Monthly Archives: February 2012

Why stereotypes need to die, cont’d: The women of Community weigh in

A follow-up to my previous post: While movies are still failing to represent women adequately onscreen, television — at least some television — appears to be a different story. The Daily Beast has posted a great interview with the three female cast members of Community — Alison Brie, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Gillian Jacobs — along with Megan Ganz, one of the show’s writers; and if you’re a fan looking forward to the show’s return on March 15, this is definitely worth a look.

On the effect of having several women on the show’s writing staff:

Jacobs: […] It’s hard for us to tell when we get a script at a table read who wrote what line or who pitched what joke. But you always just have this feeling that there are women — smart, articulate, funny women — in the room advocating for these female characters.

Ganz: You wouldn’t be able to pull anything apart. It’s not like women work on the women types of storylines. We don’t just come in every day and say, “I think Troy and Britta should kiss.” Everybody works on every storyline. It’s the same reason that it’s good to have women in the room, and the same reason it’s good to have men and ethnicities represented and older people and younger people. If you find a story that everybody likes and everybody relates to in some way, then you know you have a good story. But if you’re telling a story and all the women are going, “I’m checked out of this, I just don’t really care,” then you’re going to have some problems.


Brown: […] I think what’s changing now is that more women are in positions of power. With your Tina Feys and Kristen Wiigs, you have more women in the driver’s seat. They know what we really are. The ladies in the Community writers’ office, they know who we really are.

On how the show challenges ethnic and gender stereotypes:

Jacobs: A friend of mine wrote a script, a feminist romantic comedy. She had a feminist scholar consult on it. My friend said, “Oh, my friend Gillian read it and really loved it.” She goes, “Gillian Jacobs, you mean: Britta Perry, feminist icon?” That gives me a lot of pride that women really identify with Britta. The thing that is unique about her is that she is never the subject of slut shaming. Like, she’s one of the only female characters that doesn’t ever get punished for having an active sex life. […]

Brown: As a black actor, it’s refreshing that I’m not playing the “sassy black woman.” It’s something that [show creator] Dan Harmon was cognizant of from the beginning. It is something that I’m always cognizant of. Every woman on the planet has sass and smart-ass qualities in them, but it seems sometimes only black women are defined by it. Shirley is a fully formed woman that had a sassy moment. Her natural set point, if anything, is rage. That’s her natural set point, suppressed rage, which comes out as kindness and trying to keep everything tight. […]

Brie: You could say the same thing too about Danny [Pudi] and Abed. I mean you know Danny’s played four or five Sanjays. […] Even still he’ll get called in for auditions and they’ll be like, “Can you do the accent?” We get to do different things in every episode, and it’s not just about gender or race. It’s about having well-rounded characters and a wide range of adventures so that we’re just never playing the same thing. […]

Ganz: The same thing that drives Dan away from your typical sitcom storylines is the same thing that drives him away from making any one character a stereotype, because it’s just too easy.

Read the rest. Community has been brilliant so far, and and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here. Including, I hope, a fourth season, if there’s any justice in the universe.

(Photo via NBC Universal)

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Hollywood fail: representing women in movies

Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency looks at the most recent crop of Oscar nominees through the lens of the Bechdel Test, and reveals how awfully — still — women are depicted in Hollywood movies today:

Sarkeesian’s earlier video on the Smurfette Principle is also worth watching:

Things will look up, I hope, in the near future. If I recall correctly, The Hunger Games (in print, at least) features significant non-boy-centered conversations among the women characters, something I hope the movie depicts; and Brave, I hope, will showcase more interacting women than just the already-awesome Merida making her way through a man’s world (not that that isn’t a compelling premise by itself).

But I fear that even if both films pass the Bechdel Test with flying colors they’ll be exceptions. Note to Hollywood: make more films that don’t ignore or insult half the world’s population, please.

(via FlickFilosopher)


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“You want to talk about values? … Looking out for one another — that’s a value.”

President Obama makes the case — brilliantly — for pulling together, for the responsibilities we bear toward each other in a community, and for government’s role in doing so:


The president has argued for why government matters before — as has Elizabeth Warren — and hopefully will continue to hammer this message home all the way to November.

(via The Dish)

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Do. The. Work.

Writerly inspiration from Ira Glass:

(via Brain Pickings)

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I already know that Brave will rock

Daughter: “Can we see the clip again, Dad?”
Me: “Absolutely.”

We are SO there.

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The case for optimism, cont’d: “You can’t change the world if you don’t believe it’s changeable”

Sam Harris interviews Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler, authors of Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, as they make the case for optimism (much as Hans Rosling does). Read the interview for all the details of their argument; what’s interesting to me, at the moment, is their view on why we tend to dismiss such well-founded optimism, why it’s so hard for good news to get past the filter of our negativity:

Why aren’t we more aware of these positive trends?

The simple answer is, because we’re hard-wired not to notice. As the first order of business for any organism is survival, our brain privileges information that appears to threaten us. As a result, we tend to focus too much on the bad news even as the good news struggles to get through. The media are so saturated with bad news — if it bleeds, it leads — because they’re vying for the amygdala’s attention.

Furthermore, to handle the massive influx of information we process on a moment-by-moment basis, the brain relies on heuristics. Most of the time these work. Sometimes they fail. When they fail we call them cognitive biases. As it turns out, a lot of our cognitive biases keep us pessimistic as well. The negativity bias is a tendency to give more weight to negative information and experiences than positive ones. Confirmation bias is our tendency to search for or interpret information in ways that confirms our preconceptions — which might not be so bad on its own, but when you add the media’s focus on negative news, you have a recipe for psychological disaster. This list goes on. The result is a brain that believes the end is near and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.

The upshot:

What do you hope people will get from reading your book?

The first is hope. You can’t change the world if you don’t believe it’s changeable.

The second is a vision and road map: a way to take bigger risks, create an innovation culture, and focus on solving problems rather than complaining about them.

Most importantly, we want people to understand that, more than ever before in history, individuals can now band together to solve grand challenges. We don’t believe abundance happens automatically. It’s up to each of us. That’s what makes today so different. We face enormous problems, but we — as individuals — have enormous power to solve them.

Yes. The key thing about rational optimism isn’t that it guarantees a better future, but that it empowers us to recognize our own capacity — and our own responsibility — for making it happen.

More reasons for optimism here.

(via The Dish; image via


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Bill Moyers: “Freedom of and from religion”

Bill Moyers offers a sane and spot-on assessment of the contraception debate and the president’s compromise:

My previous posts on this here and here.

(via Richard Dawkins)

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