May 27 2013

Help Me Understand Why Cannes Winner “Blue is the Warmest Color” is a Triumph for Lesbians

I was a late bloomer. I was a tree-climbing, pet-menagerie-loving, book-devouring tomboy my entire childhood. At 14 years old I still had not reached puberty, and I had begun to wonder if something might be physically wrong with me, since most of my girl-friends had been bona fide sanitary-pad-carrying “women” for many years.

When “womanhood” did finally strike me at 15, it hit with a vengeance. I went from stick-thin to hourglass in a matter of weeks, and I had stretchmarks on my new C-cup breasts to show for it.

I struggled a bit with the transition. The sudden attention. And, as I became increasingly attracted to boys, and they to me, I began to discover that my new womanly parts were some sort of an asset.

Still a virgin and halfway to 16, I met a 21-year-old man who shared a house with his brother in my cousin’s neighborhood. He was gorgeous. He was intelligent. He was chivalrous. He was single.

We got to know each other over neighborhood spades and domino games and we traded flirtations, though we both knew he was too old for me.

It was a sweet fall for me. Uninitiated virgin meets worldly, independent, philosophical  man-friend. After a first  kiss, we decided to be “a couple,” though I made it clear to him that I did not intend to “lose my virginity” until my wedding night. It was the stuff of Disney movies.

We “went steady” for a few months. He picked me up on his motorcycle and took me on mountain hikes and picnics. He wrote me romantic letters and professed his love for me.

He may have really loved me. Or, he may have been grooming me for sex. Arousal is a powerful force, and a body will want what it wants.

But, I was still a child. And, he knew it.

The brief love affair ended in his car one night in my driveway. We were kissing (and suffering from the arousal of it all) and he suddenly stopped and said. “I really care about you, but I can’t do this. I respect you. I respect that you’re not ready to have sex, but I’m a man, and I do want to have sex. I don’t want to hurt you in any way, but I can’t do this.”

And, that was the end of that. I cried for a couple of weeks then moved on to a relationship with a boy my age.

Now, let’s imagine for a moment an alternate universe in which that conversation ended instead with the passionate sexual consummation of our “young love.” Let’s pretend that our subsequent increasingly explicit and adventurous sexual cavorting was captured on camera and displayed to the public as the artistic exploration of an adult man initiating a 15-year-old girl into the physical expression of their “forbidden” love. That, legally, would not be considered art. That would be considered child pornography and my man-friend would have likely been arrested and would now be a registered sex offender.

I suspect a major motion picture about said grown man seducing a child that contains lengthy and pornographic sex scenes would never make it to pre-production, let alone be lauded as artistic.

Which brings me to my admittedly sight-unseen judgments about “Blue is the Warmest Color.”

Here is the description of the film: 15-year-old, Adèle has no doubt : a girl must date boys. Her life is turned upside down when she meets Emma, a blue haired young woman who allows her to discover desire and to assert herself as a woman and an adult. (They left out the part about how Emma is a sexually experienced graduate student in her twenties.)

In the many reviews of this film I have seen online, no one is discussing the age gap between these characters.

Brokeback Mountain was a monumental film about two consenting adults that won accolades for its courage and sensitivity, but had one of those characters been a 15-year-old boy, would that film have been made?

When it comes to sexual exploitation, should it matter that the one doing the exploiting doesn’t have a penis? Does Adele need to be 14 for us to view Emma as a molester? Thirteen?  When adult men do this to young boys, a cry for their prosecution is loud and immediate.

Being a woman and a mother of women, and having been a 15-year-old myself, it’s impossible for me to appreciate or applaud a film in which an adult seduces a child–and that seduction is offered up in graphic detail for voyeuristic mass consumption.

Being a woman it is difficult for me to trust the motives of a male film maker whose 3-hour movie contains long segments of what has been described by reviewers as “extremely graphic” and “absolutely not simulated” lesbian sex. (His red carpet walk with the teen women who starred in the film gave me the creeps.)

Not being a lesbian, I ‘m wondering why this film is being discussed all over the Internet (mostly by men) as a “triumph” for lesbians of which to be “proud.”

Please know that I am not being facetious or sarcastic when I ask for help understanding why those applauding this film do not feel compelled to protect the world’s Adeles from the sexual advances of “loving” adults, regardless of whether the adults are male or female, straight or LGBTQ.

BLOGGER’S NOTE: I have not seen Blue is the Warmest Color and do not want to after reading the reviews. I did not read 50 Shades of Grey for the same reason–because, though it is likely to be titillating, my personal preference is to not be “entertained” by the sexual exploitation of innocents  (and I don’t want those images in my head forever). This has admittedly influenced my opinions about this movie. I welcome other points of view.


May 31 2012

Michelle Rodriguez: “You Have to Be Trashy and Black to Get Nominated” for an Oscar

Director Lee Daniels (Precious) is receiving strong criticism for his latest film, “The Paperboy,” which was mostly panned at the Cannes Film Festival this year and called “outrageous,” “unintentionally funny” and “campy.”

However, at least one fan of the film thought its leading lady, Nicole Kidman, kicked some thespian a-double-s in her raw portrayal of a “white trash slut.”

Michelle Rodriguez told Vulture.com that she believes Kidman should be nominated for an Oscar for her work in The Paperboy, but likely won’t because she’s white. Speaking about a specific scene in the film where Kidman urinates on Zac Efron and orgasms, the “Lost” actress said:

“I f—g loved it. One of my friends said, ‘She’s going to get nominated for an Oscar for that.’ I was like, ‘Nah, man. She’s not black!’ I laugh, but it’s also very sad. It makes me want to cry. But I really believe. You have to be trashy and black to get nominated. You can’t just be trashy.”

You have to be trashy and black to get an Oscar nomination?

This is bothering me on so many levels. Not because a non-black actor doesn’t have the right to her view on how Oscar decisions are made or her opinions about how black actors get noticed by the Academy…

I’m bothered because despite the certainty with which she proclaimed her belief,” she’s wrong…

Off the top of my head I can think of several “white trash” roles that have garnered Academy nominations, among them, Charlize Theron for “Monster” (2003), Melissa Leo for “Frozen River” (2008), Jennifer Lawrence for “Winter’s Bone” (2010), and Rooney Mara for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2011). With a little research I found Sharon Stone, Elizabeth Shue, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Kathy Bates, Anjelica Huston… the list goes on and on of white Oscar nominees who’ve played whores, alcoholics, stalkers, abused girlfriends, etc.. And, that list doesn’t even include the best supporting nominees or the countless white men who’ve acted lowdown, dirty, and/or freaky on the big screen.

Given the reality that the Academy actually has no problem including white people in “trashy” roles on their list to receive what is widely recognized as the highest thespian award on earth, I’m wondering if what Michelle was alluding to is the widely-held perception that black actors are more likely to be honored for work in which they play a “trashy” character.

Also not correct.

I’ll admit that back in 2001 I was among those who hated the fact that Denzel and Halle both won Oscars playing characters who scraped the bottom of the morality barrel. But, as much as I have little confidence in the Academy’s ability to recognize the “best” onscreen performances (of any ethnicity), regarding this particular issue of “required trashiness” for black actors, it should be noted that historically, the ratio of black nominees in “trashy” roles to those playing heroes (or just regular folks) is actually quite low.

Prior to the year 2000, of the 16 Academy nominations for lead actor and actress, only Laurence Fishburne’s portrayal of abusive husband Ike Turner in the film “What’s Love Got To Do With It” could be categorized as “trashy.”

Here is a list of the best (black) actor/actress in a leading role nominations for the last ten years:

2011 Viola Davis The Help Maid
2009 Morgan Freeman Invictus President of South Africa
2009 Gabourey Sidibe Precious Abused Teen
2006 Forest Whitaker The Last King of Scotland Brutal Dictator *WON OSCAR*
2006 Will Smith The Pursuit of Happyness Self-Made Millionaire
2005 Terrence Howard Hustle & Flow Pimp / Rapper
2004 Don Cheadle Hotel Rwanda Hero
2004 Jamie Foxx Ray Music Legend *WON OSCAR*
2001 Halle Berry Monster’s Ball Executed Prisoner’s Widow *WON OSCAR*
2001 Will Smith Ali Boxing Legend
2001 Denzel Washington Training Day Corrupt Cop *WON OSCAR*

Here are the supporting actor/actress nominees:

2011 Octavia Spencer The Help Maid *WON OSCAR*
2009 Mo’Nique Precious Abusive Parent  *WON OSCAR*
2007 Ruby Dee American Gangster Gangster’s Mother
2006 Jennifer Hudson Dreamgirls Singer *WON OSCAR*
2006 Eddie Murphy Dreamgirls Singer
2004 Jamie Foxx Collateral Hostage Cab Driver
2004 Morgan Freeman Million Dollar Baby Former Boxer  *WON OSCAR*
2004 Sophie Okonedo Hotel Rwanda Hero’s Wife
2003 Djimon Honsou In America Neighbor w/ AIDS
2002 Queen Latifah Chicago Corrupt Jail Matron

I’m DEFINITELY not suggesting that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has been generous, fair or impartial to black actors over the years, but numerically speaking, Oscar nominations for “anti-hero” roles do not outnumber morally neutral or heroic roles.

Michelle Rodriguez really needs to check her stereotypes and her facts before she stands on the backs of black actors to defend a white actress’s “right” to be nominated by the Academy for a “trashy” role.

On “The Island,” physics and facts may have been easily contorted and controlled, but this ain’t “Lost,” Michelle, and in the real world “really believing” something that has no basis in fact doesn’t make it true