Media and Culture

Amy Schumer: A Funny, F**kable Feminist

I have to admit something. It’s something that’s weighed heavy on me in recent weeks. Okay, here it goes…I’m late to the Amy Schumer train. Yes, I’ve been aware of who she is since her Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer has been on the air and I had seen the occasional clip of popular sketches/bits that made the rounds on the Internet. It was the great “A Very Realistic Military Game” that really caught my attention from last year’s season two, in which Amy’s female avatar in a military-set video game gets sexually assaulted and must go through piles of paperwork just to be told from her boyfriend that she must have done something wrong. It is poignant on so many levels. That sketch set something off in me, that I needed to make time to go back and binge all of her episodes before last month’s season three premiere. For every bit that is extraneous, albeit funny (such as Cat Park), there are two sketches so on-the-nose about social/gender issues, which is where she (and her team of writers) really excel. Whether she intended it or not, Amy Schumer is the feminist icon we so desperately need(ed) – not that there are not feminist icons in the world (there are countless important women doing good work in many different sectors of our lives). But when it comes to someone in pop culture that can have a lot of sway and influence, Amy Schumer’s edge is that she’s so accessible. She’s simultaneously smart, funny, and easy-going and has mass appeal for a younger generation that could use such a relatable voice. She’s hilarious, shocking, but most importantly in-tune with what’s trending online and what issues need to be discussed, especially those that are important to young people.

So far, season three’s first two episodes have not disappointed. The premiere in particular was magical and feminist in every way. From the instant classics “Football Town Nights” (about the rape culture epidemic in sports/schools – and an A+ impression of Tami Taylor) and “Last F**kable Day” (three prominent ladies of Hollywood criticizing the misogyny of the entertainment industry) to possibly the biggest jab at Congress in the sketch where Amy struggles to get a prescription for birth control (with a not-so-subtle but fantastic rip at gun control), Inside Amy Schumer packs a lot of punch towards the right targets. Plus, she’s really funny with every swing. Here’s hoping that her show will do more than just make us laugh – but also make us think and cause some good change in this world.

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The Boys Club

When the Oscar nominations were released last week, there was much discussion and attention to the glaring lack of diversity among the nominees, specifically in the acting categories. While a more diverse body of actors and creators is certainly needed, and ultimately reflects the lack of diversity in the entertainment industry overall, there was little attention given to the fact that none of the Best Picture nominees are about women or the lives of women. I have yet to see American Sniper, Selma, or The Imitation Game, but as far as I can tell from the marketing these three films revolve around men. Sienna Miller stars alongside Bradley Cooper in Sniper, but again, it’s a focus on him, the sniper (it’s in the friggin’ title…same with Birdman…and Boyhood). Keira Knightley was nominated for The Imitation Game, but in the Best Supporting Actress category. The only minor exception to this is Felicity Jones’ Best Actress nomination for The Theory of Everything. As great as she is here, and plays a complex woman with her own struggles (but strength too), the film is ultimately a story about Stephen Hawking. The film does, however, give more equal weight to both characters and how their relationship builds and adapts to the situation at hand. According to the Bechdel Test, four of the eight movies pass, but narrowly, so clearly we have a situation going on here.

So, what does this mean for the current state of film? I’m not sure, because there were films last year that managed to showcase females. Obvious Child comes to mind. “Controversial” subject matter aside, it was a much more modest film in budget and release, but an honest and hilarious story about a young woman, and a great female friendship to boot. On the other end of the spectrum, you have one of the biggest box office hits in The Hunger Games. Both of these films were critically well received, so what gives, Academy? Perhaps this is due to the fact that the Academy is mostly made up of men. Or maybe it digs deeper at the limited amount of women who are able to get their projects made. Either way, there’s still plenty of progress to be made for women to have more of a presence in the shape of multi-dimensional and authentic women.