Outrage (1950); Directed by Pioneer Ida Lupino: A Powerful Examination of Rape and Its Aftermath

Outrage

Ida Lupino was an anomaly, a phenom, a pioneer. She was an actress, of course, a woman whose acting career stretched from the early 1930s to Columbo episodes in the mid-1970s. At first her roles were insignificant, like in Artists and Models (1937).

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The Light That Failed (1939) gave her a juicier role, more to do, with some emotional complexity.

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An excellent role in The Sea Wolf came in 1941, but the real breakthrough for Lupino was when she played opposite Humphrey Bogart in the crime-thriller/adventure movie High Sierra (1941). She’s unforgettable in it, and the film was a huge hit. And in terms of Bogart: Casablanca would come the following year, putting Bogart firmly in the Improbable Leading Man category (he was short, balding, and had a lisp: his transition into iconic Leading Man is one of the most improbable – and perfect – results that emerged out of the studio system). Before that, though, he played gangsters, criminals, and anti-heroes.

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High Sierra ends with a doomed stand-off between Bogart hiding in the rocks above with the cops gathered below. It is a sequence still imitated today. Lupino was terrific in High Sierra, and able to hold her own with Bogart, a worthy co-star. She was perfect for the rise of film noir, its obsession with sex and neuroticism, crime and the underworld. There was something about her that suggested a woman with secrets, a woman who had been around. I love her in Moontide (1942), opposite a fabulous Jean Gabin.

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She is first seen as a black faraway figure walking determinedly into a rough ocean. Her suicide attempt is never explained, but the character played by Gabin, a binge-drinker and a womanizer, rescues her and takes her back to the floating deck he lives on, a place where he sells “live bait.” Over the course of a couple of days, she and he connect. The connection surprises both of them, she, because she had considered her life was over, and he, because he was caught up in a whirl of self-destruction and never thought about love. Claude Rains is wonderful (as always) as Gabin’s smiling supportive friend. Thomas Mitchell is excellent in it, as Gabin’s jealous friend, probably gay (he is first seen whipping a naked Rains with a wet towel – all in fun, right?), and determined to yank Lupino off the pedestal that Gabin has put her on. You can imagine how he tries to do that.

She worked with all the great directors of the day, Howard Hawks, Raoul Walsh (a bunch of films), William Wellman, Michael Curtiz, Anatole Litvak, Charles Vidor, Jean Negulesco. In 1947, she got out of her contract with Warner Brothers and freelanced around. She still worked, but not as much as the late-30s and 40s. As her career transitioned into the 1950s, she started to play middle-aged parts, directed by Nicholas Ray, Robert Aldrich, Fritz Lang. Once live television shows started happening out of New York (the real Golden Ages of television), she switched to mostly television. She was in her 40s now, she wanted to keep working. Those live television programs, like “The Four Star Playhouse” “The Ford Television Theatre”, “General Electric Theatre” and on and on provided new and vigorous and exciting opportunities for actors, writers, and young directors. So many luminaries (Paddy Chayevsky. Arthur Penn) got their start in these programs. So many writers cut their teeth on them. And so many New York actors became famous through performances on these television programs. Lupino was still acting, in everything. She appeared on Twilight Zone, Bonanza, Batman, Mod Squad. She still did movies here and there. I love her performance in 1955 in Women’s Prison as the totally psychopathic prison warden, so cruel that the prisoners gang up on her to give her a taste of her own medicine. I reviewed Women’s Prison, love it.

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It’s the kind of acting career I most admire. It mixes a blend of artistry, star power and practicality. Stardom was not as important to her as continuing to work. And work she did.

But the most pioneering part of her career (even if she had “just” been an actress she would be remembered as an icon of the tough wrong-side-of-the-tracks broad with a soft and mushy heart) was when she started directing. It happened early. Like I said: she was talented, but she was also practical. One can almost imagine her thinking Okay, I’m getting older now, not getting as good parts … what next? Many actresses are sunk by the so-called “blackout period” when they hit their 40s. That “blackout period” lasts about 15 years. Nobody wants to see women as they transition into old age, especially an actress whose beautiful youth had been captured on camera so many times. It is not only unfair but infuriating that the culture cannot deal with women’s transition into middle-age, and have no problem with men’s. But again, Lupino felt that reality at work, and made a change. She stepped behind the camera. She worked job to job for a bit, and then formed a production company with her husband. And so after that, we are graced with the gorgeous credit at the start of her films: AN IDA LUPINO PRODUCTION. Hell, yes!

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I was thrilled when Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to get a Best Directing Oscar. And I loved Hurt Locker. But it’s outrageous that the “first” would come so late in the game. (And take a look at the statistics of how many times a film helmed by a woman was nominated for Best Picture but NOT nominated for Best Director. I think it was Steven Spielberg who cracked, when this happened to Streisand, “I guess the picture directed itself, huh.” May have been someone else. I do know Streisand showed her director’s cut of Yentl to him and asked for his opinion. He said, “I wouldn’t change a frame.”)

There had been “women directors” since cinema’s earliest age. Not many. Dorothy Arzner was a pioneer in the 1930s, really the only woman behind the camera at that time. She directed the awesome pre-Code film Merrily We Go to Hell (starring Fredric March and Sylvia Sidney.) See it if you can. I reviewed here (unfortunately I lost a ton of pictures on my site with the last WordPress upgrade. Anger.) Shirley Clarke was another pioneer in the 50s. In France, Agnes Varda was starting to work, in deeply experimental films, and of course she became one of the leading lights of the French New Wave (and she’s still directing today). Elaine May was a pioneer in the 70s. Lina Wertmüller. The late Chantal Akerman (it hurts to say “late”). Joan Rivers. Gillian Armstrong. These women were anomalies at the time. Bold and pushing out the space for women in film. In the 80s, things started to really change. Some of the most influential pop-culture films of that generation were made by women, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, directed by Amy Heckerling (whom I still love: MORE FILMS BY AMY HECKERLING) probably the most famous example. Penny Marshall directed gigantic Hollywood smash-hits. Nancy Savoca. Jane Campion. Julie Dash. Allison Anders. Barbra Streisand. Nora Ephron. Catherine Breillat. Mary Harron. Julie Taymor. Sofia Coppola (she was the third female director to be nominated for Best Director. Nice, but still: ridiculous considering the films of all of the women who came before her. Better late than never, I suppose.) Lisa Chodolenko. Haifaa al-Mansour (talk about a pioneer: first film to be shot inside Saudi Arabia. Helmed by a Saudi woman. Written by her too. She was not allowed to be out on the streets with her male actors, so she had to huddle in a truck with her monitor a block away, communicating with her crew and cast via walkie-talkie. That film was Wadjida, a wonderful film.) Ava DuVernay with Selma. Again, apparently Selma directed itself since it was nominated for Best Picture and DuVernay was NOT nominated for Best Director. How do these voters sleep at night?

Every single one of these directors owe a huge debt to Lupino.

Lupino’s directing career was almost as extensive as her acting career. She did both at the same time. It started by a fluke. A director had dropped out of a project (Lupino had written the script), and she was asked to step in. She did. It was 1949. The film was called Not Wanted and it was about an unwed mother. (Lupino was not scared to take on taboo topics, as Outrage also shows. And she brought a female perspective to them, so missing at that time in Hollywood.) However, Lupino went uncredited as the director of Not Wanted.

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Outrage from 1950 portrays a young woman’s experience of PTSD after a violent rape. It’s so ahead of its time that the mind boggles. It’s frank about sexual crime and the debilitating flashbacks that sometimes come with PTSD. One of the most groundbreaking parts of Outrage was something noted by Richard Brody at The New Yorker:

[“Outrage” ] looks intimately, painfully, and analytically at what we now know to call rape culture.

Lupino directed The Bigamist around this time, an interesting film I actually just saw a couple of months ago about a nice guy who … ends up becoming a bigamist. Ida Lupino is in it as well, and Joan Fontaine is in it too. It’s a moody and ambivalent film (the whole thing is on Youtube, FYI).

Lupino directed family melodramas, “issue” pictures. She’s talented with creating a look and feel (the rape scene in Outrage is terrifying). She is most known for 1953’s The Hitch-hiker, a great great film.

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If she hadn’t done The Hitch-Hiker, I’m not sure if her stature as a director would be as significant, although her other films are always good. What is so GREAT about The Hitch-Hiker is it is not, in any way shape or form, a “woman’s picture.” It’s a film about men. It’s a film with only men in it. It’s a thriller, not seen as women’s territory at all. (Back to Bigelow: That’s why I was disappointed Bigelow hadn’t acknowledged the pioneer women who came before her, especially Lupino, whom she owes so much to. Her speech was wonderful and emotional otherwise, I think it was just a missed opportunity. Like Lupino, Bigelow does not direct “chick flicks.” She directs action films, political films, war films, guys in camo, macho surfers. No love stories whatsoever. It doesn’t interest her.) Lupino was not hemmed in either by gender expectations of what she should be interested in, what she should do. She was able to take on any topic with power. The Hitch-Hiker is a great film, a moody terrifying noir about two guys who pick up a mysterious hitch-hiker.

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Filled with dread and shadows, The Hitch-Hiker is enough to put Lupino on the map forever. She literally, in one fell swoop, broadened the boundaries for women in film. She did that. In 1953, mind you.

According to Wikipedia, Outrage in 1950 was the first studio picture directed by a woman SINCE Dorothy Arzner in the 1930s. Lupino wrote the script too. Talk about “auteur.”

There are some unforgettable and chilling images in the beginning scenes of Outrage, evidence of Lupino’s powerful visual style. She isn’t strictly a linear “and then this happened and then this happened” film-maker. She sets up a MOOD visually, the mood equally as important as the plot.

For example, Ann Walton (Mala Powers), a young woman working as a secretary in a bustling trucking company, heads to a nearby lunch truck in the first scene. She buys two pieces of chocolate cake. She’s on her way to have lunch with her boyfriend (soon-to-be-fiance) Jim (Robert Clarke). The lunch-truck worker is a big burly guy with a scar on his neck. The first image we get of him are his hands, pushing a coffee cup across the counter. As Ann makes her order, those hands remain, sticking into the right side of the frame. It’s terrifying, but also extremely specific. Sexual threat is already there. It’s the air women breathe. I’ve talked about this before. This is an incredibly insightful and bold observation to make in 1950. Women do not walk around trying to be sexualized objects. As with men, being sexual is a private matter, for specific times when they’re going to, you know, have sex. But the sexual side of women is brought out, in unwelcome circumstances, in unwelcome moments. They’re trying to buy lunch at a lunch-counter and they have to deal with leers and innuendoes and come-ons. At times that type of leering is indistinguishable from actual violence.(Not always – a guy cat-called me a couple months ago and he made my day. That was just days after the random sexual assault I experienced. So … that cat-caller – who was working on a construction site, total cliche, shouted out a comment to me about my “red hair” and how “stacked” I was … #1. He speaks the truth on both counts. I couldn’t argue with his perception of reality. and #2. I needed it, I was feeling pretty beat up, like a piece of shit really, and his tone was so friendly and appreciative. Go figure.) But some leers put the THREAT of rape into the air. Until this dynamic is truly understood, and until men start listening to women on this issue, we will still have problems.

Ann is an innocent. She’s happy with her boyfriend, lives with her parents, and is excited to be married. The sexualization of the atmosphere that women experience is omnipresent in Outrage, an accepted part of life, noxious and yet invisible. She even gets it from her co-worker, who is a nice person, but still manages to touch her inappropriately in one of their interactions. Women are up for grabs, you see. And it is expected that women will tolerate it.

One night Ann works late and starts to walk home through the ranks of empty cargo trucks parked in the lot outside the building. She whistles. Her happy mood is undercut so strongly by the shadowy hostile environment of that trucking lot that you are terrified for her. It’s similar to the opening scene of another disturbing movie about rape, 1961’s Something Wild (which, honestly, you must see.) Something Wild is OUT THERE, but equally honest about sexual trauma (the young woman comes home after the rape, tells no one, and goes straight to the bathroom where she cuts up the dress she was wearing and flushes the pieces down the toilet, and then gets into the tub and scrubs herself all over as though the dirt is underneath her skin).

Eventually, Ann realizes she is being followed. (She does not know it is the lunch-truck owner. She never sees his face.) His elongated shadow looms out around corners. A chase ensues. It is terrible. Ann tries to hide. But her footfalls echo through the silence, he finds her, he always finds her. Eventually, her hyperventilation is so extreme that she collapses on a small dock outside a warehouse. As the lunch-truck worker approaches slowly up the stairs, Lupino moves the camera up, up, up the side of the warehouse, so that the angle is dizzyingly high, and we cannot see Ann collapsed just around the corner, but we see the man’s approach. Then he disappears too around the corner. Blackout. The next image we see is Ann staggering home, holding her stomach, disheveled and dirty. It’s brutal.

Unlike Something Wild, Ann tells her parents, who call the police. Ann has collapsed into trauma, sedated by the kindly doctor, and unable to answer the questions of the female police detective. The burly male detective stands downstairs, uncomfortably dealing with Ann’s grieving devastated father. It’s all so honest. Police officers sending a woman to do the interview. The police officers do not come off as callous or judgmental. They are on the front-lines. They cannot protect women from this. They understand the trauma better than the community does. But there is just no system set up to support those who have been raped. The cops do the best they can.

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The word “rape” is not used. “Criminal assault” is the term, and everybody knows what it means. The male detective feels helpless. Rapists (again: he says something like “the type of men who commit this heinous crime”) are sometimes rounded up, but they’re out on the street the next day, a commentary on women’s fear of moving forward with prosecution. This fear is exacerbated to the breaking point by a certain sense of prudery and judgment that follows Ann around relentlessly after the attack is known by her small-town community. People whisper about her on the streets. Men suddenly act really familiar with her (gross). Other women either don’t know what to say, or recoil from her like she has a communicable disease.

This here is a ruthless critique of the fear and prudery surrounding sex in 1950s America (and elsewhere, of course, but this is an American story.) It still exists today. Rape victims are torn apart and victimized again by the system, by people commenting on her and what happened to her. She must have brought it on somehow. Inadvertently, Outrage says that if you can’t even give something its proper name, if “rape” is a forbidden term, even by police officers, then a culture is in deep trouble.

One of the most sensitive aspects of the portrayal of Ann’s breakdown and PTSD following the rape comes about when her fiancé tries to comfort her, to insist that nothing has changed, that they will “put this all behind them” and be married and happy. That life is no longer for her, she feels, that future is no longer possible. Not only is she tarnished forever, something precious taken away from her, but she now cringes and recoils from male touch, even casual everyday touch, or affectionate touch from her fiancé.

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Jim doesn’t understand what that rape has done to his fiance. He can’t conceive how her impression of herself has changed, how her former softness and openness to his touch (which we see in their first scene together) is now altered. When he tries to hug her, she leaps back. He’s hurt. He is confused. He doesn’t know enough to understand that this is a part of sexual trauma. When she insists that no, she will not marry him, he gets aggressive with her, grabbing her arms and shouting in her face. It’s the worst choice he could make. Her perception of men has altered. They all have the potential to do to her what that horrible man did to her.

Eventually, her psychosis deepens and she runs away. She has no idea where she is going. But somewhere she thinks that maybe if she moves to another place she won’t have to deal with what happened, nobody will know. Ending up in a small town, after a collapse by the side of the road, she is embraced by the community of orange-pickers. She works in the orange-packing factory. A pastor named Bruce Ferguson (beautifully played by Tod Andrews) is gentle with her, but you can tell he is eventually interested in her romantically too. The introduction of Bruce, his first scene with Ann, sets up an uneasy expectation that he, too, will take advantage of this troubled young woman. He touches her shoulder. At this point, the film has made its point so strongly about unwanted touch that you recoil FOR Ann. (The film is only an hour and 15 minutes long, to give you an idea of how efficient Lupino was as a storyteller.)

There are scenes when Ann’s old life seems like it will be about to catch up to her. She hears radio announcers talk about a “missing woman” named Ann Morton who fled after a “vicious criminal attack.” She is terrified of being tracked down. She feels safe with the pastor, with the orange pickers. She doesn’t want to go back.

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She tells nobody about what has happened to her.

Minor everyday moments are fraught with terror. Men seem dangerous. Outrage is told entirely from Ann’s perspective, a deeply compassionate approach. Rape has a long-lasting impact, rape is an assault not just of the body but of who a person IS, and rape impacts the rest of someone’s life in the way that, say, a mugging does not. Because a purse is a purse. But your sexuality is something that is part of you, and when it is stolen from you it impacts ALL areas of your life. Outrage gets that.

There are scenes that are haunting, sensitively shot by Lupino, prioritizing Ann’s point of view. There’s one moment when Ann circles around a small platform of hearty country people dancing at a county fair. Ann is outside the charmed circle of being human, of being included in innocent pleasures like dancing and flirtation. Lupino shoots it in one, a slow pan around. It’s an intuitive and very perceptive approach. There is no language in Outrage saying, “I cannot love anyone or kiss anyone or marry anyone ever.” Lupino doesn’t need that explanatory dialogue. Ann’s slow walk around the fair platform says it all.

The ending is poignant and painful. I wouldn’t give it away. But the film addresses the reality of PTSD. It understands how flashbacks of trauma work. Its greatest contribution, though, may be its portrayal of the casual omnipresent atmosphere of sexual violence present in all women’s lives, so omnipresent that you become completely accustomed to feeling it and dealing with it.

It’s an extraordinary film. It is not available on DVD. TCM plays it on occasion. I did track down its entirety on Youtube. Probably uploaded without permission, so it may not stay there long.

Outrage is a must-see. Here it is on Youtube.

Ida Lupino. A woman in a man’s world. Doing it her way. A hero.

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39 Responses to Outrage (1950); Directed by Pioneer Ida Lupino: A Powerful Examination of Rape and Its Aftermath

  1. Stevie says:

    Haven’t seen it in 30 years and cannot wait to see it again with the advantage of your insights. Youtube and turkey fettuccini – I know what I’m doing tonight! Gorgeous post!

    //As Ann makes her order, those hands remain, sticking into the right side of the frame. It’s terrifying, but also extremely specific. Sexual threat is already there. It’s the air women breathe. I’ve talked about this before. This is an incredibly insightful and bold observation to make in 1950. //

    In Pauline Kael’s review of Yentl, she’s decribing a scene (I think the one where Yentl as Anshel exposes herself to Avidgor in order to prove she’s a woman) and says something like, “It’s simply different because a woman directed it.” It’s coming from a different point of view, a different set of life experiences. This is the essence of the joy of seeing movies made by other than white-male-straight.

    • sheila says:

      // Youtube and turkey fettuccini //

      hahahaha Dammit I want to come over!!

      // It’s coming from a different point of view, a different set of life experiences. This is the essence of the joy of seeing movies made by other than white-male-straight. //

      That’s totally right. Did not know that Kael comment – extremely insightful.

      Yes: similar to Selma, which told the civil rights movement from within the black community (as opposed to white reaction to it, a la Mississippi Burning). And not only a black director but a female director, who had more sensitivity (in my opinion) about the important role of women in the civil rights movement, often sidelined by men who have tackled the same topic. Not malignantly or consciously, I don’t think – it’s just the blinders that men sometimes have about how stories are told, about their own limitations of perception.

      Ava DeVarnay re-wrote the script that came to her. LBJ is certainly important. We get that. But he is not the center, as he pretty much was in the first draft. Her approach is so much her own. SUCH a necessary corrective.

      Come back and talk about Outrage once you’ve seen it again!

  2. mutecypher says:

    /That’s why I was disappointed Bigelow hadn’t acknowledged the pioneer women who came before her/

    My sense is that every woman director is a pioneer, that there isn’t a door left cracked open because some other woman walked through it first. So that things weren’t easier for her and aren’t easier for anyone else. If that’s correct, I can understand not acknowledging the women before her – their work might be irrelevant in terms of her getting a movie made.

    • sheila says:

      Totally disagree. When Halle Berry won her Oscar, she stood up there and acknowledged all those who came before her. All the great black actresses who broke the ground first, who went unsung, some who toiled in obscurity, others who were wonderful but left out of being celebrated by the mainstream – but all of whom helped make it possible for Berry to reach that podium.

      • sheila says:

        Women are very very aware of the small-ness of their ranks, of their sidelining. Male directors do not experience that, although they are inspired by those who came before. They do not have the same sense of how little they are represented – because they ARE represented. In spades. The blinders of privilege, unfortunately.

        When women are still the “first” at something – then you have a greater sense of history behind you. Tina Fey, when she won the Mark Twain Comedy Award, talked a lot about that (in a jokey manner) but still. “I look forward to the day when women don’t have to be the ‘first woman’ to be chosen for whatever …”)

        I am sure Bigelow is aware of Lupino. And I am sure it was just a missed opportunity. Like Julia Roberts not thanking the actual Erin Brockovich in her speech (she apologized for it almost immediately afterwards – in the height of the moment she just left it out.)

        Bigelow winning was a momentous moment for women in film. What that feels like for women watching, for young female film-makers, for girls interested in getting into the business – the impact can’t even be measured.

      • mutecypher says:

        So does that mean you think there’s more acceptance of women directors now? You’d have a better sense of this than I do.

        My feeling is just as I wrote – every woman needs to fight as if she’s the first.

        I’d be glad to be wrong about that.

        • sheila says:

          Of course every woman has to fight as if she’s the first. The resistance is still so stupidly engrained. The battles about women directing stupid super-hero movies – the resistance to it. The fact that someone like Nancy Savoca is not directing films REGULARLY. That Nicole Holofcener (I should have listed her above) has a hard time getting a film financed. It’s outrageous with so many male HACKS who get HUGE jobs.

          Films made by women make MONEY. And STILL. This is systemic sexism.

          Just because every woman needs to fight as if she’s the first does not lessen the awareness of contemporary women of the sacrifices made by the women who came before. If anything, the awareness is even MORE acute. They have benefited from the risks taken by women in the past. Those women in the past were the pioneers, the ones who cracked away at prejudice and resistance. Not an entertainment figure – but Viola Davis quoted Harriet Tubman in her Emmy speech.

          Long long individual female shadows in a mostly-male world.

          I don’t think there is more acceptance of female directors now. Female directors are just LOUDER about the sexism in the industry now. The success of Selma is a major MAJOR story, especially since Ava DeVarnay had only directed one small independent film at that point.

          • sheila says:

            Also the industry treats all of this with blatant tokenism. “Kathryn Bigelow got an Oscar – what the hell are you complaining about?”

            So there is only room for ONE, apparently.

            Men hold onto their power with an iron fist. But yes, that is starting to change. The criticism is pretty constant right now. It can get tiresome, because we need male voices too, of course.

            But I think criticism is at least raising awareness.

          • mutecypher says:

            This is essentially the same thing that goes on with CEOs. Gil Amelio, the guy who ran Apple before Steve Jobs returned, had done a merely adequate job at his previous company. It seems like once a guy makes it to CEO, he can keep getting employment as a CEO regardless of his previous performance. But one mediocre performance disqualifies a woman. I don’t think Carly Fiorina or Marissa Mayer (unless she really pulls things out of the fire) have CEO jobs of major firms in their future.

          • mutecypher says:

            I also liked the movies that Mimi Leder made, but I think she’s doing only TV now.

          • sheila says:

            Excellent analogy – something I hadn’t thought about!

            It’s even worse for minority women (and probably minority men too) since those people are seen as “representative” of their minority group. So a woman fails and there are 100 think pieces about women in the workplace, etc.

            The whole Reddit CEO thing (had you followed that??) is a prime example. The whole thing was a snake pit of nastiness – but the KIND of commentary that ousted CEO received, and also – how it seemed that she was set up to fail – was pretty gross. So Reddit can then say “Hey, we had a female CEO and look how THAT turned out.”

            Then of course there’s the “she’s a bitch” commentary – when … duh …. CEOs don’t get to be CEOs because they’re nice.

            It’s pretty systemic. But what with Twitter and 24/7 media – as annoying as it all is – I think at least awareness of all of this is changing.

            And listen: the thing about women is: nobody can tell women they CAN’T direct a film. That’s the best thing. Dorothy Arzner’s days as the ONLY ONE doing it are done. So the system may not let them in – to the mainstream stuff (although that’s not even true now – i.e. Bigelow, Penny marshall, Ephron, Nancy Myers) – but if women want to make films, they’re GOING to make films.

            Asking the business to “let them in” is, of course, important – and maybe the resistance is so engrained that television shows NEED a checklist for their seasons – make sure at least 1/3 of the episodes are directed by women, etc. I have somewhat mixed feelings on that – I don’t like the feeling of this being “granted” from the patriarchy – but maybe it needs to be done. Maybe people need to be FORCED to do it.

            Important too to remember that show business is unfair for EVERYONE. Definitely true. To assume that white males are just handed shit is a complete misunderstanding of how show biz works. Nobody is handed jack-SQUAT. It’s BRUTAL. But men are given the benefit of the doubt, promoted quicker, studios take risks with male directors quicker … and etc.

            I don’t know. We’ll see.

          • sheila says:

            TV is a great place for women to direct! – there’s more work and more opportunity – just because of the sheer volume of TV shows, there’s almost more visibility. You get to show your stuff in a variety of styles.

            Sera Gamble being show-runner, exec. producer of SPN, was also a rarity. A lot of fans treated her like shit, unfortunately. The nasty misogyny of some SPN fans. But still: her position was pretty major. Her scripts are still some of the best on that show.

            Lena Dunham is major. Her vision may be limited, but it is HERS.

            So – I have hope!!

          • sheila says:

            also, just personally: Soulless Sam was mainly Sera Gamble’s brain-child, and for that alone, I love her. :)

          • mutecypher says:

            The Reddit/Ellen Pao thing. That’s such a rat’s nest. I think she did a poor job as CEO there. Was she set up to fail – well, I don’t know who could have done a better job or how. But you are right that the Reddit board gets to check off a couple of items on the diversity box (woman, Asian). And it appeared reasonable to me that she lost her Kleiner Perkins discrimination lawsuit.

            But the commentary about her personally was just vile, pathetic, loser nerd-boy crap.

            She gets to sue if she thinks she was discriminated against. Doesn’t mean she was right, but she has that right.

            I think the behavior of movie studios and company boards of directors is just standard human behavior: we imagine people like us in the jobs we are looking to fill. I suspect that someone in charge of hiring a head nurse at a hospital in the Philippines imagines a short, brown-skinned woman as the normal candidate. But since it’s mostly White or Jewish guys in charge in the movie biz…. you get the sort of blinders that come with that group considering themselves the default.

          • sheila says:

            // I don’t know who could have done a better job //

            hahahaha Yes, that is true! It does sound like she was a mess, too emotional, not suited for it – but the feeling that she was run out of town on a rail, with character assassination following her, and vicious commentary about her race, her gender … Nasty!

            Not surprising – it is Reddit after all. But I couldn’t help think they just wanted a female “face” almost as a smokescreen – a “hall pass” – “we’re not that bad, see? We have a woman – a minority woman – as CEO!”

            So then women AND Asian women are collectively blamed for her failure.

            Your comment on the “default” is very much the issue. Another word for it is “prejudice” although oftentimes I do think it is unconscious – not as overt as open “let’s keep the women out” prejudice.

            There was an INFAMOUS moment in the history of the AV Club (a site that’s pretty great usually) where they put together a list of the Greatest Directors of the Last 50 Years. Or maybe it was the Greatest Films. Many many contributors worked on this. And NOBODY said, along the way, “Huh. There are no women on this list.” Not ONE.

            When the list came out, it was lambasted across the Internet – and the AV Club people – who are very nice, considerate – seemed genuinely chagrined that they had missed this. They were truly apologetic and embarrassed (which they should have been. It was appropriate.) If you were going to put together a list of Great Films from the silent era to the 1930s, then yes, you get a pass for not having any women on that list. But the last 50 years?

            With Jane Campion? Chantal Akerman (who made a better film than most men make in their lifetime with Jeanne Dielman and she did it at 24)? And etc.

            I think they re-did the list. I’m not sure.

            But they honestly did not mean to “leave women out.” They didn’t even NOTICE that there were no women on the list.

            That’s what needs to be combatted.

            Because these are nice people – these are people who watch hundreds of films a year – non-sexist people – men AND women – and NOBODY saw anything wrong with that list before it went live.

  3. sheila says:

    Or Hilary Clinton’s recent comments about questions like “How will you balance being a grandmother and being President?”

    For real?

    No seriously: for real?

    It’s almost comical!!

    (and women reporters are just as bad with this shit – maybe even worse. It’s pandering to their perceived audience.)

    • mutecypher says:

      Yes, it’s sad. There’s a math blogger I follow, a woman who’s a professor. She writes from time to time about discrimination in her profession. She’s pointed to studies that show women downgrade the resumes/CVs of other women (when given identical achievements, just with a female name instead of a male one) just as much as men. So I know of some guys who say “see, see, it’s not just us.” But really, it just points out the headwind that women face from everyone.

      It’s interesting to observe things as a teacher in a school. When I have taught at a school that had a bad principal who’s a guy, people just rag on what he does. When we have a principal who’s a woman who does a bad job, everyone rags on what she does. But the women teachers especially complain with “how dare that bitch tell me what to do.” Sucks to be in charge if you wear a skirt.

      • sheila says:

        I think we discussed this in the comments section to that fun movie Computer Chess!

        The lone woman in a group of men. In a group of men doing a supposedly “male” thing. Loved the anecdote you shared back then.

        The well-meaning men (because they are!!) who try to include her but end up isolating her.

        and yes: patriarchy is so strong that women feel scared to give women a helping hand. Because there ISN’T room for a bunch of women. That’s internalized “tokenism”.

        I know a lot of women who sound just as sexist as an MRA activist.

        My thoughts on the Chrissy Hynde rape thing, which we also discussed somewhere else, has no place in the tone of the dialogue going on about her book. The term “coming at me with pitchforks” is a propos. These people screaming at Hynde for how she described her own goddamn rape (how DARE they.) do not want to DISCUSS. They want to SHUT their opponents up. Really good tactic, activists.

        The Hynde commentary from feminists has been appalling, in my opinion.

        As long as these people want to shut DOWN conversation, we’ll never ever get anywhere. And that vibe increases irritation on the “enemy” side. It’s extremely harmful.

        But that’s a side issue. Or maybe it’s related. Who knows.

        • mutecypher says:

          Sorry to have veered off topic. (though I’m not the one who brought up SPN in this thread : -) )

        • sheila says:

          Ha! You know I couldn’t help it. :)

          Love off-topic stuff. Discussion is what it’s all about.

          Haven’t seen SPN yet – and won’t for a while. Handed in my huge first draft to Huge Assignment #1 on Monday and now I’m working on Huge Assignment #2 for next Tuesday. And I have Huge Assignment #3 for the following Sunday. And Huge Assignment #4 for November 5th.

          Uh … help.

          But had to get SPN in there somewhere .

          • sheila says:

            Go Sera Gamble and Soulless Sam! (I am, what, 5 seasons behind?)

          • mutecypher says:

            mostly I just had to tease you about SPN in the thread.

            But I was unaware of Sera Gamble getting crap. I really liked the seasons she ran, and being clueless, didn’t realize that others didn’t.

          • sheila says:

            I mean, yes, under her watch suddenly SPN was orangey-bright colors. And she got rid of the Impala for almost a whole season until JA put his foot down. “Bring the car back. Enough is enough.”

            She made some weird choices – but come on like the male show-runners didn’t also try to fuck with us, and change up the format? Keep it interesting so the show would last?

            I like her radical outlook though. How long she wanted to stick with Soulless Sam, just how much fans hated it, how much she didn’t give a shit about fans hating Sam – she was interested in exploring not just the plot possibilities of a Sam so altered – but also stuff like: What IS the soul?

            There’s a difference between being so unsettled by Soulless Sam that you ache for him to come back to normal and despising the entire plot-line.

            Gamble was pretty controversial – although she was there from the beginning. She’s tough too. I’m not sure exactly the ins and outs of the situation, but that’s what I got through osmosis.

          • mutecypher says:

            I was mostly thinking about the stories and the character arcs – but criticism for the colors is warranted.

          • sheila says:

            Yeah – you know, as executive producer that would be under her jurisdiction for sure.

            Not sure what happened there.

  4. sheila says:

    One other semi-amusing example of how perception of gender impacts women in negative ways:

    Barbra Streisand was crucified for lingering close-ups on her own face in Yentl, the long pan-up shot of her body in Mirror Has Two Faces (a ridiculous movie, but hang on) – sneering at her vanity, her self-obsession. Those shots were totally applicable to the plot being told – AND nobody else would freakin’ make those movies FOR her – SHE wanted to make them, and she starred in them because, duh, she’s Barbra Streisand, one of the biggest stars in the world. A lot of the commentary, though, was making fun of her for her treatment of herSELF onscreen.

    Meanwhile, Kevin Costner filled Dances With Wolves with loving shots of his ass. Lingering shots of his ass. Let’s look at his ass again, shall we? Oh my God, don’t I have a gorgeous ass?

    Any response to HIS vanity?

    Crickets.

    Men, in general, don’t notice this disparity in response . Women clock it immediately.

    Not that Streisand gives a shit about this or cries in her pillow. She’s BABS. She’s always done what she wanted, and everyone – from the getgo – told her she was ugly, too ugly to be a Leading Lady – yes, my God, what a voice, but give it up, ugly person (mixed with anti-Semitism. Who does this JEWISH woman think she is, putting herself out there as a valid Leading Lady? This is still going on with her.)

    So she’s sensitive, for sure, but she’s also tough. She’s experienced horrendous personal criticism. She can take it. It sucks, but she can take it.

    But still, it’s pretty gross, as an onlooker, to see her get “called out” on that and Costner given a pass.

    • mutecypher says:

      If Angelina Jolie directed a movie that lingered on her ass as long as Bekmemtov lingered on it in Wanted I’m sure she’d get crud for doing so.

      Hey, looking her up just now, I see that Maleficent 2 and Salt 2 are both announced. Those are both happy thoughts… in need of better titles.

      • sheila says:

        cannot wait.

        LOVE her. and looking forward to her next directing projects too. she’s always up to something weird and unique. Along with tromping through war zones wearing a veil on her head. She’s incredible.

        • sheila says:

          also – I read an interview with her – which was so great – and kind of goes back to the conversation going on in the Chantal Akerman threads.

          Jolie’s mother died. She was very very close to her mother (unlike her dad) – and it was a devastating loss. Soon after that – like a month later? – she was at Cannes with Brad and everyone commented on her sour-puss face on the red carpet. (She should have worn a black arm-band to remind those idiots.)

          The first movie she did after her mother’s death was Salt. She said it was so cathartic, the most fun she had had, she got to shoot guns and do stunts and it was the best release ever.

          I think maybe the critics looking on do not understand the variety of reasons people take on certain projects. Or they think: “Oh, her mother just died, she probably wants to do a three-hankie weeper right now …” Instead, Jolie does Salt.

          Makes perfect sense!

          • mutecypher says:

            She’s an amazing person: a movie star and first rate actress and someone who just seems to do what she wants. Comfortable with fame, without out any need to see her name on Twitter. I didn’t know Salt was right after her mom died – wow.

            I think critics (well, the ones who only hold microphones on red carpets) simply judge her as just another fame-needing person, expected to do the same cliched thing as all the over fame-needing folks.

          • sheila says:

            Jolie is pretty hard to pin down.

            I mean the woman’s first directing project took place in Bosnia, with no stars, an all-Bosnian cast, and with subtitles. And rape at gunpoint, plus genocide, plus an incredible scene when a bomb blows up a cafe.

            The Serbs were pissed about the movie, but whatever, Serbs, you attempt genocide you should expect some criticism.

            I think she’s a total weirdo, she could walk away from acting tomorrow and not really care, and yet when she shows up to act, she’s crazy magnetic and she knows it. And then her choice to get a double-mastectomy and hysterectomy and her willingness to talk about it and write op-ed columns about it …

            I think she is fabulous.

          • mutecypher says:

            I was running errands and about 45 minutes ago the lightbulb went on over my head. You just called AJ a weirdo.

            Love it!

          • sheila says:

            hahahahahaha

            I mean seriously, who else is even remotely like her?

      • mutecypher says:

        And congratulations on all the writing assignments! I know they’ll be great and I look forward to reading them.

        The reward for doing good work is to be given more work. Like the fella once said, ain’t that a kick in the head.

        • sheila says:

          Bah! The first one was the biggest. It took a month to research and write. But then the one in November is pretty huge too (I’m hosting a QA at MoMA about a Polish film I haven’t even seen yet). So I need to bone up like crazy for that one.

          I’m not complaining! :)

          So the month is one gigantic checklist.

          At least it’s all paid. And yeah – thanks! I’m grateful for the regularity of Roger Ebert – but it’s nice to write for all these other different places too.

  5. Rinaldo says:

    Sheila, have you read Frank Langella’s memoir Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women as I Knew Them? Probably you have, you seem to have read most things. It’s what the subtitle says, a series of disconnected short chapters about people he’s known or worked with, actors and not. (He concedes in his intro that these are how he remembers them, and they may have gotten polished in the telling over the years. But they’re often at his own expense. He can be annoying on occasion, but he seems to know that, too.)

    Anyway, I bring it up because of your most recent entries: He talks about Rita Hayworth and Ida Lupino, as he worked on a movie with the former and on a TV project with the latter, in both cases near the end of their careers. The stories make for sad reading, though he’s enormously sympathetic. And along with the many other chapters (I especially like the ones about Celia Johnson and Deborah Kerr), they give a picture of the various ways a life in performing can go, especially as it winds down.

    • sheila says:

      Rinaldo – I have heard so many excellent things about Langella’s book from practically everyone – I have not read it yet, but I have been meaning to. It sounds right up my alley. I love “anecdotes,” even ones you have to take with a grain (or a pound) of salt.

      Fascinating about Hayworth AND Lupino!! I had no idea he had worked with both of them. What are the odds??

      Humorously too: my cousin Kerry has just gotten a role in a TV pilot (not sure the name) where she will be playing the notorious gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. Stars at the time lived in fear of her – so they often courted her, in the hopes that she would to cut them slack in her columns. Stars wined and dined her, sucked up to her – all because they trembled with fear. Hayworth however – who was such a private person – with an extremely tumultuous personal life (she kept marrying famous men – Orson Welles, Ali Khan – I mean, come on) – but she just did not – could not – deal with the tabloid aspect. She cringed from it – even though she put on a big show for the cameras. And when she had a bit of control, she banned Hedda Hopper from visiting the sets of her movies. She just could not deal with the pressure.

      I’ve been meaning to tell my cousin that – who is now immersed in research about the period and Hopper.

  6. Looking eastward, Hong Kong has been better in recognizing female directors, with their Oscar equivalent, the Hong Kong Film Awards. Ann Hui has won FIVE times, the most wins of any director. Sylvia Chang and Mabel Cheung both won twice.

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