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 here at Lady Problems have been following the Nate Parker controversy along with the rest of the world, biding our sweet time, waiting for the right moment to strike. Well, that moment has arrived, and we shall now commence to rain hellfire down on Nate Parker and his apologists.
If you haven't been following the story, Vulture has a comprehensive timeline of everything that's gone down. To sum it up as briefly as possible: Parker and his college wrestling teammate Jean Celestin were accused of raping a fellow student in 1999 at Penn State (for real though, does anything good ever happen at Penn State?). Celestin was found guilty, though his conviction was overturned; Parker was found not guilty. (I also suggest reading through The Daily Beast’s coverage of the case, which has sickening details about Parker and Celestin’s behavior during and following the alleged rape.) Earlier this year, Parker received increased media attention for his film The Birth of a Nation, which tells the story of the slave rebellion incited by Nat Turner and was being discussed as an Oscar contender out of the Sundance Film Festival. As such, his rape accusation and the horrific events surrounding it (the alleged victim filed claims that Parker and Celestin harassed her after she accused them of rape, “following her around campus shouting ‘sexual epithets,’ calling her incessantly, and hiring a private eye to put photos of her around campus,” explains Vulture) caught the eye of the media as well. More recently, it was revealed that the woman who accused Parker committed suicide in 2012 — according to her family, the suicide was directly tied to trauma resulting from the alleged rape.
The whole thing has opened up one of those obnoxious, Woody Allen–esque “separate the art from the artist” conversations, with Parker himself urging people to focus on the film and not his personal life. He’s made the rounds on a half-assed apology tour, and his accuser’s sister, Sharon Loeffler, has penned an open letter in Variety criticizing both the film — which features an invented rape scene — and Parker’s recent actions. “I find it creepy and perverse that Parker and Celestin would put a fictional rape at the center of their film, and that Parker would portray himself as a hero avenging that rape,” she wrote.
This past Sunday, Parker appeared on 60 Minutes, where he maintained his innocence, telling Anderson Cooper, “I don’t feel guilty. ... As a Christian man, just being in that situation, yeah, sure. I’m 36 years old right now. And my faith is very important to me. So looking back through that lens, I definitely feel like it’s not the lens that I had when I was 19 years old.” He added, “And I feel terrible that this woman isn’t here. I feel terrible that her family had to deal with that. But as I sit here, an apology is, no.”
The Solution: Lady Problems falls firmly on the side of not seeing a movie by a guy who, at best, has an extremely flawed understanding of consent, and falls back on the fact that he has daughters, a wife, and religion as proof that he is not a monster. Don’t see Birth of a Nation, a film that uses rape as a lazy plot device and that will directly contribute to the monetary and critical success of one Nate Parker. Instead, read this brilliant piece by Ira Madison III (linked again for good measure) on why you should not see Birth of a Nation, then go make yourself a sandwich, and, as Ira put it, “read a book if you’re that pressed about learning the history of Nat Turner.”
The Lady Problem: We first addressed Adult Swim’s Lady Problem in this column many moons ago, when Splitsider’s Megh Wright revealed that 47 of Adult Swim’s creators are male and zero were female. Back then, we solved the problem by doing terrible things to Rick and Morty, the crown princes of Adult Swim/the lowest common denominator of adult humor. But apparently, this brave vigilante justice was not enough.
Late last week, BuzzFeed’s Ariane Lange spoke with several women who've worked at Adult Swim; one of them anonymously blamed the lack of female contributors — including only one in 34 writers — on EVP/creative director Mike Lazzo. Writes Lange, “The person recalled that, for example, during a meeting of Adult Swim and Cartoon Network employees in 2011, the network head was asked if any shows with female comedians were in the works; one source’s recollection of Lazzo’s response was when you have women in the writers room, you don’t get comedy, you get conflict. The source recalled Lazzo apologizing to women in the office the next day, but noted that it felt as though the damage was already done: ‘You can’t take that back, and he didn’t really even try.’”
Another employee told BuzzFeed, “There are women there doing tons of work. But it’s pretty much like, ‘Oh, you’re a woman? You’re a producer. You do budgets, you do scheduling. You’re not a creative.’” Lange goes on to detail the numerous story lines and jokes on Adult Swim that center on rape, including a “comedic music video” on Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! (what the actual fuck is this show, why hast thou forsaken us, Lord?) about a man who stalks a woman and breaks into her home, singing at the end, “No, they can’t call it rape if she concedes her body to me.”
Though BuzzFeed made several attempts to contact Lazzo for the story, he didn’t respond. But two days after it was published, a user who identified himself as Lazzo took to the International Haus of Fuckboys, Reddit, to “explain” himself: “What I actually said was-women don’t tend to like conflict, comedy often comes from conflict, so that’s probably why we (or others) have so few female projects. Nonetheless this was a dumb answer to a good question as Lucille Ball and Gilda Rather [sic] to Amy Poelher [sic] and Amy Schumer prove my statement a load of generalized nonsense.” He added, “I have always been very accessible to every person at work because I personally benefited from working at a company that allowed anyone, from any position, to pitch an idea-as long as the person was prepared to back up their ambition by doing any work required to justify the time or expense. If unnamed sources want to complain, complain about me after I’ve read the script you asked me to read or tossed you out of my office for pitching something I didn’t like. If you did come to me I bet I offered some decent suggestions on how to accomplish whatever you wanted to do. I do sometimes yell and I’m not proud of it. (Inherited.)”
Naturally, Lazzo did not address or promise to fix the fact that he has NO WOMEN CREATING OR WRITING SHIT FOR HIM.
The Solution: As a woman who not only enjoys conflict but actively encourages it on a weekly basis in this very column, I subject Mike Lazy [sic] to an eternity spent watching his own shows. Because look: Adult cartoons are not funny. People regularly mistake adult cartoons for being funny, but this is because cognitive dissonance is, briefly, surprising, and surprise is often mistaken for humor. “Oh, here’s a cute cartoon, cartoons are for kids, wait, this cartoon is mounting a corpse and raping it, this is surprising,” is not the same thing as “this is humorous.” Making a cartoon character “edgy” by having it say “fuck” a lot while stalking, stealing from, and sexually assaulting another cartoon character is not, innately, humor. It’s ... lazy. You know what is actually funny? The image of Adult Swim’s Mike Lazy watching 2,678 hours of Tim and Eric’s Whatever the Fuck and going slowly and permanently insane.
The Lady Problem: Matt McGorry got a uterus tattoo ...?
The Solution: Matt McGorry, this is a nice idea, but please, no. If you really want this uterus tattoo you must also have my uterus for one week each month.