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: Leslie Jones — one of the most gloriously hilarious humans on TV, who will shortly become a BFD movie star thanks to the Ghostbusters reboot — tweeted on Thursday that she was having trouble finding a designer willing to dress her for the film's premiere.
For those unfamiliar with the way red carpets often work: Designers fall all over themselves trying to shellac their billion-dollar wares onto the bodies of Hollywood's frailest and whitest starlets. (Y'all, my autocorrect just tried to correct “whitest” to “hottest”; Google Docs is upholding the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy!) On its (white, gaunt) face, this is nothing more than a ridiculous, mutual-masturbation circus, but beneath that face, it's a way for high fashion and its accompanying lifestyle to stay synonymous with whiteness and thinness and that thing where white, thin celebrities have to pretend they ate six hamburgers before hitting the red carpet but have actually not been allowed to eat a hamburger since fifth grade. Jones, who is not white and not built like an upside-down Swiffer, was as such excised from this money-saving, publicity-reaping exercise. TL;DR: We live in hell.
As celebrity tweets tend to do, Jones's brief missive summoned the most tragically misinformed, misogynistic, and fundamentally dim consumers of the internet. Jones, as is her brilliant wont, responded to these melted crayons in kind, both blocking and putting them on blast. Here's one from "Pret A Reporter":
This particular story has a happy ending: Designer Christian Siriano managed to crawl his way out of the piss-laden subway tunnel that is Jones's mentions, punch a fist through the steaming sewer drain, and offer to dress her.
Later, Siriano himself rightly waved off any accolades for his offer, explaining that the fact that Jones had to essentially beg for designer scraps in a public forum is just another drop in the racist, sexist, imperialist bucket that is #Trashmerica.
The Solution: Jones will make good on her offer to publish the names of the designers who turned her down. Not only will these designers never get to see their dresses shellacked upon the bangin’ bod of Leslie Jones, but they'll also be forced to exclusively wear those "ironic" t-shirts they sell on Facebook that say, like, "Federal Boob Inspector" and "Keep Calm And Suck It" and "Help Me I Can't Feel Anything Inside Because I Am A Desiccated Husk Of A Person." They will wear these t-shirts in the largest possible size so that they present as dresses. Should he be revealed as an offender, Karl Lagerfeld will have to wear the one that says "I Love Sluts." Donatella Versace will be forced to parade about town in a "You Can't Scare Me, I Have Two Daughters" dress. Tom Ford will someday be buried in a "Here's To Nipples. Without Them, Titties Would Be Pointless" smock.
The Lady Problem: People who are not Amber Heard will not shut the fuck up about how they know more about the way Johnny Depp treated Amber Heard than Amber Heard herself. This week, both Winona Ryder (I love you, girl, but come on) and Disney CEO Bob Iger (whom I do not know nor love) provided wildly speculative commentary about a situation that has approximately 0 percent to do with them and into which they cannot possibly have legitimate insight.
Here's Winona in Time on Johnny, whom she dated more than two decades ago, when Amber Heard was a li'l Southern baby: "Look, I mean, obviously I can only speak from my own experience. It’s very tricky because if it were any other type of scandal, like cheating, you could be like, ‘None of my business. No comment. Not appropriate for me.’ [Editor's note: You absolutely could have and should have said this.] But I think because what is being said is so horrific and such a global issue for millions of women, obviously, that I understand why people feel it is their business. I get it."
"I mean, he was never, never that way towards me. Never abusive at all towards me. I only know him as a really good, loving, caring guy who is very, very protective of the people that he loves. It’s hard because I feel like — that’s my experience. And it’s been a very long time … It’s almost as if your brother or someone you just never — so, you know, there’s a part of me that is thinking, ‘Is it even appropriate for me to say anything?' [Editor's note: No. It's not. Also, semi-gross, re: brother comment.] But because of the seriousness of it, it’s been brought into a thing where it’s trickier for me to say, ‘None of my business.’ [Editor's note: The seriousness of it is exactly why you should have said that.] But that’s all I have to offer is my own experience, which was a very, very long time ago."
Yes. It was a very, very long time ago, Winona. People change! It was so long ago, in fact, that Johnny has demonstrated that very principle by since fixing his “Winona Forever” tattoo to read “Wino Forever,” both erasing your presence in his life and eternally cementing in it the presence of alcohol — you know, that thing Heard claimed often drove Johnny to terrifying rage and abuse.
Meanwhile, here's Disney's Iger in THR:
Do you have Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean in the [new Shanghai] park?
And Johnny Depp's personal problems?
Not worried about it.
The scandal will pass?
I don't know whether it passes or not. We have Jack Sparrow.
The Solution: In the future, THR, can we not euphemistically refer to “being accused of being violently abusive” as a “personal problem”? Cool. In that same future, the animatronic Jack Sparrow from the Shanghai park will break free of his uncanny prison and stalk the earth, searching for Bob Iger. When he finds him, he will hold him upside down until his face gets very red. Bob Iger will say, “Help, I am having a personal problem vis-à-vis my face turning red.” The animatronic Jack Sparrow will say, “I'm not worried about it. We have Bob Iger.” Later, robot Jack Sparrow will tattoo “None of my business. No comment. Not appropriate for me (Forever)” on Winona Ryder's biceps. But it will look cute, because I still love her and I don't want her to dislike her whole biceps.
The Lady Problem: Vulture published a feature this week titled “The Female Cinematographers of Neon Demon, Creed, and Dope Discuss Their Experiences in a Male-Dominated Field.” As you can imagine, not unlike The Neon Demon itself, the experience of being a female cinematographer in a male-dominated field is not great and is shot through with blatant misogyny. As writer Kevin Lincoln points out, not one female cinematographer has ever been nominated for an Oscar for Best Cinematography, and in 2013, only 2 percent of the 250 highest-grossing films had lady DPs. Below, some key quotes from the women themselves:
• Maryse Alberti (Creed): “One of my first films was Zebrahead. I remember the producer asking me, ‘Can you handle the big lights?’ And I thought, Do I want to be sarcastic, or do I want the job? So I said, ‘I don't handle the big lights, I just tell big men where to put the big lights and they do it.’”
• Natasha Braier (The Neon Demon): "I've realized the price that you pay as a woman for doing this job, and I've realized why there aren’t so many women who've arrived where I've arrived at my job ... A lot of men are having a family in their thirties and it's OK, because there is a mother with the kid somewhere, and maybe they’re not so present, they come in and out. But for a woman it’s totally different — you can't really do that. Some may have partners who can be more able to support them, but still, it’s complicated. It’s not just the film industry — the whole society is not really designed for women to have a successful career that absorbs a lot of time and to have a family as well.”
• Braier: “The hardest thing for me was to learn how to embody my leadership from my femininity and not try to imitate how the men were doing it. A guy can get away with just giving orders, but a woman cannot really give orders to men, since half of the men have mommy issues and aren't going to like it. They’re not very good at receiving orders from a bossy woman and you don’t want to be a bossy woman. It’s a horrible energy when you’re trying to dominate the masculine ... It’s not tricky because it’s our natural being and we should know, but in this society we don’t know because this is a patriarchal society. You don’t see as many examples of that in life, and you have to figure [it] out all by yourself.”
• Rachel Morrison (Dope): “I’m really, really looking forward to the day that I'm getting called to do stories about my work, and not about the experience of being a female DP. For a long time I kind of avoided the conversation altogether, and then I saw what an effect the dialogue was having, particularly with regard to female directors. I really feel like there's this very pronounced and pertinent change that one can actually register happening, and it was sort of this wake-up call that if we don't have the conversation then nothing is going to change.”
The Solution: There are obvious changes that the industry itself needs to make, including actively mentoring and hiring and promoting and supporting women (and people of color). But while they continue to fuck that up for the foreseeable future, I think we can, in small but irritating ways, make the lives of men in positions of film-set power vaguely miserable. Should you, a woman, find yourself on a film set in the coming months, please promise to do one of the following:
1. Ask every man you see if he is capable of “handling the big lights.” When his gender-normative instincts compel him to say yes, handcuff him to one of the big lights (IDK what these are, but you do) and perform all of the Hanukkah songs that are, in essence, just lots of kvelling re: the general concept of lights (there are a lot; please see me for suggestions).
2. Bring 12 babies to work. Give them all to the director and run away screaming.
3. Figure out how to be a bossy woman without men hating you because of their mommy issues. Whatever that is, don't do it. Make men hate you. Repeat steps 1 and 2.