By Claire White.

So, there’s this film, you might have heard of it.

It’s called Lady Bird.

It’s Greta Gerwig’s solo feature debut as sole writer/director, and stars the likes of Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracey Letts, Lucas Hedges, and your new #1 Bae Timothée Chalamet.

You might have heard of this film, the one where a teenage girl demands everyone calls her Lady Bird (her given name because it was given to her, by her) due to its monumental hype. Since its release in the United states two months earlier, it has graced many a Top 10 films of 2017 lists, was the best-reviewed film on Rotten Tomatoes since Toy Story 3, received a plethora of awards during the pre- Awards Season (with a capital A and S) awards, has two Golden Globes, and five Oscar nominations.

And the film is only being released in Australia today.

Having caught the film at an advanced screening, you can be rest assured the film is just as good as the hype says it is.

Featuring fantastic performances by Ronan and the cast (particularly Laurie Metcalf, playing Lady Bird’s intimidating yet kind and hard-working mother, who also has received award nods as supporting actress), this is aided by the perfection of Gerwig’s script. Here you have a complex relationship between a young girl and her mother. Both are fraught with frustration and desire for a different life, but, as a spirited and ambitious teenager, Lady Bird takes it out on her mother more. The way conversations can flow from a nice moment into bickering or a fight is rarely seen on screen on this level, and as a result, you leave the cinema filled with both recognition, because I can relate, as well as a desire to call your mother.

(Speaking of which, here’s a reminder to call your mother).

Ronan (left) and Metcalf (right) as mother and daughter in Lady Bird.

Everyone loves a good movie, but what is most exciting about Lady Bird’s journey is the subject matter: This is a contemporary (if we’re calling 2002/3 ‘contemporary’) story about a teenage girl about to go off to college, and her relationship with her mother and friends. Furthermore, it is an original screenplay written and directed by a woman.

Such a response is unprecedented, especially for a film with a Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director nomination.

In a recent post written for BFI, Christina Newland argues films about women or directed by women are not given a fair go due to the lack of male critics willing to take these films seriously in their reviews. As a result, coming of age films about young girls are often glossed over in Hollywood. Teen films are fun, but you will not find them at the Oscars line up or in a publication’s Top 100 Greatest Movies list.   

This is why I am so excited to see just how well Lady Bird is doing, especially as a strong awards season contender.

During awards season, all eyes are on what industry professionals deem the best films made from the past year. For film fanatics, every moment of the awards race is analysed and debated with the intensity of a fantasy football league in the lead up to the Super Bowl (of which I am guilty). On the other hand, the nominated films are the only releases the causal film viewer will hear as being worth seeing.

With its Best Picture nomination, Lady Bird is the first coming of age film about a teenage girl to receive the accolade since An Education, which received a Best Picture nomination in 2009. Prior to An Education, no such films were nominated.

While Nick Hornby was nominated for the screenplay, director Lone Scherfig was excluded. With Gerwig’s Best Director nomination, she is the first woman to receive a nomination for their first film, and is only the fifth woman overall.

However, An Education is not necessarily considered a teen film. While the lead character is a sixteen-year-old school girl, the film takes the tone of a mature period drama. The same can be said of Brooklyn, which was nominated for Best Picture in 2015 (also starring Ronan).

Ronan as Christine 'Lady Bird' McPhearson and the fantastic Beanie Feldstein as her best friend, Julie.

Seeing a film like this receive such high praise and attention is so exciting to see. It is about time we see young girls taken seriously in Hollywood. In the past ten years, teenage girls were almost four times as likely as male teens to be depicted wearing tight clothing, and were over twice as likely to be shown with some nudity. Over 50% of teenage girl characters had a romantic interest. Culture is shaped by film, and having these kinds representation force young girls into one mould. However, teenage girls are more than a girlfriend or sexual object to be desired.

While writing the film, Gerwig was aware of the lack of coming of age films about girls. Furthermore, where they do exist, these films focus more on romantic relationships with a  boy rather than a girl’s own personhood. “I thought what is Boyhood but for a girl, or what is 400 Blows but for a girl?” she said at the New York Film Festival earlier this year.

When the film won the Golden Globe for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy), I was sitting in my friend’s living room floor, sobbing. Not only is this because a female written and directed film won one of the season’s highest accolades, but also because Lady Bird is the perfect example of a film I want to write myself one day—Films about young women and teenage girls; films about ambition and displacement and friendship and love; Films which view the everyday of a girl as worth noting—and Gerwig was nominated for Best Original Screenplay for that!

Every time I read an article on or interview with Gerwig, I am filled with an intense emotion of pride and inspiration. I am filled with an intense desire to go out and write. I feel seen, which is not a feeling easy to come by in this industry.  

Greta Gerwig on set with Saoirse Ronan.

Lady Bird joins a new era of female written and directed films about teenage girls. 2016’s Edge of Seventeen by Kelly Fremon Craig was delightfully touching and reassured me that I am not the only one to have had felt the same way growing up. The film was received well by critics, with lead actress Hailee Steinfeld receiving a Best Actress (Comedy) nomination at the Golden Globes. Like Lady Bird, the film was also awarded Best First Film at New York Film Critics Circle Awards. Other films of this era include Diary of aTeenage Girl, and internationally, Mustang and Girlhood.

Films like Lady Bird allow for young girls to see themselves on screen. For these films to be received well critically demonstrates an action towards teenage girls and their personhood being taken seriously for once.


Lady Bird is out in cinemas now.

Cause a Cine do not own any images used in this post.

By Zoë and Marisa.

WARNING: Spoilers for Blade Runner 2049.

Blade Runner 2049, the long-awaited sequel to the cult classic Blade Runner (1982), has been praised by critics for its cinematography, special effects and bold philosophical concepts. However, during our viewing, its representation of women was cause for a large amount of eye-rolling. At risk of being feminist killjoys at the party of gushing praise for this film, we just couldn’t let this slide. 2049’s representation of women is tiresome, disappointing and unoriginal. The women of 2049 are solely defined in relation to men, written as tired stereotypes without any depth. This is evident not just through the limited character development of individual women, but also the broader representation of women in this film as objects for decoration and the male gaze.

Blade Runner 2049 (source)

Blade Runner 2049’s female characters are one-dimensional archetypes, and with a couple of exceptions (we’ll get to those later), 2049’s female characters perfectly express the limited thinking of the virgin-whore (or Madonna-whore) dichotomy. First coined by Sigmund Freud, the Madonna-whore dichotomy was a complex held by men who could not maintain sexual arousal in a loving relationship, although they could with mistresses. The problem, Freud determined, was that these men divided women into two categories: pure, virginal Madonnas and sexually voracious ‘whores’. Because the man views sex as something to do with devalued women, he can’t do it with a woman he loves. The virgin-whore dichotomy is still evident today in culture. And it is this way of thinking -- that women are either pure or slutty -- that permeates 2049. As Ruby Hamad writes, conceptualizing women this way negates “the idea of sex [as] simply something that a woman does, like eating a meal or wash her hair, rather it becomes the thing that defines her.” Crucially, it defines her in relation to men, and how her sexuality impacts them.

Let’s start with Mariette (Mackenzie Davis) the sex worker, a sort of dystopian Pretty Woman with shabby clothes, smudged eyeliner and flawless skin. She has sex with K (Ryan Gosling) after his girlfriend Joi recruits her, her blank face giving no hint of her desires as she undresses for him. The later reveal that she’s part of a replicant resistance movement had the potential to elevate her from a fetishized caricature to a truly interesting character. However, the film quickly moves on from this revelation in favor of giving more screen-time to Jared Leto’s scenery-chewing.

Mackenzie Davis and some of the women of Blade Runner 2049 (source)

On the flip side, we have Dr Ana Stelline (Carla Juri), pretty much the only woman in the film who doesn’t proposition, kiss, or engage sexually with K. She also has a complete lack of autonomy, having been trapped in a glass box since the age of eight because of an illness. Waif-like and dressed all in white, she cries silently, the very image of purity. She’s clearly brilliant and skilled, but the main focus is her connection to Deckard (Harrison Ford). Dr Ana, a woman who apparently managed to get a PhD while living inside a glass box, is reduced to what’s most important: her relation to a man.

Rachel (Sean Young), the lead female character from the original film, is a clear Madonna here: she conceives a baby miraculously, through the power of true love. (An eye-rolling cliché, and a surprise to many who watched Blade Runner. Sexual violence and lack of other options can turn into true love, girls!). Once she’s fulfilled her duty by giving birth, she’s no longer needed. The reappearance of Rachel in 2049 would have been thrilling. But why do that, when you could stuff her in a fridge off-screen to fuel Deckard’s emotional angst?

Finally, we have holographic Joi (Ana de Armas), the male-fantasy FitBit who serves (literally) as K’s girlfriend. Joi is sweet and demure, but she’s also sexy. But rather than being a three-dimensional character, she inhabits these traits at K’s whim: she’s literally his fantasy. She switches between forms of femininity depending on what he wants, inhabiting what feminist Robin Morgan calls “the unbeatable Madonna-whore combination”.[1]  When she brings Mariette over for sex, she tells K she’s doing it because she feels bad that she can’t have sex with him. There’s no active sexual desire for him, just an expression of guilt. Whether she’s a 1950s-style housewife or dresses more revealingly, Joi remains passive.

Joi and K (source)

In fact, what all the above-mentioned characters have in common is their passivity. Not only are they constrained by social structures, glass boxes or software, they’re largely blank slates. We get no sense of what they want or feel. They want whatever K wants, whatever suits him. 2049 may sort its female characters into narrow categories based on their sexuality, but at least they all have something in common: whether virginal daughters, dead mothers or devoted girlfriends, their defining feature is how they relate to the men of the film.

While not all of the female characters in Blade Runner 2049 fit into these narrow categories, and not all of them are passive, the female characters who actually exhibit some agency aren’t necessarily more complex or better-written characters. The female characters that don’t fit into ‘virgin’, ‘whore’ or ‘Madonna’ still exist clearly in relation to men. Let’s start with Luv (whose name we had to Google as when we were writing this article we realized the female characters’ names just weren’t memorable). Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) is a classically masculine ideal of what a ‘strong’ female character should be, but her passion and determination to succeed in her task are only present because her boss, Wallace (Jared Leto), has deemed this mission to be vital. Her sole purpose is to fulfill the orders of Wallace, and she meets her end carrying out this mission. Her badass aura and get the job done attitude portrays her as practical and logical, stereotypically masculine traits. However, we must still be reminded of her womanhood, demonstrated through the shot of her controlling highly powerful weapons whilst simultaneously getting a manicure. Luv’s active and disciplined characteristics mask her submission to Wallace.

Hoeks as Luv (source)

In hope for some redemption of this film’s poor female representation, let’s move on to the head of the LAPD, who had the potential to be a fully autonomous female character. Lieutenant Joshi’s (Robin Wright) power in her role cannot be denied. She is the head of a whole police task force, which apart from her, is very male dominated. It is great to see a strong female character in an important role. However, one night she visits K in his apartment, and talking about work leads to her attempting to seduce him. This unnecessary pass at K undermines Joshi’s professionalism. Rather than having a sexuality of her own, Joshi’s sexuality exists only in relation to K. It feeds into a male fantasy that assumes almost every female character is interested in K sexually. Competition between the women in this film is a recurring theme and reiterates that a large part of their characterization is reliant on men. Both Luv and Joshi show a level of agency and authority, but it is only exemplified through participating in stereotypically masculine acts of violence and domination. Luv’s violent persona, and Joshi’s casual attitude towards killing anyone the LAPD needs dead, demonstrate again a level of one-dimensional character development that reinforces a misconception that if a woman does anything a man does, she is empowered. To be a woman in 2049 is to be either passive and docile, or active and violent, neither of which encapsulates the true potential of female empowerment.

The way that individual female characters are represented in 2049 is completely reflective of the attitudes towards women as a gender, and the film portrays them as sex objects for male benefit. Objectification of the female body is nothing new in Hollywood, and in this film we see it so blatantly time and time again. In the birth scene, while Wallace delivers a monologue detailing his drive to find a way for reproduction in replicants, a naked female body is hanging from the ceiling in the background. The camera pans around the room, often following Wallace, with the hanging body decorating the frame. It could be argued that this nakedness is being used to symbolize the natural process of birth. However, Wallace’s behavior sexualizes her naked state by kissing the woman, before slicing her stomach open. The camera lingers on her blood-covered thighs, further eroticizing her murder. The whole scene demonstrates a female body being used for dramatic effect and then discarded.

In the scene where K arrives in the deserted vast landscape, the frame is full of large, broken sections of female statues. Fragmented body parts, high heeled shoes, and sexualized open mouth poses are some of the formations of the statues, with no context given; another use of the sexualized female body as decoration in the mise-en-scene. Later, the scene of K looking at the advertisement for Joi, an enormous naked female body accompanied by the slogan “anything you want to hear”, demonstrates that more than just her nakedness is commodified. A product to be bought, in the form of a woman, that is interchangeable, submissive, and of course, sexualized. Then there’s the scene establishing a brothel, where exaggerated sex sounds are heard. The camera pans across a number of women, reduced to silhouettes and shadows, hands against the wall, all the same, while simultaneously highlighting the invisibility of the men. Repetition alludes to their lack of individuality; fragmenting body parts evokes an image of broken and fractured women. Objectification reduces the human body to an object. Feminists have long argued that once objectified, it is easier for violence to be carried out on that body[2] and objectification in itself is a violent and dehumanizing act.[3] The representation of the female body collectively in 2049 demonstrates how this fictional dystopian culture views women as subordinate, reflecting our own contemporary society.

An easy rebuttal to this analysis might be, “but it’s a dystopia”. In an overpopulated, impoverished world full of suffering, is it ridiculous to expect truly empowered female characters? Surely in a dystopia it makes more sense for the women to be downtrodden and oppressed?

While it’s true that the dystopian setting justifies the oppressed position of women, this doesn’t rationalize 2049’s lazy treatment of female characters. Perhaps you’ve heard of a show called The Handmaid’s Tale? Like 2049, it depicts a world steeped in misogyny, where women are valued only for how they can serve men. Unlike 2049, it shows us the women’s perspectives, allowing the audience to learn their motivations and desires. Even women who aren’t protagonists in The Handmaid’s Tale are given rich characterizations. The script presents them as more than mere objects, even though that’s how the show’s universe sees them. 2049 could have done the same, rather than the script reinforcing the women’s subordinate position. By showcasing trapped and constrained women, but not affording them motivations or wants that aren’t catering to men, the film reinforces sexism rather than condemning it. A scene of giant pornographic statues in the desert isn’t a condemnation of the objectification of women: when it’s presented without irony or commentary, it’s just objectification.

Blade Runner 2049 ultimately both reflects and reinforces sexist views of women. By presenting female characters who only exist in relation to men and playing into the tired stereotypes of virgin/whore/Madonna, the film shows no interest in the personhood of women. Furthermore, by showing women as only passive and vulnerable, or dominant and violent, the film suggests they can only become empowered by exerting control over others. In conjunction with the endless objectification of the female body, this portrayal of women is tiresome and disappointing. While it aims to show us what the future could look like, this film, through its script and mise-en-scene, inadvertently emphasizes the misogyny of our present.

[1] Carina Chocano, You Play The Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Princesses, Trainwrecks and Other Man-Made Men, (United States: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017), 9.
[2] Catharine A. MacKinnon, Feminism Unmodified: discourses on life and law (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1987), 138.
[3] Andrea Dworkin, Pornography: Men Possessing Women, (London: Women’s Press, 1981), 109
By Claire.

Awards season has arrived, and with it, the most exciting time of the year for me. It is my Super Bowl. I get heavily invested in all the nominees and constantly debate with friends while trying to guess who and which films will win. While some would argue awards are arbitrary and do not mean anything, the season is a celebration of film, and gosh darn, I love film so much. However, with celebration comes the equal frustration and exhaustive anger over lack of diversity and representation in the industry.
The 75th Golden Globes was last week, the first major awards show since Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse allegations, and the many others which followed, came out. Actors are getting fired or replaced and projects are being cancelled. But awards ceremonies have disregarded known abusers and people who have committed assault in the past, as they continued to award them with no consequence for their actions. Due to the fervour that is sweeping Hollywood to act against assault and inequality, eyes are on organisations like the Hollywood Foreign Press (Golden Globes) and The Academy (The Oscars), to see how they respond.
The Golden Globes this year were electrifying, but this is largely due to the large group of female solidarity. The unofficial dress code for the Globes was to wear black, in support of sexual abuse survivors and all the brave men and women who have spoken up about their experience. Seeing the sea of black dresses on the Red Carpet was beautiful to see. During the broadcast, my friends and I sat in complete awe while Oprah made her acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. When Natalie Portman uttered the words “and here are the all-male nominees” we screamed in equal part shock and delight. Saoirse Ronan’s win of Best Leading Actress (Comedy or Musical) for Lady Bird, and the film’s win of Best Feature (Comedy or Musical) had me literally sobbing. Seeing women speak up passionately, and being awarded for female-led work, means honestly so much to me. Especially as I am someone who wants to enter the film industry. This gives me hope.
Oprah Winfrey accepting the Cecil B. DeMille award.

While the spotlight has been on Hollywood these past few months, the women of Times Up spent that time meeting, planning, learning and creating an organisation which highlights the universality of sexual assault in the workplace. The organisation raises money for a legal defence fund, to help aid legal resources.

The most vocal of these women is a diverse group of female filmmakers: Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, America Ferrera, Natalie Portman, Rashida Jones, Reese Witherspoon, Tracee Ellis Ross, Shailene Woodley, Kerry Washington, Laura Dern, Eva Longoria, Ava DuVernay, Oprah Winfrey, Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Michelle Williams, and more.
At the Golden Globes, these women brought each other as their dates and used their platforms across social media and in red carpet interviews to raise awareness for Times Up and the issue of sexual assault across all workplaces.
·         Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement
·         Monica Ramirez, who organises against sexual violence in rural areas and for Latina empowerment
·         Saru Jayaraman, a workplace justice advocate
·         Rosa Clemente, a community organiser with a focus on Puerto Rican independence
·         Billie Jean King, whom Emma stone portrayed in her recent film Battle of the Sexes, who founded the Women’s Tennis Association
·         Ai-jen Poo, the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance
·         Marai Larasi, executive director of Imkaan, a British organisation which works to end violence against women
·         and Calina Lawrence, a Suquamish Tribe member who fights for Native Americans’ water rights. 
Seeing these amazing women on the red carpet, along with the sea of black and Times Up lapel pins was breathtaking to witness on screen. As each actress introduced their dates and let these activists talk about their work during interviews (when they weren’t being cut off or minimised on screen—the work of the media on the red-carpet left a lot to be desired) was a bold act of solidarity. In addition, Debra Messing calling out E!’s gender pay gap while on air to E!, and Connie Britton’s shirt embroidered with “poverty is sexist” contributed to the fierce, no-holds-barred attitude of the evening.
Reese Witherspoon, Eva Longoria, Salma Hayek and Ashley Judd on the red carpet.

This is not to say the movement was not flawed: actors who were expected to dress up for the black-tie event in the first place were able to just slap on a Times Up pin and be counted towards the movement. By wearing black, wearing a pin, and posting on Instagram with the hashtag #WhyWeWearBlack and #TIMESUPNOW, it was too easy to make it seem like you were a supporter of the movement, by doing the bare minimum. This is especially relevant for actors and actresses who have worked with Woody Allen in the past (or in Justin Timberlake’s case, currently stars in his film Wonder Wheel). Allen, who allegedly sexually molested his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow as a child, has yet to be held accountable for his own actions, as his films continue to be made, with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, and was awarded a Life-Time Achievement Award at the Golden Globes in 2014.
A Times Up pin worn at the Globes

As we move forward towards a future of accountability and consequences for those who do wrong, we need to allow those who have worked with Allen in the past to learn and grow, yet also acknowledge the consequences of their actions.
In a statement made to Buzzfeed News, Dylan Farrow applauded the signs of female solidarity, but pointed out these loopholes.
“I fully support women taking a stand, linking arms with other women (and men), advocating on behalf of one another to effect change not only in the entertainment industry but in the world at large. That is an admirable and worthwhile objective, I hope these women change the world. That said, the people who join this movement without taking any kind of personal accountability for the ways in which their own words and decisions have helped to perpetuate the culture they are fighting against, that’s hard for me to reconcile.”
As staff writer for Grown-ish Kara Brown pointed out in inaugural episode of culture critic Ira Madison III’s podcast Keep It, no one’s career has suffered for working with Woody Allen, so it has been confusing as to why no one will just admit they regret working with him. As the question continues to be asked, Why Are We Sparing Allen? people need to prepare a response and be held accountable.
Greta Gerwig accepts the Golden Globe for Best Feature (Comedy or Musical) for Lady Bird.
In the press conference after her debut feature film, Lady Bird, which she wrote and directed, won Best Feature (Musical or Comedy) on Sunday, Greta Gerwig was asked to address her previous work with Woody Allen in 2012’s To Rome With Love. At the time, her response left a lot to be desired, claiming she was still thinking about how to respond. It was only a couple of days later in an article written for the New York Times did she make an official statement:
“I can only speak for myself and what I’ve come to is this: If I had known then what I know now, I would not have acted in the film. I have not worked for him again, and I will not work for him again. Dylan Farrow’s two different pieces made me realize that I increased another woman’s pain, and I was heartbroken by that realization. I grew up on his movies, and they have informed me as an artist, and I cannot change that fact now, but I can make different decisions moving forward.”
Gerwig has since received a wave of support in response, calling for others to follow her lead and for the eloquence of the apology. She not only states she regrets working with Allen and will never do it again, but acknowledges the pain her actions had caused. Hopefully, this allows more actors and actresses to follow suit, especially in order for this movement against sexual assault is to continue.
Aside from Seth Myers, who did an excellent job as host, not one male actor mentioned the cause or spoke up for it in any acceptance speech, nor on the red carpet. While the women of Big Little Lies, a show about sexual abuse, used all three of their acceptance speeches to emotionally speak up against assault, and the importance of Times Up, when Alexander Skarsgard accepted his award for portraying a sexual abuser on the show, he made no such connection, nor uttered a word about the brevity of the themes. Essentially, he did not read the room.
While female solidarity is breathtaking, the onus needs to be placed more on men.  So far, no men are being held accountable to actually know anything, nor say anything, about their complicit role in the perpetuation of sexual assault, and the effects of their silence. On the red carpet, while the actresses tried their best to talk about Times Up and activism during their interviews, actors were asked about their work, not the pins on their lapels.
As a result, James Franco wins a Golden Globe (for his portrayal of Tommy Wisseau in The Disaster Artist), while wearing a Times Up pin, but the only woman he mentions is his mother (for giving birth to his brother). Meanwhile, he is simultaneously called out for sexual misconduct he has perpetuated against young women and teenage girls, on Twitter. In the days following the award show, as these allegations resurface, Franco’s Time Talks event has been cancelled, and he was grilled by both Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers while he was a guest on their talk shows. While I appreciate the men holding him accountable, this needs to happen more often, especially in a space such as a live interview, where they are forced to answer for their actions. However, Colbert was vague about what this “misconduct” was and thus it made it too easy for Franco to deny the allegations.

With the next major awards ceremony, the Screen Actors Guild awards next week, it will be interesting to see if this fervor sticks, and as Awards Season and the year progresses, if the Times Up movement will fizzle away. 

Cause a Cine do not own any of the images used in this post.