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Girl Firepower: "The Heat" hits the mark with its treatment of women

Posted by Scott Kearnan June 28, 2013 04:00 AM

What doesn't happen in a movie is often as important as what does. And there's a certain type of scene I was waiting for in The Heat.

It never came. And that was a great thing.

I'll explain. The Heat, opening today, comes from director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) and filmed in Boston last summer. Its premise pairs an uptight, by-the-books FBI agent, Sarah, (Sandra Bullock) with a loudmouth, loose cannon Boston police detective, Shannon (Melissa McCarthy). Sarah wears her bulletproof vest over impeccably laundered suits; Shannon keeps a weeks-old sandwich in her fridge as a midnight snack. Sarah can recite legal procedure like the alphabet and owns the brain of a CSI script fact-checker; Shannon is pure passion and gut instinct, barking and strong arming her way around. And now they're going to have to work together? Why, these gals couldn't be more different! SHEEPISH FACEPALM!

So here's what I thought would happen. Sarah is yin and Shannon is yang, and in movies like this, there's supposed to be a telling scene where they stumble over their respective Achilles' heels: Shannon's rashness blows the big case and Sarah's rigidity inadvertently betrays a best friend or something. And in that expected moment, yin learns she needs a little more yang while yang learns she needs a little more yin. Then, ta-da! It's the Goldilocks Effect: they re-calibrate their personalities to be not too hot, not too cold, just right ladies! In female-focused movies, this is typically accompanied by some insinuated mansplaining about what it means to be a whole woman, not just some harpy careerist or disheveled oaf who doesn't even care 'bout lipgloss much.

But this scene never happens. The personal evolution is purely unidirectional. Sarah comes to realize she should crib more from Shannon's work style: hilariously badass, butch, and take-no-prisoners. (Unless it's to smack their forehead on the interrogation table and deliver an outstandingly funny, Katie Dippold-scripted insult.) Sure, Sarah is cool, collected, brilliant and eminently qualified for Everything: "the best," her boss reminds her. But she botches promotions and pushes away her FBI colleagues, who find her frustrating and unlikable. (Even her cat ran away.) It's obvious that she cares too much what others think of her, because every time she over-talks about her experience or diagrams her decisions like an intellectual autopsy, it comes across like an apology: It's not that I'm a natural, I just memorize a lot of things! It's a situation that may be relatable to a lot of professional women who have felt like they need to undermine their exceptionalness to be "likable," and rely strictly on patience and quiet competence to lift them to the top. (OW! Was that a glass ceiling?)


Throwback Thursday: Before DOMA, who threw TV's first gay wedding?

Posted by Scott Kearnan June 27, 2013 11:47 AM

"Throwback Thursday." It's all over Twitter and Facebook: a chance to dust off old Polaroids (or just run your digital photos through a vintage-y Instagram filter) and show off the Ghosts of Bad Hairstyles Past. Ok. I dig. So I thought, why not bring that concept to "Media Remix" each week? The entertainment world is littered with pop culture artifacts that give telling glimpses at "where we were" (as a culture, I mean) at any given time. Just like your old junior high snapshots are evidence of your "I'm angry at mom!" or "I'm angry at Society!" or "I'm soooo into the Smashing Pumpkins right now" phase. AH, THE MOMENTS THAT SHAPED US.

Yesterday's big headlines were about the Supreme Court's repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which means same-sex couples legally married in their home state will also have their relationship (and the legal entitlements associated with it) recognized by the federal government. The Supreme Court also dismissed a case relative to California's Prop 8, allowing same-sex marriage to resume in the Golden State. Shorter version: it's 2013, can we stop arguing about this?

But years before DOMA, TV was already reflecting evolving attitudes toward the issue. So, what prime-time show has the distinction of showing TV's first gay wedding? That would be the Fox sitcom Roc, with its episode "Can't Help Loving That Man" in October 1991.

Holy... That opening credits sequence looked like my every pair of parachute pants and package of sidewalk chalk exploded at once. Heart. I used to love this show, though I completely forgot it existed until right about now. In its Very Special Episode, titular everyman Roc (played by Charles S. Dutton) discovers his uncle is gay and partnered. After learning and growing, the family hosts a ceremony for the couple at their home. What shows came next?


While You Were Weekending: Paula Deen is Cooked

Posted by Scott Kearnan June 24, 2013 12:30 PM

Welcome back from the weekend, Boston. Hope yours was a great one. I spent mine checking out my hometown drive-in to see Man of Steel (boo!) and World War Z (ooh!). And last night I saw my favorite prototype-hipsters, The B-52s, at Bank of America Pavilion. 'Twas a sweet, breezy summer night for some "Rock Lobster." Also for frozen margaritas that glowed an unnatural shade of green, and yellow mustard sandwiches served with a side of hot dog. Yesss. How'd you spend yours?

Whatever you did this weekend, it was hard to avoid the main entertainment world story that saturated social media like a tub of melted butter on a biscuit, baby doll: Paula Deen. The celebrity chef is seeing her one-woman-empire crumble after accusations of racist comments, revealed through a lawsuit filed by a former employee. Deen admitted to telling certain jokes and using inflammatory racial language in a recorded deposition, so there's no longer much debate over whether the allegations are true. Now the question is: is she sincerely sorry in the painfully awkward apology videos Deen released on Friday, after skipping a Today Show interview due to stress-induced illness? (She rescheduled her interview for this Wednesday.) And was the Food Network right to decide, as it announced Friday afternoon, that it would not renew Deen's contract when it expires at the end of June? (Shorter: She's fired.) There's also the distinct possibility she'll lose her cookware partnership with QVC; more on that at "Pop Radar."

There are two other shorter apology videos Deen released on Friday, but there's only so much schadenfreude one blog post can handle.

She does certainly seem very distraught, like she's one angry YouTube comment away from biting into a pan of arsenic- and shrapnel-laced muffins baking in the oven. Of course, whether she's sorry about her actions or the fact that it's costing her a career remains open to interpretation. I have mine, but I'll save it for later. For now I want to throw it out there to you hungry media-pundit wolves: what do you think about Deen's comments and the reaction to them?


Good Girl Gone Bad: Rihanna Hits Fan with Microphone

Posted by Scott Kearnan June 19, 2013 03:45 PM

Great relationships are about learning from one another. Like how to appreciate a new type of music, understand a new sport, or maybe make a killer souffle. Unless you're Rihanna and on-again, off-again (ex?-) boyfriend Chris Brown. In that case, I guess, you teach each other that when you get really frustrated with someone, you should probably just hit them.

According to reports, that's what Rihanna did last night during a concert in the UK. When an overzealous fan refused to let go of her arm, she whacked him (or her, it's unclear) with a microphone. And I'm talking a full-on, puts-some-bicep-in-that SMACK. The pop star forgot we live in 2013, when everyone has a phone with video capabilities.

You can hear someone in the crowd screaming, "Oh my God!" afterward. Rihanna, you'll notice, storms away immediately without continuing down the fan line. I'm sure she knows immediately, that was a horrible thing to do bad PR move.

How disappointing. As if you haven't already suffered enough by being subjected to a Rihanna concert, where she typically makes you wait three hours before phoning in her performance with, as this review from last month describes, a smug and listless sleepwalk set to karaoke tracks, she has the audacity to smack an over-enthusiastic fan. Even when she's invited contact with one of those queenly "now-let's-shake-hands-with-the-serfs" strolls by the stage.

Cue: the predictable defense from fans. Plenty of die-hards will jump to her defense, just like Chris Brown "stans" did to his. Cause that's normal. So let me cut you off at the pass: no, I don't know what it's like to be famous and have people invade your personal space, but I do know that if this is how you react, being famous probably isn't the profession for you. Especially when you make a point to get physical with fans, and you're being trailed by a big, burly bouncer whose job it is to intervene if stuff truly gets out of hand.

A few other points.

1) You don't hit people.
2) You don't hit people who pay to see you perform.
3) You don't hit people who reward your marginal talent with millions of dollars.
4) You don't hit people.

The end.

Why I Won't Laugh at Miss Utah (Well, not too hard.)

Posted by Scott Kearnan June 18, 2013 12:39 PM

At Sunday night's Miss USA pageant, Miss Utah Marissa Powell, who will never Google her own name again, gave the latest flubbed response to an "interview" question. (These seem to have become more common ever since YouTube was invented.) The question, posed by Real Housewife and brave feminist crusader NeNe Leakes, was: "A recent report shows that in 40 percent of American families with children, women are the primary earners, yet they continue to earn less than men. What does this say about society?" Here's Powell's response:

“I think we can relate this back to education, and how we are continuing to try to strive to figure out how to create jobs right now. That is the biggest problem. And I think especially the men are seen as the leaders of this, and so we need to try to figure out how to create education better so that we can solve this problem.” - Miss Utah Marissa Powell, who can we agree is foxy in a vicious kind of way? She sort of resembles Megan Fox, if Megan Fox ate Megan Fox.

There's a lot of commentary about this. I think my favorite response was this halting defense from Linda Holmes, who reminds us these questions are moronic to begin with, and that the only "correct" answer would be something like: "That's an unfocused question about a complex social issue that can't be properly explained within the time constraints of a verbal tweet, especially while I'm unnaturally self-conscious about whether I seem likable and if my gums are showing." That honesty doesn't get you Miss Congeniality. But I won't talk about whether she could have given a smarter, more articulate answer. She could have. Duh.

But if there’s one thing women don’t need, it’s people assuming that they must be idiots if they’re pretty. Miss Utah may not have helped their case, but neither are many people laughing at her. Not if they're laughing, as I'm coming to sense many are, out of sadistic satisfaction that an attractive and/or looks-conscious woman was "caught out," with some kind of coulda-seen-this-coming predictability, as being dim.

Ironically, many armchair hecklers fancy themselves feminists because, hey, they think beauty pageants are bad. Now, there’s a whole separate conversation to be had about whether these shows are outmoded and dehumanizing. There’s certainly an argument to be made that contests like Miss USA are dog shows with baton twirling: evaluating actual humans by the luster of their coat, whiteness of their teeth, and refinement of their skeletal structure as though they are prized Collies. I have complicated feelings about them, and I certainly think you can have meaningful, important debates about whether they are on some level anti-woman.

But it’s not exactly pro-woman to relish, like it's some revenge-on-the-cheerleaders dream come true, being proven “correct” that some beautiful women are not very bright. (Guess what? Neither are some unattractive women, attractive men, and unattractive men.) I’m not saying, don’t laugh. Laugh. I did. It’s funny to watch anyone vomit a word jumble of refrigerator magnet poetry blended with the sleepy-time murmurings of someone running for public office.

I’m just saying, don’t get on a high horse about the chauvinism of beauty pageants if you’re also primarily getting your hoots from the tired stereotype that when it comes to women, pretty must mean dumb. That’s not progressivism. That’s also sexist, and not even self-aware.

Like, such as the Iraq. World peace.

Thank you.


While You Were Weekending: June 17

Posted by Scott Kearnan June 17, 2013 11:35 AM

When I was growing up, my brother had a big, framed Garfield illustration in his bedroom. He was covered in the contents of an exploded toothpaste tube - Garfield, that is, not my brother - and wearing a grouchy expression of "Harumph!" Across the illustration was written: "I Hate Mondays." Every seventh day, that's basically how I experience the morning. Well, until I finish my first cup of coffee. Then my tail's wagging again.

But for my fellow grouchy Garfields out there, I thought it might it be nice to ease into the workweek with a new little tradition. Hopefully you spent the weekend far, far away from a computer: beaching, hiking, horseback riding, hang gliding, or another favorite activity often featured in commercials for feminine hygiene products and male enhancement formulas. So I figured I'd pull together a quick roundup of Friday-through-Sunday entertainment world highlights. We'll call it, "While You Were Weekending" - at least, until I come up with something better.

The Rolling Stones rocked Boston.
On Friday night, Jagger and Co. played the final Boston date of their 50 & Counting... tour. Shout-out to the Boston University Marsh Chapel Choir (including my bud Graham Wright, founder of the Opus Affair, an awesome social group for people who like booze and art), which accompanied the Stones on "You Can't Always Get What You Want." Also, shout-out to modern technology for allowing a YouTube user to achieve this super clear documentation.

Disclaimer: this video is actually from Wednesday's Boston show, but it was the clearest version I could find. And I'm pretty sure that, after 45 years, they didn't decide to change the lyrics on Friday.


Melissa McCarthy gets Photoshop makeover on "The Heat" poster

Posted by Scott Kearnan June 12, 2013 12:00 PM

People like Melissa McCarthy. But they probably don't want to be reminded what she looks like.

That's not my philosophy. But that seems to be the thought process that guided the disastrous design of movie posters for The Heat, which opens June 28. Ever since Bridesmaids, McCarthy has emerged as pop culture's well-liked, go-to Big Girl for Laffs. And her popularity is presumably why she was picked to star in this buddy cop comedy, which filmed in Boston last summer, opposite the conventionally svelte Sandra Bullock. But I guess filmmakers got nervous you'd take one more look at that big, round face of hers and go screaming to see a different movie, like Skinny Girls Eating Salad. Because McCarthy is virtually unrecognizable on the US and UK movie posters. Her face and neck have been slimmed to the point where she doesn't even look like herself. Apparently, if she's plus-size, it is less desirable to have a highly recognizable comic actress on your movie poster than a half-moon with eyes floating on a bed of Charles Manson hair. Got it.

The US (left) and UK (right) posters for "The Heat."

It's not exactly uncommon for Hollywood or Madison Avenue to put famous women on a Photoshop Diet. Just the other week, Beyonce gave the bizness to H&M, insisting that the retailer use her full, bootylicious body in its summer swimsuit campaign. And of course, there's always plenty of dialogue out there about the appropriateness (or not) of such dramatic touch-ups. Does it cultivate unrealistic images of beauty for women to live up to? Is it dishonest? Is it sexist? Generally speaking, I tend to answer "yes" to these. I mean, do you think anyone working on the marketing campaign for Tommy Boy asked if they should give Chris Farley a tummy tuck, so he'd look more petite alongside David Spade?

This situation is extra odd, though, since McCarthy's larger body type, unique by silver screen standards, is part of her appeal and what makes her distinct.

What do you think, did The Heat misfire with its poster?

Paris Jackson's Unfair Inheritance

Posted by Scott Kearnan June 7, 2013 06:47 PM

When Michael Jackson died in 2009, I thought it might signal a turning point. For the first time in twenty years, conversations about MJ were actually focusing on his talent. A generation that only knew him as a Halloween costume and/or ethereal, Casper-like Pied Piper learned that he was, at one point, a groundbreaking musician and live entertainer. I dare say there was almost a whiff of guilt in the air, at least among entertainment writers and pop culture pundits: Sure, he was weird, but we probably didn't help. Too bad he wound up hiding his gifts from the world. After a decade spent embracing new, crueler ways of reveling in celebrity downfalls, either goading stars toward self-destruction with exceptional bloodlust (Britney Spears) or tacitly rewarding them for it until they reached an early grave (Anna Nicole Smith), it actually felt good to be talking well of someone's legitimate talent, whatever specters of scandal loomed nearby. Maybe the Era of Mean was becoming passe.

Nope. This week, Jackson's 15-year old daughter was rushed to the hospital after attempting suicide, her mother confirmed. It's too soon to know why she did it, but it is quickly becoming apparent that Paris Jackson was dealing with a slew of issues, including malicious cyber-bullying often aimed at her over her father. She's destined to inherit plenty of her dad's money, but it seems as a teenager she's inherited his problems too.

Just a smattering of the loving and affectionate message tweeted to Paris, both before and after her suicide attempt.

Just to be clear, it's not important (to this conversation, that is) whether you believe that Michael Jackson spent the early '90s playing video games or spin the bottle with Macauley Culkin. Whether or not his inappropriately intimate relationships with kids ever became abusive is a separate discussion. The more relevant question is: why would people so outraged at the notion of child abuse take to Twitter to abuse a child?

The irony is, this online animosity is levied at someone who, despite sharing DNA with one of history's bona fide global superstars, seems pretty eager to come across as a normal teenage girl. (She gets excited over the end of school, she shows off new haircuts, she communicates her emotions via song lyrics.) On the other side of the Twitter-verse you have someone like Amanda Bynes, whose outrageousness is exalted by her fans. It's sad to think Paris might be more popular with her peers if she only stopped trying to stay well-adjusted.


About this blog

Scott Kearnan (@thewritestuffSK) is a Boston-based writer, editor, and communications consultant focusing on lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment. He's also a part-time smart aleck and buffalo wing connoisseur. "Media Remix" is where couch potatoes meet pop culture criticism. More »

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