around the promotion and better inclusion of women in all aspects of the industry. For more information about our organization, please click here.

Specific statistics can be seen within the PDF of Steven Follows’ work.

*Shamless plug (I work there). See

Please note: this post was also on NYWIFT's official blog.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Texting about Television: HIMYM Season 9 Series Finale

Sure, I could write a long torturous post about how disappointed I was with the finale of 'How I Met Your Mother' and how my life is practically over and MY GOD how could the showrunners do that to me?! But, you know, everyone's doing that.

Instead, here's a summation of my feelings about the finale expressed via frantic text message.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Shocking Plot Twist in "Dramatics, Your Honor", 'The Good Wife' S5Ep15

***Warning: Extensive Spoilers Below***

I had the most peculiar reaction to the big plot twist on last night's episode of 'The Good Wife'. I laughed.

Did I find Will Gardner's sudden death funny? Of course not.

Characters have died on shows before, but typically that death is written and packaged in such a way that emotions are heightened and tears are falling before the character takes his last breath. The music. The slow pan. The tears of the other characters on screen. We, as viewers, are shoved toward devastation. A prime example of this is Mark Greene's death on 'ER', a death set in the beauty of Hawaii with the soundtrack of 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow'.

Last night's episode of 'The Good Wife' gave us something else. Shock.

And so I laughed.

Because I couldn't believe it. Because even as the screen showed us Will's desperate client Jeffrey eyeing the guard's gun, even as we heard shots ring out, even as Kalinda and Diane stilled in shock outside the courtroom, it didn't seem quite real.

Everything was fairly fine for the first half of the episode. And then it just wasn't.

This, I believe, was the Kings' point. Death doesn't always warn you. It's often brutal and sudden. Death isn't always an episode that threatens the main characters but then kills the supporting ones instead. In reality death can destroy people who are central to our lives and leave us alone in an instant.

The episode was made more powerful by the actors' reactions to Will's shooting. Even when Kalinda and Diane discovered Will's body, bloody and covered by a sheet in the corner of the emergency room, they didn't break down in tears. Emotional music didn't play. They just stared and then began to call the people who mattered.

This death wasn't designed to be overly emotional. It wasn't an episode of 'Grey's Anatomy'. Sure, I sobbed for Lexie and Mark and George.

But I laughed for Will. I stared at the screen in increasing shock. I, like the characters on the screen, could not believe he was really dead. Tears come later.

Twitter exploded in response. People refused to believe that he was really dead, a reaction that echoes death in the real world.

The show prepared itself beautifully for this genuine reaction by barely preparing the viewers at all. We had been forewarned that this episode was an important one and a plot twist, but it seemed likely that it would have to do with the Federal case against Peter of which Will's potential testimony was a key component. The promo insinuated that Will betraying Alicia would be the turning point of season five.

Instead, Will's death will impact every major player on the show, it also shakes up the main plot of the first half of the season. The federal case against Peter was the major threat this season, yet it was insinuated that Will's testimony was essential. What will happen to that plot now that Will is dead?

I think it's also interesting to note that the first person after Will's sisters that Kalinda and Diane thought to call was Alicia. Regardless of the fallout between Alicia and Will, it is recognized that she need to know immediately. She is essentially his loved one.

Throughout the show a recurring joke (and truth) has been that Alicia is a handholder. She understands clients emotionally and helps them get through court. Lockhart/Gardner lost that when Alicia left to start her own firm. Will has never, throughout the show's history, been portrayed as being particularly good at handholding.

What if Alicia hadn't left? Would she have recognized the emotional distress of the client? Would she have sat next to him and talked him through his panic? Moments before Jeffrey Grant shoots the gun we see him reacting poorly to the prosecution and defense arguing and laughing with the judge. He shoots, in part, because he is alone. In prior seasons of the show Alicia would have been next to him.

Speaking of Alicia's involvement, it will be interesting to see what degree of guilt she feels. As a gesture of goodwill and loyalty to Will she did not meet with Jeffrey's parents when they requested a second opinion. If she had, there's a likelihood she would have taken the case. That she would have been in that courtroom and been the one shot. Or that her very presence would have caused Jeffrey to react differently.

At the end of season three of 'Downton Abbey' we had a similar plot twist. The show seemed all happy and content and then Matthew crashed his car and died. But even that didn't have quite the emotional impact of this death. Of course it was shocking and done with little advanced fanfare. But still, as I watched Mathew joyously drive his car down on empty road for an extended period of time my roommate leaned over and whispered, "something bad is going to happen".

In this episode of 'The Good Wife' we saw the client reach for the gun. It put me on edge, waiting anxiously to see what would happen. But ultimately we saw nothing. The camera had cut away to the courthouse hallways, following Kalinda, and so we weren't in the room when the shooting occurred. That distance. Hearing shots but not seeing anything that was happening, made the moment all the more shocking. Sometimes less is more.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Who is the Yellow King? Questions & Theories from True Detective

The internet's buzzing about True Detective and now that I've finally caught up I feel the need to make guesses just like everyone else!
Here are some theories that have been floating around and my responses to them.
1) Marty Hart is the killer.
While Hart is by no means likable, I don't buy him as the Yellow King. People have supported this argument by pointing out the scene where Hart hugs his daughters next to a drawing (in his own home!) of a spiral.
But who did that drawing? It looks like the artwork of a child. That coupled with his young daughter Audrey's realistic and disturbingly pornographic drawings of sex acts, placing her dolls in compromising positions, her later acting out, and her seemingly mature sexual promiscuity all suggest that Audrey herself was sexually abused. This suggests that Audrey is more connected to the Yellow King than Hart is (although still leaves room for the theory that Hart introduced her to him). But did he do it knowingly? His reaction to the boys sexually engaging with her in a car, while over the top and even sadistic, is not the action of a man who would have allowed his daughter to be sexually abused.
Of course, this does leave room for a disturbing truth: he may not allow anyone else to touch his daughter but could Hart have abused Audrey? Although he has shown a penchant for younger women they have all been legal and he seems disgusted by the sex trade, even going as far as offering a young Beth money to try to persuade her to leave the prostitution trailer park. Still, he has shown a shockingly violent reaction to others stepping in on women he views as "his", case in point his reaction when his first affair went south and she slept with someone else. That man certainly got a beating.
Still, Audrey being abused by the Yellow King isn't too much of a stretch. We all know he had a penchant for young children.
Could it have something to do with Dana's father? The scene where her mother oddly states "he wouldn't even give his own daughter a bath" suggests pedophilia in a roundabout manner.
Brandon Carbough writes about how the sequence of the girls playing with a tiara in the front yard which then ages them, is filled with dread not because anything specifically horrible happens to them, but rather that the passage of time is the horrible thing.
But what if during that transition from bossy older sister to drunken teen is more than it seems. Is Audrey scarred by her childhood? What exactly happened during the time period of that simple argument over the tiara? Perhaps even the tiara is a symbol; was Audrey the "princess" of the Yellow King?
2) Beth is the missing girl
This is a theory I came up with while watching the show, though I am sure it has been posited elsewhere. When the detectives first run into Beth at the trailer park they're told she ran away to escape an uncle.
When the detectives go to interview the ex-football player with significant brain damage (who also is the missing child's uncle), the aunt says that she "loved it" there and spent more time there than at her own home. She also mentions that her husband was devastated when the girl disappeared.
The depressing play area that the detectives compliment may be shown as grey and dingy because the girl is missing, but it may also be that way because something sinister once happened there.
Is Beth that same child all grownup? Did her uncle somehow introduce her to the cult? Did she somehow survive the Yellow King? The fact that she is brought back into the series in episode five suggests that she has more to share; she is not just the reason for the dissolution of Hart's marriage but instead perhaps a clue in and of herself. Again, her sexual promiscuity may be a sign of childhood abuse. Did her uncle start it all?
3) Maggie is more involved than initially apparent.
Early on in the show we are made to feel for Maggie. Marty may not be a bad guy, but he's definitely a bad husband. But in episode six her true colors come to light. Not only does she seduce Rust, her main reason for doing so is to punish her husband. 'Not only did I cheat on you too, I did it with your partner!' The way she so blankly lies at the end of episode six, stating that she has no idea why Rust quit, makes her at the most a psychopath, or at the least a credible liar. Why?
Is it at all plausible that Maggie is the Yellow King? That would be particularly disturbing considering she is perhaps the most likable character for most of the first six episodes.
There are other hints that Maggie may be more involved than we think; viewers have pointed out there are several scenes where Marty is placed in scenes that have to do with antlers. People often interpret this as proof that he is the Yellow King, due to the crown of antlers on Dana's head.
But traditionally antlers are a sign of a cuckolded man; a man whose wife is cheating on him. This is a recurrent theme in Shakespeare plays, and considering the writer's affinity for classic literature he may be making his reference.
As far as we know the first time Maggie cheats on Marty is with Rust, right before he quits his job. Does she cheat on him in another way? Is she lying about her involvement in the murders?
Or, is the creator simply making a joke, reversing the idea of cuckolding by making the cheater (Marty) wear the horns.
Stepping away for traditional uses of the term, since the 1990s there have been fetishists who support cuckolding, the majority of them place the women in the sexually dominant role. Psychology often views this as a form of masochism. Again, both of these could support Maggie having some larger power.
Antlers can, after all, have dual purposes, they don't all have to be about the Yellow King. Or maybe, in a roundabout way, even the cuckolding reference is about the Yellow King.
4) Is Maggie's father the Yellow King?
He certainly has racist and conservative views, but do those views add up to make him a sadistic cult leader? Perhaps Maggie's lying abilities are from her father?
He would also have easy access to Audrey.