Over/Underrated 2015 – Part Nine

3 Apr

*Taps Mic* Is this thing on?

On Pointe

Jennifer Lawrence

It’s no secret that I love Jennifer Lawrence. (See 2013’s love letter here.) She’s talented, she’s hilariously personable, and she seems like an every-girl’s best friend despite her A-list celebrity status. This year, though, JLaw makes our on pointe list for a new trait: feminist.

In December of 2014, emails were leaked through the Sony hacking scandal that showed that Lawrence made less money for her role in American Hustle than her male costars. Rather than just roll over and accept this information, Lawrence wrote an open letter about pay equality for Lena Dunham’s website Lenny Letter. In the letter, she points out that qualities such as straight-forwardness and self-advocation are viewed as negatives when exuded by females, but yet these same qualities are applauded when coming from men.

Lawrence’s letter is short and to the point, but it speaks volumes to the issues that plague gender equality today. That an Academy Award-winning actress who has led two successful movie franchises still has fight for the paycheck she obviously deserves has severe implications to women everywhere who don’t have that kind of obvious bankability under their belts, but still do their jobs just as well as their male colleagues.

Since Lawrence’s letter was published, she has been praised by both male and female actors (Bradley Cooper, Emma Watson, Elizabeth Banks, and Mark Ruffalo, to name a few) for shedding light on the ongoing sexism prevalent in Hollywood. Hopefully, this light will eventually shine outward onto what is a worldwide, not just a Hollywood, issue. Someday, when people of the future look back on the factors that influenced the trend toward true gender equality, they’ll undoubtedly have Jennifer Lawrence on their list. At least I know I will.

JLaw

Off the Mark

Scott Bergstrom

If you’re like most people I know, you’re probably wondering, “Who the hell is Scott Bergstrom?” Let me answer that for you: he’s a tool. A tool of epic proportions. The (perhaps) more professional answer? He’s a young-adult (YA) author. Supposedly a talented one. Bergstrom’s debut-novel The Cruelty earned him a six-figure book deal and a movie adaptation. It seemed as though the career Gods were on his side. Until he opened his mouth.

In an interview with Publishers Weekly, Bergstrom attempted to explain why he originally chose to self-publish his novel. In short, he thought his book wouldn’t be embraced by YA publishers because of the issues of morality present within his writing.

In the interview, Bergstrom said, “The morality of the book is more complicated than a lot of YA…In a lot of YA, the conflict takes place inside a walled garden, set up by outside adult forces. If you think of those stories as a metaphor for high school, they start to make a lot more sense, but that was one thing I wanted to depart from.” (Read the full interview here.)

I’m sure, that is I hope, that Bergstrom thought he was highlighting what made his work different and worth a read when compared with his YA competition. What he actually did, however, was insult an entire genre of fiction and an entire cohort of fiction writers. Furthermore, his statement carries sexist undertones as he, a male, criticizes a genre dominated by female writers and characters.

To brush salt into the wound, an excerpt from Bergstrom’s novel shows the main character herself continuing to insult the genre.

“I pull a book out of my backpack and lean against the door as the train shoots through the tunnel under the river for Queens. It’s a novel with a teenage heroine set in a dystopian future. Which novel in particular doesn’t matter because they’re all the same. Poor teenage heroine, having to go to war when all you really want is to write in your diary about how you’re in love with two different guys and can’t decide between them. These novels are cheesy, I know, and I suck them down as easily as milk.”

The only logical explanation is that Bergstrom hasn’t actually ever read any YA novels. If he had, he’d know that many of them tackle real-world issues like war and disease, which are issues as morally complicated as it gets. Even those set within the context of high school frequently address topics like mental illness, homelessness, sexuality, and gender identification, which are, again, morally complicated issues in their own right.

A Tweet from YA Books Central summarized the root issue quite nicely:

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 5.47.27 PM

Both fans and writers of YA (V.E. Schwab, Victoria Aveyard, and Ally Carter to name a few) flocked to Twitter and the internet to defend the genre using the hashtag #MorallyComplicatedYA. If you don’t have time to scroll through them all, at least check out Patrick Ness’ Tweet about eating his morally simplistic Fruit Loops. Classic.

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 5.47.41 PM

Several websites such as Buzzfeed and Bustle have also dedicated pages to recommended #MorallyComplicatedYA.

His comment about the moral complexity of YA novels aside, the description of Bergstrom’s heroine has also been read as stereotypically sexist and, in the context of the same interview, hypocritical. The Publishers Weekly interview says that “Bergstrom’s heroine is Gwendolyn Bloom, a Jewish, slightly overweight 17-year-old, who is transformed into a ‘lean warrior with hair dyed fire-engine red,’ during her mission to rescue her father, a kidnapped diplomat.” If you read this like I do, it reads something like this: “Heroine is social misfit who needs to lose weight to be successful.” How very high school.

While his success in the industry may have appeared magically overnight, his staying power is questionable. However talented a writer he may be, he’s got a lot of backpedaling and ass kissing to do if he’s going to un-piss-off an entire industry and much of womankind. At best he’s an ignorant asshole. At worst, he’s just an asshole. Either way, count me out.

bergstrom

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