All posts by Emily Blake

Emily Blake writes screenplays with lots of fight scenes. She is a vocal advocate for feminism, polyamory, kink, and sex positivity. She makes most of her money as a script supervisor for film and television, but she also makes cosplays for clients out of her little apartment in Los Angeles.

The Other Voices: Fast Color

I’m a sucker for stories about unrealized potential finally being realized. Any story about someone who thinks they’re not worth anything and then finds out they’re super special – that’s my very favorite kind of story. FAST COLOR is one such story, which is why I’ve chosen to make it my first in my new series on films directed by women and people of color.

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The Other Voices: On Films Directed by Women and People of Color

When Once Upon a Time in Hollywood came out, there was a lot of Tarantino blowback, which created Tarantino blowback blowback, and before too long, everyone was arguing over whether or not Tarantino is racist and/or sexist once again. Nobody has come to any generally acceptable conclusions, and nobody is going to change Tarantino, so I thought.

OK. What if we all just stop worrying about whether or not Tarantino is a racist or a sexist? What if we just kind of watch his movies or don’t, depending on what you’re into. And instead of arguing about it, what if we all just vowed that as we watch Tarantino films, and Scorsese films, and Spielberg films, and the films of a thousand other genius white cis male directors – what if we also make a conscious effort to watch films by women and people of color? That way, yes, you’re getting your white boy director fix, but you’re also exposing yourself to some voices you didn’t know about before, and helping to support material from artists who have a harder time getting funding for production and marketing.

The truth is, when a director is a woman or a person of color, they are far more likely to hire women and people of color to work on the cast and crew, and that’s good for everyone. And even though statistically, films with diverse casts do better box office numbers, we still suffer under the delusion that only white men really know how to direct. Women and people of color simply don’t get the same level of exposure.

Here’s an example of it at work. It’s a TV staffing example, but an example nonetheless. I LOVE Rick and Morty. OBSESSED with Rick and Morty. Watch Rick and Morty over and over again all day forever. Here’s me at Comic Con in my Rick and Morty coat I made, so you know my bona fides.

But if you listen to the commentary on season 1 episodes, it’s cringeworthy. It’s so BROEY. While Justin Roiland is talking about pretty graphic things he’d like to do to Summer, you also hear stories about using binoculars to watch women walk around on the lot below. You can hear the discomfort in Dan Harmon’s voice in an attempt to convince the listener that they really tried to get women onstaff, but no women happened to be interested. And maybe they did. I don’t know – I wasn’t there. But I do know that most people in the TV writing community like to pull from people they already know, and if you are a guy who graphically describes what you’d like to do to a female cartoon character, you’re unlikely to be the kind of guy with a whole lot of platonic female friends. They probably didn’t personally know a whole lot of women writers who wanted to be in a room like that. I know that if I could be sure that the room was a safe space, I’d LOVE to be on the Rick and Morty writing staff – but would I feel safe there after hearing that commentary? Absolutely not. But fast forward, and sure enough, eventually they found women to write for the show. The point is, they probably didn’t look very hard in the beginning. Sometimes people will ask one woman and say well, we tried. But they don’t actively search – they just look around at the most obvious people around them – and the truth is, because it’s so much harder to get exposure as a woman or a person of color, sometimes YOU HAVE TO SEARCH. It’s not a meritocracy. Cis white men are taken more seriously, whether they deserve it or not. They will always be the most obvious candidates. But they won’t always be the best ones.

So.

I Tweeted my proposal:

And you’d think I’d ask some white dudes to rip their own arms off. They were offended at the idea that I’d ask them to do any work. “But I am enlightened!” They said. “I judge a film by the quality, not the skin color or gender of the person who made it! How dare you suggest otherwise! This is an outrage!” (I am paraphrasing).

They were seriously so mad. I argued at first, hoping I could reach a few, but almost every conversation ended in either a block or a mute, so eventually I just started pre-emptively muting all of them.

Some of them were enraged that I hadn’t told them what to watch, so I decided to follow my own advice and started my own deep dive into films directed by women and people of color. I tweeted out a request to my followers to give me suggestions, and I got back an avalanche of recommendations, both foreign and domestic, and it’s still growing:

And that’s what I plan to do next. Once a week, I’m going to watch one film by a woman or person of color, and then I’m going to write up my thoughts about it and tell you where to find it in case you want to join me. Every week, on Monday, you can find my article and the assignment for next week here.

I encourage you to engage if you’d like. You can email me about this here to give me your thoughts on this film or suggest one:

Or comment below. I’d love it is this became a conversation, not just me blabbing on. However, anyone commenting in a negative way about the existence of this column/project overall, or saying anything sexist or racist will automatically be deleted. I’m not having that crap here (TheOtherVoicesATH@gmail.com). But meaningful thoughts? Always welcome.

Hopefully, we can all be introduced to some films we never would have seen otherwise.

We’ll start next week, on Monday, with director Julia Hart’s recent release, FAST COLOR, which you can currently find on Amazon, ITunes, Vudu, Google Play, Redbox, and Fandango.

The Disappointing Mrs. Maisel

How a great show ended up in a divorce cliché.

In April of this year, after two years of constant turmoil, frustration, anger, sadness, stress, and poverty, I got divorced. It was one of the worst experiences of my life, but I don’t regret going through it because I’m much happier now that it’s over. It totally changed my perspective on marriage and relationships in general, and I’ve been noticing lately that my reaction to fictional relationships on my television has been forever altered as well.

Season two of THE MARVELOUS MRS MAISEL hit me in a way I wasn’t expecting.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

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Doctor Who and Daredevil: This Week in Showrunners Who Did Good

Just because a showrunner is a white man, that doesn’t mean he can’t be intersectional.

 

You hear a lot about the importance of diversity in the writers’ room in order to have a broader viewpoint – and that’s always correct. Showrunners need to hire more diverse writers, and those writers will in turn grow up to be showrunners, and in the meantime, new voices will create more interesting and relatable stories. Truth be told, there is no room in the future for cis white men who refuse to step out of their bubble. It may not seem like it, but what we’re living through now are the death throes of their era. That’s probably what they’re so afraid of.

 

That’s why it’s so important to see cis white men stepping up to help create a TV landscape that includes voices and stories other than their own. That’s the future. This week, we saw two cis white male showrunners do just that.

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The Complex History of the Chosen One

Emily Blake explains why being picked by destiny is an inferior story choice.

 

I don’t believe in destiny or soul mates or any kind of predetermined fate of any kind. I’m willing to accept that maybe the force is real. Maybe karma. But free will is my jam, so movies about “The Chosen One” are always a bit problematic in my mind. Here’s a person who never earned anything being protected by all the people who are doing the real labor, on the promise that this person will live up to some vague premonition they’ve all decided to risk their lives for. It’s not a great lesson about life, even if it is a nice fantasy to imagine that the Powers That Be have given us someone to save us all with their magical gifts.

 

I love when being The Chosen One is earned. I hate when it’s a birthright. And now, some examples:

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The Racism We Don’t Notice

How BlackkKlansmen Made Me Rethink My Own Racial Bias.

 

White people in America have a weird binary view of racism. If you say the N-word, you’re racist. If you don’t, you’re in the clear. But racism doesn’t begin and end with that word. There are a thousand ways white people contribute to a racially charged atmosphere that we may not even realize, even if we have the best of intentions.

 

Since watching BlackkKlansman, I’ve been thinking about some of my own ingrained prejudices. I’ve always had this sort of “Ugh” attitude toward Spike Lee. Didn’t know why, just never really liked him. And when I went to see BlackkKlansman, I started to wonder what the source of my dislike was. That’s when I realized that my parents constantly bashed him when I was a kid. That’s it. That’s the only reason. He is a black man who tells stories about the black experience and racism and it made my parents uncomfortable, so they talked about how much they disliked him. So I disliked him too, even if I didn’t understand why.

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San Diego Comic Con 2018: A Tale of Many Steps

Emily recaps her favorite week of the year!

 

I’m a little late on this post. I had the bright idea to move three days after Con ended, so after 10 days straight of walking a billion steps and being socially active and then packing and picking up heavy things and then cleaning, I passed out in my new bathtub and soaked there until I woke up and realized I’d put off my recap for way too long.

 

So here it is, my rundown of San Diego Comic Con 2018, a distant memory now, of the time before the great migration to New Apartment. But I like to share my five-day journey for all the people who couldn’t be there, or for anyone who wants to relive the greatest week of the year.

 

Before you read this, know that I had plantar fasciitis the entire time. I walked like, 20,000 steps a day while sort of pretending everything was totally fine. It was not fine, and eventually my foot just fell off, but I kept walking. Heroic? Maybe. Painful? Definitely. Worth it? Present Me will say yes and let Future Me deal with the long-term consequences.

 

If you learn nothing else from this article, you should take my advice on two points: 1) Do not move the week after Comic Con and 2) Don’t have plantar fasciitis the week of con.

 

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Diversity in Pop Culture is What Will Save Us

It’s time to invest in stories from different perspectives!

 

A few months ago, I sat on a fan filmmaking panel at a small fan convention. I proposed the panel and moderated it. The other panelists were a young man/woman filmmaking team who regularly produced content, and an older white man who had made one fan film in the ‘80s. The other woman and I offered the most practical advice, and ended up doing most of the talking (this was a situation where the moderator is one of the panelists, not an outside interviewer), and providing what I feel is a pretty valuable list of advice to new filmmakers interested in making fan films.

 

Yet when the door opened and the young convention volunteer came in to tell us we had five minutes left, he looked at the old white guy and waited for his approval. I kept nodding at him, then waved at him, then finally had to verbally interrupt a point the other woman was making to say THANK YOU to the volunteer before he realized that I was leading the panel and I got his message. It had never occurred to him that the only old white man on the stage was not in charge of the panel.

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Yes, Women Can Be Friends!

Women can be friends.

It’s true! Women can even be amazing friends who support each other. I’ve worked on all-female crews, and the environment is a lovely, supportive safe place where teamwork is paramount, and nobody has to worry about getting sexually harassed or made to feel insignificant. Conflicts still happen and enemies still exist, but when women work together, they can get a lot done and have a good time.

 

Ocean’s 8 did a great job of embracing this. In fact, the teamwork was almost TOO good. There wasn’t enough drama for my taste, and maybe that’s because it was realistic. In real life, an all-female team of thieves would just get shit done and solve problems and not try to dick measure.

 

 

We’re taught that women are catty bitches who see each other as competition, but that doesn’t match what I see in my world.

 

On film, female friendships are often adversarial. For every 9 to 5, you get 10 Working Girls, where women compete for the same job or the same man or both. At some point action directors realized that when you put a woman in a black leather bodysuit and make her fight another woman in a white leather body suit, that turns other men on. As I’ve written before, in any large group, there can be only one woman, which automatically makes other women competition. We’re constantly barraged in pop culture with this idea that women cannot be friends.

 

But the times, they are a’changin’.

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About that Lone Girl on the Team…

Guys, we need to talk about that lone girl on the team. You know, the only one “allowed?”

Think of your favorite movie featuring a team, something like Ocean’s Eleven, Baby Driver, World’s End, or even a Guardians of the Galaxy.

 

How many women are on the team?

 

Was it one? Did I get that right?

 

 

Actually, in Ocean’s Eleven, the one woman isn’t even one of the titular eleven. In The Expendables, we don’t even get a woman until the third movie – and don’t think I didn’t notice when I saw the first one. My first thought on leaving the theater was “Where was Michelle Rodriguez?” That happens a lot, too – the all-male team – but that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. I’m here to talk about that one woman who’s allowed to play with the boys.

 

My feelings about clowns are well documented on social media so I won’t be seeing IT, but I’m familiar with the story. It’s a good story and I enjoyed the original series (Tim Curry’s clown is more funny than scary, which is the only reason I didn’t throw my TV out the window. Fuck that clown in Poltergeist, though. Fuck it to hell.), but it does fall into that “one girl allowed” trap.

 

We went a long time with only one female Avenger, and she still hasn’t gotten her own movie. You don’t have to go far to find examples.

 

Here’s how it works. You’re a group of boys, but you’ll allow ONE girl in, as long as she’s a tomboy. She must be tough and way cooler than all the other girls because she’s willing to do the fun stuff boys do like ride around on bikes or steal priceless artifacts, not just sit around playing with her Barbies all day and being lame. If you’re kids, maybe your lead boy has a crush on her, but she doesn’t have time for that shit because she’s too busy being cool. When she grows up, though, she becomes Zoe Saldana in The Losers – a sexy badass who’ll flirt with you just enough to think you have a chance.

 

It’s a clearly established message, one we see play out in a film like Working Girl, where the women eat each other. There is room in the boy’s club for exactly ONE woman, and that one woman must be tough as nails. If another woman comes along, she is a threat to you. She might take the place you worked so hard to earn. What if she’s tougher or sexier or better at throwing rocks at clowns? You’ll be pushed out and replaced, because there’s never more than one. So you hate that other woman, and you will do what it takes to keep her away from your boys. And this is why you hear that old adage that women hate each other. No we don’t. We’ve just been taught to see each other as a threat because we’re not allowed to work together if we want to be successful.

 

 

And before you’re like “Get over it, lady. They’re just movies,” realize that this mimics our daily lives. I’ll never forget when Ken Marino was on The Nerdist podcast and Chris Hardwick asked him why he never had more than one woman in the cast of The State. I’m paraphrasing (not by much), but this is what Ken said: “We had Kerri Kenny. Why would we need another woman?” They had what – ten men in that cast? But why would you need more than one woman? It wasn’t a joke – this was Ken’s actual reasoning. (And white people as far as the eye can see, while we’re at it)

 

Movies about women doing “grrrrl power” stuff is totally fine. A chick flick like Waiting to Exhale or First Wives Club? Go for it, ladies. Just don’t touch our man’s world with your delicate manicured fingers.

 

Need proof? Look at what happened with the female Ghostbusters. More than one woman holding a gun? And none of them are even wearing spandex and sliding sexily under a laser beam? (Although, OMG now I really want to see Leslie Jones wear spandex and slide sexily under a laser beam) And they’re FRIENDS? And THE MAN IS THE DUMB SEXY ONE? THE WORLD IS ENDING!!!!! EVERYONE PANIC!!!!

 

Men hate women liking the same things they like so much that they actually said a Ghosbusters movie about women would ruin their childhoods. Like, those actual words were used, and not just by one or two guys either. I gotta tell you dudes, I survived all the Ghosbusters being dudes. I survived all the kids in Stand By Me being dudes. I survived all the Expendables being dudes. I survived all the thousands of heist movies (Go watch The Hot Rock, you plebes) being about dudes (and usually one woman). My childhood was ruined by shitty parenting, not by watching movies about boys. I sure do wish I’d had some female Ghostbusters to look up to, though.

 

Boys get to have movies where they share a bond of friendship by going on adventures together. Girls get to have movies where they share a bond by drinking wine and talking about boys. We like having adventures too! We like busting ghosts! We like leaving the house and traipsing through the woods! And not just one of us – a LOT of us! Sometimes together! If the idea of that threatens your sense of self, the problem is you.

 

 

That’s why I’d like to conclude by giving a big shoutout to The Fast and Furious series. As that series has expanded, it’s gotten not only more diverse in color, but more diverse with women as well. Sure, you’ve got Letty, who is the stereotypical tomboy who’s normally allowed to exist in movies about teams, but you also get Gisele, who’s all grace and poise and has her own agency.  You get Ramsey, who’s smart and quippy. You get Hobbs with a female partner he relies on – more than once, even – and the relationship feels real. Say what you will about those films and their silliness, they allow their characters to expand away from what we’re used to seeing over and over, which is probably one of the reasons they’re so successful.

 

I’m tired of going to the theater to see the same sexy tomboy surrounded by white dudes (and one funny black guy) in every single movie. So bring on your lady Ghostbusters. Bring on your Amazons. And also bring on some new story about women that isn’t a reboot or adaptation or a story about a fucking road trip where we chat about how much boys suck or compete for a man. Bring on some goddamn girly adventures, because as Cindy Lauper once said in Goonies, which was allowed to have TWO girls, “What’s good enough for you is good enough for me.”

 

 

QUICK NOTE: Originally mentioned at the top of the post that Kung-Fu Panda only had one female character on the team, but it turns out we forgot about Viper, played by Lucy Liu.