CULTURE

Natalie Portman Had the Perfect Response to Rose McGowan's Criticism

Rose McGowan had harsh words for Natalie Portman this week, but Portman channeled the drama into a message of solidarity

Rose McGowan came at Natalie Portman hard on Wednesday, saying that her Oscar's dress was "deeply offensive."

The dress in question featured a Dior cape that had been specially embroidered with the names of prominent female directors who didn't receive nominations that many people feel they deserve. The names included Lorene Scafaria (Hustlers), Céline Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire), Greta Gerwig (Little Women), Marielle Heller (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Melina Matsoukas (Queen & Slim), and Lulu Wang (The Farewell).

Calling out the Academy for overlooking female talent has been a popular theme this year, from Issa Rae's "Congratulations to those men," while announcing the nominations, to Chris Rock and Steve Martin's onstage joke that there's something missing—va*inas. All of which could be seen as callbacks to Natalie Portman's 2018 comments at the Golden Globes, when she introduced the directing category by saying, "here are the all-male nominees."

Natalie Portman at the Golden Globes

But apparently this sort of "activism" does not exactly impress Rose McGowan—at least not on its own. It's understandable that McGowan—whose 2018 memoir Brave detailed her experiences of sexual assault at the hands of Harvey Weinstein and others—would have some strong opinions on how to fight back. She attributes the decline of her acting career to her efforts to resist Weinstein's attacks—after he (allegedly) raped her in a hotel room in 1997.

She also names several other women whom she claims were similarly punished and is working on a follow-up memoir, Trust, about learning to move forward. She has championed the #MeToo movement and made it her mission to change the toxic misogyny within Hollywood—that uses and abuses and discards talented young women. In that light, her problem with Portman's fashion choice was not so much with the cape itself, but with Portman failing to back up the sentiment in her professional life.

In a post on Facebook, McGowan made her point clear, accusing Portman of being "an actress acting the part of someone who cares." She decried the idea that members of the media would refer to such a superficial expression of solidarity as "bravery" and addressed Natalie directly, saying, "Natalie, you have worked with two female directors in your very long career-one of them was you. You have a production company that has hired exactly one female director- you… You are the problem. Lip service is the problem. Fake support of other women is the problem."

Rose McGowan Rankin

While McGowan's claim overlooked some shorts and anthology movies, others have noted that of the seven feature-length films that Portman's production company, Handsomecharlie, has been involved in, only Portman's own directorial debut, 2015's A Tale of Love and Darkness, was directed solely by a woman. That paints a pretty clear picture of a problem, and it would obviously be hard for Portman to deny it. Fortunately, she didn't. She didn't go on the attack or get defensive. She came out with a statement on Thursday striking a tone of hope and solidarity.

She started out by agreeing with much of McGowan's criticism, saying, "I agree with Ms. McGowan that it is inaccurate to call me 'brave' for wearing a garment with women's names on it. Brave is a term I more strongly associate with actions like those of the women who have been testifying against Harvey Weinstein the last few weeks, under incredible pressure." She then went on to acknowledge that she hasn't worked with as many female directors as she would like, while also calling out systemic issues that prevent female-helmed projects from getting made and taking the opportunity to name check a host of talented female directors who deserve more work:

"In my long career, I've only gotten the chance to work with female directors a few times—I've made shorts, commercials, music videos and features with Marya Cohen, Mira Nair, Rebecca Zlotowski, Anna Rose Holmer, Sofia Coppola, Shirin Neshat and myself. Unfortunately, the unmade films I have tried to make are a ghost history… I have had the experience a few times of helping get female directors hired on projects which they were then forced out of because of the conditions they faced at work… So I want to say, I have tried, and I will keep trying. While I have not yet been successful, I am hopeful that we are stepping into a new day."

Natalie Portman We Should All Be Feminists A pregnant Natalie Portman speaking at the Women's March 2017

While McGowan's anger is understandable, Portman handled the situation perfectly. She took the energy of that discontent and the criticism and channeled it toward opening the conversation to the larger issues that prevent female directors from getting work—issues that one small production company can only do so much to address. With luck maybe this conversation will begin to push Hollywood institutions to rethink the sexist calculus that robs so many talented women of work.

Music Lists

Slept On: New Releases from UnoTheActivist, SahBabii, and More

SahBabii, UnoTheActivist and more make up this weeks under appreciated releases

Juice WRLD's posthumous release, Legends Never Die, has already sold over 400,000 copies, putting it in the running for the biggest release of 2020.

Meanwhile, Summer Walker confidently returns with a sleek new E.P., Kid Cudi and Marshall Mathers unite for the first time, James Blake quietly dropped a shadowy new track, and H.E.R. added a splash of reggae flavor to her new track "Do To Me." While it was a big week for the mainstream, it was equally as massive for the underground. Upcoming mumble emcee SahBabii's released an infectious collection of wavy, levitative hip-hop, and the iconic Fresh Veggies duo of Casey Veggies and Rockie Fresh return for their second outing. Check out the latest underground releases below.

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CULTURE

Late Capitalism Diaries: Comedy Central and Awkwafina's New Marketing is Pure Evil

They have found the key to making my morning commute even more unpleasant

NBC News

Comedy Central has a new show starring Awkwafina, and you are not allowed to watch it.

I don't care how much you love Awkwafina's music, her character in Crazy Rich Asians, or her Golden Globe-winning performance in The Farewell. You can and should keep enjoying all of that stuff. Awkwafina is fun and weird and talented, and she's doing some great stuff with her career. I would give her a TV show too, but I will not watch Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens, and you shouldn't either. Because watching her new show would be an endorsement of the inhumane treatment that I and tens of thousands of subway riders have endured this past week.

Nora From Queens

"Please remember to wear headphones when listening to music. Even if your playlist is straight fire."

"This is 103rd Street, Corona Plaza. And no, this is not where the beer is."

"This is a Manhattan-bound 7 local train. All the stops, baby!"

When I first heard these announcements on the 7 train last week, I was naïve, bright-eyed, and I still had some hope for the world. I happened to have borrowed my wife's headphones for my commute that morning and was blessed by the fact that they were a little louder and a little better at blocking outside noise than my own. Awkwafina's voice still cut through my music, but in a muffled, indiscernible way. It was only after her scream at Mets-Willets Point, "The Mets?! I love the Mets! 'Cause I'm from Queens," tore through my aural defenses that I knew something weird was going on and decided to pay some attention to the announcements.

I began freeing one ear from the headphones as the train arrived at each stop, tilting my head to listen to the energetic announcements of this young MTA employee, imitating the usual robotic messages, but following them up with a cute little riff. I was certain that, whoever this voice was, they were in the train's conductor booth trying to add a little joy and surprise to the drudgery of the daily commute. What other explanation could there be? But then I had the sudden realization that I recognized the voice…

Awkwafina Golden Globes

Could it really be? I knew that Awkwafina is from Queens, and she had just won a Golden Globe. Maybe she thought it would be fun to leverage that success into putting on a little impromptu performance for the borough. Her riffs weren't exactly brilliant, but she was clearly just going off the top of her head and having a little fun with it, so who cares? I hadn't yet heard about her new show, but, I thought,even if it was a publicity stunt, it seemed like a good one. Awkwafina doing a one-time, surprise stint as the 7 train announcer would be a fun, weird story that all the 7 train commuters would be telling their friends.

I was so certain that the announcements were live that, when I got off at my stop, I ran along the side of the train for several cars, thinking I might snap a picture of Awkwafina in the conductor's booth and have some proof for skeptical co-workers. The alternative—that the MTA would make a deal to replace their usual recordings for an entire week—seemed impossible. Would they really add that kind of insult to the daily injuries of a cramped New York City commute?

7 train crowd Flickr user NYC Subway Rider

Would they really make us all—tens of thousands of us—listen to the same lame "jokes" every day? Would Comedy Central's marketing team really rush out some lazy, free-associated copy, get Awkwafina to phone in a quick recording session, then replay the result on a loop—louder than the normal announcements and interspersed with reminders to watch her show? I was so innocent then. Looking back on the man I was a week ago, I can only grieve for that sweet, sensitive soul who still believed that there were lines that capitalism wouldn't cross.

"This is 69th Street, which is definitely, definitely not funny in any way."

"This is 33rd Street. In other news, the number 33 is a palindrome. Wait, can numbers be palindromes? Oh, and check out Awkwafina is Nora From Queens on Comedy Central."

"This is 52nd Street. If this is your stop and you asleep…well, that sucks."

www.youtube.com

By the time I was out of work and ready for my commute home, I had found out that the MTA truly had, for the first time, sold advertising for the train announcements. Because we are not people trying to live our lives; we are a captive audience—consumers, densely packed into tube where we have no choice but to listen. On the way home, I kept my wife's headphones firmly in place.

"This is 34th Street Hudson Yards. Hope you like weird architecture! Oh, and check out Awkwafina is Nora From Queens on Comedy Central."

By the second day, I was back to using my own, sub-par headphones, and they were no match for Awkwafina's voice. I heard every announcement, and they were already grating. The normal announcements are familiar and benign enough that they're easy to drown out, but the extra volume and emphasis from Awkwafina's voice refuses to be ignored—forcing the entire train to listen to the same tiresome routine. I started to pity the employees who have to sit through the same "jokes" dozens of times in each shift. That takes more bravery than the troops.

MTA conductor Thank you for your service Getty Images

"This is 82nd Street, Jackson Heights. And please remember, a train car is the worst place to clip ya toenails. Oh, and check out Awkwafina is Nora From Queens on Comedy Central."

If this marketing works—if people in Queens and Manhattan end up watching the show—what comes next? Gilbert Gottfried selling insurance while he announces your bus stop? Sofia Vergara promoting a Modern Family spin-off while the L train is stuck in a tunnel? Is this how they're planning to fund necessary repairs and updates to MTA infrastructure? By selling off every portion of public life—every point of access to our eyes and ears—to the highest bidder? This is not a better solution than raising taxes on the pied-à-terres of the ultra-wealthy.

Today is the last day of this promotion, so this afternoon should hopefully be the last time I hear:

"Oh, and check out Awkwafina is Nora From Queens on Comedy Central."

"Oh, and check out Awkwafina is Nora From Queens on Comedy Central."

"Oh, and check out Awkwafina is Nora From Queens on Comedy Central."

PEN15 Pictured: A better show you can watch instead

But I know those words will haunt my dreams, so I must beg you not heed her call. No one in New York should reward this marketing. Just to be safe, don't watch it even if you're not in New York. It's a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story in which Awkwafina plays a younger version of herself. Sounds great. Almost as good as PEN15, which never disrupted my commute. Watch that instead.