#ThrowbackThursday: Jennifer Garner in ‘Elektra,’ 2005

Jennifer Garner in 'Elektra,' 2005 (Ouch Press)

Jennifer Garner in ‘Elektra,’ 2005 (Ouch Press)

Full disclosure: I haven’t seen the 2005 movie “Elektra,” but per IMDB, here’s the synopsis:

Elektra the warrior survives a near-death experience, becomes an assassin-for-hire, and tries to protect her two latest targets, a single father and his young daughter, from a group of supernatural assassins.

The movie, starring Jennifer Garner in the title role, was spun off from 2003’s “Daredevil”  (which starred Garner’s eventual ex-husband Ben Affleck). “Elektra” didn’t do well at the box office: It only grossed $56M+ worldwide on a budget of $43M+.

“Elektra” would ordinarily be a footnote in the history of superhero movies, except for one thing: It’s the most recent movie starring a female superhero.

Until “Wonder Woman.”

 

Trends: Slaying While Pregnant

 

Beyonce's performance at the 2017 Grammy Awards (The Fader)

Beyonce’s performance at the 2017 Grammy Awards (The Fader)

It seems like almost every female celebrity is pregnant right now (and that almost all of them are pregnant with twins). But instead of lying low and taking it easy during their pregnancies, many of these women are stepping it up, and making pregnant and non-pregnant women alike look like slackers.

First case in point: Beyonce. Leave it to Queen Bey to put us all to shame. The superstar performed a set during this year’s Grammy Awards. One portion featured her leaning back in a chair perched at a very precarious angle. (I don’t know about you, but my heart was in my throat for that whole portion. And I audibly exhaled when she got off that chair.)

Beyonce had also been scheduled to perform at Coachella before withdrawing. But we can’t fault her for that, considering she’s done more while pregnant than many people do in their lives.

Serena Williams is widely acknowledged to be the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) tennis player in the world. Last month, she announced her pregnancy. When she announced the news, Williams was 20 weeks along. Someone very smart (and awesome) did the math and realized that Williams had recently played in a match while pregnant. And, as Laura Wagner at “Deadspin” put it, this wasn’t just any match:

Serena Williams won the 2017 Australian Open, her record-breaking 23rd major, without dropping a single set, while nine fucking weeks pregnant. She is the greatest of all time.

Elsewhere in entertainment, Gal Gadot has been preparing for her upcoming movie “Wonder Woman.” Last November, she shot reshoots for the movie…while also five months pregnant. And she was probably doing more than a few stunts. NBD.

It’s great that we’re seeing so many women dominate during a time in life when women traditionally have been relegated to the sidelines.

NPR Releases 2016 Staff Diversity Numbers

National Public Radio (NPR) Logo (NPR)

National Public Radio (NPR) Logo (NPR)

In April, National Public Radio (known colloquially as NPR) released its staff diversity data for 2016. Here were the main findings for that year:

According to NPR’s human resources department, of the 350 employees in the news division as of Oct. 31, 2016, 75.4 percent were white. Asians made up 8.3 percent of the staff, followed by blacks or African-Americans (8.0 percent), Hispanics or Latinos (5.4 percent), those who identified as two or more races or ethnic identities (2.6 percent) and American Indian (0.3 percent).

NPR has been tracking this data since 2012, and it’s interesting to see how the numbers fare on a long-term basis. Spoiler alert: they pretty much flatlined. This falls in line with long-term newsroom diversity trends. Per the American Society of News Editors (ASNE): “In 2016, minorities comprised about 17 percent of employees at daily newspapers and 23 percent at online-only sites.” Pretty bad.

Here’s where NPR falls in comparison to other media:

NPR is behind The Washington Post (31 percent diverse) and The Los Angeles Times (34 percent). At 25 percent diverse, NPR is just above The New York Times newsroom, which is about 22 percent diverse.

Newsroom diversity has become part of a larger conversation regarding workplace, and companies publicly releasing they diversity data. But some newsrooms are refusing to disclose their data. The ASNE reported that 737 newsrooms responded with data for the 2016 survey. That’s out of 1.7K+ newsrooms contacted, making a 42%+ response rate.

 

Trends: Genderless Awards Categories

MTV Movie & TV Awards nominees Daniel Kaluuya, Millie Bobby Brown, and Emma Watson (Entertainment Weekly)

MTV Movie & TV Awards nominees Daniel Kaluuya, Millie Bobby Brown, and Emma Watson (Entertainment Weekly)

Last month, MTV announced that its MTV Movie Awards would be no more. Instead, the show would now involve awards for TV, and be called the MTV Movie & TV Awards. But that wasn’t the only new thing the cable network had in store for its new awards show: Certain major categories will be gender neutral.

This new gender neutrality spans the acting categories: Best Actor in a Movie (which includes Emma Watson from “Beauty and the Beast” and Daniel Kaluuya from “Get Out”) and Best Actor in a TV Show (which includes Donald Glover from “Atlanta” and Millie Bobby Brown from “Stranger Things”). Of course, some categories have always been gender-neutral, inkling Best Kiss, Best Villian and Best Hero.

There’s clearly a sea change happening, as mainstream culture has gotten hip and woke to the nuances of gender identity. And the young generation isn’t averse to asking for what they want, particularly in terms of representation. Actor Asia Kate Dillion, known for their role on Showtime’s “Billions” as a non-binary character (and TV’s first one at that!), wrote to the Television Academy and asked them to reconsider their binary male and female categories. This was a big ask: the Television Academy governs the Emmy Awards. The Television Academy was very receptive to Dillon’s letter, and Dillon decided to submit themselves under Best Supporting Actor

If the Emmys were to do away with gendered categories, the award show would be getting back to its roots. The Emmys enacted separate categories for male and female performers in 1951, its third year.

I hope this new gender consciousness grows until it becomes so commonplace we no longer need to remark on it.

Trends: Muslim Firsts in Popular Culture

Halima Aden covering 'CR Fashion Book' (CR Fashion Book)

Halima Aden covering ‘CR Fashion Book’ (CR Fashion Book)

Recently, Muslims in the U.S. have gained prominence in a series of firsts in mainstream culture.

Last year, Halima Aden competed in the Miss Minnesota beauty pageant. Aden wears hijab, and wore a burkini during the swimsuit portion of the event. Though she didm’t win the title, people took notice of her, especially the fashion industry. IMG Models recently signed Aden, who’s now their first hijabi model. (It’s important to note that while Aden is the first hijabi model for the company, she is not their first Muslim model.) Aden recently appeared on the cover of CR Fashionbook, where the headline cemented her one-name-only status (similar to that of Iman, who interviewed Aden for the issue).

Earlier this week, actor Mahershala Ali won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his work in “Moonlight.” This wasn’t a surprise: Ali had been winning awards at all of the awards running up the Oscars. But Ali is the first Muslim actor to win an Academy Award. He spoke about converting to Islam in his acceptance speech for male actor in a supporting role at this year’s SAG Awards, where he warned against letting the minutia of differences overtake the similarities.

Hopefully this exposure normalizes Muslims for people who may not have met one in person. I hope this is just the start of more prominent Muslims in pop culture to come.

#ThrowbackThursday: Halima Aden’s Burkini, 2016

Halima Aden's burkini in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, 2016 (WFDD).jpg

Halima Aden’s burkini in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, 2016 (WFDD).jpg

In November 2016, Halima Aden competed in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant. Naturally, the pageant had the typical swimsuit portion. While other contestants strutted out in colorful bikinis, Aden went in a different direction. The Somalian model chose to put her Muslim faith front and center. She wears hijab, and wore a burkini for the swimsuit portion of the event.

Aden is the first woman to compete in hijab and burkini. Though she didn’t take home the title, Aden’s sartorial choice and adherence to her values made headlines.

Viola Davis Makes Record with Oscar Win

Viola Davis Oscar win, 2017 (TV Insider)

Viola Davis Oscar win, 2017 (TV Insider)

Viola Davis (a.k.a QUEEN VIOLA) won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in “Fences.” (She also gave an excellent acceptance speech.) This wasn’t remotely a surprise, as she was CLEANING UP during awards season. This win has now ushered Davis into an upper echelon of artists that many people don’t achieve.

When she was nominated for the award, Davis started making history right out of the gate.   She became the first Black actor or actress to receive three Oscar nominations. (Her two previous nominations were for “Doubt” in 2008, and “The Help” in 2011.) This year’s Best Supporting Actress nominations was the first time three Black women were nominated, and the second time three non-white women were nominated.

With her win, Davis has hit other records. She’s now the 23rd person to win what’s called the triple crown of acting: a Tony, an Emmy, and a “competitive” (a.k.a. non-honorary) Oscar. Davis is also the first Black actor to achieve this feat, winning Tony for “King Hedley II” in 2001, and “Fences” in 2010, and an Emmy for “How to Get Away with Murder” in 2015.

This club is a rare one indeed. Davis is the first actress of her generation to achieve this honor. She even beat perennial-nominee-for-everything Meryl Streep to the punch.

Davis also has three out of the four awards required for an EGOT “grand slam:” Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony (though one could argue that Davis herself brings the G). The Grammys don’t honor acting, so the EGOT is more about versatility in the entertainment industry.