Cara Delevingne’s Interview: Self-Respect, Condescention, and the Proverbial Line in Publicity and Entertainment

I know I opened with a similar sentiment for my most recent look at a hot-button topic, but I usually keep my nose out of this stuff. I don’t usually follow celebrity gossip or even legitimate news, but the noise around Cara Delevingne’s interview on Good Morning Sacramento left me with some thoughts to share.

Let’s face it: the interview is hard to watch, just like when you’re a guest at a gay friend’s Thanksgiving and his family won’t stop obliquely referring to “when he finds the right girl.” The lack of chemistry and the chilliness of the subtext is enough to recall the kind of awkward experiences that really no one can laugh at after the fact. So I’m not here to make fun or to say that Delevingne needs to lighten up, or that after weeks of promoting a movie in Europe she needs to be more grateful for such a chance as being on GMS.

My interest is how so much of the credit for the awkwardness has been laid at Delevingne’s feet, rather than at the anchors’, despite their poor planning, condescending tones, and catty jabs when they leave their admittedly uninspiring line of questioning behind to call out Delevingne’s ‘tude. Not cordial–not even professional–and it is far more in their job descriptions to be so than it is in Delevingne’s.

Most of my readers don’t know me, so I’ll throw this out there: I am one of the last people to point and shout “IT’S BECAUSE SHE’S A WOMAN” when I see things like this, but when you consider the general public’s response to similar situations when they happen to men, there’s really not a bevy of other conclusions to arrive at.

Not long ago, Quentin Tarantino was asked again, for probably the millionth time, whether he believed that his movies promoted violence, and he responded curtly, “I’m shutting your butt down.” He was summarily praised by fans and the general public for not indulging a tired, foolish line of questioning, as well he should have been. (And if you need convincing on how foolish it really is to ask him or any recent storyteller questions about how their stories are singlehandedly inspiring an otherwise good and docile population to dirty deeds, look up the Pear of Anguish and tell me humankind needs to be inspired by Pulp Fiction to be nauseatingly horrific.)

Robert Downey Jr. had a similar experience while promoting Avengers (and actually with the same journalist as Tarantino): instead of discussing the movie, which was the agreed-upon topic, the journalist used the opportunity to foray into the uncomfortable, unnecessary, unrelated, and done-to-death territory of Downey’s history of addiction. When Downey walked out of the interview, saying things were getting “too Diane Sawyer,” he was applauded for standing up for himself and his privacy.

Conversely, if you examine pervasive tropes like the constant assessment of women’s value in entertainment being directly proportional to their sex appeal rather than dramatic or comedic skill, the fact that women are expected to apologize when compromising pictures of them are stolen and distributed, the lack of interest in the professional or skill-based challenges of a project but rather how “tired” an actress must be by the end of it, and the fact that one of the only questions female celebrities can expect on the red carpet is “Who are you wearing?”, the women-considered-lesser-than-men bus kind of drives itself.

Delevingne’s interview began with one of the anchors calling her by the wrong name (whether a simple misspeak or a lack of planning, it doesn’t set a super-promising or professional tone), with the first question being about whether she had read the book. Even the most cursory research beforehand would have revealed that yes, she had read the book numerous times, so the more appropriate and considered approach (which according to Paper Towns author John Green was more often afforded to Delevingne’s male co-star) would be to ask when she had read the book or about her thoughts on the story. Regardless of what anyone wants to claim about the ethics of women in media, such a question would have cut out some redundancy while still answering the question of if she had read the book. It’s just a higher quality, more professional line of questioning.

When Delevingne responded with some trademark British sarcasm to the implication of the question (variations of which many actresses or models get: “are you really a professional or just a pretty face?”), the interviewers started down the slope of treating her like a child to regain the upper hand.

For instance, instead of committing to their questions, the pair began to ask why she looked so tired…(and I’ve seen more than a few people suggest she must have been “on the rag”…don’t even get me started). This is a very disingenuous way of both writing off a person’s irritation or outrage as well as daring them to acknowledge a conflict that is very present but not socially acceptable to call out or confront. A similar move is the much-reviled “you should smile” comment that many women can expect when receiving unwanted attention. I have personally had similar things happen to me while out and about or while working: a person or group would be downright verbally abusing me, and if I started to react with anything but a bright, understanding smile, they could hit me with: “Aw, you must be having a really long day,” or “Sweetie, are you tired or something?” It’s a power play and a reminder that you’re not living up to some kind of social expectation, with an implication of unpleasant consequences. For some women, this escalates to an outright physical threat. (Fortunately or unfortunately for me–I can’t always tell which–I’ve never felt that level of threat: it’s no secret that I prefer a healthy fistfight to a social minefield, especially in the days of doxxing and viral slander campaigns.)

In the most boring and basic of my experiences with this, yes, there would have been unpleasant consequences for me if clients or customers had complained to management that their waitress/rep/tech/salesperson was “being snotty,” but in Delevingne’s case, the fact that a couple of anchors felt justified in swinging their collective dicks around at a world-famous model and actress means that they did not take her seriously, a prime aggravation for women in entertainment. It’s a power/intimidation play and it falls flat and ridiculous when the person you’re trying intimidate is in a higher position than you and you are the only one not to realize it. It inspires nothing but contempt. Or in Delevingne’s case, British sarcasm.

By the time the interview was cut short, Delevingne was told to “take a nap and drink a Red Bull,” despite the fact that she appeared to try to smooth things over with a comment about the movie’s premiere the night before being exhausting and emotional. She was trying to get back to the reason for the interview, a move which the anchors would usually be responsible for if a guest went off topic.

The bottom line being, Delevingne may have been sarcastic, she may have had less patience than some people might like to believe they would have had in that situation, but she, out of the lot of them, attempted to remain somewhat professional. And yet it is she that got slapped with the “snobby, spoiled child” label as the video predictably went viral.

Why?

Because she dealt with the antagonization in a stereotypically feminine way, by using conversational side-stepping and facial expressions to make her displeasure known. In the eyes of the public, this constitutes acting like “a bitch”. The same displeasure, when approached and voiced in a more stereotypically masculine way, is respected and considered heroic or at least plucky (if you need a female example of a masculine approach paying off, look up anything Jennifer Lawrence has said and done and watch how she is applauded for standing up for herself.)

Basically it all just kinda bums me out.

ArmadilloCon 2015

A quick update, since I’ve been out of the loop for a while.

For the last month, I’ve pretty much had my head down and out of the writing brain-space while getting ready to run a booth at ArmadilloCon in Austin, TX, and I’m happy to report it was a great success! (Someday I hope to learn to balance all my loves on a daily basis, but for now they must alternate by season…I’ll probably get back to writing obsessively around November, just in time for NaNoWriMo…xD)

The writers’ workshop went swimmingly, and although I didn’t really get to leave the dealer’s room after that point to go to any panels, I did manage to chat with lots of authors as they cruised through (some of whom I’d met at ApolloCon in Houston last month), and even sold some bits and bobs to a few.

And because I hate turning down a chance to pat myself on the back, here are a few  pictures of my booth! It didn’t have a solid theme, just a lot of jewelry and fun, whimsical stuff, with some fantasy-costume-style headwear that I’ve been working on lately, with a few supplementary sets of felted horns and ears from my friend and local artist Maya Milo.

Alright, Fine: Thoughts on Joss Whedon and Black Widow in Avengers II

I put in a lot of effort to avoid senseless internet arguing and nit-picking and trolling and back-biting and rage-inducing-ly uninformed, reactionary commentary, but sometimes there is simply no escape. So I’m leaning into this one, mostly because there is one aspect to the now done-to-death argument that I haven’t seen brought up in other forums.

SPOILERS FOLLOW. Go to the theater, watch Avengers, and then come back if you’re not privy to the details.

For those blessedly unfamiliar with the vitriol recently directed at Joss Whedon, I beg your forgiveness for bringing you up to speed. In a nutshell, a lot of people got mad and yelled at possibly the last person in mainstream media that deserves a good shout-down (I’m talking about Joss Whedon, keep up guys) for daring to bestow thoughts of romance, womb, and young on Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff, saying that it watered her down and made her weak.

A lot of the press so far as been dedicated to debating the many varying degrees of silliness and circular reasoning up for grabs in that line of thought, so if you want to read about those, hie thee to Google and find a few–I’m talking about something else: Theme. Something which few seem to consider, despite the fact that the argument is over is A STORY. WHICH HAS THEMES. VERY EVIDENT THEMES.

The question of reproduction is one that has been hotly debated for decades, well before high profile cases like Roe v. Wade hit the scene. Pro-life, pro-choice, contraception, family planning, and even the ability to decide when, where, with whom, and how readily one (particularly women and LGBT community members) has sex dominates political, ethical, and religious discussions all over the US, in every forum, so it is not surprising that this is what would be focused on when Avengers came out. It seems to be all people can see.

But the evident theme of the movie itself is the larger, more abstract concept of legacy, and folds in reproduction as well as the lengths some people will go to to secure a legacy when facing down their own mortality. Ultron’s violent reaction to a taste of Stark’s own very human fear and confusion, coupled with his desperation to end humanity’s eternal conflict as well as neutralize outside threats, is what brings about the larger plot, after all.

Said larger plot focuses a great deal on Tony Stark’s dread and looming guilt resulting from a pretty standard savior complex: after his attempt to subvert future trials fails so spectacularly that it brings those exact future trials about in spades, he grows despondent and says himself that Ultron and the growing murderbot-infestation are his “legacy,” “the end of the path I started us all on.” Despite his regret, he defends his methods and creations in the same way a parent defends an errant child at a PTA meeting (or like a writer when their favorite character comes under fire…not that I know anything about that) even after it becomes apparent that Ultron plans to enact the next global extinction event. He even goes so far as to continue with his original plan in an effort to fix the Ultron problem, and fights his own teammates when they oppose him (with perfectly prudent reasons). His methods—like children and even the spiraling iterations of technological advancement–become the cause of and solution to any number of problems. One generation fails, and the next one takes another shot at it. Call it progress, advancement, evolution, or futility, it remains one of the most organic themes one could expect in a plot. What keeps the plot from becoming hopeless is that eventually his efforts do pay off with the birth/creation of the Vision, who tips the scales in the team’s favor.

All that to say that Natasha Romanoff’s brief conversation with Bruce Banner about who can and can’t have babies is possibly the smallest piece of the plot dedicated to the theme of reproduction as a means of legacy, yet it’s all people can talk about because it involves a character’s very natural discomfort and wistfulness upon discussing what amounts to sexual violence–forced sterilization–which in its most reduced form is a denial of choice as well as physical injury, much in the same vein as rape, forced pregnancy, or even genital mutilation, which are ever at the forefront of women’s body and reproductive rights issues. From a technical standpoint, however, the conversation is there to add some backstory flavor to a flash-in-the-pan romantic subplot that in turn lends some support to the themes of the larger arc, and no more.

Hawkeye/Clint Barton emerges out of the woodwork to support the theme as well, and shows his true colors as an enthusiastic homesteading farmer with a wife, kids, and the predictable honey-do list. It’s a side we haven’t seen, and very much at odds with the desperado-solitary eagle-lone wolf vibe that many hero characters like Stark and Cpt. America offer. When Barton later prepares to sacrifice himself to save a child during the final battle, it’s because he empathizes with the boy’s mother so intensely that no other course of action is acceptable.

Ultron, likewise, replicates “like Catholic rabbits,” dramatically destroying himself with each new iteration, and monologues at length about humans bearing “children, designed to supplant them. To help them… end. ” Again, legacy is depicted as a balm to mortality, which is really what storytelling has always been about: leaving something behind, because you can’t take anything with you. In the conversation between the Vision and Ultron’s final battered and failing vessel, Ultron is forced to view the perfect humanoid body he had intended for his ultimate “upgrade” in the hands of someone else, and berates the Vision for his naïveté and idealism, sounding very much like a crotchety old man jealously disapproving of a youngster’s apparent waste of energy and potential.

The whole plot is crawling with the question of how to cope with mortality: do we give up and become so despondent at the impossibility of a perfect world that we just decide to get it over with and blow it all up (Ultron)? Do we rush toward an uncertain technological future to attempt a remedy to suffering and death (Stark)? Do we accept what has happened and hope for other means of fulfillment/worthiness (Romanoff)? Do we wander off into the proverbial desert to contemplate our various existential crises (Banner)? Do we accept that it’s never going to be perfect and simply protect what we have (Vision)? Or do we go Barton’s route: keep our heads down, have a few wee babes, and till the earth?

(Side rant)

It is disappointing that so many feel the need to personally attack Whedon (or patronize him with comments about his “misguided feminism” coming from a good place) when the conversation and ultimately the whole depiction of Black Widow’s grief manages to be compassionate, realistic, and sympathetic while still subverting the usual “female saved by romance-and-babies” trope that so many viewers have justifiably become tired of seeing: as others have pointed out, she goes on with her life, draws satisfaction from her work, and focuses on other things still within her control, as we all must do after loss or trauma. There are no after-credits scenes of her binging, obsessively Pinning baby pictures, weeping over the birth control that she only takes to regulate her periods, or any other stereotypical expectations of how women in particular deal with grief. Still, the certainty with which so many internet warriors comment to this effect makes me wonder if they maybe know something about some deleted scenes I don’t, or perhaps they watched a different movie altogether and this whole debate is all just a big mistake.

The argument that Joss Whedon is singlehandedly oppressing women by portraying one character who regrets her inability to bear children has not a single leg to stand on. It also directly insults women who have lived through similar traumas by deeming it weak to have even subtle emotions about those experiences after the fact. (I mean, doesn’t that kind of sound like…misogyny, perhaps?)

Kickstarter Update

Well, the Kickstarter wasn’t fully funded in the end, but that’s ok! I learned a lot, got a little more (much needed) social media arm length, and have an updated game plan for the next time around. I’m taking some time to work on the story, the plan, and a pesky reboot of those previous health issues, but I’ll be bahhck with more info soon. :)

Thanks to everyone who shared, liked, and pledged! <3

Kickstarter Campaign Launched! (Holy crumbs.)

Super daunting, but super exciting!

Finally launched my Kickstarter campaign to fund the Storyteller and the Silent God! Right now, I have 29 days and $2,300 to go! Check out the details on the KS page, and you can read the first two chapters here.

For the curious: funds will go toward the cost of hiring an editor for content and proofing, completing the cover art, and professionally formatting/distributing the ebook. Stretch goal specifics will be decided soon, but I’m planning to expand the release to include paperback (and possibly hardback) books if the initial funding is exceeded by a good margin. But in general I’m trying not to put the cart first on that. Fingers crossed, though!

Check out the backer rewards on the campaign page – those will also be expanded if initial funding is exceeded, possibly to include a custom plushie modeled after one of the creatures in the story. (Really hoping for that!)

As always if you can pledge, that would be wonderful, but if you want to just help out by sharing this notice or the KS page, I would be much obliged! Thanks, all! <3

Better Late?

I’m appalled at my lapse here, folks, but I just realized I never properly shared the final installment on that cover art from Anna Dittmann Illustration for the Storyteller and the Silent God. I shared it on my Facebook page, but that’s not the same as sharing it here (WordPress and the blog community is my main squeeze, while social media in general is really more of a necessary evil).

But enough with that. FEAST YOUR EYES.

Nell Final

Lookin’ pretty elegant, no? Those colors, amirite?

People keep asking if I designed Nell’s image after myself. While I guess I could take their confusion as a compliment, the answer is a resounding “Nah, man. Nah.” (It’s the glasses. I wear glasses. But not Windsors. I’m not classy enough for Windsors).

Anyway, I super-love how she turned out, and I also super-loved working with Anna on the design and color scheme. Obviously she does beautiful work, but she was also very easy to work with, incredibly professional, and punctual to boot. If you’re looking for striking cover art, fellow writers, you can’t go wrong.

Speaking of punctuality, I’ve been dealing with some health bizz recently that has taken front seat, but I’m soon to be back on the social media warpath with writing updates and essays as I get back in gear for that Kickstarter. Soon!

thoon-dog

Tho thoon.

Art Nouveau Character Portraits!

While I am focusing on producing The Storyteller and the Silent God, I’m also in the long process of gathering character and concept art for my in-progress trilogy and its prequel, The Worldscar. The character below is Hazel, the main character of the prequel.

Since the bulk of the story is set in Edwardian times, in the aftermath of the arts and crafts revival and the heyday Art Nouveau movement, I’ve commissioned some art reflecting that. And here is the latest installment!

Up next is the color stage, but I am already absolutely in love with the stylings by the artist Helen of Give Dreams Wings on DeviantArt. Check her out!