February 26, 2008

On a barely related note, did the people who voted for Diablo Cody forget that the award is supposed to be for the best writing not the most writing?

lavieenrose_1.jpg So, back in February, 2002, I wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times calling for the elimination of the best actress category at the Oscars. I made the point that "It would be preposterous even to consider a black actors category," and concluded that the sex-segregation only exists because "on Oscar night, it's the women who bring the glamour. Audiences want to see this year's dresses and hairstyles. Studios want female stars to help them sell tickets."

When the article came out, I bitched and moaned about how the paper had edited all the funny out of it, and posted my original version here.

A month later, that original version somehow appeared in the London Guardian credited to me and the Times but without the permission of either of us. (I eventually persuaded the paper to pay me, but they sent the check to the Times instead, and I never did see it.)

Flash forward, as they say in the movie biz, to February, 2004, when William Kowinski wrote an Op-Ed for the Los Angeles Times calling for the elimination of the best actress category. The LAT page is gone, but guess what: Kowinski bitched and moaned about how the paper edited all the funny out of it, and posted his original version here. In it, he makes the point that there are no "separate categories for black actors and actresses," and concludes that "glamorous and sexy women attract audiences to movies."

Four years go by — the category returning each one, I might add — and now (h/t Matt) the Guardian runs another Op-Ed (this time, presumably, not stealing it) calling for the elimination of, well, you know. In it, Sarah Churchwell asks us to "imagine the uproar if we had Oscars for best performance by a black man in a supporting role," and concludes that "beautiful women on display are used to sell everything in our culture, and the Oscars are no exception."

At least Churchwell can say that the Guardian didn't edit the funny out:

After 80 years, we have naturally advanced since the days when women won only 6% of Hollywood's most coveted awards. Today, they direct only 6% of all Hollywood films. Of the 24 "regular categories" of Oscars, women have also been eligible to win best supporting actress since 1936. Costume design was added in 1948, and makeup in 1981, both arenas in which women excel, for obvious reasons: we're skilled at being pretty, and we like to make other people pretty, too. This is why beautiful women pretending to be ugly, or men, have such a high statistical probability of winning best actress: it takes real virtuosity to overcome our biological urge to ornament. A woman has never won best director (only three have ever been nominated), and only six women have ever won best picture (all of which were shared with male co-producers). We do all right with screenplays, as women have been graciously permitted to write for a couple of centuries now.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Excellent points. And take a closer look at the nominations. Of the five best actress nominees, only one (Page) was from a film nominated for best picture; it was two (Day-Lewis and Clooney) from the men's side, and probably could have been more if they'd figured out what to do with No Country. That's not conclusive, but I suspect if you looked back at previous years you'd find it was consistent. Best Actor nominees appear in Best Pictures. Best Actress nominees are stunt cast or appear in films that win best costume (Elizabeth) or best make-up (La Vie en Rose).

But first they need to get rid of the foreign film category. At least the actress categories come vaguely close to getting the nominees right.

In my opionion, there could never be a black peoples category, and chicks are just used to sell stuff cause of tits. Thats just my personal opinion though.

The majority of the winners for Best Make-Up have been men, of course. And the Best Actress category is the only thing that keeps all prestige product from being gay porn.

If there were a Best Female Director category, studios would hand more projects to women in hopes of winning that particular statuette.

All those movies would still suck, of course, having been directed by women.

At least the academy gets it generally right in the actress categories. The real travesty is the foreign film award.

but if there was a best tits category...

Don't you think it's time you updated your writing section to match the look of the rest of this site? Not so much for consistency as for making it easier for the rest of us to read.

Jesse- that's in the works, I promise.

Am I completely out of it? Who is that a picture of?

@whatever: That's this year's best actress Marion French-chick proving Churchwell's point about beautiful women winning awards by pretending to be ugly.

I like your stuff Mr Dan Radosh, I sure do, but this doesn't read so much like plagiarism as 3 authors having the same trite, boring idea for an article. Using the well trodden, 'what if it were black people not [blank]' is a pretty tired and shrill method for trying to create outrage that isn't there. Its a banal ploy towards moralizing and im surprised you are so proud to have this dumb idea come back to life.

Did I say anything about plagiarism? As for the rest of your comments, you'd never say that about a black person.

Radosh, you have done humanity many great services in writing about the Oscars. I am so glad journalists don't concentrate on other stuff, like stuff that is unique to our times. Burp. Science. ? What was that?

Wow, I hope I haven't given the impression that I have any interest in serving humanity. Confused about the rest, though. How is science unique to our time? You wouldn't say that if science was black.

I served humanity for a while. Tips were good but it was rough on the feet and self esteem.

Also, it was a cookbook.

I only burped up 'Science' but some of that science stuff is unique to our times. Why are you replying to my comment? I thought rubes were free to say what they willed in the comment section. Now we have to contend with the poster of the blog?

I don't doubt that you've heard this point before: If there were no best actress category, very few women would win Best Actor. While eliminating the category is egalitarian in theory, in practice it wouldn't have an egalitarian effect; it would just be another area demonstrating society's gender inequality. As it is, it's long enough established that it doesn't even feel (much) like a token award -- like such an award for "Best Novel by an Authoress" would -- and I think most of the media and public think Best Actress is on the same level as Best Actor. Also, hey, more winners!

I wonder if most working actresses would prefer Best Actress be eliminated.

Scraps: Yeah, I mention that in my piece. Honestly, it was more of a thought experiment than a serious argument.

Gabe: You're free to say whatever you want. The bloggers who don't reply to comments generally have a lot more readers than I do.

Now that DNA profiling is exacting we could have separate awards for Best Male and Female Actors of from 1 to 25% African Descent, 25 to 50% African Descent, etc. Same with European, Asian and Hispanic. Other criteria could determine winners in more categories: Best Beautiful Actor Playing Ugly, Best Healthy Actor Playing Crippled, Best Hetero Actor Playing Homo, Best Intelligent Actor Playing Retarded and vice-versa. Whatever, Gary Busey should always -- ALWAYS -- host the awards ceremony and present every award.

Oh please, where are you going to find intelligent, hetero actors?

Y'know, if you spent this much time commenting in the anti-caption threads, maybe the overall quality would improve.

Is that contest still going on?

... Best Anti-Caption by a Pacific Islander, Best Anti-Caption by A Seventh Day Adventist, Best Anti-Caption by a Gentile Playing Jewish ...

Radosh: I'm sorry, but you can't just walk off the stage and start scrapping with the audience. I feel like I'm in a fray. Anyways, one of the deeper feelings I hold, all tucked away and close to my heart, is that scientists and science-y topics should become pop culture. They should be mocked, because there's a lot more material there than there is with the Oscars and such. At first it will be difficult, but over time people will start to get a feel for science-y lingo, kinda like what Jon Stewart did with politics. So please, enough with the actors and films and celebs, and more about the scientists. And please get back up on your stage too.

there's a good diablo spoof at funnyordie:


I totally agree with Gabe. Do you have any more Hannah Montana pics?

but seriously, what if there was a category for scientist with the best tits...

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