I spent a lot of my time this week thinking about Alex Garland’s film Ex Machina. Thanks to a colleague’s kind invitation, I was able to view the film as part of a Tuesday Talkback Series at The Steel Stacks in Bethlehem, PA. After the film, he and I popped to the front to discuss the film with those who have not fled (we did a talk back for the film Hysteria as well. Turns out no one wants to talk about female masturbation in a public setting!). Those who stayed for Ex Machina really resisted that this film is about gender, even though my compatriot was right there with me to discuss gender. They thought the film was more about robots taking over the world than women’s oppression. I left befuddled once again at folks’ resistance to thinking about issues of gender–we had just watched a movie about a man creating only female versions of his artificially intelligent robots. I won’t tell you more about the film, but my post at bitchflicks has some spoilers. So read it now, or read it after you see the film, but I hope you will read it. I am enjoying being a staff writer for this super cool, female-run site, so anything we can all do to support them would be rad.
Because I spent much of my writing time this week working on my post for bitch flicks, I will spend only a little more time attempting to be smart and witty this holiday weekend. And I will write about my burgeoning love for the smart and witty Amy Schumer and her comedy.
Because Amy Schumer gives a fuck about all of the same things I give a fuck about. I use that word because of her work to give a fuck. Because when an audience says of a movie about men making female robots for their own uses that there is no element of gender, they are being lazy, or worse, they don’t give a fuck about issues of gender. Emma Gray’s piece “In Praise of Women Who Give all the Fucks” praises Amy Schumer and other women for “giving a fuck” in a world in which people often just shrug and say “Meh, I don’t give a fuck.” I get that giving a fuck is exhausting. But the only way the world will change is if we spend some of our energy giving a fuck and examining the world around us with a closer eye.
I would like to twirl around in the Alps and not give a fuck, because giving a fuck is so, so exhausting. But that isn’t an option for me. Or Amy Schumer. And thank god she is able to use comedy to get people to give a fuck about gender issues that they would refuse to see during a movie that allegorizes female oppression at the hands of patriarchal capitalism.
Emily Nussbaum’s piece on Schumer “The Little Tramp” solidified my desires to spend much of the summer watching more of Schumer’s work. If comedy is our only hope for getting the majority of the population to start paying attention to gender issues, then Schumer is currently the general of that army. Nussbaum praises Schumer for the latter’s ability to toe the line and find a balance that seems to strike a chord–I can’t help but think of Dave Chappelle’s constant funniness when he unpacks perfectly issues of racism in “Black White Supremacist.” If you have never witnessed this brilliance, grab some coffee and spend eight minutes here.
Nussbaum sees such an ability in Schumer’s work as well:
This self-mockery could turn into masochism, but somehow it never does, in part because the sharpness of the jokes is itself a form of self-assertion. In the first season, Amy recommends “porn from a woman’s P.O.V.,” then shows footage with angles staring up a guy’s nostril; in another sketch, she announces that, as a feminist, she’s hosting a gang bang (sponsored by “Sea Spray”), “to prove that women aren’t objects.” A murderously funny ad for plastic surgery asks, “Don’t you owe it to yourself to look like you fell into a tank of chemicals while fighting Batman?” Such sketches are aimed at a degrading culture, but they also explore women’s gameness to prove that they are, to quote one recent sketch, “cool with it.” Some of the best scenes involve circles of female friends, such as one in which the women are so competitively self-deprecating that when one of them accepts a compliment all the others commit suicide.
Not convinced? Watch this clip in which three of the smartest women in media get on board and illustrate in five minutes what women in Hollywood have been saying for years: there are no roles for women over 30. Just ask Maggie Gyllenhaal who was told this week that at 37 she is too old to play a love interest for a 55-year-old man. We need to start giving a fuck about representations of women in the media. Enjoy “The Last Fuckable Day.”