Friday, January 23, 2015

Poetry and Popularity

Reading the Irish Times article today, by Rosita Boland, on Rick O'Shea taking over RTE's new Poetry Programme, I was at first in total agreement with her seal-clubbing outrage.  How can someone take over a poetry show who can't name three poems he loves, or name a single Seamus Heaney poem?  But as it went on, I thought to myself that maybe that's the exact reason someone like Rick O'Shea SHOULD be taking on a poetry programme designed to reach a broader audience...maybe he will take an audience along with him who don't regularly consume poetry, and who feel that it's something they are unable to access.  As he discovers inroads into poems, so too will the audience - instead of presenting the usual type of poetry appreciation that involves those who 'understand' and can 'dissect' poems continually congratulate each other on their insight, while ignoring listeners.  This might just give poetry the place it deserves in popular culture.

And I say this as someone who loves poetry, who writes poetry, and who believes that poetry is a song without music that should be as easy or as difficult as listening to your favourite song.  And just like your favourite song, it can mean a million different things to a million different people - it can make you happy just as it makes someone else sad, it can have complicated meanings for you just as someone else simply likes the tune.  You don't always need to 'understand it' on some deep level - poetry can speak to you by the way the words sound when spoken aloud, or one sentence that strikes you as just perfect, or just a beautiful conglomeration of syllables and assonance that simply makes you happy.  As Archibald McLeish famously wrote in Ars Poetica - "A poem should not mean, but be"!

And so, for the 100th anniversary of its writing, here is one of my favourite poems - copied from another website, because it's far too long to transcribe from the little brown book I've written all of my favourite poems into: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T.S. Eliot.  I read this poem when I was very young, and loved it without understanding much of it.  When I was 15 I was lucky enough to have a substitute English teacher in school who spent his three weeks with us focusing on his favourite poem, this one, and opening my eyes to what it COULD mean.  I'll never claim to fully 'understand' it...but noone ever should, about any poem, I think.  Because I agree with McLeish...I'm happy enough to let this poem simply 'be'.

(The Italian excerpt at the top is from Dante's Inferno (The Divine Comedy), where Dante encounters Guido, and translates as: "If I thought that my reply were given to anyone who might return to the world, this flame would stand forever still; but since never from this deep place has anyone returned alive, if what I hear is true, without fear of infamy I answer thee.")

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
        S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.
LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats        
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question….        
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,        
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,        
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window panes; 
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;        
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
In the room the women come and go        
Talking of Michelangelo.
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair -        
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin - 
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare        
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,        
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
  So how should I presume?
And I have known the eyes already, known them all -        
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?        
  And how should I presume?
And I have known the arms already, known them all - 
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress        
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
  And should I then presume?
  And how should I begin?
.      .      .      .      .      .      .      .
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets   
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?…
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
.      .      .      .      .      .      .      .
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!    
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?  
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,        
And in short, I was afraid.
And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,        
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all” -       
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
  Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
  That is not it, at all.”
And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,        
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor -
And this, and so much more? -
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:       
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
  “That is not it at all,
  That is not what I meant, at all.”
.      .      .      .      .      .      .      .
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,        
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous -
Almost, at times, the Fool.
I grow old … I grow old …        
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.        
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown        
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thoughts on Rioting (Ferguson and Beyond)

This is how I see it:

In countries where a dictatorship or junta system of government exists, we applaud as we watch crowds of revolutionaries voice their anger at their governments by toppling statues of tyrants or storming palaces of corruption.  They have symbols of power on which to focus their anger, and on which to wreak their destruction...and what do we have?  What does England have?  What does America have?  We live in democracies under capitalist systems of government - where are our idols, our monuments, our great palaces of corruption?  Our symbols are the every-day...shops and banks and economic powerhouses.  And so, when our people rise up in revolution and find that their anger cannot be contained anymore, certain factions will begin to smash and destroy these capitalist monuments.  It's the only place that truly makes sense, raised (indoctrinated) as we all are a system of government that demands that we consume, that we spend, that we keep the economic bubbles inflating and bursting, inflating and bursting, forever more.  And then they wonder why, when people who have been oppressed and degraded for far too long rise up, it's the big shiny expensive stuff that they have told us time and again represents our value in society that are the first to go.  This form of government tells you that you are nothing f you don't have the latest iPhone, most unique (expensive) runners, seasonal/yearly changes to your wardrobe, skincare products to keep you pretty, gym membership to keep you buff, huge mortgage on a massive house, new car every year...the list goes on, and the common denominator is money.  Those at the top have it, those at the bottom don't.  The indignities keep getting heaped upon you - student debt, no access to college or university, low standards of education, the poverty trap, job-bridge and unpaid internships instead of work, apprenticeships closing doors, unskilled labour becoming the only option, depression, anxiety...anger.  You can't quite grasp why it is life seems so much more difficult for you, that you can't attain the markers of success (all consumer driven), that justice doesn't operate for you the way it does for others, and that the odds are always stacked against you everywhere you turn.

When you're not well educated, and you can't express this anger in beautiful words that will sway, then by this reasoning your anger doesn't have validation.  Hence during the England/London riots in 2011 the news stations continuously broadcasted interviews with young men (usually of colour, but certainly of lower socio-economic classes) who were either angry at 'the government', but couldn't explain their anger any further than that, or were laughing about how they had just robbed some great gear.  Either way the point was to reduce the reasons behind the riots to something other than what it was - unjust treatment of the people at the bottom.  Instead we could all sit in our sittingrooms focusing on how animalistic the riotors were, how they were just looting, how they didn't even know what they were at and were just following the crowd, how they're social welfare wasters who just had nothing better to do.  Then we can comfortably switch channels, safe in the knowledge that those who are rioting will swiftly fade away because they don't really have anything to hold them together.

Which is, of course, exactly why they don't hold together.  Those on the outside will sit back and allow police to swarm in using any measure of force, we'll allow national guard and military intervention, we'll allow the prisons to fill up with uneducated, young, economically nonviable men and women.  And the wheel will keep on turning.  The shops will be fixed, we'll all go back to consuming, but there will be a nagging feeling that something isn't quite right.  And the anger won't go away, it'll just stay beneath the surface, waiting for an opportunity to show itself again.  This has happened in every country in the world; this happened in Ireland, in England, and it's happening in Ferguson and all over America right now.

Those who riot instead of peacefully protesting don't negate the reasons for the protest, despite what the media would have us believe.  Let's face it, that would be the easier thing to swallow - we wouldn't have to question our government, or take a hard look at our own privileged position in society and how precariously it's built on the subjugation of others.  It's the same for those at the other end of this spectrum, the ones screaming in the streets to be heard, but their voices are so deformed by anger and terror that they can't form the right words.

Just because somebody can't tell you why they are angry does not mean that they don't have a right to be angry.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Feminism at the Lunch Table

I'm not going to get into a massive essay here, because I live it and speak it every moment of my life anyway, but I just want to share a little story.

The other day I was sitting in the canteen at work with three other women and one man.  During our lunch, the man began regaling us with the latest scandal of 'that girl' in Magaluf who 'sucked off' over 20 guys for a free drink - and about how he had watched the video, just to 'make sure' he knew what he was talking about.  Cue laughter, from my fellow female lunchmates too.  End of conversation?  Not while I'm at that, or any, table.  I proceeded to explain that I was very uncomfortable with the attitude of people towards that girl; that slut-shaming was a major issue in our society, and it disturbed me greatly that he was referring to the story only in terms of the what the girl had done, without any reference to the 20 or more guys who had lined up with their trousers around their ankles, waiting for 'some girl' to give them a blowjob while throngs of people cheer.  I've written about this before in reference to the whole 'Slane Girl' situation a few months ago, and what I said there still applies: "That girl should have truly known that she is worth more than a public blowjob in a muddy field, instead of somehow thinking it makes her sexually expressive and adult.  The boys involved should feel more worth in themselves than to allow that situation to arise, and certainly feel that she has more worth than that.  Those taking and sharing the photos should understand the consequences of their actions, that somebody’s whole life can be ruined for the sake of a ‘funny’ Facebook or Twitter upload."

Nobody in this Magaluf situation comes out unscathed, yet it's the girl who is the 'slut', and yet again she deserves everything she is getting.  So, I said all of this in one big outburst - in all honesty, my face going bright red in an effort to get it all out there at once.  One of my female co-workers lightheartedly said 'Wow, you really feel strongly about this!', but I wasn't sidetracked - I said again that, yes, I really do feel strongly about things like this, and that we owe it to our media-saturated world that we think about things a bit more before we talk about them as mere gossip.  I also mentioned that I had a teenage niece, and I didn't want to perpetuate a world where she is told that her sexuality is the only thing that she is worth on the one hand, while she is persecuted for every sexual 'transgression' on the other.  Two of my female table-mates suddenly began vehemently agreeing with me (and seemed to remember that they had daughters too), as did my other co-worker.  The man made some quip about knowing his audience, to which I replied that these things aren't jokes...and we have to take them seriously.

So, there we go.  A short story that put me in that place where I'm the one who can't take a joke - the famous 'humourless feminist' at the table - who didn't giggle along with what this man was telling us should be our opinion of the whole Magaluf situation.  Instead, I argued my point.  And, surprise surprise, the three other women agreed with me.  Once someone had said it as it should be, they agreed.  Which means that they didn't agree with him, they had giggled along with his jokes because they didn't want to be aggressive, or humourless, or antagonistic, or a 'bitch', or any number of the million tags associated with women who don't just 'go with the flow' and who won't just 'laugh it off'.  And that is why feminism is still needed - because there are still plenty of women out there who are feminists deep down, and who struggle with the public perception of feminism, and who worry that having a strong voice or an opinion on something makes them someone who others will avoid.

Being a Feminist colours everything I believe - and being a Marxist Feminist means that every world issue is filtered to me through that lens.  From Gaza to Magaluf, I see a fairer world when these tenets are taken into account - the capitalist system of power has led to an unfair society for women and for men, and yet we continue to divide and conquer each other on the basis of sexuality.

I still sit with all of these people, that particular man included, because I'm not preachy and I'm not rude.  I simply will not allow topics of conversation to pass without comment when I feel strongly about it.  These people are my friends and coworkers, and will continue to be my friends and coworkers.  And I will continue to not compromise my beliefs for the sake of giggling at the lunch table.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Oscar Nominations 2014: Predictions and hopes for this awful awards ceremony

Yes yes, it's a really terrible ceremony that doesn't reward ingenuity or creativity...and avoids anything remotely resembling controversy.  But I'll be watching it as usual...and more importantly, the mark of 'Oscar' on any movie tends to get viewers flocking to screens, so it's important stuff for movies whether I like it or not.

So, here they are - the main nominations, who I'd like to win, and who will probably win, and what I think of movies I haven't even seen yet!  My frustration will be clearly apparent throughout, as usual!

Best Picture
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
The Wolf of Wall Street

Nice long list this year!  And actually, it was a pretty alright year for movies...apart from 'The Place Beyond the Pines' which sucked the life out of me.... Anyway, on to predictions!

Who Should Win:  I'm torn about this one.  I haven't seen Her, Nebraska or Philomena, but I'm pretty sure they're not troubling the 'Best Picture' category (even though they all sound like excellent movies).  So, from the others I think I'd have to say that 'Dallas Buyers Club' was the best overall movie - it looked great, was excellently acted, told a really solid story and the pace and direction were really quite beautiful.  I thought '12 Years a Slave' was not very well done at all - as sometimes happens with true-life biopics, they tried to fit in absolutely everything that had ever happened to Solomon without allowing him any opportunity to connect with other characters, thereby denying the viewer the opportunity to connect with him.  'The Wolf of Wall Street' is an embarrassing addition to this list, and is clearly only there because Scorsese directed it - considering David O Russell directed what was basically a rip-off of 'Goodfellas' this year (do we call it homage?!?), he out-Scorsesed Scorsese, because 'Wolf' was just a waste of my time.  'American Hustle' was pretty good overall, but not better than 'Dallas', so for that reason I relegate it.  'Gravity' was beautifully shot and had some great acting, but it was not the best film of this category - there was too much reliance on CGI and on Sandra Bullock's fantastic ability to carry a scene.  TLDR: Dallas Buyers Club

Who Will Win:  I think Oscar might go the way of the Golden Globes, and pawn Best Picture off on '12 Years a Slave', because they're not going to reward it in any other category.  It's similar to the holocaust situation in the movie world - because it's telling the story of slavery (and a true story, at that), it's almost impossible to go against the movie in any way.  I'm not saying it's absolutely awful, but for me it just wasn't good enough - and the real Solomon Northup deserved much better, including telling his journey after his 12 horrible years in the South, when he joined the abolitionist movement and spoke all over America trying to ensure this wouldn't happen to other free black men.  They could have done a far better job of this biopic, and I was disappointed in it.  However, the Academy will feel duty-bound to reward it I think.  TLDR: 12 Years a Slave

Best Actor
Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Wolf of Wall Street)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Who Should Win:  I'm going to stick with Matthew McConaughey on this one - I was absolutely blown away by his performance in 'Dallas Buyers Club'.  It certainly helped that I'd watched 'How to Survive a Plague' during 2013, so was familiar with some of the obstacles facing those who were diagnosed with HIV or AIDS in the 80s, but this film brought it home to me in the way that fictional (or almost-fictional - this was based on a true-life story too) accounts often do.  His performance was outstanding, and for that I would definitely say he deserves to be rewarded with an Oscar.  Christian Bale was great in 'American Hustle', but at this stage he's just so good in everything that it's almost difficult to recognise how good it is anymore...if that makes sense.  Anyway, yes he was great, but he wasn't as good as McConaughey.  Chiwetel Ejiofor is another story - I have actually liked him in very few movies, and find him to appear quite stagey in films.  Since he is a theatrically trained actor, maybe this isn't such a strange thing, but I find it off-putting and generally feel that he's over-acting.  He was excellent in certain parts of '12 Years a Slave', but the film didn't do him any favours in how rushed the biopic was.  I haven't seen 'Nebraska' so can't comment on Bruce Dern, but from what I've seen I still think McConaughey was better.  The only possible reason Leo could have done 'Wolf of Wall Street' is because Scorsese, his admitted mentor, had asked him...I felt his performance, whilst kinetic and outlandish, was not something I would count as being above the norm.  I feel a bit sorry for Leo being nominated for this film, of all the films he has done.  TLDR: Matthew McConaughey

Who Will Win:  I actually think Oscar might get it right on this one!  They definitely feel sorry for Leo, and will love Dern's age, but they might be a little sick of Bale and will probably consider giving Ejiofor a nomination is enough for this role.  In the balance, and considering the fantastic performance this erstwhile-fool has put in, I reckon he might nab it!  There has also not been an onslaught from publicity on this one - something that damages potential winners chances, when the Academy is sick of them before the show is even near.  TLDR:  Matthew McConaughey

Best Actress
Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

Who Should Win:  What a year for women in acting, it has to be said!  The Golden Globes showed it stronger than ever, with the fantastic Amy and Tina keeping everyone on their toes, but all of the women nominated were put there for strong roles, and they were without fail strong women in each simpering and eyelash-flitting in sight!  For this one, I think I'll have to go with Amy Adams.  I thought Sandra Bullock was absolutely great in 'Gravity', the film itself let her down a bit as it wasn't fantastic, and I wouldn't be completely devastated if she got it, but I think this year Amy put in the better performance overall.  She commanded the screen, and her face directed you to every feeling you needed to hit in every scene.  I loved her in 'American Hustle'!  I think it's pretty much a no-brainer that both Judi Dench and Meryl Streep were fantastic in their roles - when are they not? - but since I haven't seen either of those movies, I have to stick with what I know.  I'm sure Cate Blanchett was great in 'Blue Jasmine', as she's a fantastic actor, but I'm on the outs with Woody Allen, what with the child abuse and whatnot.   TLDR:  Amy Adams

Who Will Win: with the Best Actor category, I tend to lean towards the Academy going my way this year.  Amy Adams put in a stunning performance in a movie that homages the greatest era of filmmaking (the 70s), in some ways referencing 'old Hollywood' - which they will love.  The only fly in the ointment is the fact that Sandra Bullock is America's that could happen.  Ah, I'm as torn as my predictions, but I reckon Amy'll get it!!  TLDR:  Amy Adams

Best Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
Jonah Hill (Wolf of Wall Street)
Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Who Should Win:  Right, I've seen all of these, so I should be fairly certain here.  Jonah Hill did a great impression of an absolutely whacky man but, as many commentators have pointed out, you'd prefer if he'd gotten it for 'Superbad', in which he was genuinely fantastic.  He was let down quite a bit by the movie, as in any other situation that performance would have stood out - but in this shambles of shouting, he couldn't quite get seen enough.  So he's out!  I don't like Bradley Cooper.  At all.  I have never liked him in any movie.  So there's that - but genuinely, I didn't think this role was worth even a nomination, never mind an Oscar.  He was all over the place, and frankly outshone in every scene by those around him.  Michael Fassbender was pretty damn fantastic in '12 Years a Slave', benefiting from being one of the few characters who were fleshed out a little...but it still wasn't enough.  There wasn't enough connection for it to be worth the statue, and while his acting is excellent, it was par for the course for Fassbender.  Barkhad Abdi was amazing in 'Captain Philips', and was certainly a contender - he portrayed the tortured difficulty of being forced into a life of violence with heartbreaking accuracy.  So we get to Jared Leto, who I thought did a great job in 'Dallas Buyers Club'...the character of Rayon could have lapsed into hyperbole or even mockery, but I thought he did an excellently sensitive job of giving Rayon life onscreen.  So for me, it's Leto all the way!  TLDR: Jared Leto

Who Will Win:  Again, I reckon this could be the year Oscar does the right thing (in some ways), so I think Leto might get it.  A little suspicion in me thinks they might give it to Bradley Cooper because he missed out last year...actually, that suspicion is raging in me right now!  So I've changed my mind....they're going to give it to Bradley Cooper, because the Oscars hates me!  Also, the Academy is always loathe to support homosexual or transsexual representations Leto could miss out for being too far out of the mainstream.  *Sigh*.  TLDR: Bradley Cooper

Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
June Squibb (Nebraska)
Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)

Who Should Win:  This is a tough one to call, because I have only seen the top two movies.  Out of both of those it's a tough call, because I thought Jennifer Lawrence was absolutely amazing in 'American Hustle'!  She held her own against some of the best actors knocking around, and was mesmerising for every second she was there.  However, Lupita Nyong'o was without doubt the best thing about '12 Years a Slave' for me, even if her performance did sometimes hit the stagey over-acting feel that blighted the whole movie.  I think we can discount Julia Roberts, even without seeing the movie, and again I won't be watching 'Blue Jasmine'.  June Squibb is pretty solid, but again I think the Academy will see the nod as being enough.  I reckon it's between Jennifer and Lupita overall, and I think when pushed to it I'll have to say that I think Jennifer should get it - overall, she just gave the better performance, more nuanced and more striking.  TLDR:  Jennifer Lawrence

Who Will Win:  This is a toughy, for whilst Jennifer is beloved, she also got an Oscar last year.  Because the best actor nod won't go to Ejiofor, they might give Nyong'o the statue instead.  However, we do have 'old Hollywood' rearing its head in the other nominations, so there's a possibility that ex-American Sweetheart Julia Roberts might get it.  Since I haven't seen the other three movies, it's too tough for me to make a decision, so I think Lawrence will get it, even with the competition!  TLDR:  Jennifer Lawrence

Best Director
Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street) 
David O. Russell (American Hustle)
Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)
Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)

Who Should Win:  Hmmmmm....this is very, very tough.  It is not a good category, they have all put in mediocre to slightly-alright directing performances this year!  Apart from Alexander Payne who I, admittedly, can't comment on as I didn't see 'Nebraska'.  Which actually puts him ahead of the bunch!!  Should Russell get it for his impression of a peak-force Scorsese?  Scorsese for 'Jackass Presents Wall Street'?  Cuarón for spinning camera and CGI backdrop?  McQueen for 'look how this burning piece of paper is a metaphor for life'?  Based on my sarcasm, and my inability to really like any of their directing jobs, I can't decide!  At a push, I guess I'll go for Alfonso Cuarón, because at least my eyes were given a huge treat when I saw 'Gravity' on the big screen!  TLDR: Alfonso Cuarón

Who Will Win:  As with the above, this is a toughy.  The Academy could go any way on this - Scorsese for the fact that he's Scorsese and they have ignored his far better movies; Russell for the nostalgia and glory of 'old Hollywood'; Cuarón because 'Gravity' might not get any other awards; McQueen because slavery; Payne for digging into the American psyche.  This literally could go to anyone, but I'm thinking the Academy might actually pull a fast one on everyone and go for McQueen, because they won't be rewarding the actors involved, and if it got Best Picture too they could claim massive support for it.  And like I said, this is such a low-bar category this year, it could go either way.  TLDR: Steve McQueen

The rest of the categories I really can't comment hugely on, because I haven't seen enough of them (especially the documentaries and foreign film selections), so they might have to wait for my reaction vitriol post Oscar this year.  Here's my more succinct impressions on the rest!

  • For Best Adapted Screenplay I have a feeling that 'Philomena' SHOULD peg it, and that it WILL peg it.  I thought the screenplay for '12 Years a Slave' was absolutely awful - sounded theatrical and overblown when there were intimate scenes, and so it lost the intimacy.  'The Wolf of Wall Street' was a crazy script based on a crazy life, but with little real commentary - comedic for most of the film, it nonetheless slipped in a jarring scene of what was, basically, rape towards the end, giving a little glimpse into the world of those people (quite a lot of them women) severely abused by the culture of Wall Street.  Other than that short scene, women were dispensable for the rest of the time.

  • For Best Original Screenplay I think I'd have to go with what I have heard about 'Her' as being worth the I'll go with that as a SHOULD win.  I know it's strange to pick a movie that I haven't seen, but the premise and those involved has convinced me that it's the worthiest winner for this category.  I have a feeling that 'Nebraska' WILL win it, though, as it will probably be overlooked in so many other categories...and the Academy likes Bruce Dern more than it likes Joaquin Phoenix!
    • EDIT:  Having seen 'Her', I'm pretty sure it won't win...but it was a very well written script.  Don't think it's the best I've seen, though: pretty much a mash-up of 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' and any close-future fantasy ever written.  Probably too much masturbation (as per Joaquin Phoenix' instructions) in it to entice the Academy, too...

  • Surprisingly this year, I haven't seen a single one of the Best Foreign Film nominees...which is a bit shocking, so I'll get on that as soon as possible!

  • As with the above, I haven't seen a single one of the Best Documentary Feature nominees this year, which is startling considering how many documentaries I watch.  But I guess myself and the Academy have tended to differ quite a lot on what we consider to be good movies and documentaries...

  • I never really care too much about Best Animated Feature to be honest, and this year is no different.  I don't watch a lot of kids movies unless I'm taking my nieces and nephews out, so I've missed all of the nominees this year...and will probably not catch up on them.  

  • The musical awards are similarly not my bag, but I kinda hope 'The Moon Song' wins Best Song because I love that Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs did the music and Spike Jonze did the lyrics.  Also, if I have to listen to Bono telling us all how close he and Mandela were I might just kick the television....  I'd say they'll give the Best Score to 'Saving Mr. Banks', which was an awful movie altogether - just bloody stupid and narcissistic for everyone involved - but they have all sorts of loopy beautifullness recalling times gone by in the music, which the Academy loves, and the film won't get any other awards (what with not being nominated and all that).

  • Strange selection for Best Cinematography, as it always confounds me that this category doesn't echo Best Picture in some way, because sure the best picture is the one that contains brilliance in all the arts involved in filmmaking.  Clearly I'm in the minority of thinking that way, and since I haven't seen a lot of what's going on in this category I will say that 'Gravity' will only get it if Cuarón doesn't win for directing, and other than that I can't even remotely call it as I haven't seen the others.

  • I think 'The Great Gatsby' WILL get Costume Design, because they did an over-the-top flamboyant 1920s - which is exactly what was called for.  However, I'm inclined to think that 'American Hustle' SHOULD get it as the clothes were so perfectly fitted to the time, but also to each individual character, that it worked perfectly.

  • And last in my comments (as I haven't much to say on the other categories this year) is Makeup and Hairstyling which I'm finding beyond brilliant...the fact that we are watching 'Jackass Presents' written on the Oscar nominations makes my little heart glad!  And in fairness, he really did look like an 80 year old man!  So I think 'Bad Grandpa' should get it - purely for those dangling testicles!

So there we's not a terrible year for movies, but it's always a terrible year for Oscars.  Let's see if they surprise me this year (not holding my breath on that one...)!!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Playing Elizabeth Bennet

The Gate Theatre are currently showing Pride and Prejudice so, as it's one of my favourite books, I went along with a couple of (female) friends.  The female part bears emphasis, because the entire theatre was filled with women - what few men there were spread out among the masses looked vaguely uncomfortable.  This surprised me...I had not thought much about the audience, and I hadn't particularly figured it would be so heavily weighted towards women, considering The Gate is a well-frequented theatre showing a variety of plays.  However the attractions of Jane Austen would seem to be a female pursuit, no matter how many years pass: she still can't attract the varied audience a male writer might, despite an academic renewal of interest in her novels.  Men, it would seem, still don't consider our Jane a 'proper' author.  And unfortunately, when her novel is reduced, as it was in this instance, to a pure romance, this problem is only exacerbated.

Pride and Prejudice is a very, very beloved novel that many women will have a personal relationship with - mainly due, it must be said, to its protagonists, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.  So, the actors playing these two roles must invest a lot of time and energy into their portrayal - other characters in the novel are comparatively easy because of how quickly they lend themselves to comedy and hyperbole.  Mrs. Bennet's nervous fits, Mr. Bennet's sarcastic wit, Lady Catherine De Bourgh's snobbery and arrogance, Mr. Collins' grovelling idiocy - the list of 'easy' characters encompasses practically everyone but Eliza and Mr. Darcy.  And so it was with a certain wariness that I sat down to watch a new set of actors take on this iconic meeting of hearts and minds.  Very quickly I was dissatisfied with both the adaptation and my favourite characters' portrayal: Elizabeth was too silly, too romantic and much too dull; Darcy was vapid and uninteresting, looking constipated when he should look aloof; the adaptation had taken all of the comedy and none of the tragedy, making Pride and Prejudice a trite rom-com.  While that sounds like I didn't enjoy the play, I have to say now that I did in so many was just not good enough to match up to my own personal relationship with Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.

Because that is the issue here...Elizabeth was the first protagonist in a 'romantic' situation (because romance is, of course, a massive element of Austen's work) with whom I had ever identified.  She spoke when she should be silent, she argued when she should agree, she couldn't apply herself to learning new skills properly because she got distracted and moved on to other hobbies half-way through, she bore grudges and formed bad opinions on characters, she was strong, she had a checkered relationship with her sisters, she was caring and above all else, she was smart.  Elizabeth was a breath of fresh air in the tightly wound world Austen created - she showed that even when everything might seem against your being a strong and independent woman, a way could be found to give yourself a voice.  And Mr. Darcy was the only man who could possibly be good enough for Elizabeth, but only after he had proven himself to deserve her - his character needed help from her wit, her censure, her dislike and her love.  They were as equal a pairing as Austen could write, and nothing gave me greater hope than Darcy describing his perfect woman as one who sought to "improve her mind by extensive reading".  Elizabeth is, and always has been, far too much a personal companion for me to ever see her onstage with anything less than a perfect characterisation.

The changes to the novel in order to show it onstage were, I'm sure, necessary to accommodate the very different needs of the theatre over reading a novel.  However, there were certain things I didn't like - perhaps most particularly Elizabeth's pseudo-line to her father about Darcy; 'Indeed, he is not proud.  It is I who am proud of him'....something practical and honest Elizabeth would not have said.  Changing Darcy's discovering Eliza on her receiving news of Lydia's elopement to it being Bingley and Darcy both addressing Jane and Elizabeth was another great problem.  Jane and Bingley having the emotionally charged conversation about Lydia's fall from grace was totally unsuitable, as the undertones of the original conversation were always Eliza and Darcy's burgeoning love fighting the shame of being associated with Wickham.  An omission which I cannot understand was the entire scene at Pemberley...there was no Georgiana Darcy onstage, but still - such an important few days in the shift of Elizabeth and Darcy's feelings for each other, with him scrabbling to prove he has taken her criticisms onboard.  It felt very wrong not to include it, yet to focus so heavily on the comedy of Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Collins...those scenes extended for the gratification of an imaginary audience who just want laughs when they go to see Jane Austen onstage.

The ending, too, focused heavily on the romance, with an added-on scene that lacked the power the novel had to show a relationship that was not merely a meeting of hearts, but a meeting of minds and of outlook.  The book finished with comments on their marriage, showing Elizabeth's spirits were not dampened by entering the institution...indeed, one of my favourite final sections mentions how Elizabeth taught Georgiana that she didn't need to be so cowed by her brother and, by Elizabeth's behaviour to Darcy, "she began to comprehend that a woman may take liberties with her husband which a brother will not always allow in a sister more than ten years younger than himself."  Beautiful!  Elizabeth remains the strong woman she always had been - not, as the play would have it, solely delighted with the idea that Darcy loves her.  To reduce Elizabeth's search for companionship to a rom-com was, I'll admit, a bit depressing.  Darcy was left in the background an underdeveloped character, just trotted out to fulfill Elizabeth's romantic conquest, and Elizabeth herself was a simpering giggler.

It's hard to mention Pride and Prejudice without talking about the BBC adaptation - because, let's face it, it was practically perfect in every way.  And again, I think the reason for this is the choice of actors who played Elizabeth and Darcy - though the entire thing was excellently cast.  Here we were given our two strong and implacable unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, and we get to watch them both slowly give way to each other.  That was what was missing, essentially, in The Gate's production.  Without a strong, passionate and believable Elizabeth and Darcy, Pride and Prejudice will always be, ultimately, reduced to a banal romantic comedy.

A rare disappointment from The Gate, and one that is particularly galling to me because of Elizabeth and Darcy - two of the greatest and most beloved characters in fiction - and for the lack of social commentary that Austen's work overflowed with.  It also appears to me to be a particularly gendered disappointment - the audience of women were presumed to want funny characters and pure romance, instead of giving women the credit that they might actually wish to see Pride and Prejudice in all of its complicated glory.  To take the intelligence and cutting societal incisiveness from the novel takes away much of the heart, and most of the meaning.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Charlotte Church, 2013 John Peel Lecture

Presented (almost) without comment, the exceptional Charlotte Church’s 2013 John Peel lecture on women’s representation in the music industry…while I’m not sure I agree in terms of rating and censorship, I had read Annie Lennox’s input on her facebook page and did agree that it’s a vicious circle of performance versus expectation.  Basically, if the music industry continues to feed the public this type of performative femininity, the public will continue to demand it, and the artists will continue to be pushed by the music industry to deliver it.  The recent dominance of post-Feminism and ‘raunch culture’ continue to be relevant topics in this argument…and continue to allow the denigration of women to be dressed up in the suspenders and ‘tits-out’ of empowerment.

Transcript taken from Buzzfeed, so errors are quite possibly not Charlotte’s.
Thank you for coming to my lecture this evening.

I’d like you to imagine a world in which male musicians are routinely expected to act as submissive sex objects. Picture Beyonce’s husband, Jay Z, stripped down to a t-back bikini thong, sex kitten-ing his way through a boulevard of suited and booted women for their pleasure. Or Britney Spears’s ex, Justin Timberlake, in buttock-clenching, denim hot pants, riding on the bonnet of a pink chevy, explaining to his audience how he’d like to be their teenage dream.

Before we all become a little too hot beneath the gusset, of course, these scenarios are not likely to become a reality. Unless for comedy’s sake. The reason for this is that these are roles that the music industry has carved out specifically for women. It is a male dominated industry with a juvenile perspective on gender and sexuality.
From what I can see, there are three main roles women are allowed to fulfil in modern pop music, each of them restrictive for both artist and audience. They are mainly portrayed through the medium of the music video. You’ll find them very familiar. I call them: the “one-of-the-girls’-girls”; the “victim/torn singer”; and the “unattainable sexbot”.

The “one-of-the-girls’-girls” role is a painfully thin reduction of feminism that generally seems to point to a world where so long as you can hang out with girls, it’s possible to sort of waive the evils that men do. This denigrates men and women equally and yet is commonly lauded for being empowering.
The “victim/torn singer” can be divided into the sexy victim (i.e. Natalie Imbruglia in her Torn video) and the not-so-sexy victim.

One female artist who does not use her sexuality to sell records is Adele. However, lyrically her songs are, almost without exception, written from the perspective of the wronged woman, an archetype as old as time. Someone who has been let down by the men around her and is perpetually in a state of despair.

But to me, the “unattainable sexbot” is the most commonly employed and most damaging, a role that is also often claimed to be an empowering one. The irony behind this is that the women generally filling these roles are very young. They’re often previous child stars or Disney tweens who are simply interested in getting along in an industry glamourised to be the most desirable career for young women. They are encouraged to present themselves as hyper-sexualised, unrealistic, cartoonish objects, using female sexuality as a prize you can win.
When I was 19 or 20, I found myself in this position, being pressured into wearing more and more revealing outfits. And the lines I had spun at me again and again, generally by middle aged men, were: “You look great”; “You have a great body, why not show it off?” Or, “Don’t worry, it’ll look classy. It’ll look artistic.”

I felt deeply uncomfortable about the whole thing, but I was often reminded by record company executives just whose money was being spent. Whilst I can’t defer all blame away from myself, I was barely out of my teenage years and the consequence of this portrayal of me is that I am frequently abused on social media, being called “slut”, “whore”, and a catalogue of other indignities that I’m sure you’re also sadly very familiar with. Now I find it difficult to promote my music in the places where it would be best suited, because of my history.
The culture of demeaning women in pop music is so ingrained as to become routine. From the way we are dealt with by management and labels, to the way we are presented to the public. We can trace this back to Madonna, although it probably does go back further in time. She was a template setter. By changing her image regularly, putting her sexuality at the heart of her image, videos and live performances, the statement she was making was: “I’m in control of me and my sexuality.” This idea has had its corners rounded off over the years and has become: “Take your clothes off, show you’re an adult.”

Rihanna’s recent video for Pour it Up may have over 40 million hits on YouTube, but you only have to look at the online response to see that it is only a matter of time before the public turns on an artist for pushing it too far. But the single, like all of Rihanna’s other provocative hits, will make her male writers and producers and record label guys a ton of money. It is a multibillion dollar business that relies on short burst messaging to sell product. And there is no easier way to sell something than to get some chick to get her tits out, right?

When the male perspective is the dominant one, the end point is women being coerced into sexually demonstrative behaviour in order to hold onto their careers. This idea repeated over generations can’t but have a negative effect on women, whether they are in the industry or not.
I need not point out that these roles are interchangeable for artists and they are not prescriptive to all female musicians. For every chart topping star who fits neatly into one of these archetypes, there are 20 other artists who may not have the same earning potential but have carved out their own roles as human beings, not objects. One has only to look at Julia Holter, Haim or Poliça to see strong women, unrestricted in their art by their gender or sexuality.

Throughout the industry, wherever you find women, they are doing brilliant things. Trina Shoemaker is a three time Grammy award winning engineer. Mandy Parnell is a mastering engineer who has worked on some of the best received albums of the last 20 years. And Marie Allsopp this summer became the first ever female conductor of the last night of the Proms. She recently said, “There is no logical reason to stop women conducting. The baton isn’t heavy. It weighs about an ounce. No super human strength is required. Good musicianship is all that counts.”

As a society, we have a lack of comfort in seeing women in these authority roles. Out of 295 acts and artists in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 259 are entirely male, meaning that Tina Weymouth’s part in Talking Heads makes them one of the 36 female acts. The Association of Independent Music’s 2012 membership survey revealed that only 15% of label members are majority owned by women. PRS claims that only 13% of writers registered are female. The Music Producers’ Guild? Less than 4%.
Last year, I toured with an exceptionally talented sound engineer. And last week I launched a publishing company that unintentionally has all female staff. Honest, unintentional! But I am constantly disappointed to find out how few women are working in certain parts of the industry.

So, is it simply all down to sexism? Myths about women perpetuated by men? Nicki Minaj seems to think so. In what has now become known as her “pickle juice rant”, she talks about how she is derided for demanding a certain level of professionalism from the people she works with. She says: “When I am assertive, I’m a bitch. When a man is assertive, he’s a boss.” Minaj is one of the many top-flight female artists who use alter egos in their work. Her other personalities are often men who rap violently about women.
So, to what extent are these myths about women perpetuated by women themselves? In a very recent, very public, spat between the legendary Sinead O’Connor and the infamous Miley Cyrus, mother O’Connor wrote a concerned open letter directed at Miss Cyrus who herself responded by ridiculing O’Connor’s bipolar disorder on Twitter.

If women are going to become free agents of their gender’s destiny and music in a music world which is reliant upon shouting loudest over the clamour, it stands to reason that online pissing contests only serve to detract from the strong messages put forward by such artists as Janelle Monae and Erykah Badu. Their recent collaboration on Q.U.E.E.N. is an elegant and empassioned rally cry for what Monae identifies as, “everyone who has felt ostracised and marginalised”. And yet it is women that she addresses most specifically, ending with the line: “Electric ladies, will you sleep or will you preach?”
The recent flapping about Miley Cyrus’s blah blah blah has clearly struck a chord with people like O’Connor and opened up a worldwide debate on the use of female sexuality to sell product. Annie Lennox cut to the juggler when she talked about the age propriety of what she called “dark and pornographic” music videos. She has called for videos to be rated as films are, with extra ratings being applied to the most sexually explicit.

It is interesting to note that anyone of any age has been able to watch Christina Aguilera’s simulated masturbation in herDirrty video since the website began, yet you must sign into the site to prove your age if you wanted to watch Bjork’s stunning video for Pagan Poetry. Whilst I would argue that neither videos are acceptable viewing for young eyes, I know which one I would rather explain to my young child.

Whilst channels like YouTube and Vimeo have a responsibility for dealing with these issues, radios shouldn’t think they are beyond criticism. As Tony Hall, the BBC’s Director General, announces the new iPlayer channel for BBC1, the question must be asked: should programmers take into consideration the image of an artist when deciding whether to play and promote their music?
There are countless examples from the last few years of songs that have been in high rotation that have little to no artistic worth, but are just plain rude. I’ve been asked to give some examples, but I don’t want to give the Daily Mail an excuse to ignore the rest of this lecture.

BBC radio is notorious for misreading sexual metaphor and innuendo as innocent, most famously with Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side. But, more recently, there doesn’t seem to be decently barrier at all, unless you’re dealing with words like: “fuck”; or “shit”; or “hippopotamus cock”. If there is no sanction put upon music that is written so zealously about genitalia or uses soft porn in its promotion online, what will stop artists feeling that making their videos and live performances more sexy will undoubtedly drive up their online views and subsequently encourage more radio play?
And so, to Blurred Lines, which many in this room have no doubt added to their playlists. The Blurred Lines video, which had the biggest part in jettisoning a song by a mediocre artist into the biggest track of the year, was on YouTube for just over a week before it was taken down and remains on Vimeo without any age restrictions. The indefensible Robin Thicke stated in an interview with GQ that his intention was to do everything that is completely derogatory towards women because he respects them so much.

He continued saying, “People say, ‘Hey, do you think this is degrading to women?’ I’m like, ‘Of course it is. What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman.’”

It is highly disappointing to know that the director of this video is a woman, Diane Martel, who also directed Miley Cyrus’s twerking for the first time in the video, We Can’t Stop and is responsible for an objectionable little number by Leyla Label called, of all things, Lolita.

What is possibly more disappointing than this is the appearance of the exceptionally talented Pharrell Williams at 2013’s round table of chauvinism. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Cyrus quoted a message to her from Williams, who said of her VMAs blah blah blah, “The VMAs was nothing more than God and the universe showing how powerful anything you do is. It’s like uranium. It has the power to take over lives or power entire countries. Now that you have seen your power, master it. You are not a train wreck. You are the train pulling everyone else along.”

With this kind of encouragement it is no surprise whatsoever that young women feel it necessary to be more and more shocking in their bid to be the most forward looking.
Canadian electronic artist Grimes, whose third record Visions was met with universal acclaim says, “I don’t want to be infantalised because I refuse to be sexualised.”
To my mind, what this industry seems to want of its women increasingly is sex objects that appear childlike. Look at the teddy bears everywhere. The Britney Spears Rolling Stone cover with the Teletubby from 1999. I state again: Lolita.

The terrifying thing is, the target demographic for this type of music is getting younger and younger. Jennifer Lopez seemingly trying to engulf the camera with her vagina on Britain’s Got Talet earlier this year is a mild example of how frequently carnal images creep into the realm of what is deemed OK for kids.

But ultimately it does not need to be like this. Sex can be art. Look at Bjork’s The Patene, a highly sexual and sensual record by a woman entirely in charge of her career and sex. The same can be said about almost every Prince record, and should be. Both are artists, adults and human beings, intelligently addressing a human subject, not exclusively a male one.
I support Annie Lennox’s plea for ratings on videos.
If Rihanna had not grown up watching the videos of the ’90s, then it might not be quite so essential for her to portray her sexuality so luridly, so constantly and so influentially on the next generation. If the power was taken away from sex in pop by making it harder for younger viewers to access it, then maybe the focus would shift to making works of artistic beauty and conscience. And fundamentally that would actually be putting the power back in sex for a future world where women are able to portray their sexuality as it is for them.


Thursday, October 03, 2013

Sinead O'Connor - Open Letter to Miley Cyrus UPDATED

Sinéad might be a little off the wall by times, but even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day...

This is the letter, as published on Sinéad O'Connor's website yesterday, in response to Miley Cyrus citing Sinéad as something of a role-model (or certainly that the video for 'Nothing Compares 2 U' was an influence on her own video for 'Wrecking Ball') in a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine.  The website is currently down, but the good folk of the internet have preserved the letter for posterity - read it in full (and as typed) below.


"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 sh*t 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 sh*t 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 f*ck about you. All the more true when you unwittingly give the impression you don’t give much of a f*ck about yourself. And when you employ people who give the impression they don’t give much of a f*ck 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 pray for animals and less than animals (a distressing majority of whom work in the music industry and the 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 f*ck 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 motherf*cker who hasn’t expressed alarm, because they don’t care about you."


I certainly agree with Sinéad's premise - that the music industry truly does not care about young women in its employ...or the women who consume their products.  I have written about this previously in a speech on feminism back in 2007, which hasn't aged particularly well but some parts bear some repeating: "...a feminist should be [...] an agent of social change. We must change the culture of acceptance around sexism and discrimination"; and my big closer, "Mary Wollstonecraft said that she did not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves."

Miley would certainly do well to remember Mary Wollstonecraft, and to listen to some of Sinéad's words.


UPDATE:  Miley has responded, and Sinéad has fought back...this could get ugly!

Miley did not take any of Sinéad's well-meant, though probably unnecessary, advice, and has instead attacked Sinéad's mental health issues.  Bad move, Miley!  The tweet avalanche that Miley unleashed on Sinéad - from comparing her to Amanda Bynes (mockingly) to re-tweeting old tweets of Sinéad's in which she had a breakdown online, asking for help - is shown below.

Before Amanda Bynes.... There was....

Sinéad has responded as below (in three separate letters) - which I have to say, I do (at least partially) agree with.  Miley has shown herself to be absolutely her age, with all of its foolishness, without the maturity that I had thought I had glimpsed in her candid Rolling Stone interview, where she discussed the double standard under which women in the music industry operate in terms of sexual expression.  In this world where online communication seems to be the mode of address, can we blame Sinéad for her initial open letter?  Miley had cited Sinéad as an influence, hence she had brought Sinéad into the conversation - Sinéad had every right to respond.  And was her letter really that bad?  I know that slut-shaming is an argument brought up in regards to Sinéad's words, and certainly I don't completely agree with everything she had said, but I think her bottom line is that the music industry does not care about you, and wants you to do as much as possible to get on the front page of every paper...without caring about your mental well-being.  Miley would do well to listen to someone who she has admired, and who has had her own struggles with mental health, and who has certainly had her fair share of dealings with the industry herself.

Sinéad's first response is understandably vitriolic, and I doubt very much whether this is the end of the conversation between Sinéad and Miley.  But in this instance, I think I'm planting myself in the 'Team Sinéad' corner.  Perhaps it's national pride, or perhaps it's just that I grew up listening to Sinéad's haunting tones, or even that Sinéad's head-shaving had a huge influence on my idea of femininity and how you can separate it from the presented ideal, or her openness in dealing with mental health issues...or perhaps it's just that, in this instance, I believe that Miley's response was absolutely wrong.


Miley… Really? Who the fuck is advising you? Because taking me on is even more fuckin’ stupid than behaving like a prostitute and calling it feminism. You have posted today tweets of mine which are two years old, which were posted by me when I was unwell and seeking help so as to make them look like they are recent. In doing so you mock myself and Amanda Bynes for having suffered with mental health issues and for having sought help.

I mean really really… who advises you? have you any idea how stupid and dangerous it is to mock people for suffering illness? You will yourself one day suffer such illness, that is without doubt. The course you have set yourself upon can only end in that, trust me.

I am staggered that any 20 yr old woman of the 21st century could behave in such a dangerous and irresponsible manner as to not only send the signal to young women that its ok to act like prostitutes but also to the signal that those who have suffered or do suffer mental health problems are to be mocked and have their opinions invalidated. Have you no sense of danger at all? or responsibility? Remove your tweets immediately or you will hear from my lawyers. I am certain you will be hearing from all manner of mental health advocacy groups also. It is not acceptable to mock any person for having suffered.
It is most unbecoming of you to respond in such a fashion to someone who expressed care for you. And worse that you are such an anti-female tool of the anti-female music industry. I hope that you will apologise to Amanda Bynes and to any person who has been wounded by your mockery of those who have suffered. And I hope that you will wake up and understand that you in fact are a danger to women.

Furthermore you posted a photo of me tearing the pope’s photo .. as if to imply insanity.. by doing so all you have achieved is to expose your staggering ignorance. I suggest you read The Philadelphia Report, The Boston Report, all the reports which will illuminate for you why that action of mine remains sane and valid. By mocking it you mock every child who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of priests and had it covered by the Vatican. You could really do with educating yourself, that is if you’re not too busy getting your tits out to read.


I have no interest whatsoever in meeting you. You had plenty of time yesterday to abuse Amanda Bynes .. an entirely innocent party.. and myself.. who also did nothing to deserve your abuse.. along with every other sufferer of mental health problems and every person who suffered abuse at the hands of priests.
You can take five minutes today between g- string fuckin' changes to publicly apologise and remove your abusive tweets. If you do not then you don't give a shit who you mock and what damage you do by being so ignorant.

When you publicly apologise to Amanda and myself and all mental health sufferers as well as all who were abused by priests that will end the matter as far as I am concerned.
What you did yesterday was designed to damage me and my career and has caused me enormous distress and harrassment and has potential to damage my career. If you do not apologise I will have no choice but to bring legal proceedings against you.

I have no interest in or desire to cause you trouble but if you do not apologise for having deliberately tried to cause me hurt and trouble personally and professionally I will have to bring pressure upon you.
When you end up in the psych ward or rehab I'll be happy to visit you.. and would not lower myself to mock you.

Be a proper woman and make the public apologies I have listed above. Your hosting SNL is a bullshit reason for not taking five minutes to do the right thing and your behaviour yesterday will rebound upon you very badly.

You have no business abusing Amanda Bynes or anyone else. How do you think you made her feel yesterday? How do you feel when your friend Britney Spears is mocked and humiliated for having had mental health problems? I know I personally want to bash those who treat her that way. If she is your friend and more importantly if you are a true friend to her.. you ought apologise for joining those who mock and humiliate women who have been too nice frankly, to manage the music business without sensibly losing their minds.

Cease behaving in an anti-female capacity. You will become the victim of it shortly. Soon it will be you the media 'crazy' .. and you will not enjoy it.. and you will appreciate people (like myself) standing up for you. Which I will be happy to do.. if you earn my respect today by apologising publicly.

Ms Cyrus has today posted tweets of mine which are two years old and which were sent when I was ill and seeking medical help. She has done this in an attempt to deliberately cause me harm and hurt. I wish to confirm that I am quite well and kindly request people cease e mailing me in the mistaken belief these are recent tweets.

Ms Cyrus' lawyers will be contacted by mine regarding this matter.

I confirm also that I do not at all support or condone the abuse or mockery of those who have been brave enough to openly discuss mental health issues. Mockery causes deaths. Period. It is an unacceptable form of bullying, no matter who it is doing the bullying.


I think her 'tits' sign-off could do with work, as I don't believe attacking Miley's choices was the point of the initial missive, but I can certainly understand her anger.  This will play and play, and will be cited as still further proof that women don't support women.  I'm sorry that it has descended into name-calling and anger, but the initial thought did seem to be one of support and help - it's just that Miley didn't accept it as that.  Sinéad has every right to respond to Miley's anger, and I most definitely support the idea that mocking mental health issues damages everyone.  Your move, Miley.