Girls on Film

In the September issue of Red Magazine, the talented Kirsten Dunst is featured. To accompany her interview, the magazine has included snippets from people- writers, directors, designers- with whom the actress has worked. One such quote is from Hossein Amini, the writer and director of ‘The Two Faces of January’, in which Dunst starred. He praises her role in the film, noting her character Collette could have easily remained ‘flimsy wife material’, but she made the protagonist ‘more three- dimensional’.

Dunst in 'The Two Faces of January'

Mortensen and Dunst  in ‘The Two Faces of January

To me, this appraisal is problematic. Amini wrote ‘The Two Face of January’- it was completely within his power and I’m sure talents, to create a complex, multifaceted character. And yet,whilst recognising that his portrayal of Collette was ‘flimsy’, Amini did nothing to create more depth for the character. Instead, the role remained as so many female roles do, the perennial victim, the girlfriend character who merely serves as the beautiful partner for the male protagonist. Amani’s other characters within the film, played by Viggo Mortensen and Oscar Isaac, have drive and determination, they have a purpose outside of their relationship with another character, a trait not gifted to Collette. Similarly, in a review for Simon Pegg and Rosamund Pike’s new film ‘Hector and the Search for Happiness’, Pegg’s character is described at length- his likes, his dislikes, his career, his secret passions The latter is given only one line: ‘Pike plays his girlfriend’.

According to the New York Film Academy, only 30.8 per cent of speaking characters in the top 200 films between 2007 and 2012 were women, and only 10.7 per cent of films featured a balanced cast of both genders. It seems madness that in a time where over half of all tickets sold for film screenings in the US were to women, that we don’t have the opportunity to see ourselves being fairly depicted onscreen. I regularly watch a film or TV programme where I cringe at the shallow depiction of the female characters. The hilarious and talented Mindy Kaling talks about this in her wonderful book ‘Is Everyone Hanging

Don't read this in public unless you don't mind snorting hysterically on the tube

Don’t read this in public unless you don’t mind snorting hysterically on the tube

Out Without Me?’ (Which you are seriously missing out on if you haven’t already read, by the way) She talks about the types of women who reside in the film world who don’t exist in real life. These include The Klutz, The Woman Who Is Obsessed With Her Career And Is No Fun At All, The Forty-Two Year Old Mother Of The Thirty Year Old Male Lead and The Skinny Woman Who is Beautiful and Toned But Also Gluttonous and Disgusting. I would like to add to these any woman who appears in a Judd Apatow film. Look, I love an Apatow film as much as the next girl (any film with copious amounts of Paul Rudd in is always good with me), but in his films there are only two types of women, both as stereotypical as each other. We have the nagging wife (weirdly, usually played by Apatow’s actual wife) and the slutty young woman (think Megan Fox in This is 40). Interestingly, in the same NYFA survey, 26.2 per cent of women get partially naked in films compared with 9.4 per cent of men. Perhaps this skewed depiction of women, naked and ready to titillate men, has something to do with 95 per cent of women experiencing some form of street harassment while going about their everyday lives (according to stopthestreetharassment.com).

I recently went on a date with seemingly normal, nice guy. But almost as soon as I greeted him I faced a series of sexist ‘jokes’ about the many things women can’t do. Now I love comedy, and I love to laugh, but to me, this just wasn’t that funny, or true. When I objected, his response was that he had just been watching ‘Anger Management’, and Sheen’s humour must have rubbed off on him.  And suddenly I wasn’t so surprised. In my opinion, the female characters in ‘Anger Management’ are grossly stereotyped and flimsily written (perhaps with the exclusion of Smith), and seemingly, all of them can’t wait to jump into bed with Sheen, no matter what crudeness he throws at them. As website ‘The A.V. club’ notes, the female roles seem to exist only in the group mind of a sitcom writers’ room- they’re written like a man. If someone watches a lot of this type of humour, is it any wonder if they repeat it, expecting the same response the women on the show give to Sheen?

The talented cast of Orange is the New Black

The talented cast of Orange is the New Black

There are so many different types of women in the world, those who are funny, clever, independent, resourceful, hardworking and kind. I have never met any woman who is simply a nag or a slut. I would love to see women that I recognise on the big screen, a woman who is allowed to have complexity and depth. A woman who yes, may be vulnerable, but can also stand up for herself, and who doesn’t always need a man. The demand is there, as proven by the popularity of shows like ‘Orange is the New Black’, a fantastic, female heavy programme, where the characters are interesting, multi-faceted and witty.  I hope that with the rise of incredible talents like Lena Dunham and the aforementioned Mindy Kaling, the depiction of women will become more honest and well rounded. Because who better to write about women than a woman?

 

 

 

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The Art of Lying

‘I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’. This phrase has become ubiquitous within any TV show where a courtroom scene is featured. It’s so familiar to us now that its significance can often be overlooked, yet at its heart lies the promise to speak with integrity. But in an age when 60 per cent of us can’t go ten minutes without lying, whether that’s a white lie or gargantuan fib, do we ever tell the whole truth? And should we?

I’ve just spent the last few weeks doing jury duty- oh the joys of being a grownup (according to the electoral register!) The whole experience fascinated me- just how many ways could one detail be analysed, how talented the lawyers really needed to be (and so many women- hooray!), how many times the judge could itch his wig before he realised that we were all staring… But the most captivating element of my time in court? How at ease many of the people- witnesses, defendants and barristers alike- seemed to be with lying. Despite taking an oath to speak honestly and with candour, once some of the questioned got going, there seemed to be no end to the lies coming out of their mouths. What was said, who was there, why their DNA was found at the scene… It seemed everybody within that courtroom had an agenda, and weren’t afraid to use any means, including lying, to reach it.

In his defense, the wig does look really itchy

In his defense, the wig does look really itchy

Lying in court is perjury, a serious offense with the punishment of up to five years in prison. But what about those smaller lies we all tell- can they ever be acquitted? We fib to spare others’ feelings- ‘No of course you don’t look fat in that’, ‘I really am washing my hair tonight’- the list is endless. And in the same vein, we lie to make ourselves feel better; saying, ‘No, I chose to leave that job, I was unfulfilled there’ is easier than admitting you were made redundant, when the fact is still very raw. To me, neither are particularly wrong, but there are three golden rules when it comes to those little white lies:

  1. When it comes to clothes, if the person hasn’t bought the item yet, let the truth train roll in- they deserve your honesty about those jeans. But the second the denim hits the bottom of the shopping bag, keep your lips zipped. They clearly loved the trousers enough to buy them, so let them enjoy their purchase in peace.
  2. If you are once more putting off meeting someone with a little falsehood, ask yourself why. Is it that you genuinely don’t want to see that person? In which case, keep the lies flowing- the truth is far too cutting. But if the reality is that you just need a night in with Netflix, tell them. Even party queen Kate Moss has the occasional night off.
  3. Presents, the unequivocal landmine of the white lie. I go with the rule of familiarity. If the gift giver is anyone but a parent or partner, lie, lie, lie! The mere act of giving a present is thoughtful enough and it would be boorish to say anything but an effusive thank you. However, if you know the person well enough that they have once, or are currently, seeing you naked, if you really, truly hate the present, you can tactfully say something. After all, if they go on to believe you have a real affection for Garfield soft toys, you could be facing many years of feline related gifts.

    It's ok to stay in with a little Orange is the New Black every now and again

    It’s ok to stay in with a little Orange is the New Black every now and again

To me, the most important time we should never, ever tell a lie is to ourselves. We know that dress won’t ever fit again, so don’t pretend to yourself you’ll one day slim into it again- throw it out and buy a far nicer replacement! When were lace and sequins together ever a good idea anyway? And if you’re unhappy with a situation, don’t lie to yourself and pretend you’re happy to be treated that way. Admitting to yourself that something sucks is the first step to being considered in a way you deserve. Don’t be one of the 60 per cent, tell the truth whenever you can- even if it’s only in the mirror.

 

Ladies in red

Marilyn, Clara Bow, Rita. These beauties, spanning the generations, prove that red lips are iconic, stunning and timeless. The act of painting our mouths a different colour has been popular since as early as 3500 BC, when lip lacquers contained a number of harmful ingredients, which subsequently led to many premature deaths. Now less deadly, but still powerfully intoxicating, red lipstick is a grown-up’s game. Because while pink lips might signify fun, and orange may be the colour of the summer, our old friend red makes a girl feel like a woman. Slick on a bit of scarlet and you’ll see. A simple white shirt, teamed with a flash of crimson becomes an outfit; a LBD plus RED is a statement. You feel your head held that little bit higher, you walk into a room with a sense of purpose and control our bare-lipped friends just don’t possess. Because, to me, red means confidence. And we all want to feel that, don’t we?

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Red lips are the buzzword to polished beauty, but that’s the wonderful thing about them. You can be feeling run down and spotty, but with a slick of colour on your face, your (imagined) flaws are no longer visible. You instantly look refined; your messy up do, an elegant chignon. If you only have five minutes to get ready, with a touch of red on your lips, no one will be any the wiser.

IImage haven’t found a better red lipstick for me than Daniel Sandler’s Red Micro Bubble. The bubbled spheres on the column continuously release moisture, meaning we can kiss chapped, dry lips goodbye forever. I tend to wear a lip balm underneath to allow for an easier glide on, but the amazing natural ingredients, which include aloe, rose hip and safflower oils, means application and removal is simpler than ever.
The reddish blue works perfectly for those of us with pale skin and blonde hair- if you’re lucky enough to have a tan, or luscious brunette locks, try red with a hint of yellow or orange. But Marilyn, Clara and Dita classic red, luckily, works on us all, so get pouting ladies, I think it’s time to paint the town red!

 

 

Every Friday afternoon, my mum used to drag me to the supermarket. I’d traipse around the aisles, moaning that I was tired, hungry, bored. I’d scowl as she carefully chose our food for the week, bemoaning the time I could be spending in front of the after- school cartoons. I put up with this weekly trudge around Waitrose for the treat that awaited me at the newsstands. In return for my compliance, I would get my eager hands on the latest issue of ‘Girl Talk’, a children’s magazine packed with all the celebrity stories, games and quizzes my eight year old self could dream of. As long as I can remember, I’ve adored magazines. The glossy images conjuring up faraway, magical lands I longed to visit; the lithe, toned limbs of the Amazonian models gleaming from the silken pages.candice

Yet it comes as little surprise that according to a recent YMCA poll, 35 per cent of us compare ourselves unfavourably with the women we see in magazines. Magazines, my longstanding haven of escapism, it seems, do not always promote a healthy body image. One only needs to flick through the latest offering of magazines to witness this. Pages of shockingly beautiful, and yet so often, painfully thin women stand before me. These gorgeous giraffes, so seemingly attractive sans any help from a computer, are airbrushed beyond recognition. In an academic paper on the topic, researchers Dittmar and Howard have commented on the phenomenon, stating that ‘Ultra-thin models are so prominent that exposure to them becomes unavoidable and ‘chronic’, constantly reinforcing a discrepancy for most women and girls between their actual size and the ideal body’.

This constant comparison between ourselves, with that extra flab we imagine we are carrying, and the flawless creatures we see before us so regularly, is arguably one of the influences behind 90 per cent of young women having attempted to control their weight through dieting. There is nothing wrong with healthy eating; indeed, there is a lot to be said for it. However, when dieting becomes obsessional, when food becomes the enemy and your bathroom scales rule your life, it’s clear more balance is needed. And one could argue that the narrow representation of body types within magazines has a significant role to play in this. To illustrate, psychologist Marika Tiggermann notes that frequent magazine reading consistently correlated with higher levels of body dissatisfaction and disturbed eating, as the images of tall, thin women regularly shown in the media as the norm has the cumulative effect over time that many women adopt this unrealistic standard of beauty as reality. Studies have even shown that those who are less aware of the arguably damaging effects of magazines, and other forms of media, are at more of a danger of internalising this thin ideal.

With this in mind, it therefore seems more imperative than ever to represent a healthy body image within magazines. I’m not suggesting that every Thomasina, Rickie and Harriet who can be found chilling on your nearest street corner are featured. I get it- fashion is about escapism, and many clothes do just look better on a thinner frame (my curvier body when going shopping is a constant reminder of this…) I am merely suggesting that magazines should reflect more than one, arguably unrealistic, body type.

Curvy Kate

Curvy Kate

Do Dolce and Gabbana’s form fitting clothes not prove that fashion can work for more than one type of figure? And doesn’t the heady rise of the bodacious Kate Upton show that the public are after something different? Already, changes have been made. Eden Miller, the first plus- size collection to show at New York fashion week, indicates that curves are breaking into the mainstream industry. And Vogue, that mecca of all things cool, have banned models who ‘appear to have an eating disorder’. And where Vogue goes, others will follow.

But my childhood mecca, Girl Talk, has taken an even moregirl talk important stance had its say, and reminded me once more why it was this magazine that initiated me into the world of print. Shocked by the scary statistic that 87 per cent of girls think they are judged more on their looks than their abilities, the magazine has pledged to make some serious editorial changes, moving away from celebrity-centric content to offer a range of role models and teach girls to critique the media, championing positive body image and female empowerment. With this, we can hope that our future generations will scoff at our current fixation of the idea of the ‘perfect’ body, and be surprised that the idea that women should only be represented in the media in one very specific way should even be a debate. With this, with Girl Talk, I hope that girls everywhere can flick through the pages of my beloved magazines and feel included once more.

(Don’t) Pour Some Sugar On Me

As a child, I was terrified of Roald Dahl’s formidable creation, Miss Trunchball. The thought of being locked in her ‘chokey’ haunted me and I wouldn’t wear my hair in two plaits for months after reading about Amanda Thripp’s unfortunate experience. The only punishment which never seemed too onerous to me was Bruce Bogtrotter’s chocolate cake. Yes, the dessert was huge, and I agree, the chef didn’t seem too savoury, but a whole chocolate cake, all to myself, complete with chocolate icing? To me, that seemed like a glorious treat, instead of the humiliating task it was intended to be.  

Put simply, I love desserts. Anything sweet, sugary and potentially a little bit naughty and I will devour it. I’m almost salivating at the thought. I thought I was aware of the problems that come with having a sweet tooth- cavities and an expanding waistband come to mind- but much to my despair, recent reports have revealed that sugar, my beloved Achilles’ heel, is even worse for us that previously believed, as, according to scientists, sugar is more addictive than cocaine.

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                  Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

French researchers have found that in animal trials, rats chose sugar over the class A drug, even when they were addicted to the latter. They noted that the intense stimulation of our sweet receptors, thanks to a sugar-rich diet, generates a reward signal in the brain with the potential to override self-control mechanism, thus leading to addiction. In layman’s terms, thanks to the multitude of processed foods and sugary drinks we consume, our bodies have become hooked on sugar. Indeed, the No Sugar Movement are so worried about the effects of the white stuff that they name sugar as the ‘greatest risk to human health bar none’.

So why is sugar so bad for us? Firstly, instead of filling us up as food should, foods with high levels of sugar trick our brains into thinking we want more, so we overeat. And while an extra slice of cake isn’t a disaster, surplus sugar doesn’t convert into energy in the way nutrients should. Instead, leading scientist Robert Lustig explains that our bodies ‘turn excess fructose into liver fat.That starts a cascade of insulin resistance (insulin promotes sugar uptake from blood) which leads to chronic metabolic disease, including diabetes and heart disease.”

So we have score one for diseases. What else does that pesky sugar cause? Well, obesity for one. Defra statistics show that, despite consuming on average 28 per cent fewer calories now than in 1964, obesity rates continue to rise. This may in part be due to the extreme quantities of sugar we are consuming- around 238 teaspoonful’s a week. We would never have guzzled that much sugar in the 60s, mainly due to our very modern love of anything marked ‘low fat’. According to insiders, low fat foods greatly rely on vast quantities of sugar to stop it from being tasteless. This means our calorie intake may be lower than 50 years ago but our fructoselevels are skyrocketing, and as a result, so are our waistbands.Image

We all know the feeling; you munch on a chocolate bar and your energy soars, you feel can do anything and everything, only to feel a sudden, lethargic dip moments later. That mood roller-coaster is one of the reasons Gwyneth Paltrow, in a blog entry on her website Goop, gives for quitting sugar: ‘Sugar gives you an initial high, then you crash, then you crave more, so you consume more sugar. It’s this series of highs and lows that provoke unnecessary stress on your adrenals. You get anxious, moody (sugar is a mood-altering drug) and eventually you feel exhausted.’

But what can we, a sugar addicted society, do about it? Most leading scientist advocate cutting sugar almost entirely from our diets. But I love the taste of sweet things, indeed, most of us do. Ironically, we’re biologically programmed to like sweets—our tongues and brains know that no food on the planet is both sweet and poisonous. It was a test for our hunting-and-gathering ancestors: If a food is sweet, it won’t kill you. Except now, it may do.

Instead of accepting defeat and tolerating a pudding free life, I have been experimenting with healthy desserts to replace our normal sugary treats. My latest investigation has been a ‘Chocolate Covered Katie’ recipe, a wonderful blog dedicated to the healthy dessert cause. This particular fancy is cookie dough baked oatmeal. As a recent convert to the wonders of gluten free oats, this particular recipe is genuinely as good, if not better, than most overly sugary delicacies. Sure, a few foodie switches are made:  almond milk instead of regular, oats rather than flour and a mashed banana in place of added sugar, but the outcome is unexpectedly incredibly. A wonderfully gooey, sticky flapjack -type creation stood before me. It was moreish, delectable and I wanted more. Forget sugar, is this my new addiction?

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Experimenting with healthy desserts- cookie dough baked oatmeal

 

If you want to make this delicious treat, you will find the recipe here: http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2011/03/15/cookie-dough-baked-oatmeal/

 

Happy experimenting!