This week, Dahlia and Amy are back to grumble and celebrate the Academy Awards. They dig into the limits of #MeToo in an industry that would continue to celebrate known abusers Gary Oldman and Kobe Bryant and overlook Ryan Seacrest’s abusive behavior so he can stay on the red carpet. And the tale of two white women actors, Emma Stone and Frances McDormand, and how their different remarks reflect what White Feminism or true allyship can look like at the Oscars. And of course the latest update on the clown car show that is the Trump administration in Petty Political Pminute, and don’t forget the latest Amy vs. Dahlia!
WATCH: A crew of four women in a journey film for those of you into aesthetics and alien shit: Annihilation, starring Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
READ: Danielle Evans’s short story collection Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self reveals how we don’t live in binaries of rights and wrongs with stories that look at gender, race, and all the impactful decisions we make in life.
LISTEN: Dahlia wrote a list of all the Latinx women pop stars taking over pop music, including Princess Nokia and her song “Brujas.”
Subscribe to Bitch’s podcasts through our audio RSS feed.
AMY: Hi. Welcome to Backtalk, the feminist response to pop culture podcast. I’m Amy Lam, Contributing Editor at Bitch Media.
DAHLIA: And I’m Dahlia Grossman-Heinze, Senior Engagement Editor at Bitch media.
AMY: And every episode, we start off by talking about our favorite pop culture moment. What was yours, Dahlia?
DAHLIA: Oh my gosh, Amy. This weekend I was just minding my own business, listening to podcasts while I did my laundry like I do, and I saw that Caitlin Flanagan, she is sort of one of those writers that we’ve talked about who says like, “Well, in my day when I was being sexually harassed, I’d just punch them in the face keep going.” That’s kind of her deal. So, I was just minding my own business when I saw that there was a podcast episode interview with her at The Atlantic, and I turned it right on. And would you guess, this is what happened in the first like 30 seconds.
[The Atlantic Interview podcast theme music]
HOST: Welcome to The Atlantic Interview. My guest today is Caitlin Flanagan who is one of America’s most famous writers and certainly one of The Atlantic’s most famous writers. And she’s won a bunch of prizes for her great journalism. And she happened to be in town, and I said, “Let’s go make a podcast!” So, welcome, Caitlin Flanagan.
CAITLIN: Two corrections.
HOST: Well, you can’t correct me before we’ve even started.
HOST: OK, correct me.
CAITLIN: I’ve only ever won one award unless you count Bitch Magazine calling you the Douchebag of the Century.
HOST: Wait. You were— What is Bitch Magazine?
CAITLIN: I don’t know. I don’t think exists anymore, but I have it on my CV.
HOST: Really? It was a name calibrated for success—
CAITLIN: It was. [laughs]
HOST: —on the newsstand.
DAHLIA: I was shocked.
DAHLIA: I was shocked, and I had to let everybody know immediately. [laughs] First of all, we have some edits to her edits, which is that she wasn’t actually named Douchebag of the Century of all time.
AMY: She wishes.
DAHLIA: She was named a Douchebag All-star. [chuckles] And, and— OK, first of all, very rude that she called us Bitch Magazine instead of Bitch Media. Very rude that the interviewer, who was actually the editor in chief of The Atlantic Jeffrey Goldberg, is also fronting like he doesn’t know who we are and that we exist, when in fact, we have existed for 20 years.
AMY: So rude and like purposefully rude, you know, like super shady. Yeah, I was totally feeling you ‘cause I think you’re the one that texted me about this. You’re like, “Did you hear?”
DAHLIA: I did. Yeah.
AMY: And I didn’t wanna hear, but then you said it was within the first minute. I’m like, fine, I’ll listen to the first minute. And literally, all I did was listen to that first minute, and I was also equally very upset. Because it’s like that kind of shade where they pretend we don’t exist, but they know we do. Obviously, because you were named this by us, and you are proud enough to mention it on your introduction. So, there.
My favorite pop culture moment is way less rage-inducing, and it is plant Instagram.
AMY: So, some of my close friends and family know that I love houseplants, and there is like a whole genre of Instagram accounts that are devoted to just loving and showcasing houseplants. But the thing is, I actually don’t follow any of these accounts because they make me wanna buy more, and I absolutely cannot have more houseplants. I just have too much already. But I love—
DAHLIA: How many do you have, Amy? Do you have a number?
AMY: I have probably around, I think two dozen-ish at my Mississippi house, and then my partner still lives in our home in Portland. And I don’t even know how many plants we have at home there like, dozens.
AMY: Honestly, like I go home, and I’m just like oh my gosh! So, I really can’t have any more plants. It’s just too much. It’s irresponsible, you know what I mean? And I get sad when they die, so. And they do die. I think that’s another thing about how millennials have plants, like when a plant mamas and plant daddies, they never talk about their plants dying. And our plants die sometimes, and it’s OK to acknowledge that.
AMY: Even though I don’t follow them because they make me what more plants, It’s just that I like knowing that they’re there so that whenever I feel like looking at other people’s plant babies, [laughs] I can just search it and find it and then be at peace with the fact that I’m not the only weirdo who’s creeping on plants on the Internet.
AMY: I think it’s my recommendation is that, if you’re ever just wanting something soothing that has nothing to do with how fucked up our world is, just go to Instagram and just search for plant accounts. And you would be surprised at how many hours you’re gonna spend just scrolling through people’s houseplants. It’s amazing self-care. [laughs]
[cutesy bells ring]
DAHLIA: In this week’s petty political p-minute, I’m gonna focus on three people who are having very bad weeks. They are Hope Hicks, Jared Kushner, and Sam Nunberg. Hope Hicks is the soon-to-be-former White House Communications Director. Last week hope appeared in front of House investigators to answer questions about the Trump administration’s ties with Russia and collusion, etc. Hope refused to answer many questions. She said that she was told by the White House that she didn’t have to answer questions about anything after election day, which is just a lie. That’s just a thing that she told herself to answer. But she did apparently admit on the record to having lied for Donald Trump, and then basically, right after she finished refusing to answer all of these questions for hours, a whole bunch of reporting came out. One, that Donald Trump was furious with her for admitting on the record that she had lied for him. Because that is a bad thing to have admitted on the record. And then second, the very next day, Hope Hicks resigns. And Maggie Haberman who is an incredible reporter over at The New York Times was catching some flak for saying that this had been in Hope’s plans all along, that her resignation was actually not abrupt and had nothing to do with the fact that she’d been questioned by the House investigation committee, and in fact, that this had been in her plans for a long time.
And I wanna say like, yeah, sure. I’m sure that Hope has been overheard saying at restaurants and at bars, “I fucking hate my job, and I can’t wait to quit.” I’m sure that’s true. And I’m also sure that she quit. I mean why would you quit a day after you’re being compelled to testify in front of members of Congress unless you were highly rattled by being forced to testify in front of members of Congress. So, hope is still around. It’s not clear yet when her official final last day will be. But that is another one. Biting the dust from Donald Trump’s, first his original team. Hope has been with Trump for a very long time. She used to work for Ivanka before she worked for Trump, before she worked for the campaign. So, it’s a big blow to Trump because she’s one of his sort of like most-trusted people. And also, it’s you know the revolving door of the staff of the Trump White House, which the door keeps revolving.
And speaking of a revolving door, last week all of our favorite son-in-laws, Jared Kushner, had his security level altered. Jared Kushner had previously been on the top-secret security level. But because he is totally unqualified and is not capable of solving Middle East peace or whatever it is that Trump is tasking him with doing, and because his job is just to like be there and make Trump feel better, rightfully, John Kelly lowered the access. John Kelly, the Chief of Staff, lowered Jared Kushner’s access to what is called secret. And that means that Jared Kushner can no longer see the presidential daily brief, which contains top secret material that is supposed to be viewed by the president. So, Kushner can’t see that anymore, which is great because he definitely had no business doing that anyway.
And here’s a little tidbit that I really delighted in learning: The president’s official calligrapher—that’s a position at the White House—that person has a higher security clearance than Jared Kushner—
AMY: [laughs for forever]
DAHLIA: —because of the calligrapher’s needs to know the president’s schedule to make these invites. I can still hear you laughing, Amy. So, Jared knows less than that. [laughs] Jared is not allowed to know more than what the calligrapher knows.
And then last, in earth-shattering Trump news—and I should say that we’re recording this on a Tuesday. I just wanna say that because I’m sure so many more wild things will happen in one hour from now—but last night, Sam Nunberg who was a former member of the Trump campaign, he was an adviser on the campaign from 2011 to 2015, which I think one, gives us an insight into the fact that Trump was preparing to run for a very long time before he announced it. Sam Nunberg was actually fired for racist Facebook posts. But last night, yesterday, he apparently received a subpoena from Robert Mueller, from the Special Prosecutor’s team, asking him to hand over any communication he’d had between 2011 and the present with a variety of sort of key players: Jared Kushner, Corey Lewandowski, Hope Hicks, and specifically Roger Stone. And Roger Stone is like a top Republican campaign strategist. He’s been around for a very long time.
And Sam Nunberg, over and over was saying like, “Oh I’m not gonna incriminate my mentor, my father, my best friend Roger Stone. And in this unhinged day yesterday, Sam Nunberg hit up every TV show that would have him on to just— And I wanna say, it was pretty clear to me that he was not fully sober based on some of the things that he was saying on live TV. But it was just straight up it was like Trump campaign gold. Let me play just a clip of it.
[audience laughter over and over in an edited montage of Nunberg’s statements]
SAM NUNBERG: I know Bob Mueller. I know that whole team, and they’re right. And they probably have something on Trump. Trump did something pretty bad. [audience laughs]
Look. Paul Manafort, Rick Gates: Crooks. They were crooks. I think Carter Page colluded with the Russians. Sarah Huckabee is a terrible press officer. Trump is the most disloyal person you’ve ever gonna meet. I mean, do you know the way I’ve been treated by Donald Trump? I mean, I hate the guy. Do you think I was talking to Corey and Hope Hicks? I mean while they were having their affair?
DAHLIA: On CNN, Erin Burnett actually said to him, “I can smell alcohol on your breath. Have you been drinking? Are you on any substances?” Because that is totally how he was acting. He was chugging quite suspiciously from a mug all day long.
AMY: I saw that clip too of Erin Burnett asking him that, and it was so cringe-y and weird and obvious that he had been. And I was sitting there thinking like, man there have been moments where I’ve come home from a night of revelry [laughs] to my partner who was not out with me. And he’s like, “You’ve been drinking ‘cause I can”— And I was just like, “Wow, I’ve been drinking a lot. That’s why you can smell it .” So, I can’t even imagine how much he’d been drinking all day for her to be able to smell it across their desk or whatever. But that is such an embarrassing moment, but I think it really speaks to the fact that this administration and the people who are and were in it are so fucking messy. And it’s just really, hopefully, it’s just a matter of time before shit really hits the fan, and all these people get in trouble, and all of them go to jail or whatever the fuck. ‘Cause I just can’t.
I mean I’m surprised but also unsurprised that these people keep coming out and rolling out and doing these ridiculous press tours where they embarrass themselves and the administration by proxy. It’s just like OK, how many clowns are in this clown car? [laughs]
DAHLIA: Oh god. Unending.
AMY: Yeah, and can we get them all the fuck out of this place? Just aaggghh!
But yeah, that was one of the most wild things to watch on TV, for sure.
[cutesy bells ring]
DAHLIA: You might think that Amy and I are the best of friends, but actually—
DAHLIA: —we have very fierce and important disagreements about very important things. And to make sure you know about that, we’ve started a new segment called Amy Versus Dalia where we argue about something very important. And you can only choose one side. Last week we talked about who was our favorite, the best character on Law and Order Special Victims Unit other than obviously, Olivia Benson, who is the star of the show. Amy’s vote was for Dr. Huang, who is a Forensic Psychologist Criminal Analyst on the show. And my vote was for Detective Fin Tutuola played by Ice-T, just mostly ‘cause I like Ice-T. And this time we had fewer votes than in times before, and I’m wondering if that’s because most of our audience maybe thinks that Elliot Stabler, Olivia Benson’s old partner, is the right choice. I don’t know. But this time around we had 80 people vote, and Amy, you’ll be happy to know that you won. Amy got 48 votes. Or actually, Dr. Huang got 48 votes, and Detective Tutuola got 32 votes. So, Amy you have won. You are correct. But guess what. We have a new Amy Versus Dahlia for you.
Because today, Thursday, is International Women’s Day, we have decided today we are tackling who is the best TV mom? Amy, do you wanna go first?
AMY: Yes, I’m super excited to talk about my TV mom, and she is Lupe Alvarez from One Day At A Time, the Norman Lear reboot that’s on Netflix. She’s played by Justina Machado. And first of all, Justina Machado’s an A+ actor, but I wanna talk more about Lupe Alvarez. She’s a single mom. She’s a Vet. She’s dealing with her PTSD. She’s raising two young kids who are dealing with so much stuff. She has a queer daughter. She has a son that’s dealing with racist shit at his school. I just think that like she’s just, I hate using the word badass because sometimes badass is used to not describe anything, but in this case I think badass perfectly describes Lupe Alvarez. She’s such a great mom, and I actually don’t see enough Latina moms on TV. And it’s really great to see her on TV doing such a great job, being honest about how hard it is to be a mom.
And she’s equally frazzled but also equally together. Because in the newest season of One Day at a Time, she’s going back to school to become a Nurse Practitioner. So, she’s balancing being a student and raising her kids and then also balancing living with her own mother, who’s played by the legendary Rita Moreno. So, I just love her as a character, and I think she’s not like a perfect mom, which I actually don’t like seeing, especially on sitcoms. She’s just flawed enough but does a great job at picking up the pieces that’s left behind sometimes when her own ex, her kids dad, does some fucked up shit sometimes. But I just love her character so much! So, my vote is for Lupe Alvarez from One Day At A Time.
DAHLIA: OK, I am making the case: Best TV mom is Frankie Bergstein from Grace &Frankie played by Lily Tomlin. What I like about Frankie as best TV mom is that her kids are older. They’re like in their 30s or 40s, and I really think that that’s an underseen aspect of the relationship between mother and child, is when everybody’s an adult. Which I really think is, I mean I prefer my relationship with my mom as an adult than the one that I had when I was 15 and was crying and complaining about everything. So, Frankie one, smokes weed with her kids, talks about masturbation, is hilarious. [laughs] Is very supportive and wanted to be the doula for her daughter-in-law’s baby. She’s just like a giving, loving, open, hilarious person, and I think that’s something that is really, again, underseen in representations of moms on TV, is their selves as adults sort of separate from their relationships to their kids. There are of course, scenes where she’s with her kids, and she’s so funny and warm and giving. But also, the ways that the show shows her caring for her kids but also caring for herself and having her own life separate from being their mother.
Also, like god, Lily Tomlin is such a star. And that show makes me so happy just to see her and Jane Fonda going around having the time of their lives. So, my vote is for Frankie Bergstein best TV mom.
AMY: I also wanna put it out there that don’t be upset that we didn’t choose more classic moms. We were thinking more of TV moms that are on TV right now. So, I know that there are some great classic TV moms that we didn’t mention, but these are two fantastic TV moms that we are standing for, for International Women’s Day.
DAHLIA: So, vote but you must vote. Only one can be the best TV mom.
DAHLIA: Who will it be? Will Amy or I be right? You can vote by heading over to bitchmedia.org and clicking on the link for podcasts, going into this episode’s post, and there you will be able to vote your little heart out. And we’ll let you know who won in the next episode.
[cutesy bells ring]
AMY: Speaking of heading to bitchmedia.org, you can head there too an become a Pollinator. Pollinators are our very special group of Bitch supporters who contribute just $8 a month. And that’s your way of saying that you listen to our podcast, that you love Backtalk or Popaganda. And the $8 gets you a subscription to Bitch Magazine, a Bitch mug, and the very best of best stickers that Bitch has to offer.
AMY: You can join at bitchmedia.org/pollinators, and it is just $8 a month. I’m trying to think of what I spend $8 on, and mostly what comes to mind are chocolate bars. I try to eat chocolate bars that are like “good for me.” And $8 is about like 2 ½-ish chocolate bars. So, by Dahlia and I each a nice good chocolate bar for $8 a month.
DAHLIA: That’s so funny that you said that, Amy because I’ve been seeing this ad for something called snacking chocolate, which is like I don’t know, chocolate and flax seeds or something like that. And the ad is like, “Finally, a chocolate you can snack on.” And I was like, oh, I wasn’t supposed to be snacking on chocolate?
AMY: Wat. What? I feel very attacked right now.
AMY: What? Whoa. I am anti-that chocolate. That is rude and judgmental!
DAHLIA: Yeah! Take that. We wanna snack on chocolate.
AMY: As a chocolate lover and a flax oil lover, OK, I do not agree with that messaging. No to that, [laughs]
DAHLIA: We would also love it if you would head over to iTunes and rate and review us. You know, the mysteries of the Internet: All we know is that the more people rate and review us, the more our podcast shows up in people’s feeds. Also, we love to read the comments. So, I wanna read one here written by Sinister 2. They write, “I realize the name may turn some people off, as people have asked me at work, ‘What are you listening to?’ However, the podcast is super informative on intersectional feminist news. I really like their comedic twist to it as well, so it’s not total gloom, but they’re able to speak directly with personal experiences that relate to others. I am also a subscriber to the magazine.” Thank you so much. Yay! Thank you so much, Sinister 2.
Our new slogan is that we’re your friendly neighborhood rage cheerleaders. Which is to say that we’re very angry, but we’re gonna present things to you in a way where you can, we’re cheering your rage on, so we are all raging together. But in an upbeat way.
[cutesy bells ring]
DAHLIA: Since last weekend was the 90th Academy Awards, Amy and I are gonna be talking about the Oscars all in this episode. And first up, we’re just gonna talk a little bit about sort of the snubs, what was happening on the red carpet, and sort of what was leading up to the actual ceremony itself.
So, one of the things that was sort of like in the background context of this Academy Awards was the red carpet, and specifically E!’s red carpet. Ryan Seacrest has been sort of the crown jewel of the E! family for a really long time.
DAHLIA: He does these red carpet interviews every year for all of these ceremonies. But what’s changed since the Golden Globes is allegations of him sexually assaulting and harassing his stylist. They haven’t come out because in fact, it turns out that E! knew about these allegations for many years. But they came out publicly. So, Suzie Hardy was Ryan Seacrest’s personal stylist from 2007 to 2013, and her employment ended when she went to H.R. detailing the fact that Ryan Seacrest had groped her, Ryan Seacrest had forced her head into his crotch, that Ryan Seacrest’s assistant was always saying like, “Oh, Ryan has a crush on you. Ryan really likes you. Do you wanna hang out with Ryan?” Which ugh, is so horrible to have assistants doing that kind of work for stars. But so, it turns out E! knew about this because they let her go in 2013. But Suzie Hardy spoke again in advance of the Oscars to say these are all of the things that Ryan Seacrest did. Why the fuck is he still on E!? Why the fuck is he hosting the red carpet?
And Ryan Seacrest denies these allegations. But I think what’s really illuminating is that Amy and I care so much that you think about who is delivering news to you and from what context that comes from. And thinking about E!’s coverage of the Golden Globes, which was a very Me Too-driven award ceremony, think about the fact that Ryan Seacrest, who had been accused of sexual harassment and assault by Suzie Hardy, maybe by more people, you know he’s the one getting to make decisions about whether or not he’s gonna ask about Me Too, how he’s gonna ask these questions, how E! as a network is gonna cover this.
And so much so that the way that E! decided to cover and to deal with this situation of the allegations against him—because publicists were saying, “We’re not gonna have our clients talk to him; we’re just gonna have them skip him, because why would we have them talk—E!’s resolution to this conflict, instead of saying like, “Oh, we take these concerns seriously; we’re gonna pull Ryan while we do an investigation,” whatever, instead E! just decided to implement a 30-second delay in their broadcast so that if anyone said anything untoward to Ryan or brought anything up, that they could just make sure that shit never aired. Which is like, god! I can’t! I mean not that I’m expecting any kind of standup behavior from E!, but that is some very cowardly behavior. So, that was one of the things in everybody’s minds leading into the Oscars.
And then the second really big thing I think, other than how is the Oscars gonna address the Me Too moment, which we’ll talk about in a little bit, I think the other issue on everybody’s minds was what’s gonna happen with Get Out? Get Out, which was like so snubbed by the Golden Globes but is such a beloved movie, so critically successful, so commercially successful: Would it be honored in the way that it deserves at this Academy Awards? And all of that was lightly tainted by the fact that the Hollywood Reporter typically traditionally does interviews with Oscar voters, anonymous interviews with Oscar voters just to sort of see what they think. But they published these interviews to sort of give people an inside look at what it’s really like to vote for the Oscars.
And this year they interviewed an actress, unnamed as I said, but this is what she had to say about thinking about Get Out. “Get Out is a good B movie, and I enjoyed it. But what bothered me afterwards was that instead of focusing on the fact that this was an entertaining little horror movie that made quite a bit of money”—do you see how I emphasized that—“they started trying to suggest it had deeper meaning than it does. And as far as I’m concerned, they played the race card, and that really turned me off. In fact, at one of the luncheons, the lead actor Daniel Kaluuya, who is not from the United States, was giving us a lecture on racism and how black lives matter.”
DAHLIA: “And I thought, what does this have to do with Get Out? They’re trying to make me think that if I don’t vote for this movie I’m a racist. I was really offended.”
AMY: YOU ARE! YOU ARE, YOU ARE, YOU ARE! Sorry
DAHLIA: [laughs] And you know the thing is that this is one person’s vote. But I think it is so informative to think that who is actually voting, and what are they thinking about when they’re voting? And what this woman is saying is that what she’s thinking about is that she was personally offended by the implication that white people benefit from a racist society. And that pissed her off so much that she’s not gonna acknowledge this “little horror movie.”
AMY: UUUGGGHHH! UUGGGGGGHHHH!!! UUUUUGGGGGHHH!
DAHLIA: Oh my god, Amy! Take a breath. [laughs]
AMY: When I fucking read that, I was really upset. OK, I am not a good person. I’m just gonna say that right off the top right now.
AMY: OK, I am a bad fucking person because I notice that on that profile of that Academy voter—I think it said it was a she—that she’s older. And my first thought was, she’s gonna die soon. So, I think the only solace I have in this is she will no longer be a member of the Academy. Because that’s fucking bullshit, how dismissive her comments were about the film itself. “Oh, it’s just a little,” did she say like a “b-rated film?”
DAHLIA: Yeah, “It’s a good B movie.”
AMY: How— You— Ex— UGH! Oh goddamn!! I just wanna like— I just wanna sit across from her and give her a piece of my mind. I think it’s fucking bullshit to say something like that. And everything that she said about that film and about the people involved in that film was meant to make them feel small.
AMY: And I think that the reason why her comments are so enraging is because she is not alone, and you know that she’s on alone. You know this notion that there’s a best of anything is kind of flawed and problematic. It needs to be troubled, right? But we still have to recognize that people make films, and this is still an industry in which this stuff matters. And it’s nice to be rewarded for the work that you did, regardless of how problematic it might be. And to ignore the fact that Get Out had a huge, huge cultural impact is, I think it’s a sort of to really display how unaware you are, how much you’ve benefited from our culture being something that’s being ruled by white supremacy. How much you’ve benefited from it, to the fact that you can’t understand why this film is so important and has such great cultural impact.
I mean, I’m looking at some of the former best picture winners like Spotlight, which is about a newspaper, OK? Argo, which is also about like another news organization.
DAHLIA: And The Post that was nominated this year, which is also about the newspaper.
AMY: Yeah. Yeah, I mean these aren’t super exciting films. I could also be very dismissive and be like, “These are just films about news media, like boring! Snoozeville!” You know what I’m saying? It’s like why do these films matter? They matter because they are exposing some kind of truth, theoretically, right? Especially with Argo, and especially with Spotlight. They matter because they’re shining a light on something that highlights a huge problem about our culture, about our society, which is exactly what Get Out did.
No hate towards The Shape of Water, that ended up winning best picture. Because I also understand that sometimes films win because of its artistry and the story that it’s telling, and it’s maybe pushing boundaries for filmmaking. But to be so dismissive of Get Out and for those reasons to be like, “Oh, my god! You made me feel feelings about being a racist coward,” that’s on you. And it makes me feel like shit that you get to vote.
Now my goal is to figure out how the fuck I can be an Academy member, so I can fucking cross out people like hers vote. Because reading those remarks were unsurprising but also equally rage-inducing.
DAHLIA: I am so happy that Get Out was recognized and that Jordan Peele won best original screenplay. So, now he is Oscar winner Jordan Peele, and that gives that much more prestige to the projects that he’s gonna go on to do. But Get Out got shut out—no pun intended, no joke intended—from best picture, best director, best actor. There were just so many opportunities to reward it, and instead Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, I think, got sort of the, other than Shape of Water, got the most sort of attention put on it.
It’s especially disheartening and makes me full of despair to think that Gary Oldman won for his part in The Darkest Hour where he was playing Winston Churchill with a bunch of prosthetics on, when in this Me Too moment, guess what? Gary Oldman has assaulted his wife. And Kobe Bryant was accused of sexual assault. He also won an Oscar this week. You know, it was really, I guess to transition into our next segment, it was, I think, a big dis, very disheartening to see, from my perspective, the way the Oscars treated Me Too. Which was like a bunch of montages of like, “Wow! Women are so powerful! We’re speaking our truths. But isn’t the truth really that we all love movies? Aren’t we united by the power of cinema. And isn’t that what we’re here to talk about?” That’s sort of how I saw every kind of moment that nodded to Me Too in any way, was kind of like that trajectory that spanned into. But what brings us all together? Movies.
AMY: And such a flawed way of thinking about it because when we say, “Oh well, what brings us together are these amazing films and storytelling,” and blah blah blah, it ignores the fact that well, what movies and what stories are you talking about? Like what movies and what stories are you highlighting? What movies and what stories are getting financed by big studios so that people will actually get a chance to even watch them? So, that completely ignores the root of the issue. And like you’re saying, to give Oscars to these people who are known to have been abusive to women completely, I don’t know, it doesn’t so much as ignore, but it pushes aside this really big issue that we’re talking about. It’s to say like , “Well, we’re gonna separate the person from their action and just give them this award anyway.” Yeah. I mean, to see Daniel Kaluuya not win the Best Actor award was really heartbreaking because I think I did hark back to that anonymous Academy member who voted. Because I think that there’s this idea that “Well, was he acting that much,” you know? Like, “He’s just kind of like you know, it’s just his experience as a black man.” But I’m like, if you really watch his performance, it is so like every little, small gesture that he does, it’s work. You know what I’m saying? So what if he actually experiences this on a day-to-day basis, but to be able to call back on it and to emote it in a way that we can all empathize and understand what he’s going through in such subtle ways. Even as a nonblack person of color, I can see his experience and say I think I’m starting to understand a semblance of what you go through on a daily basis. That’s powerful! That’s so powerful.
And of course, I have not seen The Darkest Hour, the film that Gary Oldman’s in, and I’ll probably never fucking see it. Because to be frank, I don’t give a fuck, [laughs] honestly. And you know what? Winston Churchill also had his fucking monster moments. So, I’m just sitting here thinking the Academy does what it does, and I guess we just have wait to the day when marginalized voices and people usurp it.
DAHLIA: One more thing from Oscars night that was like really ringing my alarm bells is there was this bizarre segment montage saluting military movies. And it sort of ended with like, “We salute our armed forces.” That’s not a montage that I’ve ever seen before, and it was just like war movie, war movie, war movie, war movie. And something I think that more people should know is that—and I’m not making this up; I learned this from the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated, which is a fascinating documentary about what the motion picture, how the ratings system for films works—but what I think everyone should know is that every single film, every single American film that uses military props—tanks, guns, uniforms, whatever, whatever military—any time there’s a movie that has military props, that movie has had script approval from the U.S. government. That’s like a trade deal that they have, that in order for films to use actual military props, the government gets to have script approval.
So, just think about that, that every war movie you’ve ever seen—maybe it didn’t have a real military prop; so maybe it wasn’t in this deal—but just think about the fact that all of those movies, these movies that Hollywood is saying like, “Look at how we support our troops,” these movies are literally—I’m not exaggerating—literally propaganda. Because the US government can edit, can add, can do whatever they want. They have full script approval. Just think about that and every movie you’ve ever seen about how great American soldiers are coming in to Vietnam, coming into World War II, and saving the day. Just think about that. I’ll just leave you with that.
AMY: Ugh. That’s another unsurprising but enraging fact—
AMY: —presented to you from Bitch Media.
DAHLIA: From your friendly neighborhood age cheerleaders, a new thing to get raged about.
AMY: So, we did wanna take a turn to talk a little bit more deeply about some of the, I describe this as “hmm… moments.” You know that emoji where you’re kind of rubbing your chin and being like, “Huh. What the fuck?”
AMY: Like how I wanna start off with a lighthearted one, like how Getty Images captioned a photo of Kelly Marie Tran, who was in the last Star Wars movie, and named her as Olympic figure skater Mirai Nagasu. Which…ugh!!
DAHLIA: For shame.
AMY: Ugh! I literally cannot! And then there was the moment where Emma Stone of La La Land fame and our favorite Asian actor—
AMY: —who presented the Best Director award and announced the nominees as “four men and Greta Gerwig.” She did this as a nod to highlight that there was only just the single woman director. But this was very much a white feminist moment because by doing that, she erased the fact that there are two men of color who were also director nominees: Guillermo Del Toro, who is a Mexican immigrant, for The Shape of Water, and Jordan Peele ,who is a black dude who directed Get Out.
I will say yes, there’s only ever been five women who have been nominated for best director, which also includes Greta Gerwig, and they are all white women. But on the same page, Jordan Peele is only the fifth black person to ever have been nominated in that category. So, by calling out how the category’s male dominated, she’s ignoring the intersection of race! Which is a very white feminist thing to do. And it was one of those moments where you’re watching, and you’re thinking like OK, I guess shout out your white girlfriend. But did you just completely forget that there are two men of color who are also facing disparities in this industry? So, that was a very cringe-y moment, but I guess it was just sort of balanced out by at the very end by Frances McDormand who won best actress for Three Billboards. And during her speech, she asked all the women nominees for all categories to stand up and be recognized. And she said you know, “Look around ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed.” I really love how she said that because I think often on Backtalk, we don’t just talk about the need for representation and how important it is, but how there’s a limit to representation and how we need money for the representation. And how this is an industry that’s built on whether or not you can bring in ticket sales. And then she ended her speech by saying, “I have two words for you: inclusion rider.
So, for those of you who are unfamiliar what the rider is or what a inclusion rider is, actually an inclusion rider was an idea that was presented by Stacy Smith, who I think she’s the founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California. And she talked about it in a TED talk in 2016. So, look her up. Look up this TED talk. It’s really great. And a rider is like a list of demands that are included with a contract. So, it might stipulate what you will or will not do on set, maybe what days you need to have off, etc. So, the idea of an inclusion rider is for like a big celebrity on a project to demand that there be representation of marginalized communities in front of and behind the camera. So, ostensibly, it’s the idea that if a rider isn’t met, then this A-list star won’t sign onto a project. So, if a big star like Frances McDormand is being asked to star in a film, she can say as part of her contract that, “I need like 50% women and people of color in front of and behind the scenes.” Like it could be in background casting, it could be in the rest of her cast, and she wants it to be part of the crew. And she can include that, and then they can say to her, “Yes, we’re gonna be intentional and hire people who are women and people of color .” And it isn’t that hard to do! But it really takes that big star to say, “I’m going to pass up work unless you meet these demands.” And that might not be an easy thing to do because you might wanna shoot a film that you’re really passionate about. But I think it’s interesting to call that out especially when you contrast that with Emma Stone’s comment and to see how—
I think that the Academy Awards and award shows in general can feel like bullshit ‘cause you’re just watching a bunch of people in pretty gowns accept awards for films where they were paid like tens of millions of dollars to star in. Let’s be real, right? But it’s also a platform. And there have been a lot of historical moments that have happened onstage at the Academy Awards. And I think that this night was no exception. And we always say on this show it remains to be seen what will happen with this notion of inclusion riders, but a lot of people didn’t even think about the fact that they could do that. So, for Frances McDormand to bring it up was a big deal.
DAHLIA: Yeah, I feel like it’s the difference between talking the talk and walking the walk, right? That it’s one thing to use your power, to use your voice to call attention to something, and it’s another thing to use your power as a form of leverage to help other people up. And that’s really how you ally. That’s how people with privilege, how they can be good allies outside of Hollywood and inside of Hollywood, is to use the power that they, have the clout that they have, the star power that they have to say like, “Well, if you want me, then you also want all of these things.” And that was, as you’re saying, remains to be seen. But I think introducing that concept to everybody is huge. And also just Frances McDormand who’s a huge star getting up there and saying like, “This is how I’m committed to making Hollywood better,” I think it’s really meaningful.
And yeah, I was not expecting to be so sort of enamored with Frances McDormand, but I should have been ‘cause she has such a great doesn’t take shit kind of attitude. And it was just a really great, it was a great moment.
AMY: Yeah, I was also kind of feeling how you’re feeling. I was waiting for a white feminist moment [laughs] when she went up there, ‘cause she’s had some awkward acceptance speeches during this awards season. But this one was, I think she did great. And sometimes literally, it just takes somebody introducing an idea to you for you to realize like, oh, that’s something that I’m capable of doing as well. I’m sure in the auditorium that’s full of people that are like, hey I wanna be a good ally, but I don’t know what to do. And she literally gave you an idea that you can take and use. And if you’re in that auditorium, you must have some leverage.
AMY: ‘Cause you’re at the fucking Oscars. So, it remains to be seen, but we’re crossing our fingers. And if it doesn’t happen, then we’re here to talk shit about it. I think that’s [laughing] what we’re trying to say.
[cutesy bells ring]
AMY: So, at the end of each episode we give our recommendations for something we’re watching, reading, and listening to. And I’m gonna kick off this segment by talking about a film I watched recently. And that film is Annihilation in theaters now. It is a movie starring Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. It’s set in the near-future. It’s a sci fi film. And I had tweeted that you should watch it, that you should definitely watch it if you’re into aesthetics and aliens shit. And I stand by it. I don’t wanna spoil it, so I won’t mention much about the plot. And actually, when I went to go see the movie, I didn’t know anything about it except for what was on the movie poster. And actually, I think that’s a really fun way to go watch films.
But I will say that one of the best things for me about watching this film was to see a bunch of women do a journey film where they encounter gnarly shit and have to fight them off. And it’s a journey film where they have to be rugged, and they’re in the woods. They’re not— Not to talk shit about Sex and the City, ‘cause I think Sex and the City films are also journey films. But this is a different journey film.
DAHLIA: [laughs] True.
AMY: True, right? So, it’s great to see a group of women do it and to see, I mean honestly, I was sitting in that theater and to see a woman’s body situated in a place out in nature and feel uncomfortable and be swampy and have dirty hair, it was really nice! I really, really, really appreciated it.
I will acknowledge that I have read that there is a whitewashing in the film because it’s based on a book where Natalie Portman’s character was described as being of Asian descent, and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character is described as being mixed Native. The filmmakers claim that when they started working on the film and during casting, it was only after the first book had come out, first book of three. But it was in the second book where their ethnicities are very briefly mentioned. So, I completely acknowledge this, and I still enjoyed and recommend this film. That is my watch recommendation. Are you gonna watch it?
DAHLIA: Oh my god! I’m so looking forward to seeing that. It looks so good.
AMY: Yeah, I think you’ll really like it, honestly, knowing your taste. I think people should go watch it because I don’t think it’s been advertised well enough, and I don’t think that it’s been advertised well enough to say that Tessa Thompson and Gina Rodriguez are in this film. Because I think they’re leading with Natalie Portman. But know that they’re playing two really great characters in the film as well. So, you should check it out.
And my read recommendation is Danielle Evans’s short story collection titled Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self. I’m halfway through the collection, and I really love the stories so far. And she does a first-person voice so well and these smart stories that deal with gender and race that does doesn’t flatten these experiences. Danielle Evans is a black woman writer, and I really love how the endings of her stories sort of complicate ideas around situations that we might feel are a binary good or bad or a binary yes or no. I think she forces us to rethink how we would handle these situations if we were in the story.
So, if you’re looking for a really good contemporary short-story collection, please pick up Danielle Evans’s Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self.
DAHLIA: And last up on the recommendations: Last week I wrote a listicle about women in Latin pop and how they’re totally taking over the music world. And this is not a new recommendation, but I love this song. If you wanna hear more of my thoughts about Latin pop stars, head over to bitchmedia.org where I also highlighted this song, which is Princess Nokia’s song Brujas.
AMY: Thanks for listening!
DAHLIA: Thanks for listening.
[Brujas plays, a mellow hip-hop beat]
♪ I’m the supreme, I’m the supreme
We is them ghetto witches, speakin’ in tongue bitches
Fall on the floor, got sage on the door
We is them ghetto witches, speakin’ in tongue bitches
Fall on the floor, got sage on the door
We is them ghetto witches, speakin’ in tongue bitches
Fall on the floor, got sage on the door
We is them ghetto witches, speakin’ in tongue bitches
Fall on the floor, got sage on the door
Talk shit, we can cast spells, long weaves, long nails
Corn rows, pig tails, baby fathers still in jail…. ♪
DAHLIA: Thanks for listening to backtalk. This show is produced by Ashley Duchemin. Bitch Media is a reader- and listener-supported feminist nonprofit. If you wanna support the show and our work, head over to bitchmedia.org and donate.
♪ Good witches, I fuck with, hopped off of my broomstick
Witchcraft, bitch craft, light magic, it’s nothing
Orisha, my altar
Orisha, my altar
Orisha, my altar
Got coins on the counter
I’m that Black a-Rican bruja straight out from the Yoruba…. ♪