As my first year living in Los Angeles comes to its conclusion in a couple of weeks, there are still a few yearly events that we as a couple have not encountered as yet. One such experience was attending an Oscars party at a friend’s house where everyone watches the full event and competes to win a small kitty by getting the most correct awards predictions. Coming from the UK, I had never actually seen the awards in full, only as the British press represented them in chunks the next day, due to the fact they happen in the middle of our night.
I was overall pleasantly surprised that they were not only as glamorous and lavish as expected but also that the awards process was less boring than I had imagined too. The British press give the impression, through their obsession with a Hollywood beauty ideal that everyone is trying desperately to turn back the hands of time via ever more obvious plastic surgery. In fact, I was surprised to see not only many industry professionals to appear their real age, but actually quite a lot of the talent did too. It just goes to show how bias often goes unnoticed until you see another culture’s take on the same thing. The same thing goes for living out here in LA, only a few are anything like the squeaky plastic stereotype they are assumed to be in the UK.
One thing that was very apparent however, was the obsession with how any female celebrity looked, something that was not equally true of the male stars. Without so much as a thought the presenters would ask a woman about her dress, complementing her on it usually, and then turn to her male co-celebrity and ask about any other number of subjects. Sigh. This to a gender specialist is rather galling, yet was also similarly irritating to my husband Tim who is a specialist in male tailoring and who would have loved to hear about the men’s clothes – which, unless you have someone pointing them out to you, really do remain neutral and begin to blur into each other. By the way, it is interesting how many of the men wore ill-fitting suits to The Oscars!
Thankfully the Mani Cam, which is a close up camera in which female celebrities are meant to proffer their hands for the world to judge their manicures, has been removed this year although the owners E! refuse to admit it is because female celebrities don’t want to do it. I’m glad it’s gone, it reminded me of a particularly skin-crawling adult show that ran for some time on a channel I used to work on from years ago called ECU, or Extreme Close Up where an old producer used to run his camera right up and down a young model’s body, inches away from her skin, pointing out any spots or imperfections. Ironically one of the softest shows – as in it didn’t include and hardcore acts or shots – it was in my opinion the most objectionable because of this old man’s pervy eye. Ugh.
Well, I have an answer to all of this. I can understand that celebrities are reluctant to annoy the media for fear of negative reprisals, so are unlikely to pick up individual journos on their racism, sexism, stereotyping, etc but there is a way to re-route the conversation and to use it to their own advantage (which is fair enough, if the journo insults the intelligence of the celeb, I think it is fair to say they open the door to a taking back of power by them).
Whilst studying film at St Martin’s in the late 1990’s I once attended a talk at the ICA by kitsch, Chilean film-maker Alejandro Jodorowsky, who had directed one of my favourite films of the time, Santa Sangre. He appeared in a very relaxed way, in a crumpled beige linen suit, reclining in his chair and answering at his leisure. He has a strong accent so took time to answer slowly. The serious looking interviewer pecked away, answering question after question from a long list he had and after the first few, Jodowosky began to answer non-relevantly, he didn’t actually answer the question he was asked. He did this a couple of times and of course we all thought he had misunderstood the question due to language issues. He was a witty and engaging interview anyway, so I don’t think anyone minded too much. By the time he had answered three questions in a non relevant manner, the interviewer remarked upon it, to which he answered: “When somebody asks me a question I do not like, I answer it with the answer to the question I wished I had been asked”.
What a brilliant idea!, I thought. I’m not sure if anyone else considered it as memorable as I did, it did raise a laugh, but this is exactly what people need to do when asked a crappy question. Go in to an interview situation armed with things you want to get across and should an interviewer take you down the path of mediocrity, shake it up by confusing the hell out of them. If everyone did this, I reckon we would quite quickly make the media shape up their act and I don’t think it would be met with anger, but with humour, so the risk would be far less than a direct confrontation. What do you think?