Monday, March 8, 2010

If Your Body's Sexed Female, Whence Thou Deserveth the "Best" Oscar

On the eve of International Women’s Day [which is today], Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director, for her Iraq war drama The Hurt Locker. She is one of only five women to have even been nominated for this prestigious award, and last night she fought off competition from James Cameron’s epic Avatar, among others, to win six Oscars for her film. A glass ceiling has undoubtedly been shattered here, and about time too.... To put Bigelow’s win in context, the Oscars have been running for 82 years; it took over eight decades for the representation of women in this illustrious category to leap from 0% to 1.2% (and it hardly needs pointing out that the representation of non-white, LGBTQI or disabled women still stands at 0%). That figure surely shows that however much it may be cause for celebration, Bigelow’s win also serves to remind us that Hollywood is still overwhelmingly dominated by white, straight, cis, able-bodied males.
-- "Hollywood glass ceiling is shattered, but women are still losing out in film and TV," The F-Word Blog

Kathryn is the first woman to ever win in the Director category, and as was pointed out by AnnaLeighClark on twitter last night, it happened just before midnight and the start of International Women's Day. Also, as Shelby Knox pointed out, the statistics about this award were pretty stark: 82 years, 400 nominations, 4 women nominated, 1 awarded.

Throughout the entire broadcast, I was seething that they'd seated James Cameron directly behind Kathryn Bigelow, so every time they got a shot of her, they also got a shot of her ex-husband looking over her shoulder like some grim specter, evoking the Battle of the Sexes as which their dueling director-best film nods had been framed by the media. Ugh....  But then the most magical thing happened. Kathryn Bigelow won Best Director! FIRST WOMAN EVARRR! And then she kept! winning! The Hurt Locker destroyed Avatar! Suddenly no more shots of James Cameron. Har har Battle of the Sexes isn't so funny when women win, .... I didn't even love The Hurt Locker ..., and I would have much rather seen Precious kick the pants off of Avatar, but, given the whole tiresome Battle of the Sexes set-up of Bigelow vs. Cameron (and given the fact that I can't stand James Cameron), I was positively delighted to watch Bigelow walk up onto that stage again and again. Wheeeeeeeee!
-- Oscars Open Thread," Shakesville

More than just a blow-’em-up extravaganza, journalist Reed Johnson [in his essay "Kathryn Bigelow: An outsider looking in"] suggests that Bigelow’s film “shakes up traditional ideas of what men are and how they act.” Bigelow likes the big bang in her movies — guns, explosions, a rough-punch to the gut. And in The Hurt Locker, there’s plenty of that rugged, isolated individualism that so often defines modern manhood. But Bigelow is more deeply interested in the warrior codes of masculinity that are intertwined with men’s fears and feelings, and their conflicted impulses around loyalty and leadership, posturing and parenthood....  Still, there’s a ways to go in cracking the celluloid ceiling....  As Jane Fonda comments on Huffington Post, there are great moments in film this year, thanks to women in Hollywood. Five years ago, Fonda, with Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan, founded the Women’s Media Center to keep pointing out that “women are not only assets but requirements for a truly democratic media, and for strong, innovative entertainment.” We need to improve the numbers of women and people of color among the Hollywood players. But it helps that directors like Bigelow are shifting images of gender and masculinity in our everyday movie faves. This, too, is an important step toward gender justice....  Oh, and postscript. Thanks to Reed Johnson, I have a clever new phrase that I plan to use in a sentence today: Stealth Feminist. Brill!

One reporter said Bigelow had been reluctant to call herself a female director, asking, "Are you ready to say that now at this historic moment?"  Bigelow replied, "First of all, I hope I’m the first of many. And of course I’d love to just think of myself as a filmmaker, and I wait for the day when the modifier can be a moot point."  "But I’m very grateful if I can inspire some young, intrepid, tenacious male or female filmmakers and make them feel that the impossible is possible," she added.
-- Steve Pond, "Bigelow Backstage: 'Don't Give Up'"

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