Guest Post

“I’m not a female filmmaker, I’m a filmmaker”: Breaking through the celluloid ceiling

I always kind of knew that being a woman in the film industry would be tough, but I never realized how tough it would be. I mean, it wasn’t until 2010 that a woman, Kathryn Bigelow, won an Oscar for best director. For god’s sake, they even played “I am Woman.” Patronizing much? What about “I am Director?”

In 2008, when I went to grad school for film at USC, which is the best film school in the world according to The Hollywood Reporter, only 13 of the 50 incoming filmmakers, were women. It wasn’t until 2010 when USC finally made a point of admitting 50% women, calling themselves “forward-thinking” and patting themselves on the back. What is this, 1950??

When I said I wanted to go into directing, my graduate advisor even told me “maybe pick something else, there’s not many women in directing. Try editing instead, women do that.” Being stubborn, I disregarded his advice and pursued my path and won the Harold Lloyd award for directing twice, and became the only woman selected to direct a major film in my year with a $12k grant and Academy-Award winning mentors.

Even after film school, when I became a television producer, I would regularly be told in executive meetings that they “wanted a woman at the table” but that I “shouldn’t speak to the clients, we just need a female presence.”  The boy’s club of executives would often criticize me for being too “aggressive” and “bossy” compared to other male producers.

Well screw that! I made sure that every executive meeting, I piped up and made my ideas heard, and it worked. I was able to create and produce my own primetime show, City Walk, before the age of 30, I created and directed a web series called Best Friends Book Club to encourage literacy in teenaged girls, I worked with Martin Sheen, Comedian Dane Cook, Adam Devine of Workaholics, Kevin Nealon of Weeds, Adam Carolla of The Adam Carolla Show, and many other talented actors.

I’ve also directed several films, including a documentary about third-wave feminism and pole dancing called Polar Opposites – despite the fact that a male colleague told me “no man will ever want to watch a film about just women” and another male filmmaker publically posted “I’ve got a pole they can climb” on our webpage. The joke’s on them, because after the film’s successful festival circuit, it was bought and broadcast by the Documentary Channel and I’m fairly certain those great ratings weren’t from women alone.

Now I’m a working director and producer, but it hasn’t been easy. I worked hard, but the very fact that we even need to have a Bechdel Test shows how far we still have to go in terms of women in the film industry.

So what can we do to promote equality in film and media?


o   Write better women characters

    • We don’t need any more films with Megan Fox being objectified, or damsels needing to be saved and sexy teenaged girls being pursued by a slasher. Write complex characters that have their own minds, their own lives, and their own flaws and problems. Check out Ms. Marvel who’s an amazing new superhero who not only battles supervillains, but also sexism and xenophobia towards her Muslim heritage.

o   Share your expertise

    • For years, we’ve been taught that women are all out to get each other. Surprise! We aren’t! And you can help even more by giving another woman a hand. Be a mentor, join a message board and share answers, help problem-solve. You might just get help yourself in return.
    • Get involved by supporting organizations working to change the inequality, such as Women in Film, Women’s Media Center and Women Make Movies.

o   Think equally

    • We often hear about “women’s films” and “chick flicks.” Guess what? Women are the majority of the world population, so maybe we should just call them “films.”

o   Support your fellow women

    • There are so few women in the film industry, so why not go out and celebrate how kickass they are! Nicole Perlman was the first woman to write a Marvel film and it’s amazing!

o   Neutralize your language

    • The days of “actor/actress,” “director/female director,” “cameraman” and “sound guy” are over. And it’s about time we found a new term for “Best Boy!” What about “First Assistant Grip” and “First Assistant Electric?” Language has power, and words can change minds. Many a time I’ve been on set with an amazing female “best boy” and it just s
    • Marvel is a great example of this when they announced that the new incarnation of Thor will be female and they made sure that their language reflects it: “This is not She-Thor,” senior writer Jason Aaron said in a Marvel release. “This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is THOR. This is the THOR of the Marvel Universe. But it’s unlike any Thor we’ve ever seen before.”







*Infographics courtesy of the New York Film Academy*


Caitlin Starowicz is an award-winning writer, director, and producer for film and television. She has been recognized by Women in Film and Television, DocUtah, the LA Times, Buzzfeed, Women Make Movies and The Documentary Channel. She can be reached through her website at and is always willing to help a fellow filmmaker.



Guest Blogger: Interview with John Deryl from Overturn

Guest Post/Interview conducted by Chelsee Yee.  Yee is a marketing intern with Overturn. She is a sophomore at Seattle University majoring in Journalism, with an additional interest in Criminal Justice. She enjoys reading Stephen King novels and watching horror flicks on the weekends.


Chelsee Yee: How do you manage playing the multi-role of being the director, producer, actor,
screenwriter, and composer for Overturn? It seems like a difficult and stressful task to
accomplish. Do you have a secret to facing this challenge?

John Deryl: There is no secret. But there is something very important. It is a real passion. My passion is to
make Overturn a high quality project. That is why I do so many different jobs. Every day I face
many challenges, but I know that eventually I will win because only I can limit myself. Other
people, no matter what they say or think, do not really influence my decisions. I do not like to
waste time on something cheap or trivial, and being the leading actor, screenwriter, director,
producer, and composer helps me control every aspect of the series and make sure that it
satisfies my demands for high quality.

CY: What can fans expect from Season 2? How does it compare to Season 1? How many
more seasons will Overturn run for?

JD: Overturn is unpredictable. There will be many surprises in Season 2. Undoubtedly, fans will
feel the same captivating atmosphere from Season 1, but in the new season, Overturn changes
dramatically. New characters, unexpected plot turns, beautiful fighting scenes and much
more will absorb them deeper into the world of our story. As for the number of seasons, I can’t
tell you exactly how many of them we will create. But I can say that the concept of Overturn is
so global that the series will have a multitude of subsequent seasons.

CY: Overturn holds the title of being “the first international sci-fi mystery web series.” Do
you plan on using other languages or subtitles in your show?

JD: Yes, our show is unique for having a cast and crew from different countries. We are using
other languages in it as well. For example, in the first season, Philippa Peter who plays Lisha,
spoke some phrases in one of the Nigerian languages. In Season 2, our audience will hear
Russian. Of course, we are planning to dub the show in other languages. We currently have
subtitles available for the audience. By the way, our fans help us a lot. They volunteer their
time to translate subtitles into their own languages, so that people of their countries can
watch the show on our website.

CY: As the cast and crew are all representatives of different countries, have their been any
language barriers or obstacles on set?

JD: Good question! There have been many quite amusing situations. A big part of our crew
is Russian speaking since we are filming in Ukraine, but many of our actors do not speak
Russian. Sometimes they cannot understand each other, but eventually, somehow they are
able to cooperate and listen to each other. By the way, I can open a big secret! One of our
leading actors, Konstantin Gerasimuk who plays the Servant, is Ukrainian. He does not know
English at all, but in the second season, you will see many scenes where he does speak English.
It is not a voice-over! Our crew is amazed! We translate his lines into Russian. He understands
their meaning, memorizes English lines and without knowing the language speaks them. He
looks like a person who knows English! It is magic!

CY: How did you come up with Christopher Gabriel’s character? Do you relate to him in
many ways? How would you overcome the fear he faces?

JD: I look at Christopher as a part of the story. He is deeply connected with everything in the
world of Overturn. As the show goes forward, the audience will realize how logical his life is
in the context of the story. I can understand his feelings of being not apt to this society. He is
deeply honest and vulnerable, but in this society people like him suffer because of the lie and
cold they see everywhere. Ordinary people use those things to protect themselves, but he is
far from being ordinary, so he cannot do the same thing. He is a mystery to others because
his inner world is very rich. On the other hand, he really has his inner fears which have deep
roots. I would say you cannot overcome your fears, but you can use them. By that, I mean you
have to face your fears. There is no other way.

CY: The caption for the show is, “His dreams are the key to the answer.” Do answers usually
come to you in dreams? How much trust and dependence can we really have with our

JD: Sometimes answers or at least clues come to me in dreams. It does not happen very often, but
when it does, I am glad. As for trust and dependence, I think everyone has to decide on their

CY: Are there any other side projects that you are participating in? If not, do you plan on
creating another web series?

JD: Currently, Overturn is my only project, but I have done other things in the past as well. Those
have been parts on film, TV, and stage. I am not planning on creating another web series right
now, but I am always open to well-developed, high quality projects.

CY: What has been the best experience so far in filming Overturn?

JD: I think the best experience happened last Tuesday when we were shooting in Feofania Park.
It is one of the many beautiful places in Kiev, the city where we are filming Overturn. The
atmosphere of the place was so calm and different from that of the city. There was no wind
and everything was foggy, so the whole crew felt like they were in another world. It was a
magical place and magical moment, and we filmed two charming scenes. Those kinds of
moments make you want to keep going no matter what!

Disney Princesses Come of Age

Guest post written by T. Johnson. T. Johnson is a blogger, au pair, and part-time tutor who has been obsessed with science fiction and comics since roughly first grade. One of her life`s big revelations was discovering Wonder Woman comics-another milestone was starting to read the works of Heinlein and Aldous Huxley. She has always been convinced that girls can be as truly nerdy as any fanboy.


Recent re-screenings of several Disney films has got me thinkng about the “Disney princess” phenomenon. As animation fanatics and a majority of parents know, Disney Studios made a bunch of movies with female heroines over a fifty-odd year time span. Most of them were based on fairy or folk tales, so the heroine was usually a “princess,” even if she started out disguised as something else. The “princess” movies remain hugely popular with audiences. They were re-mastered in handsome DVD and Blu-ray box sets, inspired hundreds of Halloween costumes and were responsible for the “princess party,” that staple of little girl birthday celebrations.

The films have their detractors, however. Most of the critical vollies aimed at them have come from feminist thought. Critics complain that Disney has placed images of women in a time capsule, portraying them as passive victims waiting to be rescued, as debutantes dreaming only of their prince. They cite the 1950 film Cinderella as a prime offender: sweet-natured girl is pushed around by her stepsisters, remains sweet despite doing all the housework, then is rewarded for being a doormat by a fairy godmother who enables her to attend a ball and meet a prince.

Admittedly, Cinderella is not big on my list either. I don`t really agree, though, that all of these films present terrible images of women. I think there are some redeeming qualities in the princess film canon. I`ll discuss just a few of the movies in this post, specifically those which present heroines who are fully fleshed out as people. Quick note: I`d love to include the warrior-princess film Mulan here, but I don`t feel justified in talking about it since it`s one of the few Disney animation flicks I have not seen.

Image Courtesy of

Consider Snow White of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). As she scrubs the palace steps in a tattered dress and wooden shoes, SW sings a song about wishing and hoping for the one she loves. But there`s a lot more to her than waiting around. When her wicked stepmother/queen decides to have her killed, she must fend for herself in a dark forest. She`s obviously scared, but doesn`t give up, pressing onward despite mysterious sounds and logs that resemble alligators. Snow White shows similiar courage when she meets the dwarves. This is a girl who`s never been away from home before, but she readily adapts to a group whose culture she`s totally unfamiliar with.

Instead of judging or mocking the dwarves, she befriends them. And yes, she does the housework. But one should keep in mind that the original Snow White story was told in the 1400s, a time when housework involved a lot of manual labor and the skills needed for tasks like spinning and washing clothing by hand. The dwarf fraternity respects her for pitching in, and she respects and likes them (I remember thinking as a child that they were way more interesting as people than the Prince)! Snow White displays a lot of sense and independent thinking, not to mention a genuine kindness for both animals and people.

Looking at later Disney movies makes one wonder what became of heroines like Snow White. Maybe, like characters played by Bette Davis and Katherine Hepburn in the 30s and early 40s, she was shelved due to cultural reasons. After World War 2, real-life women often had to quit the jobs they obtained while men were away, leading to a quasi-Victorian idealization of the home and traditional femininity. Hollywood seemed to reinforce this by producing few films with strong female leads, and during the fifties, Disney followed suit. After the likable but maudlin Cinderella, we got characters like Wendy of Peter Pan (1953-sweet and bright, but hung up on Peter) and Briar Rose of 1959`s Sleeping Beauty (sweet and hard-working, has to be awakened by a prince). This is not to say that fifties Disney cartoons were total fiascos- they were well animated and ahead of their time- but strong heroines were not a huge priority here.

Gradually, times changed and so did the Disney empire. After several financial upheavals in the 70s, animated films began to emerge from the studio again in the mid-80s. “Princess” characters were beginning to be written in a different way, a prime example being Belle of Beauty and the Beast (1991). Belle, the daughter of a small-town inventor, is sweet-natured and hard-working like many a Disney girl. Unlike them, she seeks knowledge through reading and dreams of leaving her home and having adventures. And she`s not afraid of the ferocious-seeming Beast: when he orders her to come to dinner, she refuses until he issues a civil invitation. They gradually come to know each other as equals. The troubling issue here is the whole conceit of the Beast keeping her captive in his castle. This is how the original story went, but I can also see why some commentators read Belle warming to him as a form of Stockholm syndrome.

On the other hand, she does try to escape at one point in order to check on her father, and this makes Beast realize that he can`t merely keep her as a pet. Belle is a fully realized character who is intriguing as well as pretty. She does change clothes more than other Disney princesses, but hey, she is living in a palace with well-equipped closets-why not? And she has the courage to try and rescue her father from the creepy village folk by herself, not waiting for Beast or any of his servants to accompany her.

The Princess and the Frog (2009) has a female lead who is more than able to carry the film. This princess is merely dressed as one for Mardi Gras-she`s actually an industrious waitress named Tiana, a fine cook who is saving money for her own restaurant. She becomes involved with the lazy and conceited Prince Naveen only because he`s been turned into a frog and requests her help. Kissing him turns her into a frog as well, so the pair must hit a Louisiana swamp in search of a voodoo priestess who can transform them back. Tiana is totally uninterested in Naveen at first, considering him hopelessly hedonistic. But the two bond as they journey through the swamp, and the prince is evantually ready to embrace work and give up his player-like ways for Tiana.

Throughout the film, Tiana`s ditzy friend Lottie epitomizes the stereotypical “princess” viewpoint, in contrast to the former`s practical ways. When read the old Frog Prince story as children, Lottie sighs in contentment, while Tiana exclaims, “No way am I kissin` no frog, no matter what!” You`ve got to love a girl who`s that feisty from childhood up. She also has a strong sense of morality. The evil Dr. Facilier offers to make her human again if she surrenders a charm- trouble is, he`ll use the charm to facilitate his takeover of New Orleans. Tiana refuses, vowing to “stay in the swamp forever”, rather than aid the voodoo dark side. All ends well, but with a twist: though Tiana and Naveen become restored to humanity, they achieve her dream of opening a restaurant, instead of looking for a kingdom to luxuriate in. Good film, great heroine-finally, an action princess! Yes, there`s still a prince, but the relationship dynamic is totally different. We see the pair get to know each other as people, not just become infatuated.

Disney cartoon features have become more progressive in terms of female heroes. It`s certainly true that they lagged behind the women and girls of anime for a few decades- compare any pre-eighties Disney heroine to Millenium Actress or Princess Mononoke- but they`re genuinely losing the passive princess mindset. Now that the studio is supposedly still going to do some hand-drawn animation as well as CGI, why not research some girl power-friendly storylines? How about a remake of The Black Cauldron with more emphasis on feisty heroine Eilonwy? Or a retelling of the Artemis or Amazons myths? Future generations of girls are waiting to see their own adventures in animation- they want to protect the castle, not just clean its courtyard.

Lights, Camera, ACTIONFEST!

A guest post by Jack Eagen


This year I had the opportunity to attend ActionFest. I didn’t just get to go as a film-goer, but I volunteered myself to what turned out to be a surprisingly amazing experience. I have not had so much fun at a film festival ever. I genuinely believe that this is a unique film festival that rivals to entertain patrons more than any other. I heard about the event when a friend mentioned he was going. A film festival fan, he had purchased a package to see every single film. I asked what was playing and discovered that some of my favorite film makers had projects playing. Namely, Takashi Miike, and Jackie Chan. The festival included a stunt show on Sunday. As I represent a production company, including a stunt and fight choreographer, Billy “Wylde” Wolcott, I emailed the people listed as being the organizers. I received a quick response and was please to get Robert Bradley and his Ghost Town Gun Fighters involved. Billy was able to participate and I got to work with John Cann, who was in charge of supplying the stunts. He brought his one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art, crash bag completing two jumps, one downtown at the ARCADE as a pre-show buzz builder. He brought his air ramp and was set on fire by Buddy Joe Hooker.  They included motor cross stunt bikers that came with their own ramp, doing jumps forty feet up, in front of the Carolina Theater front marque. There was a martial arts exhibition from Ho Sin Sool Dojang, Traditional Martial Arts Center, and to my excitement my friends from Robert Bradleys Gun Fighters kicked the entire show off with a classic Wild West show comedy bit. Robert Bradley himself did an impressive death roll back on pavement and the under taker to one to the keaster.

The highlights this year at the screening was the winner of best film, A Lonely Place to Die, and the new Film by Miike, 13 Assassins. Lonely was an excellent twist on a climber story, by a British director (Julian Gilbey) and company. I had a chance to speak with Gilbey and he was kind enough to discuss some of the difficulties he had. He mentioned they shot on the RED One camera, and that some of their most expensive shots were entirely due to a safety cable crossing in front of the lead actresses face during key moment. They digitally removed the cable, hence the cost increase on their shots. The final product is a triumph for any director on the independent scene.

Colin Geddes and Peter Kuplowsky are doing a fantastic job, and can use all the volunteers they can get. Colin is an organizer from the Toronto Film Festival, and his experience is paying off. Peter not only ran a tight ship but I appreciated that when he spoke before the final screening, 13 Assassins, he mentioned Gozu, a not often referenced film by Miike. A sign that he is a true fan, and film lover. With guys running the show that have such a personal connection with the screenings, the festival is about love for the films. This is a festival about fun. Something often lacking in film festivals.

Because ActionFest is focused towards the Action, it seems to draw out some interesting visitors. Chuck Norris came to the first year, and it was gonna be tough to top that this year. Buddy Joe Hooker, Stunt Man Legend, stepped in to fill the shoes with no problem. Again, this is a good sign because people who are Action Buffs, or Film Fanatics know the name Buddy Joe Hooker. The easiest way to explain is to say he one of the members of Stunts Unlimited, he holds the record for the most rolls in a vehicle (22), and most recently infamous was his driving in Death Proof by Quinton Tarantino. Listing out everything else about him would take forever, but I seriously recommend anyone who claims to love film to make sure they know these names.

The Life Time Achievement award this year went to Russel Towery, who absolutely deserved it. He was the stunt stand in on all the Robo Cop films, a Fight Choreographer on the Pirates of Caribbean films and Machete, but mostly he was a very nice guy that was extremely approachable. Other visitors included the fighter choreographer for Troy and Sherlock Holmes, Michael Jai White who played Spawn and Black Dynamite, and Larnell Stovall who is the fight choreographer for Bunraku and the newest in the Mortal Combat films. All three of which where on a panel with guest writer, specialist, film consultant, Kung Fu “know it all” Ric Meyers, who was attending the festival to promote his new film and book “Films of Fury”. Ric was also someone who I got the chance to talk with on multiple occasions. Besides knowing more about the history of Asia, Martial Arts, Martial Arts Film, and Kung Fu than anyone I have ever met, he is also a brilliant writer. I bought a copy of his book and can’t put it down

If that isn’t enough, when I was talking with him about the difficulties of getting so much important information into a 2 hour movie when the book is over three hundred pages, I mentioned a DVD I have watched many times. I got it in a bundle with something else, which I can’t recall.  It is called The Art of Action. It is hosted by Samuel L. Jackson, and until Films of Fury, I have never seen a more in-depth and enlightening review of the history of Kung Fu films. It has wonderful interviews that opened up to many interesting details that never seem to get covered in film school history classes. Turns out that was one of Ric’s first attempts to getting this information out in front of the public. He was a consultant on that very same DVD. The new film, Films of Fury, is as Ric described it, an attempt to do something more entertaining for an audience that might have no interest in Kung Fu films, but also to more respectfully cover some of the most important topics. Ric Meyers seemed fairly pleased with the screening, which he pointed out he had not yet seen. Previously they had shown him a rough cut of the film which he hadn’t been ecstatic with. It is a long, complicated topic to try and cover in front of an audience with an increasingly short attention span.

Mostly, I would say that this festival is the little, big secret. It is a big idea and they are just getting started. The turnout seems small compared to the massive space they cover, opening the parking lot up for the stunt show. I expect the word will pass quickly and the turnout will expand exponentially over the following years. The theater is wonderful and although the Carolina is not positioned close to the downtown area, it really is the perfect space. Besides having a layout including a good VIP room and concessions including alcohol, they also have a private parking lot that allows them to meet all safety and zoning needs. This is very important when you are setting people on fire and throwing them off platforms over 35 feet up. I will definitely see you all there next year and those who missed out this year, don’t stress, ActionFest is here to stay.


Jack Eagen, Story Teller

Guest Post: Pop Culture and the Female Gaze (sNSFW)

Warning: Contains frank discussion of nudity, including some discussion of sexual content, in film, television, and theater.


Nudity and sex appeal seem to be loaded topics, particularly for women. As audience reviews of Danny Boyle’s production of Frankenstein at the National Theatre in London came out with the revelation that *gasp* the Creature is born naked and therefore the actor playing the role spends a bit of time STARK NAKED ONSTAGE, I started thinking about why this is so shocking.

Then, I read this roundtable at and found myself vexed. Very vexed. For several reasons, (not least of which is that whenever someone says that a character has to be played by someone that’s the nationality/race/orientation/etc., of the character, I feel the need to shout, “THAT’S WHY IT’S CALLED ACTING.”) My primary source of vexation is that the overall point seems to be that women don’t want their heroes to be sexy/sexual. Yes, it’s one discussion, and it’s a perfectly valid opinion, I won’t deny that. However, it feeds into a perception of women as not only incapable of genuinely lustful, sweaty desire, but as frail flowers who don’t want male nudity in film/television/theater and will faint at it when it’s presented.

Then, I sent a tweet meant to reject what is seen as a the prevailing point of view in pop culture, namely that women are only interested in a sort of chaste longing that has nothing to do with anything below the waist.

And my twitter feed blew up. In a good way. A frank discussion among women and men on what nudity in film/stage both obscures and reveals about a production, an audience, and how we (at least in the USA) perceive it.  One point made during the conversation involved the dissolution of audience immersion in a work due to nudity that should be present and isn’t. For example: there are countless sex scenes where the female partner is completely nude but the male partner is still clothed, at least below the waist. Yet, in Sex and The City it seemed that nearly every cast member except Sarah Jessica Parker was seen in some state of undress over the six-season run. We discussed the lack of hot snogging in porn, and the aggressive misuse of male nudity there, my conclusion being that close-ups of heaving-thrusting-whatever body parts, does not equal hotness.  Last but not least, we discussed the fact that so much female nudity in mainstream television and film serves no purpose but to serve the male gaze.

There’s the rub, finally. The myth of sexless female sexuality, the perpetuation of unfunny, unromantic (and very definitely unsexy) romantic comedies as serving the female gaze and interests and yet, men need boobies. Male actors in their 70s are shown as virile lovers of women 30 years their junior, yet women in their 40s are called, “Cougars,” and are vilified for dating men even a couple of years younger than themselves.

Tragically, the only mainstream film in the last five years to explicitly serve the female gaze, and directly address female desire, is Twilight. Yes, I said it. For as much as the dynamics of the series disturb the hell out of me, Twilight directly says that its protagonist has a desire for sex, thwarted though it may be by her suitors. She wants it and she’s unafraid to say it.

Perhaps one of the few adult (i.e., for grown-ups, not porn) films in the last decade that shows that sort of female desire, albeit with some very heavy-handed telegraphing of the consequences of it, is In The Cut. Once America’s Sweetheart, Meg Ryan’s portrayal of twisted relationships, ambiguity, and bluntly transgressive female desire did not do well at the box office, but it did show the audience that women can and do want all sorts of things society tells us we’re not supposed to.

In a strange instance of synchronicity, recently, I came across a New York Times piece that addresses the way we not only historically prefer violence over sex in US film, but have become even more repressive in the 21st century. Some of the reasons are laudable, as women feel empowered enough to say they won’t take their clothes off for a role, and some are ridiculous, as we seem to be so frightened of the mirror of art that the intimacy in a film like Blue Valentine is something we shy away from.

I keep coming back to my original statement: I endorse male full-frontal nudity in film, television and theatre. From Richard Gere in American Gigolo, to Bruce Willis in The Color of Night, to Ewan McGregor in – well, nearly every movie he made, prior to becoming Obi-Wan, to Martin Freeman in Nightwatching.

Ewan McGregor in Velvet Goldmine - Image Courtesy of

Perhaps it’s the fear of appearing inadequate due to the endless obssesion with penis-size, or perhaps it’s a fear that nudity will detract from an audience’s attention to a performance, (which strangely, never comes up for actresses) but male nudity is still verboten.

In comics, we’ve seen a history of pin-up proportioned superheroines and villainesses wearing costumes that would make a stripper blush. Even now, in the upcoming X-Men: First Class, Emma Frost appears to be wearing a glorified bra. In reality, it’s actually significantly less sexualized than her original comic-book costume. Mystique on film, has essentially been a lot of blue body paint, and strategic covering of anatomy as though it doesn’t exist, rather than costuming, per se. Catwoman is a leather/S&M festishists’ dream, in most incarnations, although I’m interested to see what Christopher Nolan and Anne Hathaway will bring us in The Dark Knight Rises. Still, what about what women want?

Yes, we’ve had the artificial hardbody and smooth playboy iterations of Batman and Bruce Wayne, the tights and cape of Superman, Spidey’s form-fitting suit and the raw sexuality of Hank Logan/Wolverine in those very tight jeans. In some ways, the exaggeration of comics and their film adaptations are better suited to serving the female gaze. Slightly hyppereal, but attractively drawn, (or cast) presentations of masculinity are a very good way of drawing in an underserved audience.

The New York Times article mentions Brokeback Mountain, and the article’s conclusion on the film’s appeal to a female audience is true. Yes, it is a moving, gripping, heartbreaking drama, but it also has gorgeous men in a gorgeous, if stark environment, with raw, painful, intensely passionate sexuality among all of its relationships.

We don’t get that in the portrayal of most straight romances, these days. Closer, (a dissection of the ways in which we betray and break each other, both sexually and emotionally,) has very little nudity, but an incredibly frank sense of sexuality that serves the male and female gaze equally.

So where are producers of film/telly in particular going wrong? Is it the simple assumption that women will be repulsed by the sight of a completely naked man, fear of the MPAA issuing an NC-17 rating, lack of studio funding, or is it an institutional memory that drifts to the formulaic?

Eric Dane on Grey's Anatomy

In network television, much as it’s slammed as soapy entertainment without a lot of depth, the universe created by Shonda Rhimes, serves the female gaze in a deeply satisfying way. Patrick Dempsey, Eric Dane, Kevin McKidd, and Taye Diggs have been in some of the hottest sequences on Network TV, providing both the eye candy and romance, and I have had to pick my jaw up off the floor at scenes between McKidd and Sandra Oh, because when you not only have raw sexual chemistry, but the painful intimacy of broken people, well. . . it’s intense.


Go ahead and judge me, I watch Grey’s Anatomy.


Yes, Sex and The City was about the female gaze, but it was a gaze tempered by a traditional, rather than transgressive point of view. Sexual desire was less important than emotional desire and the consumerist desire, except for Samantha, and she was constantly slut-shamed.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, an exception to the rule, puts female desire on an equal footing with male desire, and while there are still consequences to that desire, they’re not one-sided consequences. Everybody gets hurt, everybody’s at risk, and desire can mean losing your soul, or gaining it back. Which is a little bit like the real world, if we’re all honest.

In conversation, women encouraged the attempt to de-mythologize female desire, and made clear that we’re not actually prone to getting the vapors at the mere idea of male nudity. (Well, not in the OMG, MY EYES, I CAN’T UNSEE THAT, HAND ME THE BRAIN BLEACH way) The overall consensus seems to be: YES, PLEASE, MORE NOW, I AM SO FREAKING TIRED OF SEEING ALL THESE BOOBS AND CASUAL FEMALE NUDITY.

I asked @SarahLister specifically, as someone who I trust in media/art analysis, for her opinion:

“It’s grossly underrepresented in American media, and this is of course, easy to blame entirely on a predominantly male gaze.” (Sarah is in Canada, which is a bit different to the US, for all we have in common.) She continued, “But it has to be said that while a nude/partially nude female is quite easy to pass off as artistic or acceptable these days, American standards criteria don’t really allow for male frontal nudity even though it’s no less natural than female nudity.”

This touches on something I mentioned earlier – ratings.  The MPAA sees fit to rate a film PG-13 without including notice of animal cruelty, (The Roommate, and I’ll refer you to Scott Weinberg’s excellent rant on that topic) but even non-sexual full-frontal male nudity will likely get an R rating. The MPAA warns for male nudity in Grown-ups, Eat, Pray, Love, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but declines to warn for female nudity. That says to me that either female nudity is an expected component, or that the MPAA thinks America has a problem with dangly bits.

Have you seen the amount of porn this country consumes? It’s not all men watching it. Plenty of women watch porn, plenty of women enjoy it. (Although, we would very definitely like HEAT instead of FAKE, and better production values, please.)

Clearly, women are capable of seeing a penis and not passing out. Even one that isn’t safely flaccid and non-threatening. The consensus in discussion, and after asking for input on the subject, through my twitter feed can be found here and here.

I suppose, what I’m wondering, is this – in the mirror of media and pop culture, where is the female gaze? What is the female gaze? I don’t think it’s just one thing, after all. I think there’s room for smart, adult rom-coms, and more intense, mature filmmaking. I think we can cheer our superheroes- and -heroines, speculate on time travel, and enjoy a good high speed chase. Can we convince Hollywood of this though? I don’t know.


What do you think?


(thanks to @theroseinbloom, @paperclippe, @sizzlerkistler, @angegarrod, @sarahlister, @wndrwmn, @nightwyrm, @cwmonfette, and @adrianzaslona for particpating in the twitter discussions.)

Down in Front does Raiders LIVE at MELTDOWN!

[Hey! You! RSVP on Facebook!] It’s been two crazy years since we started this little Down in Front thing, with no idea of how many people would get into it. I mean, it’s a hard sell, on paper.

“A two hour podcast where four industry guys have a beer and figure out exactly what’s wrong with Terminator 4? Um, it’s a bad movie, it made Christian Bale mad, nothing happened. Duh. What’s right with Die Hard? Everything, of course. Let’s leave it at that.”

But it turns out, folks really like smart conversations about movies. Or we’re charming. Or funny. Or seductive. Or good at this.

Eh, probably seductive. And we provide alcohol.

Anyway, the show has been a big damned success, and – despite our confusion – we’re excited about it. So we’re really, really, really excited to announce that for our 100th episode and the first episode of year three, we’re doing a GIANT LIVE SHOW AT MELTDOWN COMICS.

And we’re doing the most-requested movie we’ve had: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.

Meltdown is the premier nerd destination on the west side of the North American continent, and it’s situated square in the center of downtown Hollywood. The short version is, it’s the biggest comic book and pop culture shop you’ve ever seen. It’s Comic-Con with an address. (And no Twilight panels.) The even shorter version is: it’s the best place on Earth. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Meltdown is mecca for a Down in Front listener. (It works the other way, too: if you like Meltdown, you’ll love Down in Front.) And that’s exactly where we’re going.

Mark your calendars, and fill your gas-tanks, because if you’re within a day’s drive of Los Angeles you’re going to want to join the party: Friday, March 4th, at 8 p.m. $8 at the door buys you a seat and free booze. (I said free booze just then.) (I did it on purpose.) (Free booze. I did it again.) You can expect a seriously fun time spent with the four of us, Indiana Jones, and a big damned excitable crowd of people who love Raiders of the Lost Ark as much as you do. It will be the only place to be for a filmy geek that weekend.

(Free booze.)

Show up a bit before 8:00 p.m. and browse around the store, buy things, do what you usually do when you find yourself in the coolest nerd store on the planet. (Except for that one thing you do. There’s security cameras, people.) At 8:00, we’ll head back to the gallery and start filling you up with DIF juice – literally and figuratively – as we discuss the mind-bendingly awesome RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.

Afterwards there will be a QnA with the panel: Teague Chrystie, Brian Finifter, Michael “Dorkman” Scott, and Trey “The Amazing” Stokes. Never heard an episode of the show before? Well, you could start now, or just trust us: it’s a good time. Bring your friends, bring your enemies, bring your mom. It’s on.

Guest Post: My Experience as a Female Engineer

Written by: Ashley

A couple of weeks ago I had one of those weeks where I burned out on the Boys Club. By the end of it I am not proud to say I was a crabby mess who just wanted to get away from work. The odd part about this was it had been a great week. I finished my first semester of my masters degree, had a fantastic performance review, and things were really going well. I absolutely adore my job, and cannot see myself working anywhere else. I just needed a break from the boys.

There are days when being the only woman in my lab is like being slapped in the face over, and over again. There is no blatant sexism, there are just the little things that seem to pile up and that week the bucket overflowed.

Ever been ogled during a data review where you are just trying to do your job? Yep, twice in a week. I made my lead go with me to the second data review since it was uncomfortable. Thankfully data reviews with that group are less frequent.

Ever had someone wave, walk right by, start to leave the room, then see your coworker and comment, “oh, so there is someone who can help me!” This was concerning things that were more in my realm too. My coworker did not even bother to send them my direction.

Ever had people listen to you pitch slides but when questions arise they address them to your coworker? My coworker was only there to see what went on in data reviews. I was the “expert” in my system.

Ever had a vendor refuse to introduce himself to you after introducing himself to all your coworkers? The vendor then proceeded to pitch his product while refusing to look me in the eye. I walked away halfway through the pitch realizing it was a waste of my time. My coworkers were all highly impressed by the vendor; I thought he was a jerk. I never want to buy products for him.

These are just some of the little slaps to the face. I have learned to tolerate most of them while working to change the tides. “Quit being such a girl about it” has already been removed from the collective vocabulary in the lab. I am still working on many other things. The other day I did something right and was given a “good girl.” Had my jaw not been busy falling to the floor I would have replied with the fact that I was not a dog. That winning line came out of the mouth of the person who has stuck up for me the most.

When backing people up for operation support I have forced myself to stand up and grow a spine. I refuse to answer to any names of the guys I am backing up since many people find it funny to say, “oh, you must be [person] today”. I am not that person, I am me. I have a name. [Person] is also not my boss. My boss is upstairs and here is her phone number. All questions about my job can be addressed to her.

Amazingly, these experiences pale in comparison to what I went through as an engineering intern at a government facility. It was there I was exposed to how bad things can be. During my internship I was not only told I couldn’t tell the boys they were wrong, I was asked what guy did my work for me, since clearly I couldn’t have done it myself. It was at that point, two whole weeks into my job, that I just gave up. I started to understand why there were no women around. If this is how they were treated I could see why no one stuck around long. I was there to be seen but not heard. They needed an image of diversity even if they didn’t embrace it. Even though this was a job I had always dreamed of, I wanted out. Add in the stares I got walking anywhere on campus and it was a fairly isolating experience. I was offered the opportunity to interview there for a position after graduation and thankfully I already had a job and was able to politely walk away.

To me part of being a woman in engineering is learning how to roll with some of these moments and keep going knowing that you are helping to make it better for both yourself and those behind you. Things are clearly still not where they should be at my current job, but they are getting better. There are also places that are better than others. Compare my internship to my current job.

Somehow that week the bucket of tolerance was drained. I was tired of looking at the hierarchy in the lab that I have yet to break into. I was tired of seeing assignments handed to the other people and fighting for interesting work. I was tired of having things taken away when I ask for help. I was tired of being invisible. I was mostly just tired of it all.

Thankfully I have a boss who is awesome. She understands this battle since she has been here. I can talk to her without fear of things trickling back to the boys. She is proof that I can do this. She even told me to go home early that Friday when I was burned out and on top of that offered to call my lead and up date him on a test they were trying to run over the weekend so I wouldn’t have to talk to him. She’s helped me learn how to deal with one of the guys, understanding I want to learn how to stand up for myself and not have someone come save the day. I know I still have a lot left to learn from her, and I hope I can continue to do so.

I hope that one day the female engineers behind me will not be facing these same battles. When thinking about the future I am always reminded of a speech Joss Whedon gave when being honored by Equality Now, on why he writes strong women characters. My favorite reply of his to the question is simple: “because you’re still asking me that question.”

Guest Post: Tired of being a Pioneer

So, this guest post is part of an ongoing series of posts that will be bouncing back and forth between Nerds in Babeland and Tia-Marie. The impetus behind this series can be found at Tia Marie’s blog (I’m Sick of the ‘Women in Tech’ debate).

In high school I was one of the top students in almost all of my math classes, but I also had serious confidence issues. Sadly, I gave up on those pursuits in math and science because it wasn’t “popular” to be smart in those areas (at least not at my school) and it was much “cooler” to be in drama club and do well in English. Yes, I know. I am ashamed. I’ve always regretted those decisions and that is why bullying stories like Katie’s story particularly affect me.

This post isn’t about me though. When I saw Tia Marie’s discussion about women in technology and her idea of hearing from ACTUAL women in the fields of science and engineering, I immediately contacted her about setting up these series of posts. We put out a call to women in these fields via twitter (I know, super professional, right?) and we were lucky enough to hear from these two amazing women, Jenn and Holly.

As a good intro to this series, I thought the first post should be entirely written by one of the women themselves (future posts may resemble more of a Q&A format).  A solid THANK YOU to these two women is necessary and if you also have stories you’d like to share on either of these blogs, please contact us!  The below is from Jenn’s personal blog.

For those who don’t know me, I have worked in aviation and aerospace for the past decade. In October, I volunteered for a layoff from my job as a technician on the Space Shuttle Program, as it is coming to an end soon. I am very much a space advocate, and have been using Twitter to share my enthusiasm for space for over two years. I am also the founder of the Space Tweep Society, a growing group of space enthusiasts on Twitter. Due to that role, I am often asked to participate in interviews or space outreach activities, many with the goal of encouraging girls to pursue careers in science or technology. This leaves me feeling quite conflicted because I’d love to have more women in aviation and aerospace, but in my experience breaking into these fields was really rough. I almost feel guilty for encouraging them, knowing what kind of obstacles they may face.

Of course I say “obstacles they may face” because there is a chance they won’t have any issues. A certain author who was once an engineer for a contractor on NASA’s Apollo program said in a recent interview, “All of the guys were great. No problems. I was just ‘one of the team.’ I have worked for many companies for 25+ years in technical jobs. I was the only woman in many. I was treated with respect and courtesy… There is no conflict in any job if you don’t act like a jackass.” She also tweeted, “Get rid of [the] idea that guys [are] mean to gals in Space Exp[loration]. Guys [are] great friends. I worked with men in all jobs for years. Some gals [are] idiots.” While I’m very happy to hear that she had only positive experiences, for many of us this was not the case- and I don’t think it was because we are “idiots” or “act like jackasses.” My own entry into the career field of aviation was definitely rocky, and I blogged about it a few years ago. The following is an updated version of that post:


How to Train Your Nerdlin’

My 6 ½ year old is a gamer, he has an older Xbox 360, a Wii a PS2 and a computer in his room. In addition to these he has a DSi and an iTouch. Why on earth does a 1st grader need all of this you ask? The answer is that I’m selfish and I got sick and tired of sharing video game time with him.

Yes we do some co-op playing and he really enjoys watching me play Mario Galaxy (1 and 2) but if we didn’t have the newer Xbox set up in the living room while he has the Wii (his system of choice) set up in his bedroom I would never get a chance to play my games and would be stuck either watching Lego Star Wars/Indian Jones or listening to him whine about wanting his turn.

Every parent has their own style and I don’t think that any ONE style is correct. I chose to let my child have a TV and video games in his room, you can call me a bad parent for this, I don’t really care. I know that his life is more than TV & video games, we read (books AND comics, he’s a mini geek what do you expect), play ball in the yard and ride his bike.

There is one thing that irks me though. I have always sworn my son would never be “that kid” (sorry if I offend any of you who’s child is “that kid”) you know the one, the kid who has his face shoved into a handheld game system everywhere he goes, the grocery store, family gatherings, walking from the street to the car, at the aquarium, zoo, etc. So far I have been fairly successful at setting the limits on this. If his DSi or iTouch leave the house he is limited to using them on longer car rides only, that if he gets stuck I don’t want to hear it because I’ll get car sick if I try and play while in the car. And he knows that if at any time, at home or on a car ride, someone speaks to him and he doesn’t reply because he is too engrossed in the game it will be taken away for some amount of time.

But then I stop and think; am I being a hypocrite? I CONSTANTLY have my iPhone in my face as I’m walking around, and I mean constantly. I’m on twitter, facebook, checking emails, playing Angry Birds or Plants vs. Zombies. Maybe I should start following my own rules before he wises up and points it out to me.

I really enjoy having a child with the same interests as I do. It’s so much fun having someone who is just as excited about a new Doctor Who episode as I am, or watching him experience the magic that is Star Wars for the first time. It’s GREAT having an excuse to buy those nerdy toys that I’ve convinced myself I’m “too old” to buy. But I’m NOT sharing my video game time, unless it’s my husband, and that is another story entirely.

Review: Passing by Nella Larsen

I have avoided writing book reviews for most of my life. Even when assigned to do so in school, I would try to figure out a different plan of attack. How could I possibly describe a book that has been written by someone else? The way sentences flow together, the chosen words, the character descriptions. The author has already said anything that I would want to say, and in a more pleasing tone.

When I was asked to write a guest post, it was suggested that I do a book review because of my self-proclaimed bibliophile status. My mind swam with the possibilities. Do I take on a book that has just been released? An old favorite that I curl up with on a rainy day? A book that no one has ever heard of?

I decided to talk about one of my favorite books: Passing, by Nella Larsen. Although my usual reads include crime dramas, science fiction, graphic novels or supernatural topics, Passing is none of the above. It is simply an example of some of the best writing to come out of the Harlem Renaissance.

Security. Was it just a word? If not, then was it only by the sacrifice of other things, happiness, love, or some wild ecstasy that she had never known, that it could be obtained? (Passing, 107)

Passing tells the story of two strikingly similar women who lead two very different lives. Concentrating on the issue of skin color, Larsen recounts the experiences of two biracial women living in New York in the early 1900’s. She explores a topic that has not been readily undertaken. Many refuse to believe that racism can exist between members of the same race. Larsen examines race, sexuality, identity, and class differences in this riveting novel.

In the past, African Americans with lighter skin tones would pass as a white person for many different reasons. This novel is set during a time period where African Americans still encountered restrictions because of their skin color. One of the women, Irene, chose to remain in the African American community, despite her fair skin. She has a peaceful, normal life with her family. Her friend Clare Kendry took the dangerous, exciting route. She chose to pass for a white woman in white society. She believed that the societal benefits outweigh the extremely dangerous risks. Irene, however, values security and safety above all else. The most important aspect of her life is the wellbeing of her family. Although Irene ‘passes’ when it is necessary, she prefers to remain in her comfort zone. Both women value security, and they each make significant sacrifices, taking a different approach to obtain what they need in their lives. The demand for assimilation and constant racism that these women encounter makes this an intriguing topic to explore.

This book is a fantastic read for many reasons. It opens up an area of life that many of us have never experienced. I cannot imagine living in a society where you would be cast out because of the color of your skin. Clare’s husband detests African Americans, and she would surely be in mortal danger if he discovered her secret. Personifying the definition of impermanence, Clare floats from one place to the next without ever getting attached. Somehow, she finds the security she craves in the unpredictability of her life.

Written in 1929, this book still rings true today. While we hope that racism is a thing of the past, it still stands strong in many areas of the world. Passing splits the topic of racism wide open, and allows us all to personally experience its horror.

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