Lena Dunham, Vogue & Jezebel – Is there a Photoshopping problem?

The level of Photoshopping going on at Fashion/Beauty/Lifestyle magazines has been an ongoing controversy, with performers such as Adele, Kelly Clarkson and Kate Winslet being made almost unrecognizable as photo editors try to make the curvy stars’ bodies comply with fashion magazine standards of beauty.

So it should be no surprise when Lena Dunham, star of HBO’s series Girls, posed for Vogue that the question would start being raised as to how authentic her images were.  Dunham, in case you’ve missed the story, is famous for being naked in Girls – a lot — and that her tattooed body is celebrated/criticized for being an alternative to conventional standards of Hollywood beauty.

So… when the Dunham issue of Vogue came out, the blog Jezebel, which has a lot to say on Photoshopping, offered $10,000 to anyone who would supply them with the original, unedited images of Dunham so people could see how Dunham’s body was manipulated.

Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long to get someone to supply Jezebel with the images.  Interestingly enough, while the photos themselves were highly manipulated (i.e. entirely new backgrounds added) the New York Times points out that there was surprisingly little done to Dunham herself.

Dunham told Slate following the publication of the original images that she had no problem with what Vogue had done with the photos, and that she understands and appreciates that difference between reality and what is published in a fashion magazine:

A fashion magazine is like a beautiful fantasy. Vogue isn’t the place that we go to look at realistic women, Vogue is the place that we go to look at beautiful clothes and fancy places and escapism and so I feel like if the story reflects me and I happen to be wearing a beautiful Prada dress and surrounded by beautiful men and dogs, what’s the problem? If they want to see what I really look like go watch the show that I make every single week.

What do you think? Is Jezebel standing up for women by publishing the unedited photos of Dunham?  Or are they, as some claim, bullying Dunham, who has made her career of flouting conventionality?

(Oh, and by the way, the photos of Dunham are by famed photog Annie Leibovitz, because… of course they are.)

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Pre-Class Video: Illustrator Tommy Kane draws Seoul, South Korea

Today’s video is from artist/illustrator Tommy Kane, and I’m playing it in honor of the fact my eldest returns home from Korea tomorrow where he’s been working for the last year.

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Oscar Nominations 2014: Brühl snubbed, Hustle gets acting nominations in all four categories

Oscar nominations were announced bright and early this morning, with several surprises in what is widely considered to be one of the tightest fields in years. Gravity and American Hustle led the nominations with 10 nods each, followed by 12 Years a Slave with nine.  Here’s my reaction:

  • I thought Gravity was a brilliant movie that showed how to tell a riveting story with non-gimicky 3-D cinematography.  Gravity was to me the strongest argument this year to go see a movie in a good theater. We need more exciting, original movies that take new twists on telling stories.
  • Lots of people seem surprised and upset that Tom Hanks didn’t get a nomination for Captain Phillips.  Not me.  I may be one of the few moviegoers in American who really didn’t much like Captain Phillips, even though I’m generally a fan of director Paul Greengrass and of Hanks.  There just didn’t seem to be a lot of nuance to Hanks’ performance.  The nomination of Barkhad Abdi for the role of the head Somali pirate, on the other hand, was richly deserved.  I thought he was by far the most interesting character in the movie.
  • I was disappointed to see that Daniel Brühl was snubbed as best supporting actor for his role as Formula One driver Niki Lauda in Ron Howard’s racing movie Rush.  Brühl’s take on Lauda was fascinating to me, making a prickly and unpleasant character sympathetic and interesting.  I must confess that as a racing fan Rush was probably my favorite movie the year.  And while I’m not terribly surprised Hollywood didn’t show it a lot of love this morning, I think that Brühl richly deserved a nomination. (He did, however, get a Golden Globe nomination and a Screen Actors Guild nomination.
  • I loved American Hustle, and I think that if the Oscars had a category for best ensemble cast, David O. Russell’s retelling of Abscam would be a shoe-in winner.  Needless to say, I fully approve of the Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence all getting acting nominations.  Though I would say Adams’ was the weakest performance and Lawrence’s was the best.


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Pre-class video: They Might Be Giant performing “You’re On Fire”

My pre-class video for today is a music video from the awesome band They Might Be Giants.

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You can still be entertained by the Golden Globes broadcast even if you didn’t watch it Sunday

I wasn’t able to watch the Golden Globes Awards broadcast Sunday night, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t still be entertained by it.  Here’s what you missed if you didn’t watch:

The wonderful introduction to the show by co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Pohler has been posted by online. (Please note, this is not a monologue.  Mono means one. Tina and Amy make two…)

Part 1

Part 2

Actress Jaqueline Bisset was a hot mess during her acceptance speech for best supporting actress in a series, mini-series or TV movie:

Someone at E! had a very strange idea of what constituted a “fun fact” about actor Michael J. Fox.  Because what’s more fun than Parkinson’s Disease? (E! obviously apologized, but really, who thought that was a good idea?)


 And finally, no one had better commentary on the Golden Globes than Sarcastic Rover from the surface of Mars:

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Pre-Class Video: CATCH – A stop-motion animation shot with Google Glass

I usually have a pre-class video running as students assemble for my Global Media Literacy class.  While I generally collect these videos over on my Tumblr, this semester I’m going to try to post all the ones I use to the blog.

For Day 1, I played a great little short film called CATCH, which is a stop-motion animation shot entirely with Google Glass.

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What can we learn from the Chris Christie Bridge scandal?

As you no doubt have heard in the last few days, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is in a lot of hot water over actions by his staff in closing several lanes of traffic on the George Washington Bridge this fall.  My goal here is to not analyze the political fallout from this case, but rather to look at what can we learn here from the media literacy perspective:

  • Different news channels tell different stories
    According to liberal media criticism site Media Matters, Fox News gave not quite 15 minutes to the bridge story, CNN gave 2 hours and 22 minutes to the story, and MSNBC gave 2 hours and 37 minutes to it.
  • Forget the NSA; e-mails and texts can never be considered private
    Don’t ever, ever write something in an e-mail that you could not stand behind if it were made public.  Especially if you work in a public setting. The e-mails and text messages describing  the use of lane closings on the George Washington Bridge as punishment to the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey for not supporting Chris Christie’s gubernatorial reelection campaign were released as part of subpoenas from the New Jersey state legislature’s investigation.  The story and headlines are astounding.
  • Stories from local media matter
    This story first broke back on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013 when the Bergen County Record traffic columnist John Chichowski reported that closed tollbooths on the George Washington Bridge were causing a traffic nightmare in Fort Lee.
  • Get out front on political scandals
    Gov. Christie started with the presumption that there was no scandal associated with the bridge lanes closure.  He even mocked his critics, joking that he had been out at the tollgates, putting up the cones.  When the story finally blew up on him yesterday and today, the headlines were brutal.  Follow the link above for more examples.
  • When you are wrong, apologize, and mean it…
    As I’m writing this on Thursday morning, Gov. Christie is holding a press conference to apologize for his staff’s behavior.  And he’s planning on traveling to Fort Lee to apologize to the mayor there and the city in person.  We’ll have to see how this shakes out.
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Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

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Women and the Movies 2013 Part 2 – Where are the women directors?

While women talking to each other about something other than a man in movies was a good indicator of success last year, 2013 was not a stellar year for women directors.  According to a story from Variety, only two of the top 100 box office movies from 2013 were directed by women: Disney’s animated Frozen (co-directed by jennifer Lee) and the remake of Carrie directed by Kimberly Peirce.

Geek girl blog The Mary Sue pointed out that most of the top-grossing films by women (i.e. 8 of the top 10) were independent films.

One of the commentators at Variety suggested that the reason there were so few women directors at the top in Hollywood was because, “Maybe there aren’t that many who want to direct film… If there aren’t women directors…then there aren’t women directors.”

What do you think?

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Women and the Movies 2013 Part 1 – Bechdel Test Movies

There’s long been the argument made that the reason that movies primarily feature male characters is that these types of movies make more money than those that have prominent female characters.

For 2013, that statement is demonstrably false.  A study done by Vocativ took the Top 50 movies for 2013, looked at their Bechdel Test scores, and looked at their earnings.

(You all remember the Bechdel Test, don’t you?  Three parts: 1) Are there two or more named women characters in the movie with speaking roles? 2) Do they talk to each other? 3) Do they talk to each other about something other than a man?)

Authors Versha Sharma and Hanna Sender found that of the Top 50 grossing movies, 17 of them (36 percent) had strong passes, seven had weak passes (they barely met the criteria), and 26 failed.  Those that passed (plus the special case of the Sandra Bullock movie Gravity) grossed $4.22 billion.  Those that failed grossed $2.66 billion.

Keep in mind that the passing movies are not necessarily high-brow, politically correct Oscar bait.  Fast and Furious 6 passed, as did The Smurfs 2 and G.I. Joe: Retaliation. As Vocative points out, “If G.I. Joe can do it, anyone can (you would think).  And The Heat (from the folks who brought you Bridesmaids continued to show that crude, female-based buddy comedies can be successful.

Geek girl blog The Mary Sue points out that the success of Bechdel passing movies is likely to be a product of good writing: “Effective writing means you get good female characters, and effective writing produces successful movies.”

Here’s there infographic presenting their data:

Top 50 2013 movies and the Bechdel Test

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