In Defense of Diablo Cody

Much as I had mixed feelings about the film Juno, I just don't understand the massive public hate-on for its screenwriter, Diablo Cody. Okay, she gave herself a stupid pen name. Juno had a couple of overly precious, cringeworthy lines of dialogue. Does that really warrant parodies like these?

Simply put, this shit is sexist. Cody wrote a memoir about stripping, which led to a chance to write a screenplay, which led to a film that was an unexpected smash, which led to a boatload of accolades and media profiles, and will quite possibly culminate with an Oscar for said screenplay this Sunday night. But according to scores of cranks on the interwebs, apparently she did so much more than that, including not actually write the script herself, do lots of press for the film, and not be all that hot. I know! How dare she?

But you know who else has written indie movies with unlikely dialogue and characterizations, been endlessly hyped by the media, and found huge success? Quentin Tarantino. Wes Anderson. Noah Baumbach. Mike White. You know who else made a filmic cutefest with a quirktastic soundtrack? Zach Braff. And you know who hasn't been accused of not writing their own scripts or coasting on their looks? Those five dudes. Yes, Anderson's been accused of being a one-trick pony, and Tarantino of being shamelessly derivative, but both are nonetheless respected filmmakers, and neither has faced the kind of vitriol leveled at Cody. Futhermore, Juno's director, Jason Reitman, is the son of one of Hollywood's most successful producers and directors. Have we heard a peep about how his success is ill-gotten or not-quite-deserved?A few of the haters have copped to the fact that it's their own frustrated-writerness and subsequent seething jealousy that drives them to slag Cody. But do they really think that it's all down to Cody's brief career on the pole that she's the new new thing in screenwriting? If that's the case, after all, then wouldn't we have already seen hit movies from the likes of Lily Burana, Heidi Mattson, N. Kathryn Howard, and the many other women who have either dabbled in or made careers out of stripping? Could it be that in addition to having a juicy backstory and a media-friendly presence, Cody is actually a good screenwriter that people want to work with?

This all said, it is kind of a shame that Cody's media magnetism has inadvertently overshadowed a real milestone of this year's Oscars — namely, that four women were nominated for Best Screenplay awards, three of them (including Cody) in the Best Original Screenplay category. As opposed to the age-old story of a sucessful woman who's dumped on for the perceived crimes of doing her job well and also being kind of cute, four single-credit Best Screenplay nominations for women in the sausage party that is professional screenwriting really is news.

by Andi Zeisler
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Andi Zeisler is the cofounder of Bitch Media and the author of We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl®, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement. You can find her on Twitter.

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7 Comments Have Been Posted


The Bitch blog look great!

You make an interesting point about similar male scriptwriters not receiving the same amount of criticism as Cody. What impresses me much more than four women being nominated for best screenplay awards, however, in a woman actually having a shot at the white house for the first time. But we haven't heard any more of a peep about that, here, than we've heard about Jason Reitman's hereditary advantages in the mainstream media.

I DON'T mean to get down on you for that - if the great minds at Bitch media think it's wisest to stay above the fracas currently embroiling feminist discussion about the primaries, I think that's a totally respectable, and probably great idea - the feminist infighting surrounding this 'historic election' has reached an unbearable pitch, especially in the blogosphere, and the less added to it, the better (I'm looking at you, Lisa J.). But as much as I'd kind of like to hide under the covers until the election is over, the shadow of it makes it really hard for me to get excited about more women screenwriters being nominated for Oscars than before.

And I think the parodies of Cody are pretty funny. Not so much the accuations about not writing her own script and not being "attractive enough," though.


I.... hated Juno. I hated it because the script was so forced and phony, always having to be 'on' like a bad standup comedian, and Cody's voice was too apparent through every character.

its not entirely her fault.

It's Reitman's job to create the universe around this script where such dialogue feels natural. Tarantino does it, Smith used to be able to do it... Reitman for me simply didn't deliver.

So for now I'm not a Cody fan and think she's overrated, but of course she has a bunch of other projects ahead with different directors who could change my mind.

I don't see the connection to her gender perhaps because I didn't know anything about Cody, including her gender, before I saw "Juno" in the first place. All i knew is "Juno" had good buzz, and all i felt after it was over was more annoyance with Ellen Page's acting style (same problem with "Hard Candy") and feeling nostalgic for the richer characters of "Ghost World", which now in hindsight feels like it was ripped off for its own screenwriting, acting and directing.

if you ask me, a better version of Page is Anna Kendrick, who is absolutely amazing running with the same motormouth acting style in the criminally underseen "Rocket Science"

Successful Woman = Backlash Galore

There seems to be some parallels between Cody's backlash situation and Clinton's. There might be good reasons for not supporting a Clinton candidacy (indeed, there are many), and there are at least a couple of reasons why "Juno's" script might rub someone the wrong way. But the common objections by media and (or weirdo fringe, in Clinton's case) to a Clinton presidency and a Cody script are normally colored with irrational and obviously sexist overtones. This leaves very little room for intelligent criticism, which is too bad for the rest of us non-sexist folk.

Additionally, it was great so many women were nominated for writing this year at the Oscars. But most of the film nominations themselves, with the exception of Juno, were all about masculinity and dudes. That's fine: the Coens and Scorsese and other directors do a good job of examining masculinity at the movies...It's just too bad the counterpoint to all this dude-ness is not very visible right now in mainstream American film. This is, most definitely, still a country (and film industry) for old men!

Standing up for Diablo!

I'm tired of the Diablo Cody-bashing, too. I actually liked _Juno_ a lot -- it wasn't perfect, but I liked seeing a smart, unconventional girl who *loves music* onscreen. The Diablo-bashing is definitely based on jealousy and misogyny. I seriously can't believe I never heard such vitriol spewed at GARDEN STATE, which is one of the cutesiest, cliche-ridden, self-involved pieces of trash I've ever seen come out of the indie scene, blech. Even though Diablo Cody sometimes seems like she's trying too hard with her penname and her few lines of cutesy dialogue (in a film that for the most part did have very good writing), she seems like a genuine person, and anyone who wants to make films with strong young heroines is ok in my book. Bonus points for having a pinup-girl tattoo at the Oscars.

Diablo Cody

I actually really liked "Juno". Whether she wrote the script herself or not, it was a great and original concept and brilliantly acted. I didn't think it deserved an Oscar Nomination, but once had, I knew it would win. That's just how Hollywood works. She's def had some breaks. Somebody out there really likes her, cause I know how hard it is to get your film or TV show off the ground. And for the record, I never made a career out of stripping. My book is fictional. Look for the series soon.....

N. Kathryn Howard

Diablo Cody

You mentioned that four woman were up for Oscars that night, for best original screenplay. The woman who should've won that night was Nancy Oliver for Lars and the Real Girl.

You don't see her going around and whoring herself out in order to compensate for her poor screenwriting. That's all Diablo is: a scenester, a showboater, a glamorpuss. She tries too hard to be hip and it's pretty pathetic. She's just wearing out her welcome in Hollywood by thinking she's the new hot shit. Have you even heard a word about Nancy Oliver since the Oscars last year? Nor have I. I will, however, see anything she comes out with, all the while foregoing anything Diablo musters out.

Hell, I'd have even accepted Tamara Jenkins, writer of The Savages. Both of those woman are writers to the core. Diablo is the equivalent of the "movie star" rather than the "actor". She's the "writing star" rather than a "writer". That's why writers do, and will always loathe her. Five years from now Juno will be extremely outdated. Whereas The Savages and Lars will be looked upon as classics of the 2000's.


This has got to be a joke.
Diablo Cody may be one of the most over rated things that Hollywood ever shat out.
It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she's a woman, it has to do with the fact that she sucks. And makes the
-Unusual main character with some quirks
-A small town with some simple mindedness
-A strange goal/situation
-Some funny one liners
-Extra dash of quirk
-A revelation by the main character, accompanied with more quirk
-Things work out unexpectedly.

Seriously. Juno and Young Adult had this exact same plot. She tries SO HARD to be indie and hip that it just makes everything she writes read ridiculous.

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