What We Love This Week: Lisa Wilkinson

You may or may not have heard (unfortunately for you, we’re expecting the former), but the long awaited movie of Twilight fan-fic, ’50 Shades of Grey’ hit the silver screen this Valentine’s weekend. The film is already raising eyebrows, and for all the wrong reasons.

One reporter, Lisa Wilkinson, of Today Show Australia thought honesty was definitely the best policy when it came to her review of the latest cinema hype. She sums up our thoughts at VFM perfectly. Lisa, this week, YOU are our journalism Valentine! Step aside, Charlie Brooker! You’ve got some competition.

Take a look for yourself:


The Petitioner’s Guide: Know What You’re Signing!

The internet has given us easy access to be part of big changes, the recent selfie craze is just one example. But I’m not going to dwell on charity today. With a variety of websites set up for members of the public to officially share their protests worldwide, it’s more accessible than ever to voice issues and rally for support. For me,  there’s nothing like a good petition or protest; any opportunity to raise concerns or be part of a much needed change should be grasped with both hands! And so, when a petition started being shared across my Facebook newsfeed yesterday, I thought I’d have a look to see what it was all about!

Sophie Jones, a 19 year-old cervical cancer sufferer, tragically died last Saturday. Being denied a smear test by her doctor after months of stomach pain, due to the age restriction of 25, contributed to this; she was not diagnosed quickly enough and therefore treatment came too late. Sophie’s Choice is the online e-petition created as a result of Sophie’s devastating story, urging the smear test age to be lowered to 16 years old. Of course, I thought ‘why the hell not?’, and began filling out the e-petition form –

When I decided to stop.

I realised I had no true, in depth knowledge of the case – only the biased and emotive response of the family plugging the petition and articles that supported such a perspective. Much like many causes with an underlining current of emotions, the petition appears to have gone viral across social media, reaching national news headlines a day after posting. I can’t help but wonder how many people, out of the hundreds of thousands of petitioners, have gathered the facts before signing something that could implement any amount of change to our nationally run systems.

Stumbling across this article, my mind was changed completely. Knowledge has always been and will always be power, especially in protesting. It dawned on me that I didn’t know the procedure’s science; smear tests have been proven to be useless at detecting cancer development in women under the age of 25 due to cell changes still occurring in the cervix. This bears the mandatory testing in younger women as an unnecessary and painful process to put them (including myself) through. If it was more direct to the real issue with the health department – that treatment should be given based on symptoms not age restrictions – I would still jump to signing. But amidst emotion, the right question has, unfortunately, been lost.

So, please, I urge you all – before being swayed by emotional pleas or an entire friend’s list of shares – to look at the facts. Whilst you may feel that what you’re doing is for the best when you’re first seduced by a tragic story, in reality it could be pointless or harmful, or it may be that a completely different issue needs fighting.

Selfies for Science? Hashtag: No Make Up…

Some of you (and by some I mean anybody that has had access to a Facebook account for the last 24 hours) would have found selfies of fresh-faced ladies scattered across (or clogging up) your news feed. ‘What’s so different about that?’ you may ask. Appart from their apparent lack of make-up, each selfie also consists of a list of ‘nominations’, a plug for cancer awareness, and an apparent claim to support the fight against the world’s most prominent illness. But something’s not quite right…

That’s right, things are about to get a whole lot controversial on here!

So, what’s so wrong with a bunch of beautiful women bearing all in the name of supporting the fight against cancer? Nothing. Share those natural faces more often, I say! It’s a sad reality that women feel the need to hide behind a cause to reveal themselves as they truly are, and – perhaps – this is one way to combat low esteem in body image. Yet, the sadder reality is that ‘nothing‘ is exactly the result of the girls’ efforts and attempts. There are very rarely links to fundraising, or hospice support, or evidence that the participants are involved in any form of literal support. There is only an image on a scrolling newsfeed that will disappear quickly into the non-viewed realms of the internet. And it’s a shame.

As for the awareness side of things, I think we’re all more than aware of cancer itself, which – it appears to me – is the only form of ‘awareness’ I’m finding on my newsfeed. It’s a somewhat shallow viewpoint. What we aren’t aware of are the different charities that aid sufferers in a variety of different ways. We aren’t aware of the different forms of cancer. Many aren’t aware of how drastically it can effect someone’s life, or those around them. And we most certainly aren’t aware of how this ‘selfie support’ is meant to transpire into literal aid.

Whilst I respect that people feel the need to show their support, why not show support by contributing to the battle so many are fighting? Go ahead and take no-make up selfies, nominate a bunch of friends to do it too, but throw in a donation to any established cancer research or hospices! Make it worth the post. Take it a step further and get people to sponsor you in a week or month of no make-up – in a modern world seduced by body image, this might be a challenge for you, but supporting the cause should always be a challenge in respect to the sufferers. The idea of ‘no make-up selfies’ could go a long way if it’s real fundraising or support potential is uncovered. Not only is it great in defying the media’s perspective on beauty but a great form of approachable fund-raising that anyone can be a part of! Or do something REALLY crazy! Long hair? Chop it off to help children going through cancer treatment feel happier in themselves (www.littleprincesses.org.uk). Like sports? Join in on your local Race for Life! Or if you’re really crazy, why not jump out a plane for charity?

The thrilling moment I decided to go in for the chop myself! All hair donated to the Little Princess Trust.

It’s not as hard as it looks girls! (The thrilling moment I decided to go in for the chop myself. All hair donated to the Little Princess Trust)

It’s great to see so many people publically displaying their support in one of the biggest (and longest) wars humans have ever begun. But, let’s be honest, it’s going to take a lot more than words and digital code; the ease of just saying the word ‘support’ and hoping for a better outcome undermines the struggle of sufferers and efforts people are going to in order to really support the fight.

Are you a ‘selfie for support’ taker? Did you donate? What are your thoughts on the ‘internet craze’? Leave your comments below!

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MUSIC VIDEOS: Age-rating that gyrating!

To play or not to play? A question, I'm sure, we all know the answer to...

To play or not to play?
A question, I’m sure, we all know the answer to…

It’s true. The male-gaze in music videos was long established before Miley Cyrus decided she liked licking sledge-hammers. Women have always be portrayed in a sexual light to the point it is almost an established understanding that, if you are to turn to music channels, you will be greeted by skimpily clad women. Buttocks first. Most say it is diminishing, others say it’s merely a matter of claiming female sexuality.

Nicki greets us buttocks first. Not her own, for once.

Nicki greets us buttocks first.
Not her own, for once.

But forget the ‘blurred lines’! In a world where a young girl’s role-model is Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, or the dreggs of Hannah Montana, the argument is no longer about why they portray themselves so sexually, but who sees it.

Rihanna's latest video... Well, at least she's got a thrown. See kids?

Rihanna’s latest video…
Well, at least she’s got a thrown. See kids?

Gone are the days when the charts consisted of S-Club 7, Crazy Frog, and Steps. No longer are music videos the dance-routine highlights of Top of the Pops on a Friday night. Music is less innocent than ever before. And with a wider, more technologically advanced audience, the kids see what the adults see.

As the Prime Minister attempts to stop the sexualisation of children with planned internet restrictions, and as mothers campaign to remove ‘lads mags’ from the lower shelves, the music industry is the next point of attack.  Especially for group ‘Rewind and Reframe’,  a joint campaign made up of  EVAW, Imkaan and OBJECT, taking the battle against the media into their own hands. They petition that sexually explicit videos receive the same viewing treatment as do films, in the hopes that innocence in the younger generations can be restored. With supporters such as Annie Lennox, and David Cameron already behind the cause, it’s time to sign!

You can check out the cause’s manifesto and blog at www.rewindreframe.org.

Sign the petition here!

Women in Music: It’s a Matter of ‘Pimping’ – Sinead O’Connor Gives Miley Motherly Advice

"I wanted it to be tough but really pretty – that's what Sinead did with her hair and everything." (Miley Cyrus) Don't worry Sinead; we're all crying...

“I wanted it to be tough but really pretty – that’s what Sinead did with her hair and everything.” (Miley Cyrus)
Don’t worry Sinead; we’re all crying…

Let’s face it. There’s not a single one of us out there who isn’t concerned about Miley Cyrus’ wellbeing, whether we want to be or not. It’s unavoidable. Almost as much as a Wrecking Ball spoof on Vines.

Not only has her style of work turned from sweet to overtly sultry, and her attitude providing more and more evidence of a future of Britney-esque breakdowns, but it is obvious that Miley is either disillusioned or dictated by the nature of her ‘success’. For women in the music world, it’s Miley’s unconscious ability to pinpoint the darker side of a money-churning industry through her male-gaze powered career that is the most disconcerting. “Pimping” of women for the media appears to still be socially acceptable. And it’s taken till now for an intervention.

The much needed wake-up call comes in the form of a letter from Nothing Compares 2 U singer, Sinead O’Connor. After Miley decided to, rather ignorantly, compare Wrecking Ball‘s infamous video to O’Connor’s, the Dubliner had become inundated with requests for a response. Taking the matter into her own hands, the singer/songwriter posted “…in the spirit of motherliness…” on her personal website (sineadoconnor.com)

As expected, the website suffered an almost immediate crash due to traffic. The following is the full letter, and a wonderful read on why talent should always rule over image, why self-love should always rule over self-exploitation (WARNING: contains coarse language):

“Dear Miley,

I wasn’t going to write this letter, but today i’ve been dodging phone calls from various newspapers who wished me to remark upon your having said in Rolling Stone your Wrecking Ball video was designed to be similar to the one for Nothing Compares… So this is what I need to say… And it is said in the spirit of motherliness and with love.

I am extremely concerned for you that those around you have led you to believe, or encouraged you in your own belief, that it is in any way ‘cool’ to be naked and licking sledgehammers in your videos. It is in fact the case that you will obscure your talent by allowing yourself to be pimped, whether its the music business or yourself doing the pimping.

Nothing but harm will come in the long run, from allowing yourself to be exploited, and it is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent.

I am happy to hear I am somewhat of a role model for you and I hope that because of that you will pay close attention to what I am telling you.

The music business doesn’t give a shit about you, or any of us. They will prostitute you for all you are worth, and cleverly make you think its what YOU wanted.. and when you end up in rehab as a result of being prostituted, ‘they’ will be sunning themselves on their yachts in Antigua, which they bought by selling your body and you will find yourself very alone.

None of the men oggling you give a shit about you either, do not be fooled. Many’s the woman mistook lust for love. If they want you sexually that doesn’t mean they give a fuck about you. All the more true when you unwittingly give the impression you don’t give much of a fuck about yourself. And when you employ people who give the impression they don’t give much of a fuck about you either. No one who cares about you could support your being pimped.. and that includes you yourself.

Yes, I’m suggesting you don’t care for yourself. That has to change. You ought be protected as a precious young lady by anyone in your employ and anyone around you, including you. This is a dangerous world. We don’t encourage our daughters to walk around naked in it because it makes them prey for animals and less than animals, a distressing majority of whom work in the music industry and it’s associated media.

You are worth more than your body or your sexual appeal. The world of showbiz doesn’t see things that way, they like things to be seen the other way, whether they are magazines who want you on their cover, or whatever.. Don’t be under any illusions.. ALL of them want you because they’re making money off your youth and your beauty.. which they could not do except for the fact your youth makes you blind to the evils of show business. If you have an innocent heart you can’t recognise those who do not.

I repeat, you have enough talent that you don’t need to let the music business make a prostitute of you. You shouldn’t let them make a fool of you either. Don’t think for a moment that any of them give a flying fuck about you. They’re there for the money.. we’re there for the music. It has always been that way and it will always be that way. The sooner a young lady gets to know that, the sooner she can be REALLY in control.

You also said in Rolling Stone that your look is based on mine. The look I chose, I chose on purpose at a time when my record company were encouraging me to do what you have done. I felt I would rather be judged on my talent and not my looks. I am happy that I made that choice, not least because I do not find myself on the proverbial rag heap now that I am almost 47 yrs of age.. which unfortunately many female artists who have based their image around their sexuality, end up on when they reach middle age.

Real empowerment of yourself as a woman would be to in future refuse to exploit your body or your sexuality in order for men to make money from you. I needn’t even ask the question.. I’ve been in the business long enough to know that men are making more money than you are from you getting naked. Its really not at all cool. And its sending dangerous signals to other young women. Please in future say no when you are asked to prostitute yourself. Your body is for you and your boyfriend. It isn’t for every spunk-spewing dirtbag on the net, or every greedy record company executive to buy his mistresses diamonds with.

As for the shedding of the Hannah Montana image.. whoever is telling you getting naked is the way to do that does absolutely NOT respect your talent, or you as a young lady. Your records are good enough for you not to need any shedding of Hannah Montana. She’s waaaaaaay gone by now.. Not because you got naked but because you make great records.

Whether we like it or not, us females in the industry are role models and as such we have to be extremely careful what messages we send to other women. The message you keep sending is that its somehow cool to be prostituted.. its so not cool Miley.. its dangerous. Women are to be valued for so much more than their sexuality. we aren’t merely objects of desire. I would be encouraging you to send healthier messages to your peers.. that they and you are worth more than what is currently going on in your career. Kindly fire any motherfucker who hasn’t expressed alarm, because they don’t care about you.”

These are the harsh facts from a mother figure all women should look to. These are the blunt truths of an industry all female musicians should be aware and instructed on. Intervention over, we here at VFM hope that Miley is now able to admit and to stop the damage before another of our media’s childhood stars ends up in rehab…

Step Aside Boys: the ‘WOMANCE’ Era has dawned!

Turk and J.D, Vaughn and Wilson, Fry and Laurie; the ‘Bromance’ has far become a staple diet of comedy, be it in Hollywood, on the box, or on the stage. Men have dominated the comedy circuit for what seems like an eternity. Women have been the butt of the jokes, stamped out of the scene with no recognition but a patronising pat on the back and sympathy chuckle… Until now!

That’s right; the dawn of female comedy is here! There’s a whole lady-army of writers, actors, and (I’m going to say it) comediennes breaking onto our screens. And yes, whilst separating comedy into the two sub-genres of ‘male’ and ‘female’ can be seen as harmful to our equality cause, it can’t be denied that some jokes just don’t appeal to the opposite sex (I’m looking at you Mr ‘Anchorman’). We are told to simply ‘sit back, and take a joke’ by a long-trailing cast of male dominated movies, or by the likes of ‘ditzy’ stereotypes filling in the gap of female humour.

So, what happens when the joke’s on them? The recent upsurge in female comedy is set on destroying the gender roles. Gone are the days of ‘Sex and the City’! The Womance generation are built of more. Literally. Not only are the new stream of female protagonists seen to have respectfully more substance and intelligence bestowed upon their portrayals, but they are physically respected as women. Untouched or airbrushed.

the-heat‘The Heat, starring Sandra Bullock as a precociously intelligent FBI agent and Melissa Mcarthy as the best bad cop in town, has the body (and the brains) of a real woman’s comedy.  It’s female presence is strong, independent, and feisty. It’s funny bone is no size zero.  It’s all very non-Hollywood. In terms of attitude and appearance, there appears to have been a loosening of the red-carpet boundaries. But what does this mean? Does this announce a rejection of unhealthy habits of perfection and vanity? Or is it simply because female comedy is not considered ‘serious’ enough for the regular rules?

Recent blockbuster hit of ‘Bridesmaids’ (2011) proves that being ‘serious’ is not the case. Battling against the release of awaited male-comedy sequel ‘The Hangover: Part 2’, it’s box office revenue proved it more than victorious. Grossing a total of $288,383,523 (it’s competitor earning more than $33 million less) that’s some serious comedy.

Realistic Comedy; because sometimes, you just get food in your teeth...

Realistic Comedy; because sometimes, you just get food in your teeth…

But what exactly makes The Heat and Bridesmaids such successes? The answer is one common ingredient (Aside from Melissa Macarthy that is). I am, of course, speaking of the ‘Womance’. It’s a powerful tool. Rarely seen before. Or, at least, not on the silver screen. French and Saunders were of course claiming an overwhelming following at their sensational use of a female double act back in the nineties. Now that Hollywood has claimed it as its own, the ‘Womance’ has become a regular tool of cinema.

Yet, it is not only the lady-love breaking onto the silver screen. ‘Easy A’ was the refreshing spin on teen comedy that gave us quick-wit and a clever female protagonist in Emma Stone. It’s more realistic slant on high-school living (excluding the John Cusack references, Phoebe sleeping with students, and prancing around in corsets) aided its comical appeal. Prejudice, prancing around your room all weekend, and pretending to be what you’re not; all part of growing up. It’s relatable, in Hollywood’s over-exagerrated manner.

Hitting headlines most recently is the up-and-coming UK release of “Hollywood’s first female sex comedy!” ‘The To-Do List’ hails to be the pre-university film we’ve all been waiting for, the female ‘American Pie’ if you will. Except, instead of desperate pubescent boys, our female protagonist is an over-acheiving valedictorian bowing to the peer-pressure our society puts on female promiscuity. Casting Aubrey Plaza as the ‘to-doer’, the film is certain to have you in stitches.

As the Hollywood ball-busting continues to hand us the ability to break unhealthy tradition, we continue to utilise it throughout the entertainment realms. Whilst it is still a rarity to find more than the occasional female comedian amidst the panel-show seats, some are claiming a show of their own. Here in the UK, Miranda Hart has stolen the heart of a nation by rejuvenating the art of classic British comedy, whilst the likes of comedian Sarah Millican storms the stages of Live at the Apollo and entertains to her own audience weekly on the BBC. Across the waters, comedy has birthed great writers in the shape of Lena Dunham, Kirsten Wiig, and Tina Fey, their successes only proving that there is a ravenous appetite for female comedians. For now, the entertainment world is obliging. But not without spelling out the female-factor.

The original Womance. Wearing the comedy trousers is what French and Saunders do best!

The original Womance. Wearing the comedy trousers is what French and Saunders do best!

Personally, I pine over the day a female comedy breakthrough does not have to make headlines! It shouldn’t be shocking for presenters such as David Letterman to make the bold decision to add a woman to his writing team. Nor should it be uncommon to line a panel-show with more than one comedienne.

Alas! The consumerist nature and throwaway attitude of the entertainment world must have us question the Womance Era’s survival. Whether Hollywood is out to buck the trend, or blend it in lightly with a touch up of foundation, remains to be seen. But, there are something’s cover-up will never hide; be it as a stand up artist, an actor, or as a writer, us girls have proven that we can get the giggles.

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THE BLING RING: Just How ‘Hollywood’ Is It?

Coppola does what Coppola does best in her new release. In fact, there is little to fault about the directing; clever shots, interesting components, and a seamless switch between the real life footage and the screenplay, makes the hard task of bringing the 2008 crime spree to the screen difficult to condemn. Yet, despite casting the infamous Emma Watson, The Bling Ring is not suited for the red carpet it hails from.

Coppola and her Hollywood A-listers at Paris Hilton's house. I've heard of 'face-cake' but a cushion?! Oh dear Paris...

Coppola and her Hollywood A-listers at Paris Hilton’s house. I’ve heard of ‘face-cake’ but a cushion?! Oh dear Paris…

As one of the few female directors hitting the big screen, Coppola has made a name for herself through, sometimes controversial, but always clever films. In her most recent venture, she dares to tackle the real life 2008/9 crime spree of Hollywood Hills teen Rachel Lee & co. Obsessed with the fashion and lifestyle, the group stole property accumulating to over $3 million from homes including Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, and Megan Fox. Coppola, of a privileged Hollywood upbringing herself, shows concern for the younger generations as those included within the film through unsympathetic characters, realistic footage, and a complete lack of emotion.

In the past, Coppola has stunned with her emotive debut, The Virgin Suicides, thrown a new perspective into the history of Marie Antoinette, and blown critics away with her unusual screenplay for‘Lost in Translation‘. However, the response on Coppola’s work is far from consistent. She has highlighted many questionable subjects and gone against conventions despite the media. And she does this once again with The Bling Ring. So, why isn’t this film great?!

The problem lies (mainly) with the two lead teenagers depicting gang members Nick Prugo and Rachel Lee. Teamed with awkward scripting, they make for uncomfortable watching from the beginning. Unlike their ring members, in the shape of American Horror Story’s Taissa Farmiga and world-famous witch Watson, their presence has been chosen for relatable looks over acting ability.  Coppola has the two meet and act in a surreal manner one would expect to see in the reality TV shows so admired by the real youths. But then perhaps that is the point. Whatever may be the reason, she leaves us disconnected and very much aware we are witnessing a real tale.

It is never clear with Coppola whether decisions are made purposefully or unsuccessfully. And perhaps that is why I left the viewing in a constant state of opinionated flux. But one thing is for certain, the characters are unlikeable for obvious reasons; this is not a platform for their namesakes. In fact, there is an obvious air that Coppola’s fascination with the story is of the disturbing obsession with celebrity.

With all active members of the robberies now released, it is inevitable some have used the media adaptation to their own advantage. This itself highlights the much deeper, darker issue of what it means to be famous in the 21st century. Through film she questions what worryingly defines the day modern celebrity. Drugs, vanity, money, and even jokes at the rehab and court habits of faces such as Lindsay Lohan, all play a role in the portrayal of modern day fame. The reality is only heightened by the response of 6-time target Paris Hilton; her cameo and offering of her own home for filming location stands as an example of the blasé attitude towards life far too common in a reality-television obsessed age.

Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom! Coppola lightly dusts the eerie disconnection with subtle jokes and, with it, keeps that air of realism. Yet, even then is the film disconcerting. Whilst the more ‘privileged’ amongst the audience seemed to find the exploits into fashion, celebrity, and theft humorous, I found myself in discomfort and disbelief.

Leaving the preview last night, its fair to say I am still in a dazed state of mind at what I saw.  Did I ‘like’ it? Yes…and no. At times, especially towards the beginning, it was stiff and, for a real life tale, unrealistic. But did I enjoy it as a cinematic experience? I suppose I did. As a ‘piece of art’ everything appears to have a purpose, whether that purpose is accessible to comfortable watching or not. But as a film… Let’s just say this is one watcher who won’t be purchasing the DVD. ‘The Bling Ring‘ belongs in the ArtHouse.

The Bling Ring opens in cinemas tomorrow!