Lady Problems: Et Tu, Erykah Badu?

Hollywood kills off all the women on TV, Melissa McCarthy is scolded by grumpy old newspapers, and Jeremy Renner tries to make amends

Lady Problems is a weekly column that looks at how the entertainment industry — and its corresponding culture and constituents — is treating women in a given week. (Hint: It will almost always be “poorly.”) Every Thursday, we’ll review the week’s most significant woman-centric conflicts, then provide a brilliant solution to each problem that nobody in Hollywood will ever listen to or enforce.

The Lady Problem: We're all pleasantly familiar with the phrase, "When you're out of ideas, kill a woman." But Hollywood has taken this old-timey aphorism a bit too far this week. Buried at the end of a Hollywood Reporter article about the untimely death of Sleepy Hollow's Abbie Mills is this chilling sentence: "Sleepy Hollow caps a deadly week on the small screen that featured multiple series regulars and recurring guest stars being killed off, as broadcast and cable networks alike use the plot point to draw eyeballs and make headlines." The piece goes on to ID the dead, all but one of whom, naturally, are women: "Gone are Arrow's Laurel Lance (played by Katie Cassidy); Vikings' Yidu (Dianne Doan) and Kwenthrith (Amy Bailey); Empire's Camilla (Naomi Campbell) and Mimi (Marisa Tomei); and The Americans' Nina (Annet Mahendru), as well as one of 11 stars on AMC's The Walking Dead." Is this a coincidence? Sure, if by "coincidence" you mean "blatantly sexist devaluation of female characters." Is it telling that the only TV death THR solemnly respects by keeping the character's name a secret is that of a MAN? Probably. Is this a conspiracy? Probably. Is this a malevolent bid to slowly rid the fictional universe of all women, so that one day the real universe follows suit and we all start screaming, but nobody can hear us because we've all been murdered? Probably.

The Solution: All women everywhere will stop watching The Walking Dead, even though it didn't technically do anything wrong this week, other than be a terrible show. Seriously, this show is a hot, rotten banana sliced in half and filled with garbage and then sewn back together. We'll also temporarily stop watching all of those other shows, at least until their showrunners admit that they are part of a secret Fake-Women-Killing Society. With our newfound free time, we'll write and produce our own TV shows, all of which feature a male lead who is both beloved and quickly murdered or felled by a mysterious virus. Every man in America will weep, confused and reminded of his own mortality, blindly grasping for the remote to turn off our extremely wonderful shows but unable to find it through his veil of tears. We will cackle wildly, staring straight into the blazing sun, because nothing can hurt us anymore.

The Lady Problem: Melissa McCarthy's The Boss opened with nearly $25 million, beating Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and almost recouping its $29 million production budget in a single weekend. But somehow, as Mark Harris pointed out on Twitter this week, some trade reports are framing The Boss as a bomb.

Why are box-office pundits foaming at the mouth to, as Harris puts it, write McCarthy's obit? Because she's a woman. Because she's a woman who refuses to adhere to Hollywood's malevolent body standards. Because she's a woman over 40. This is all very confusing to a large/ignorant/annoying subset of the population who believe that to be female, to eat food, and to age are brazen and unattractive qualities. How can someone who possesses these characteristics be able to stand themselves, much less make millions of dollars in a field that requires them to be visible at all times?

The Solution: Each of the analysts who referred to The Boss as a bomb despite all evidence to the contrary will be visited by three ghosts: The Ghost of Adam Sandler, The Ghost of Seth MacFarlane, and the Ghost of Daniel Tosh. Each ghost will plop down in the corner of the analyst's room and scream infernally until the analyst wakes up and agrees to watch them do some shtick. Sandler will use a weird voice to say deeply unfunny things. MacFarlane will single-handedly destroy the concept of irony. Tosh will make 406 rape jokes. When the analyst can no longer take it and begs for the sweet release of death, Melissa McCarthy (not a ghost, but sort of an astral-plane, hologram version of herself) will show up and be genuinely and refreshingly hilarious. Not for them — she owes them nothing!! — but naturally; she can't help it. The analyst will sob at her feet, apologizing for ever doubting her appeal and pleading with her not to depart the comedy world, lest things return to the way they once were.

The Lady Problem: Erykah Badu said some very weird and harmful shit on Twitter this week about young girls and their responsibility to cover themselves up so as not to arouse older men. Here's a link to the tweets; essentially, Badu explained that she agreed with a recent ruling that required schoolgirls in New Zealand to lengthen their skirts so they wouldn't "distract male staff and pupils." "We are sexual beings. We should consider everyone. Young girls are attractive. Some males are distracted," wrote Badu. "I am aware that we live in a sex l-driven society. It is everyone's, male and female's, responsibility to protect young ladies ... one way to protect youth is to remind them we are all sexual in nature and as they grow and develop it is natural to attract men." While she conceded that "males should be taught to be responsible for their actions from childhood. It's not OK to 'prey' on young women," she ultimately placed the impetus for avoiding unwanted sexual attention on young women. "But do I think it is unnatural for a heterosexual male 2b attracted to a young woman in a revealing skirt? No. I think it is his nature." In the days since, after facing some serious social-media outrage, Badu has only doubled down on her stance.

Et tu, Erykah Badu? First of all, that whole victim-blame-y "women are responsible for keeping men's behavior in check" thing is played out as hell. This is one of the ways in which society perpetuates rape culture, pure and simple. Secondly, you're talking about school-age girls, girls who should not have to worry about the creepy-ass inclinations of old dudes. Let them live! Let them wear non-knee-length skirts and trade gumballs, or whatever it is kids do these days. Thirdly, how are you going to suggest with a straight face that it's "natural" for grown men to feel attracted to underage women? Fourthly, this is all very off-brand for a woman who literally stripped naked and lay on the ground in the music video for "Window Seat."

The Solution: Erykah Badu will recant her statements and design a line of deeply hip and functional short skirts for schoolgirls called Skool! (exclamation point necessary). Every time an older man so much as glances at the skirt, it will automatically hurl raw onions into his eyes.

Begrudging Acknowledgement of Improvement of the Week: Sentient frat house Jeremy Renner, who has previously called Black Widow a "slut" and said it wasn't "his job" to help women fight for equal pay, said something relatively thoughtful about women in Hollywood this week. While I don't believe misogynistic fucks should be rewarded for saying non-misogynistic things, I do believe in begrudgingly acknowledging positive changes in said misogynistic fucks. So, yes, whatever, Jeremy Renner said this thing this week: "The main reason why I did [Story of Your Life] was because of this awesome woman standing next to me,” Renner said of his co-star Amy Adams. "It’s Amy’s story, and there’s not enough cinema in Hollywood where we have a strong, badass, intelligent female lead. I think that’s important." Thanks for not sucking this week, Jeremy Renner.