sharing the "why" behind the "what"

Meryl’s Power


She has a fanciful face imbued by a lively mystique from years of perfectly natural performances. Meryl Streep is an American actress who made her debut in 1977 and since then marked American culture. Streep has won two Academy Awards as well as 15 Oscar nominations and 23 Golden Globe nominations (more than any other actor in the history of either award). “I’m here under false pretenses,” Streep told a packed crowd at Princeton University on November 30th 1996. “My achievement, if you can call it that, is that I’ve basically pretended to be extraordinary people my entire life, and now I’m being mistaken for one.”

“She broke the glass ceiling of an older woman being a big star. It has never, never happened before,” says Mike Nichols, who directed Streep in Silkwood. (Bennetts)

This transition into her characters is easier to take than understanding the razor-sharp edge of Streepʼs acting abilities. She has a pinpoint accuracy when it comes to interpreting any role.  She has seamlessly made the atrociously high-priced popcorn and four dollar fountain beverages almost bearable. Many studio executives have been privately convinced that it wasn’t worth even a modest budget to make films about women, particularly older ones, and they seem stunned that a series of movies about middle-aged women racked up such enviable grosses. (Skow)


At an age when women have traditionally been relegated to playing old hags, Meryl Streep has become a star at the box office. “It’s incredible. I’m 60, and I’m playing the romantic lead in romantic comedies!” Streep exclaims. “Bette Davis is rolling over in her grave. She was 42 when she did All About Eve, and she was 54 when she did What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” said Streep.


Streep has certainly redefined what Hollywood views as the peak of a woman’s acting career. Although, the real world has always offered more possibilities than Hollywood has. “The movie business which long assumed that success lay in making films aimed at young men has reacted to such eye-popping numbers with bemused consternation.” (Bennetts)  Streep has become a star for her ability to vanish into characters flawlessly. Her emotional component is crucial in connecting with both men and women. Her characters will remain vivid in our minds in years to come. She shows what the world is like through the eyes of everyday people. The regal face of Meryl Streep appears on the screen needlessly aware. Everyone sits back comfortably with their popcorn and Coke. As the lights dim, there is a low hush.

Leslie, Bennetts. Something About Meryl.” Editorial. Vanity Fair Jan. 2010: 62-123. Print.

Skow, John, and Elaine Dutka. “What Makes Meryl Magic.” Time Sept. 2010: 56. Print.


Cindy Sherman

Contemporary photographers include references to popular media and cultural issues. Cindy Sherman takes more than just photographs. She tells a story. Sherman creates vehicles for commentary on a variety of issues in our culture with her art. Sherman has a power to capture reality in a new way.

Cindy Sherman transforms into a myriad of characters from Hollywood starlet to clown to society matron. (Perkins)  She uses a minimalist approach with nothing more than a backdrop, some makeup, a few wigs, and the change of an outfit.  She has the ability to become literally anyone.


“Sherman creates memorable characters that suggest complex lives that exist outside of the frame. Her use of self-portraits shed light on a variety of issues of the modern world such as the role of the woman. She has given herself a very distinct voice. In her works, Sherman photographs herself in a variety of female roles, dressing up and posing as stereotypical media portrayed females. (Perkins)

In doing so, Sherman addresses many contemporary issues. The details may be complex symbols that reveal and conceal certain aspects of culture. Sherman exaggerates mock-ups of familiar and recognizable stereotypes of gender.  Her work draws attention and offers a glance at a standpoint whether it be related to the absurdity of fashion models or gender roles.  Her work goes beyond her get-up and examines the emotion and reality of her guise.

Perkins, Emma Gillespie, and Ann Andaloro. “PHOTO Opportunities: Contemporary Photographers CINDY SHERMAN And JEFF WALL As Models For Artistic And Teaching Identities.” Art Education 61.2 (2008): 102-107. Education Research Complete. Web. 2 Dec. 2013.


Lorna Simpson


Artists include references to popular media and cultural issues. Lorna Simpson took more than just photographs. She is telling the viewer a story. Her photographs have the same power as a silent film. Simpson creates vehicles for commentary on a variety of issues in our culture with her art. She captures reality in a new way.

Her artwork questions our understanding of what societyʼs issues really are. Her use of incorporating text helps shed light on a variety of issues of the modern world such as racism. She has given herself a very distinct voice. In her work, Guarded Condition, Simpson photographs a black woman in slightly different poses accompanied by the captions which read words like, “sex attacks, skin attacks.”

This innovative use of this photo-sequence incorporates text to examine emotion and interrogates the visual production of a womanʼs body. “Simpson provides memorable characters that suggest complex lives that exist outside her photograph(s) attempting to make sense of its matter-of-fact yet recalcitrant presence, they have time and again seized on external referents to clarify the artist’s import.” (Copeland) The understanding of Guarded Condition can differentiate from person to person. To deny the central theme of the work as drawing attention to gender and racial sufferance; offering the viewer a glance to its reality, would be pure ignorance.

“In a December 1989 review, an art critic described reading a newspaper article about the brutal beating and rape of a black woman by two white security guards the day before he saw the photo-text in question. ʻThe coincidence of the newspaper story and the piece in the gallery,ʼ he contends, ʻrevealed how Simpson’s work comments on the often ugly facts of life without simply reporting them.ʼ” (Copeland)

Simpson addresses many contemporary issues. The details may be complex symbols that reveal and conceal certain aspects of black culture as well as gender stratification. Guarded Condition removes the female body from a pedestal and raises serious and challenging questions for feminist aesthetics and issues of race.

“For Simpson, the womanʼs fist is a response to the sexual and racial attacks indexed as the very ground upon which the image rests. The womanʼs back being turned may represent a gesture of defiance. There is a sense of repetition in each photo, but each provocatively chosen phrase corresponds with her change in stance. “Guarded Conditions comes to us as a collection of iconographic details—the position of a hand, a row of sentinels, or simply the specter of black woman as victim—each unleashing a chain of associations presumed endemic to the black female experience.” (Copeland)

Simpson goes beyond feminist and race sensibility and encodes a generalized humanism. Simpson creates a perspective that seems to be within a mold of shared human experience; refusing to define this womanʼs identity as radically separate from the larger human condition.

Copeland, Huey. “Bye, Bye Black Girl”: Lorna Simpson’s Figurative Retreat.” Art Journal 64.2 (2005): 62-77. Academic Search Complete. Web. 25 Nov. 2013.


Sexism In Movie Marketing

Jimmy Kimmel made a spoof trailer for Thor: The Dark World “marketing the movie to women.” The clip is stirring up quite a bit of controversy. Of course, there is no way in hell Hollywood would be able to drag the ladies of this country into a movie being only marketed with hot guys and action already (slash sarcasm). The idea that primarily men see these movies and that romance is the only way to get women into the theatre is obviously absurd. Isn’t that what makes it a joke? The absurdity of what producers think women want is the joke, right? The joke is on the marketing companies. Not women. Kimmel is poking fun at the way Hollywood markets to specific demographics. Many have missed the bus on the way to laughter, though. If anything, this clip sheds light on the sexism in Hollywood’s marketing “strategy” opposed to endorsing it. What do you think?


Depictions of “Real” Women


Don Jon and Thanks for Sharing are two newly released movies about sex addiction. In both movies, we can point out a societal discussion that they are both participating in. These films are attacking the male libido, yet fail to portray the women in any realistic way. While both films showcase the idea of men’s inability to commit, they also depict men’s objectification of women as an addiction (Gittell). Sexual addiction in both films detract the viewer from the actual issue at hand. Both films are about our society. The most criticism stems from the media’s fixation on sex. Don Jon and Thanks For Sharing are equally critical of a culture that creates obstacles for any sort of recovery (Gittell).


The stories are so focused on the men that the women in these films seem two-dimensional. But, wouldn’t two movies about a man’s sexual addiction benefit from well-rounded female characters? Even when Jon meets a “real woman” (Julianne Moore), her authenticity lacks any depth. The “women” in these films are just fantasies. No real woman in sight. They are all caricatures. The details of these women’s stories seem to be colored in with the same color crayon as if a lazy child were doing a color-by-numbers. We just scratch the surface of who they really are/could be. While it could just be the filmmakers’ efforts going toward the male’s perspective, it is unfortunate that the women in both films lack any real qualities. After all, in both films, the women are saving these men from their addictions. If these men are saved by having relationships with complex individuals, shouldn’t we see some glimmer of personality from their savior? The messages in Don Jon and Thank You For Sharing represent a movement to correct years of female objectification on the big screen. (Gittell)

Gittell, Noah. “Where Are the ‘Real’ Women in Movies About Sex Addiction?” The Atlantic. The Atlantic Monthly Group, 27 Sept. 2013. Web. 28 Sept. 2013.