Interdisciplinary Links Between Research

Politics & Philosophy: Aristotle’s + Hegel’s definitions of community: maybe start by providing both?

Politics & History: Julia’s discussion of the recognition of Hollywood as part of the wider community and Ana’s exploration of cinema reflecting the status quo/moral values of the society in which it is created.

Politics & History & Philosophy: Julia asking how we maintain diversity of casts / women on screen and Ana demonstrating that as women gain independence and prominence on the screen, this is quickly dominated by masculinity. How do we stop this happening? My suggestion that we seem to be breaking down hierarchies and achieving more justice, but is it the case that this will soon revert?

Politics and Philosophy: Sanjana asks what the systems are which allow for women to be simultaneously publicly exposed and intimately harassed. My reading of Aristotle (via appeal to hierarchy and justice) could answer this question by contending that it is the hierarchy and injustice which allows this. Thus, is it the abuse of the community which contributes to and drives this simultaneity? 

Politics and Philosophy: Sanjana also discusses questions of how gender has affected a woman’s career – this ties in with stereotype threat and implicit bias. 

We will also being using the disciplines of film and print media in our research. I am currently putting together a video which highlights the frequency and severity of unjust treatment of females in Hollywood.

Organisation of the political analysis “inside Hollywood movies”

After the very nice meeting we had today at the Maughan library, our ideas are much clearer and well organised – excited about next week repetitions of our representation!
Thus, to draw on Shivani and Sanjana’s last posts, this is the outline I will present on the 27th of March.
I also come with a definition of what is a community, but from a political sciences’ perspective: Hegelian view of an ethical community (also found in his political theories) underlines that a good person = a good citizen who follows the rule of law
  • Fact: Hollywood is part of the US community (a subcategory?)
  • How does Hollywood (as an organization/business)’ embeddedness in social and cultural communities influence its behaviour?
  • How does the film industry in the US’ – commonly called Hollywood- embeddedness in the US social and cultural community influence its behaviour?
After Ana shows how  cinema reflects the status quo of the society in which it is happening until the 1980s, I will continue with movies from the 1980s onwards
1)To draw on Ana’s last point about Women in Danger’s movies: Michel Foucault and the repressive forms of social control/biopolitics power -> affected men, raised anxieties of castration -> This is where the submission of Hollywood under the US community is apparent -> tool of politics (Reaganian “remasculinization and rebarbarization after humiliation in Vietnam and American hostages in Iran): must reassure anxieties (Cohan and Hark)
2) Then move to Postfeminism after the 1980s: defined with difficulty
  1. A discourse highly knowing about sex and gender diversity, which sometimes esteem that “basic feminism” is over
  2. but which also invest in conventional modes of feminism, quite ironic in tone (Radner and Stringer)
  3. Historical relationship to political and philosophic feminist movement that points to the pervasive impact of gender hierarchies and argues for gender equality)
  4. Anchored in images, media, TV, pop culture -> these images changed according to US politics/normative context
  • Welfare image = dependence, sex object, pretty vs. smart, success in marriage in the private sphere (p82)
  • Neoliberal image = strong, empowered, emphasize achievements (p68) and individual choices (p69), pretty AND smart,  femininity as the asset to sell in the private and the public sphere (p82)
  • Example of the older woman figure
  • Example of the regressed child
    • Regression movies: men funny because sexual innuendo vs. women innocence
    • Enchanted: plays on critiques of the central romance narrative but sincere presentation of ideas of true love on the other
  • Finally, the example of the super corporate woman, which I won’t develop but we all know this movie with the super-empowered professionally woman who reveals a lack of romantic stability behind: failure to grow up
    • Ex: Maria Bello in The Jane Austen Book Club, described on the Wiki page of the movie as “a happily unmarried control freak and breeder of Rhodesian Ridgebacks” -> finds love (after a lot of resistance) at the end of the movie and finally seems complete
– As all these example shows, postfeminism = anchored in the contemporary context of neo-liberal, late-capitalist society characterized by consumer culture, individualism, postmodernism and a decreased interest in institutional politics and activism
– Thus, audience wondering at what price comes this super empowered life?  Like the real superstar actresses which embody them? Sleeping with a high rep of their industries in order to achieve what’s best for them? Women presented as finished products in movies
  • maintain stereotypes about a particular femininity
  • do not show/perform other types of femininity -> lack of diversity in images -> ends up with accommodation to and acceptance of a diminished role for women (p69 Radner and Stringer)

 

Week 8 – notes write up

Here are some of the nots that I’ve taken for some of the parts of the presentation that I believe will be valuable for adding some final background to our presentation.  It’s quite unordered but as our discussions have become more focused, I’ve narrowed our general discussions down to focus on the behind-the-scenes aspect of hollywood and gender that is often ignored, as well as what labour conditions and protection there is for vulnerable people within hollywood.

Below are some extracts / exercpts from the document, all of which has been commented on or added to by the other members of the group :

  • How does hollywood as a community operate on the public/private paradox because …Which movies have had notoriously bad working conditions – even if they weren’t technically considered under the umbrella of the law, because they weren’t reported / weren’t technically illegal? How does the public private paradox play out behind the scenes? Much of the discussion around representation in Hollywood often centers on what women are represented to be or thought to be on screeen, and not behnd the screen? How does this tie into notions of hierarchy, justice, and a community?

    Hollywood offers a particularly salient example of this – that film must be political because of what it seeks to portray and that it is not made in a vacuum. The production of film, financing of it, and the kinds of stories that get told are always political, even if not recognised as so, and often disparities behind the camera, or behind the scenes, are translated into deficiencies in front of. Moreover, Hollywood is fundamentally a profit making mechanism that creates a contract between art and commerce – women led films have been dismissed for years on the spurious basis that they are not profitable.

    Weinstein’s lawyer’s comment that “the casting couch” has been a notable stereotype of the film industry since before he was even born, and that if someone willingly consents to being on this casting couch or sleeping with someone in order ot get ahead, then it’s not “rape”, even though this obviously is not what happened with Weinstein.

  • Behind camera – laws  / labour laws that have been passed to enable female participation and treatment in hollywood – how does this tie into metoo? “Celluloid ceiling”
    • In 2017, The Celluloid Ceiling report found that 88 % of the 250 top films of 2017 did not have female directors (https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/01/the-brutal-math-of-gender-inequality-in-hollywood/550232/)
    • Moreover, 90 % of these films did not have any female sound gaffers, grips or people in technical roles.
      • This can also betray a disparity in how women are encouraged to go into professions or jobs that rely heavily on their physical attributes and what they can offer for consumption, often within the confines of the male gaze.
      • That movies are often not made with women’s direct involvement leads into how women are portrayed on screen, and often leads to major deficiencies in story line or characterisation.
    • These numbers change drastically when examining independent film-making, or young female directors seeking a start in Hollywood. These numbers are often reprenstative of women who already work in Hollywood, and often are overwhelmingly white women who are middle class.
      • 83 % of Hollywood’s film industry had no female writers.
      • Sociological studies have highlighted that the worst working conditions for women ensure at the intersection of several key factors – “male domination in positions of power; work arrangements that are relatively transient; and young, single women in more-vulnerable and low-paying occupations.”
      • These kinds of working conditions are largely enabled by political forces informed by historical and philosopical understandings of bias and gender imbalance.
      • Within Hollywood, while all actors are unionised, often young creatives will have to work for exposure and undertake gruelling feats of work in order to simply get their foot in the door. In this sense, women often work for little pay in conditions that are not protected by labour laws – because of the casualisation of a lot of work has fractured the industry and made it increasingly possible to recruit young people who are interested in working in Hollywood.
      • The Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission – which is tasked with examining discrimination across various industries – has brought a discrimination lawsuit against major studios in hollywoodin 2015, with eveyr single major studio accused of systemic gender discriminaton. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/feb/20/hollywood-studios-sued-discrimination-against-female-directors
      • The EEOC does not just investigate whether or not female directors have been hired, but actively looks at how patterns of hiring could result in discrimination, as well as the other factors that largely influence how companies and production firms function. These go past macro-structural issues – such as passing over a female director for an action movie – and also look at how many women were encouraged to apply for the roles, how many women are in a talent pool etc –
      • The EEOC also has the power to file a class action lawsuit against the industry if they feel that women and minorities are not being included in behind the scen
    • Women working in hollywood have largely beared the brunt of ensuring increased female representation through their own initiatives, working groups and whisper networks. While it becomes evident that there has been significant conversation around the representation of women on screen, there are still conversations to be had around the working conditions that can be generated through diverse crew.
    • Research carried out on the gender balance behind the camera has highlighted that when women are in charge of movies or documentaries, they are more likely ot have diverse casts and crews ()http://wmc.3cdn.net/2e85f9517dc2bf164e_htm62xgan.pdf, pg 37 onwards)
  • How does this relate to the idea of community?
    • Communities are often inward-facing, and insular. How Hollywood functions remains a mystery to those outside of the industry, and it is only recently that the veil is being pulled back. However, it should be obvious that the less women there are behind the scenes – in terms of writing scripts, in terms of gaffes, in terms of direction – the more likely it is that women will not be portrayed and fully realised as real people on screen.
  • In this sense, it is worth examining the fact that when all the Weinstein allegations surfaced, the LAPD set up their own independent unit to carry out investigations into the reports of sex abuse and harassment that had occurRed  – because of the sheer scale of these allegations.
    • This is common and expected when dealing with specific abuses of power and abuses of women within communities, as a more focused approach – for example, identifying common powerful people who have perpetrated these abuses.
      • This approach can be seen throughout the world, in many countries with far less “robust” legal systems.
    • In this sense, there is also the idea that communities perpetuate their own forms of hierarchy + justice (as pointed out by Shivani’s reading of community from Aristotle) and in doing so, render themselves politically difficult to reckon with. For example, Ronan Farrow published an account of how Rose McGowan, who has been outspoken about the abuse she suffered as a result of Weinstein’s actions, was trailed by former MOSSAD agents and agencies, creating a sense of paranoia. However, her ability to verify those claims was severely doubted, as she was often thought of, particularly within Hollywood, as something of a wild card, because of her previous inclination towards speaking out about injustice.
    • Within the eyes of the law, the justice system has had very ltitle ot offer survivors of sexual violence, in terms of actually giving them any sense of justice having been served or even that it was being pursued in a meaningful manner. This is common to many victims of sexual violence throughout the legal system in any country, not just in America, but the gendered nature of sexual violence often leads to trauma and continued frustration for women who have been maligned in some manner.
    • In this way, the EEOC had investigated these same claims of discrimination in 1989, and while the matter had been referred up to the Justice Department, no action was taken that could actually “change” things. This may also be beacuse the justice department was at the time headed by SCJ Clarence Thomas, who has been anti-feminist on numerous occasions in his rulings, and as well as the lack of a general appetite for severe scrutiny of these issues.
    • When it comes to detractors of #metoo, many often ask what the eventual outcome will be, or whether the movement has proved or provided anything tangible. However, tangibility is a difficult thing to measure, as well as a different standard of address in which to correct injustices.
      • Yet, the backlash from the New Yorker / NYT revelations has led to many actors and people in the public eye confronting allegations of harassment, but often with uncomfortable questions arising as a result.
      • Even the coverage of this has not been entirely flawless – for example, a magazine (X) ran Ronan Farrow as a cover star when doing an end of year round up, despite the fact that two women at the NYT had been the first to break the story.
      • Many of Weinstein’s victims pointed out that they felt more comfortable with the discussion happening with other women, than men.
    • So the mechanisms of justice and equality that we seek to use to correct perceived imbalances of power distribution are flawed within Hollywood as they are in the rest of the world. Whenever htere is widespread knowledge of a perceived injustice within certain communities, the kneejerk reaction is that an outside, impartial view will be able to delineate the wrongdoing more clearly, but this is obviously difficult when it is so embedded in the culture of a community – and even of an industry.
      • At the end of the day, while Hollywood is a community, it is also fundamentally an industry. It operates to make money – and actresses, actors – particularly high profile ones – earn very large sums of money, even if they differ by gender or age.
      • In this sense, a community might struggle the protect the most vulnerable – or even put safeguards in place – if exploitation and mistreatment are ways to either make money or profit from suffering.
      • In this sense, we can highlight how certain movies that are incredibly well known, popular or part of an iconic film canon, were actually made under difficult circumstances and must be confronted in difficult ways.
        • E.g. Kill Bill
        • we are making a list of movies that fit this description, screenshots of which we will be including in our presentation.
      • In this sense, we can look at the fact that many well known movies with complex female characters – or that are held up as examples of women who are parts of pop culture iconography – often had well documented abuse and mistreatment behind the scenes, even as these sequences were choreographed or created for maximum effect.

 

Focused :

 

  • What are the behind – the – scenes conditions that can affect gender relations?
  • What are the legal issues that have hindered women from being able to access equal pay, sexual harassment settlements, and often kept them silent?
    • Fundamentally, Hollywood – however it is understood – is a community that functions from profit. When people’s movies don’t do well – especially if they’re risky, such as being led by a woman or a minority – this is meant in terms of a lack of profit, and then this leads to their own consequences much like anywhere else.
    • As is stated in the
    • Much of the work that people undertake behind the scenes is in the form of unpaid internships or casual work, where the pay is often delayed and the working conditions and any adequate protection is often not to be found. This is doubly difficult for women as many women will struggle to get into these jobs in the first place because of the focus on long hours, endurance and the likelihood of working alongside all male crews.
  • How has gender discrimination affected the behind the scenes productions of movies ?
  • What does that have to do with community and the public / private paradaox?
    • As women are represented on screen, the ways in which they do so are often imbalanced, misjudged or stereotypical. Yet, scrutiny of these roles and the identities are masked by the fact that it’s so difficult to make it in the industry, and that these are often due to conditions enabled by precarious working conditions, a culture of secrecy, as well as high costs for failing out of public life.
    • When women become famous, they are subject to scrutiny and tore apart in the press unless they behave a certain way. But if they’re not famous, people don’t care about the harassment, abuse and difficulties that they will have to go through in order to reach that stage.
    • So that paradox becomes apparent.
    • But in terms of a community, Hollywood could be said to be incredibly insular – this is made evident by the fact that Weinstein had a noted team of people who enabled his abuse and even condoned it for years, as well as the fact that one wrong word from him – and people who liked and supported him, and his money – would be ostracised immediately, and not appear in movies anymore.
      • A community can punish members who deviate from the norm far more harshly than outside judgement, and can leverage commonality as a form of weakness.

Aristotle’s Conceptions of Community

Aristotle’s definition of community originates from his explanation of the city-state. He claims that the city-state consists in different kinds of community such as households, economic classes, or political divisions. He then continues to explain that a community is ‘a collection of parts having some functions and interests in common.’[1]

What constitutes a community?

According to Yack, ‘Wherever individuals hold something in common (koinon), whether it be a home, a contract or a goal, Aristotle sees community.’[2]

  • This seems to be true of Hollywood e.g. goal of creating the film/series etc.,
  • However it is also important to interrogate whether or not there are different motives behind these goals. Why has x director chosen x female actress over another? And why has x female actress agreed to do y? Is it because she has been coerced into doing so? Or blackmailed?
  • Further, ‘Man… uses his community for both common and individual ends.’[3] This supports my above claim by demonstrating that the goals in a community, and in this case, in the Hollywood community, vary for different people.

Justice and Hierarchy in Hollywood

‘Every form of community… has a form of justice and friendship appropriate to it.’[4]

  • Good place to begin the argument: there is a form of justice that is appropriate to Hollywood, but this form of justice doesn’t always seem to apply to or exist in Hollywood.
  • This is demonstrated by the constant injustices against females in the hierarchy of Hollywood. For instance, justices that exist in the form of implicit bias: behaviours and attitudes which alter how the quality of a woman’s work / ability of a woman is perceived. This leads to an unjustified and unjust negative evaluation of that work / woman.[5]
  • However, with regards to friendship, it’s important to consider the relationships and solidarity that arises/is reinforced as a result of the injustices. For example, whisper networks – conversations and discussions among women about the threatening/dangerous men who have been known to conduct sexual harassment/assault etc. These are a way for women to look out for each other.

All communities need to establish hierarchies, implicit or explicit, among various claims to make final decisions for the communities – age, physical prowess, talent, wealth, freedom, virtue, good birth, divine [favour], and so on.’[6]

  • This argument would suggest that Hollywood is a community, since these hierarchies do very clearly exist.
  • When these hierarchies are implemented, they can be conducive to stereotype threat. This is where females ‘are unconsciously preoccupied by fears of confirming the stereotypes about their group.’ Thus, if a female is already trapped within the framework of a hierarchy, they become a victim of stereotype threat in that it becomes even more difficult for them to break out of this structure.[7]
  • Moreover, it seems as though sometimes these hierarchies are not only implicit, but also hidden. There is a desire to conceal them yet still implement them, and this is where the problems arise. For example:

‘In a political community [these hierarchies] become the [centre] of argument. In a household, we tend to accept the hierarchy of age because of the combination of natural inequalities and affection.’[8]

  • This presses us to question which hierarchies we tend/ought to accept within Hollywood.
  • Of course, we do need hierarchies, it seems as though it is a fact of life that we cannot progress or make decisions without them. However, in order to be a community, these hierarchies must line up with the other parts of Aristotle’s definition of community. That is, they must have a ‘form of justice to them.[9] Currently, not all of them do. e.g. hierarchies of male pay vs. female pay. male representation vs. female representation are unjust hierarchies.
  • Do we need to begin by breaking down these hierarchies in order to then break down some of the tropes that we see existing both on and off screen? Would this be one of the first steps on the way to making Hollywood an equal and just community for all?

 Yack argues that ‘in the end, distinctive and ugly forms of distrust are part of the price one pays for community.[10]

  • This seems to be true, there is a lack of trust of men from females – and this is the sacrifice that women make in this industry in order to succeed and progress.
  • However, they should not need to accept this distrust and injustice in order to progress.

‘In a community of free individuals, coming together from different clans, implicit claims to rule will tend to be challenged.’[11]

  • This seems to be what is happening now. We are finally on the cusp of challenging these rulers and overturning their claims and domination.

Therefore, in coherence with Aristotle’s views, it seems as though Hollywood does fit into the definition of a community. But does it function as one? What kind of community is it? And at what cost? Is it worth being part of a community which is based on such drastic inequalities and injustices?

 

 

[1] Fred Miller, “Aristotle’s Political Theory”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.) <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2017/entries/aristotle-politics/>

[2] Bernard Yack, “Community and Conflict in Aristotle’s Political Philosophy,” The Review of Politics, 47.1 (1985), p.93.

[3] Yack, “Community,” p.95.

[4] Ibid., p.104.

[5] Jennifer Saul, “Implicit Bias, Stereotype Threat, and Women in Philosophy.” In Women in Philosophy: What Needs to Change?, by Hutchison, Katrina, and Fiona Jenkins, edited by Katrina Hutchison, and Fiona Jenkins, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp.2-3.

[6] Yack, “Community,” p.101.

[7] Saul, “Implicit Bias,” p.5.

[8] Yack, “Community,” p.101.

[9] Ibid., p.104.

[10] Ibid., p.92.

[11] Ibid., p.101.

Group meeting n°6 – First potential presentation outline

Our goal for this week was to put all of our individual research and reading into a somewhat comprehensive outline of what we would each like to present.

Shivani looked into a philosophical definition of community and how this can be applied to Hollywood:

  • Two important notions in Aristotle’s definition of community: hierarchy and justice; every form of community is characterised and maintained by specific hierarchical relationships and the forms of justice they create
  • As applied to Hollywood, important to interrogate what these hierarchies and justice “systems are and how they shape motivations or understandings within Hollywood: i.e. Why has X female actress agreed to do so, and why she was she picked for the role?
  • “A man uses his community for common and individual ends”
  • Important to note that these hierarchies are not only implicit but hidden – and this is where the problems start to arise; the implicit character of these structures means that there is liability and recourse for those victimised by the community
  • Different forms of hierarchy: age, knowledge, socio-eco status… In the context of Hollywood, we look at male vs female in several aspects i.e. pay, representation…
  • Do we need to begin by breaking down these hierarchies – in order to break down some of the tropes we see existing? What kind of a community do we want it to be?
  • Implicit forms of rules are being challenged – overturning forms of domination
  • In coherence with Aristotle’s view, Hollywood is a community, but does it function as one and should it be functioning as one?

Julia focused on a political understanding of Hollywood as a community. She explored that question through a “on-screen” perspective which tackles the topics of conception and representation of female identities in cinema.

  • Hegel’s definition of a community (majority of political theories are based on this theory of community): every person in order to be a good person has to follow virtuous rule that are designed for a stable community
  • Essential to recognise that Hollywood is part of the wider “community” of the US state/nation: it will therefore reflect its rules, its way of life and its normative contexts i.e. Interesting parallels between Reagan era and films – actors in front of the camera and behind the camera were reflecting policies
  • From toxic masculinity to super diverse casts: post-feminism on screen means that empowered women are being displayed and represented / very positive that we’re able to see this but how did we reach that state and how do we maintain it?
  • Masculinity is still quite present – even if you are a strong character, you will fall into men’s arms and you will still be in lov

I wanted to get some wider historical context for our question and to analyse to what extent the toxic attitude towards women is a structural issue in Hollywood.

  • Started looking into Hollywood and the American dream and how they’re connected: very strong role of images and clichés in the construction of the American dream / adding to that, as Julia found, cinema often reflects the values/morals/codes of the era in which it is produced.
  • 1920s cinema = the advent of the figure of the New woman / very much connected to the era of the Roaring 20’s especially with the flapper/burlesque dancer/working woman. Female bodies are liberated and displayed but in an empowering way rather than through an objectifying male gaze.
  • 1930’s: tendance is reversed with apparition of Classical Cinema; women are “put back in their place”. The figure of the dedicated housewife takes over; majority of adventurous/empowered female characters are depicted as selfish, cruel, unreasonable or will experience some kind of downfall/repent at some point.
  • 1960’s – 70s: second wave feminist cinema arrives with a bang and renews female empowerment on screen; more female directors, more female protagonists, more female screenwriters, more women in the audience…
  • 1980s: the women-in-danger genre appears; characterised by female characters who are being stalked/attacked/murdered by male characters (reclaims elements from Film Noir which was itself characterised by important misogynist patterns) / same time, new popularity of adventure movies w/ very male identity.
  • Pattern emerges = women gain independence on screen and are then rapidly shut down/taken over by strong masculinity –> one step forward, two steps back kind of movement
  • raises question of what’s next now? If we’re experiencing era of challenging men and empowering women, does that mean we’re going to regress in the next few years? Is the pattern still going on?

Sanjana looked at the politics of gender off-screen in Hollywood. While Julia focused on the representation of women in movies, Sanjana explored the political/legal framework which is in place behind-the-scenes and sustains or prevents toxic attitudes towards women in the industry.

  • Legal cases and precedents: concretely what is the legislation in place to protect women in the cinema industry? is it different from other fields of work?
  • Celluloid ceiling = Glass ceiling specific to cinema industry / relies on data regarding the proportion of female directors, female actors, female screenwriters in Hollywood.
  • Question of public paradoxes -> women in cinema are simultaneously publicly exposed and harassed in their intimacy; what are the systems which allow for this contradiction to occur?
  • Wishes to see historical nuances, evolution
  • Equal employment opportunity commission, federal commission = examining discrimination across industries -> behind the camera perspective since three years, many cases filed
  • How has gender affected your career? Numerous interviews on that topic; recent example: Julianne Moore laughing in face of (male) interviewer asking if she’s ever experienced harassment/abusive behaviours
  • Sociology + politics + hollywood  – what does the production and creation of hollywood films reflect about the politics of gender at the time and the ideas of justice?

Exposing our ideas this clearly helped us decide of a broad outline for our presentation. We’re thinking of starting with Shivani’s theoretical definition and to complete/contrast it with my historical context which we think would provide a more practical definition of our question and main themes. Then we would go on with Julia’s part which adresses the current state of female representation in Hollywood which we felt would tie on nicely with the end of my analysis. Sanjana would then close the presentation by showing us the current political/judicial/social structures which allow for this overly-masculine culture to be maintained and possibly determine if the outcry we’ve seen recently has the potential to produce lasting results. We don’t want it to be 4 distinct presentations so we will be working together to really connect/intertwine our different parts.

Gender issues in Hollywood movies

After leaving our last meeting on Tuesday morning, I worked on a potential plan I could maybe complement with Sanjana (notably regarding the first part where I define whether or not Hollywood is a community). My part in our project considers the intrusion of gender issues in Hollywood movies from a political perspective.

  1. Is Hollywood a community?

Use of Hegel’s definition of a community (at the basis of his future political theories)

  • paragraph 150 Philosophy of Right: ‘In an ethical community, it is easy to say what man must do, what are the duties he has to fulfil in order to be virtuous; he has simply to follow the well-known and explicit rules of his own situation.’
  • This definition is close to the definition of a state community. Thus -> a good person is a good citizen who follows the rule of the law
    • Hollywood would be a subcategory of the US community
    • How does Hollywood (as an organization/business)’ embeddedness in social and cultural communities influence its behaviour? -> related to both Sanjana’s and my part
    • People within the US film industry – often called Hollywood – are citizens who answer to US laws (Sanjana), politics, ideological and normative changes
      • National Film Registry: selection of films deserving of preservation (25 “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant films” each year)
      • Sexual harassment laws
      • Labour laws -> Sanjana
      • Promotion of monogamous marriage/ middle-class white family/ etc
      • Trump is almost seen as an outlaw (Access Hollywood records), psychopath -> Hollywood people do not want to respond to him anymore, actresses in women march, mocked in Hollywood
  • Hollywood movies increasingly criticized by the American population – like politicians – when do not represent variety of identity communities  (black, Latino, transgender, gay etc.)
  • Film industry important in the US, source of soft power since the beginning of the 20st century, highest annual grosses in the world
    • Endorsement letters from leading actors, radio appearances, printed ad, friendship of Kennedy and Sinatra -> new era of glamour
    • Actors= performers inside and outside movies -> can fit with different roles= empathy dvped= understand others = are vocal, public, created a political movement #metoo
    • Roosevelt first president to use Hollywood power: Melvyn Douglas toured Washington in 1939 and met the key New Dealers
    • Hollywood as a powerful expressive tool, platform, to be part of Hollywood community helps to increase your voice -> promoted/exhibited/ almost no private life
      • Jane Fonda against the Vietnam War on TV 
      • Ronald Reagan= former actor, became Governor of California and then President
      • Arnold Scharwenegger, Cali Gov in 2003 -> see MeToo + Scharzenegger on Twitter -> tweets about his sexual assaults
      • Donald Trump used to be a reality star
    • But open community: people watching movies and/or behind the camera’s statements fell empowered, close to same interests, common interests as US citizens ->  means that you do not have to be part of the industry to feel part of the community
    • Women are reunited by same interest in empowerment
    • Laura Mulvey (1975) and the male gaze: Male spectator and his cinematic surrogate- unified coherent, comforatble (secure with their life on the screen as voyeur and fetishist)
  • Hollywood= liberal politics

2. And how does it proceeds to silence/exclude its female members while being a creative community?

  • Today: creation of super empowered women
    • Less toxic masculinity
    • Independent, self made
  • BUT these recent movies reflect postfeminist thoughts
    • Postfeminism= discourse (set of ideas about how the world is organise which are expressed in policy, practice and culture) highly knowing about sex and gender but also invest in conventional modes of feminist= quite ironic in tone (Radner and Stringer Feminism at the Movies : Understanding Gender in Contemporary Popular Cinema)
    • Difficult to define, many different ways
      • Scholarly= now involves more gender identity
      • Journalism= feminism done, other topics now
    • Historical relationship to feminism (poitical movement and philo that points to the pervasive impact of gender hierarchies and argues for gender equality)
    • Anchored in images
  • Specific femininity and masculinity representations/images which changed according to politics
  • Turning point in the 1980s: Reagan patriarchal politics (Traube – Dreaming id: Class, gender and generation in 1980s H movies)
    • Reagan: “remasculinization and rebarbarianization ” -> rebirth of American power after humiliation of Vietnam, taking of American hostages in Iran, Carter rescue attempt
      • Also goes after rise of feminist issues in the 1970s -> Nature of men’s and women’s places= central to Hollywood, must reassure anxieties (Cohan and Hark)
      • Michel Foucault: repressive forms of social control historically displaced by the modern profusion of regulatory, “bio-political” discourses and their demand for increasing self-discipline
        • “private” spaces such as the family home and the intimate processes of rearing children increasingly became the object of state intervention
        • Thus: women were increasingly invested with forms of social responsibility and authority that were historically reserved for men.
        •  Powers became manifest so did cultural anxieties about the condition of men and masculinity. (p38)
    • Follows Laura Mulvey (1975): women= justification of every actions, fetishized issue, enable men to be delivered from the castration anxiety -> Hitchcock is the main target of her critique
      • Women-in-Danger films: early 80’s, important number of thrillers in which women are stalked and hurt or killed by a male character à at the time, analysed as a reaction of the male ego against the increasingly self-determined social status of women brought along by 2nd wave feminism; often described as “the greatest misogynist trend in American film”.
    •  Examples
      • Corporate: MIA, Wall Street, Working Girl, Cocktail, Kramer vs. Kramer,
      • Monstrous males in horror film -> supernatural, movie monsters such as Dracula, take on female biological traits while psychotic, mentally deviant serial killer attempts to clothe himself in the women’s body (Psycho, Dressed to Kill, The Silence of the Lambs) -> male spectator is punished, looks at the abject body of the other, his monstrous, feminised gender counterpart
      • Action films in the 1980s = pumped up icons, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger = the male body – principally the white male body – became increasingly a vehicle of display – of musculature, of beauty, of physical feats, and of gritty toughness” (Susan Jeffords”)
    • Alternative male figures:
      • Unacceptable maculinities are showed, the good mascilinity is performed as a spectacle
      • Fred Astaire= major turn in Hollywood cinema, dance and spectacle before= feminine, Astaire escapes the binarized economy of sadistic viewing and masochistic spectacle -> alternative style of masculinity (Steven Cohan)
      • Figure of the New Lad
        • Imelda Wheleha: “a nostalgic revival of old patriarchy; a direct challenge to feminism’s call for social transformation, by reaffirming—albeit ironically—the unchanging nature of gender relations and sexual roles.”
        • For others: is a response to the figure of the “new man,” a more caring, sharing, and egalitarian version of masculinity which achieved a certain media prominence in the 1980s.
        • Ben Crewe: emerged out of contempt for the “miserable liberal guilt” of the new man and his “hesitant and questioning stands on sexual relations.”
        • New man was condemned as unappealing, narcissistic, and above all inauthentic. Against this, lad culture is depicted as libidinous and refreshingly honest. (p39)
        • Example: About a Boy (2002), The 40-yo Old Virgin, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
  • from the welfare state to the neoliberal state (Radner and  Stringer)
    •  Welfare image = dependence, sex object, pretty vs. smart, success in marriage in the private spehre
    • Neoliberal image = strong, empowered, emphasize achievements and individual choices, pretty AND smart,  femininity as the asset to sell in the private and the public spehre
    • Example of the old woman figure
      • Imelda Whelehan: Historical construction of older women’s sexuality as taboo, “humiliating process of gradual sexual disqualification”(Sontag) OR cougar
      • Postfeminist turn in the 1980s -> more empowerment, ‘smart, sexy, independent and proud’ woman over 40 who is ‘not afraid to try new things, and even if she is, does it anyway.’ -> BUT how do you reach this liberty? And how do you define her power? Not actual feminist collective activism = “cougar discourse”= nexus between postfeminism and neoliberalism -> dislocate empowerment from feminist politics, but also disregard the wider structural imbalances and inequalities experienced by older women, the cougar is nevertheless framed and marketed as an enduring symbol of postfeminist agency
      • Kim Cattrall’s hypersexual Samantha Jones in Sex and the City (1998– 2004)
      •   
    • Example of the regressed child
      • Enchanted: plays on critiques of the central romance narrative but sincere presentation of ideas of true love on the other
      • Regression movies: men funny because sexual innuendo vs. women innocence
      • Giselle’s belief in the idea of “true love’s kiss” is first mocked—Prince Edward is something of a buffoon—and then ultimately endorsed through her romantic love for Robert who literally revives her with a kiss (she swoons after biting a poisoned apple). It offers gestures towards feminism while making full use of conservative gender stereotypes, such as the girl-woman, sexually pure princess, frustrated professional woman, and wicked stepmother.
    • Example of the super corporate woman
      • when super empowered professionally: often a lack of romantic stability behind : failure to grow up (Jane in 27 Dresses, 2008)
      • Find movie example
  • Women not really told how to reach independence, no collective action, very individual
    • Only images, serve ideologies (Steven Cohan; Ina Rae Hark) = social constructions, finished products
    • Do not reflect deeper power changes, social structure evolution
  • Empowered but not too far, enough civic and political rights
    • Suffragettes well represented but current feminists = hysterics
    • Find examples
  • Maintain stereotypes about femininity
    • Postfeminist movies lack of diversity in their images
    • Both welfare and neoliberal political contexts ask women to objectify themselves and work on their appearance, connotation associated with feminine appearance just shifted (Radner and Stringer)
    • strength only celebrated when figured in appropriately feminine terms: contradiction bewteen willingness, self definition and passivity/malleability etc.
    • ends up with accommodation to and acceptance of a diminished role for women (Radner and Stringer)

Week 5/6 meeting / notes

Our group has used these last two meetings to discuss how themes of community, hollywood and our major disciplines work together to answer our question, which is :

Through this, we highlighted rough areas of interest that we thought would work together to form a cohesive whole, as well as highlighting themes of politics, philosophy and history that link together to explore our problem.

We all agreed to find different definitions of community that were present within our major disciplines, and then examine how these could be deconstructed through the lens of the other disciplines we’re using. We have also been collectively drawing together resources such as images, stills and blogs and sharing them throughout the week, and then discussing ideas in person and via a group chat.

  • History
    • How has the concept of bias been historically constructed, and how does this influence modern understandings of inequality / repression? In this sense, what does the concept of bias reference about Hollywood and how do we see this play out in front of and behind the camera?
  • Philosophy
    • How is community conceived of within the confines of the discipline?
    • how is bias constructed in a philosophical sense and how do the conceptions of bias – as something done to and suffered from by women – undermine women’s ability to participate in the community of hollywood?
      • How do these attittudes influence the whisteblowing elements of #metoo, but how do they also influence the make-up of the industry?
    • How are communities constructed through a philosophical lens?
  • Politics
    • Behind the camera : legislation or acts that were passed in order to ensure further gender equality, increase the representation of women on screen, and reduce the mistreatment of women in working conditions in Hollywood – and whether these were effective in creating the parity that women had been seeking
    • In front of the camera : how the product  of Hollywood – films – are then viewed politically, and what role politics  and common conceptions of women play in the representation of women in these films, as well as how they were received – using post feminist theories
    • Competing definitions of community within the political realm – and whether it can apply to something as transient as Hollywood
  1. Aims for next week
    1. Synthesise insights from our major disciplines to form a coherent whole.
    2. Find screenshots and movie stills which reflect stereotypes about women – and examine the backgrounds that these movies were created in, and how they relate to the political / historical situation and how this reflects on the philosophical concept of ‘bias’.
    3. Examine how these feed into each other and how the notion of community can be displayed through a behind the camera and in front of the camera approach, and examining how this public/private paradox determines the nature of the community that Hollywood creates

 

Week 4: resource findings


  1. Our group chose to dedicate this session to individual research on how our major could relate to our topic.
  • Political feminism:
    • How Hollywood serves political ideology (Traube)
    • Postfeminist: critique of the construction of empowered women on screens -> do not have actual power, do not show how to reach power (Gwyne, Muller, Whelehan)
  • Philosophy:
    • Saul, Fraser, Nussbaum
  • History:
    • Process of female repression has existed since the early years of Hollywood → embedded in the culture
  • Film studies:
    • Laura Mulvey 1975 essay on male gaze, women= justification of every action, fetishised issue, enable men to be delivered from the castration anxiety

2. Furthermore, it has been noticed that the introduction of performance studies in our study of the Hollywood community could help us to understand how actors’ performances behind the screen  – but also during public events, such as the Golden Globe Awards – are proper performances, revealing ideologies and defining different visions of masculinity and femininity.

3. Interesting link :

EROIN= French label of female directors -> shows how women increasingly form solidarity, network groups, to help each other (vs. historical male clubs)
https://www.facebook.com/eroinlabel/?fref=mentions

 

Week 2 Update

This week we began by discussing our independent findings and research. Ana introduced Women-in-Danger films; in the early 80s (1980-1983), there was a significant number of thrillers in which women were stalked and injured or killed by a male character. At the time, this was analysed as a reaction of the male ego against the increasingly self-determined social status of women, which had been brought about by 2nd wave feminism. This Women-in-Danger trend is often described as ‘the greatest misogynist trend in American film’.[1] Ana also presented historical research sources which she will follow up with if relevant – these are books about Hollywood actresses who had already been sexually harassed, and big directors who were already known for their abuse in the Hollywood community. Ana has also sourced a blog titled Shit People Say to Women Directors (& Other Women Working in Film) which may prove to be useful in sourcing real life conversations and dialogues.

I presented the Smurfette Principle, which was coined by Katha Pollitt in 1991, and refers to the idea that groups of men in films are accented by the sole female character, often portrayed in a stereotypically sexual manner. Even as recently as December 2017, Hollywood still seems to adopt this principle. The Jumanji trailer begins in a somewhat promising manner, with an equilibrium of male and female protagonists. However one of these females soon becomes a male character, and the sole, remaining female is left dressed in revealing clothing.

I also presented Meissa Hampton’s petition to the Screen Actors Guild to get them to address the gender inequalities that contribute to Hollywood’s culture of sexual abuse. Despite meeting with the union’s women’s committee, Hampton described their response as ‘dismissive, even hostile’.[2] This example led us into a brief discussion about how the union’s response was not only inadequate, but also contributed to the ‘culture of silence that emboldens perpetrators’.[3] The misconduct of the abusers within the Hollywood world is anchored in historical and cultural socio learning, and these ingrained values need to change. We found this particularly relevant since it mentions the silencing of females in the Hollywood community, which is something we are considering exploring in our research.

Following this, we began to develop the following dialogue for our argument. The representation of females in movies (e.g. via cinematic tropes, chick flicks, rom coms) is caused by and simultaneously contributes to the seemingly aggressive culture within the Hollywood community. This silences women not only within the industry, but also in the public sphere, contributing to development of and eagerness for movements such as #MeToo. Subsequent reactions have claimed that these movements have gone too far, but what is this argument based on? Is it an issue because it threatens male violence? Or perhaps because it threatens the structures that support male violence?

After exploring these ideas, we decided on the following as a potential research question:

How does Hollywood as a creative community silence / exclude its female members? Can it really be considered a community?

In trying to narrow down our initial ideas to a suitably focussed research question, we acknowledged that there are some areas (such as racial inequality) that we recognise are important in this debate, but which we will not have the time or scope to fully explore.

Methods:

  • In addition to the sources we already have, we will apply secondary data such as statistics about film directors and Twitter statistics (via polls and searches).
  • We will also look for data within movies by exploring how they are shot, taking stills, screenshots, and perhaps even short clips from them. Do these scenes reveal anything about the reality of the role of women in Hollywood?
  • We will also focus on finding relevant readings within our disciplines. By doing this, we will be able to extract certain theories and apply them to our content in order to form an argument that allows us to complicate and challenge the idea of Hollywood as a community.

 

  

Bibliography:

Hampton, Meissa. “Hollywood’s Biggest Union Turned a Blind Eye to Sexual Abuse,” The Guardian. Last modified January 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/18/hollywood-union-sexual-abuse.

Nowell, Richard. “Targeting American Women: Movie Marketing, Genre History, and the Hollywood Women-in-Danger Film.” InMedia [online], no. 3 (2013)

Rose, Steve. “The Smurfette Principle: Why Can’t Hollywood Accept Gender Equality?” The Guardian. Last modified December 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/dec/11/smurfette-principle-why-cant-hollywood-accept-gender-equality.

“Shit People Say to Women Directors (& Other Women Working in Film),” Tumblr. Last modified November 2017. http://shitpeoplesaytowomendirectors.tumblr.com/page/3.

 

 

 

[1] Richard Nowell, “Targeting American Women: Movie Marketing, Genre History, and the Hollywood Women-in-Danger Film,” InMedia No. 3, (2013): 2.

[2] “Hollywood’s Biggest Union Turned a Blind Eye to Sexual Abuse,” The Guardian, last modified January 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/18/hollywood-union-sexual-abuse.

[3] The Guardian, “Hollywood.”

Possible research question: Hollywood as a community which is both creative and repressive

The starting point of our conversation about using Hollywood as a case study was an article which addressed the striking difference in attitude of men and women of the film industry at the 2018 Golden Globes (1). The article highlighted that while most women who spoke on the red carpet and on stage brought up the topics of sexual assault, the sexist culture of Hollywood and the Time’s Up movement, none of the men chose to discuss these questions. This silence was particularly disappointing when it came from directors and actors who were nominated for films or TV series which treat of sexual assault, domestic abuse and gender inequalities; for example Alexander Skarsgard who was nominated for his role as an abusive husband and rapist in the show Big Little Lies and yet failed to discuss how relevant to real-life events his role was. 

We thought there was an interesting paradox between the fact that Hollywood could be such a public or “loud” community and yet still be characterised by this idea of oppressive silence, a silence which allowed Harvey Weinstein to thrive as a producer despite his abusive treatment of women. Starting from there, we realised that this tension between noise and silence could be found in many aspects of Hollywood’s darker sides. For example, we wondered to what extent the online character of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements had allowed them to be “louder? Sanjana also brought up the notion of “whisper networks” which exist among the women of the film industry (and other professional worlds) and aim to protect women from abusive men of said industry. Comparatively, similar “whisper networks” probably allow the same abusive men to protect themselves from being exposed.

We felt that this noise/silence dynamic came along with several other paradoxes. Ideas of public vs private, male vs female, and individual vs collective were all frameworks we thought could be useful in our analysis of the Hollywood community. Another tension that we felt was relevant to this topic was the constant interaction of fiction vs reality in Hollywood. For most of the 20th century, the film industry has contributed to the construction of a certain idea of masculinity. Confidence on the verge of arrogance, emotional distance and a sense of superiority are all characteristics of the masculinity that actors like Clark Gable, Alain Delon and Sean Connery cultivated. This observation made us wonder to what extent this idea of a man who can get away with anything especially when it comes to women had transferred to real-world interactions in Hollywood.

These are some of the questions and key-words that came up while we were brainstorming to develop a more focused research question:

  • How does it build as part of a community? Is it layered across different industries?
  • Do you have to have these experiences to consider yourself part of a movement?
  • All women have been subjugated to the cruelty of men? Universally, to the same extent, continually?
  • Nuanced – does this community actually do much legally / practically?
  • Private discussions that become public domain  – how do these conversations, feelings and thoughts become used? What do they do practically, or how can they be used legally?
  • Would these campaigns (Time’s Up, #metoo) have the same impact if they weren’t started/supported by famous women?
  • Time’s Up & #MeToo
  • The inclusiveness of these movements / white-feminism
  • Toxic masculinity cultivated by movies / how masculinity is performed in Hollywood
  • Bechdel test
  • Roman Polanski / Woody Allen

References:

(1) https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/01/what-the-men-didnt-say/549914/

(2) https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-whisper-network-after-harvey-weinstein-and-shitty-media-men