Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Oct. 18 2017 2:07 PM

Former Amazon Exec Roy Price Reportedly Passed on Big Little Lies Because It Didn’t Guarantee Enough Female Nudity

Further details are emerging about Roy Price, the Amazon Studios executive who was last week suspended—before stepping down—following allegations of sexual harassment from a female producer (“You will love my dick,” he allegedly told Man in the High Castle executive producer Isa Hackett in 2015). A Hollywood Reporter feature by Kim Masters and Lesley Goldberg outlines some of his other problematic traits, including a tendency to steer work-related conversations towards participants’ sexual histories and a close relationship with Harvey Weinstein, with whom he often traded projects.

But according to the article, Price’s toxic masculinity went beyond his professional interactions: The programming chief channeled his sexist and antiquated ideas directly into his programmatic decision-making. Price reportedly failed to offer the female-led miniseries Big Little Lies a straight-to-series deal—as most streaming services did, seeing as how it was being produced by Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman—and one of his hesitations was that the show might not feature enough female nudity.

According to the report:

Company insiders say at a staff holiday party at the Lucky Strike bowling alley in Hollywood, Price asked a group of staffers if the two stars would “show their tits” and mused aloud why he would greenlight the show if they didn’t. (In fact, Kidman did multiple nude scenes.)

The women-centric show was snatched up by HBO and went on to win eight awards at this year’s Emmys. (Best drama series was won by The Handmaid’s Tale, which Price also reportedly passed on.) Amazon only picked up two overall. It would almost be funny if it weren’t so tragic.

Price was also said to be responsible for the decision to cancel the distinctly feminist Good Girls Revolt, one that fans are still grieving and that, as Slate’s Eleanor Cummins points out, is all the more disheartening in light of revelations about his behavior. Amazon’s programming would appear to have taken on a male bias under his direction, with an $80 million deal given to Woody Allen’s disastrous first foray into television Crisis in Six Scenes, while despite winning several Emmys for Amazon, Transparent  creators Jill Solloway was still required to put her next project, I Love Dick, through Amazon’s pilot process.

Having men like Price holding the entertainment purse strings seems to engender a vicious cycle. The white male-dominated entertainment industry continues to make white-male dominated shows and movies, making the entertainment industry a place that is more approachable to people who are, well, white and male. Our male-skewed cultural landscape continues to foster a toxic sense of male entitlement, meaning that more Prices and Weinsteins—and Trumps and Aileses and Cosbys—grow up thinking they can treat women however they like.

Not only is it sexist, it’s bad business. A Variety article today shows that female audiences drove the success of the biggest box office hits this summer, including Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, and Girls Trip.

Big Little Lies, with its Oscar-winning producers, easily found itself another, more appreciative home at HBO. What of all the other women's stories that have been overlooked because of entertainment executives like Roy Price and a lack of tits? If the dominance of feminist, women-led shows at the 2017 Emmys is anything to go by, hopefully more will be coming soon.

Oct. 18 2017 1:01 PM

The First Trailer for Louis C.K.’s I Love You, Daddy Feels Particularly Icky Amid the Weinstein Fallout

In his assessment from the Toronto International Film Festival last month, Slate’s Sam Adams wrote, “I Love You, Daddy is likely to squick some people out whether or not they’re aware that [Louis] C.K. has himself been accused of nonconsensual sex acts. But it’s especially queasy when viewed in that light.” Now, in the wake of the stunning allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the dozens and dozens of Hollywood women who have since come forward to detail their own horrible experiences in the industry, the film’s queasiness factor feels exponentially higher. But here’s the first, quintessentially Woody Allen-esque trailer, in spiffy black-and-white, featuring an amazing cast (including Rose Byrne, Edie Falco, and Pamela Adlon) chatting away about uncomfortable things against a lighthearted jazz score.

Oct. 18 2017 11:57 AM

When The Daily Show Learned Chicago’s Best Pizza Is Made in a County Jail, They Went Full-on Shawshank Redemption

If you hate deep-dish pizza, you’ll definitely enjoy The Daily Show’s segment on the subject, which includes multiple scenes of correspondent Ronny Chieng hurling it into walls … and onto cars … and into the river. The Daily Show is in Chicago this week, and no visit would be complete without exploring the Windy City's unique (and some would say, terrible) take on pizza. But Chieng’s quest to find a slice of beloved thin-crust pizza led him to an unusual culinary destination: Cook County Jail, where prisoners learn how to make pizza under the tutelage of Chef Bruno Abate.

Oct. 18 2017 9:33 AM

In Defense of Difficult Art at the Guggenheim’s Controversial Exhibition

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

At the end of the exhibition “Art and China After 1989: Theater of the World” there is a small room that sits at the top of the Guggenheim’s ramped white rotunda. The room is marked “Coda,” and visitors arrive to it after viewing artwork by artists spanning more than two decades of practice. There are only three works in the room: an installation by Gu Dexin, an ink painting by Yang Jiechang, and a video piece by the couple Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. Of the nearly 150 works included in the show, the last piece, titled Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other, has attracted by far the most attention. It seems possible that without the inclusion of this piece, the show might not have been the subject of significant public outrage.

Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other documents a performance held in 2003, where eight dogs identified as “American pitbulls” were escorted by private limousine into an art space in Beijing and placed on treadmills facing one another. They were strapped in place, able only to run forward. After the New York Times published a preview of the exhibition, pet owners and animal-rights activists immediately took notice and began circulating petitions and social-media campaigns calling for the removal of Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s piece, as well two others involving animals, by Xu Bing and Huang Yong Ping. A petition accusing the museum of displaying animal torture as art racked up more than 750,000 signatures, and the museum seemed caught off-guard by the intensity of the criticism. Only five days after the Times preview appeared, the Guggenheim announced they would not display the three works as originally intended, citing “concern for the safety of its staff, visitors, and participating artists.” For Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other, this means the screen of the television is frozen on the video’s title card in a compromise decision to physically include the work, but not the parts that were offensive. Animal-welfare activists were disappointed that the museum had not conceded that the works amounted to animal torture, and critics elsewhere noted that the manner in which the museum responded to the controversy closed off the possibility of any substantive engagement around questions of violence, animals, and the display of art.

Oct. 18 2017 8:03 AM

After Amazon’s Sexual Harassment Scandal, Good Girls Revolt’s Cancellation Seems Crueler Than Ever

The Amazon original series Good Girls Revolt is back from the dead—but not in the way fans had hoped. While there are no plans for a revival of the show, which was canceled last year after just one season, talk of the series has surged recently on social media. On Friday, actress Anna Camp, who had a starring role as ultimate good girl Jane Hollander, said that disgraced Amazon Studios head Roy Price had personally killed the show.

The irony that Price, who resigned yesterday from Amazon after Man in the High Castle producer Isa Hackett accused him of sexual harassment, was the man who took down a show about fighting sexism in the workplace sparked outrage from Camp’s Twitter followers and Good Girls Revolt fans. The content of Camp’s tweet was only compounded by the fact that the show, at least according to the accounts of an admittedly disgruntled cast and crew, had been performing well for Amazon at the time it was pulled.

Back in December, creator Dana Calvo told the Hollywood Reporter she was surprised to find her “hit” canceled, given its good Rotten Tomatoes score and ability to drive commerce on Amazon. But Joe Lewis of Amazon told the same publication the show didn’t hit its viewership targets. The confusion over the show’s cancellation hasn’t been resolved in the intervening months, but what is clear is that the show deeply connected with many viewers, even if it didn’t with Amazon executives. Good Girls Revolt became a favorite for women dealing with the banal horrors of everyday misogyny—and the shock of 2016 presidential election. Many, it seemed, were yearning for a show that not only addressed sexism directly but showed near-omnipresent barriers to women’s advancement being overcome.

And for the duration of its 10-episode run, that’s exactly what Good Girls Revolt did. Based on the experiences of magazine reporter Lynn Povich, the show is a fictionalized account of the real-life lawsuit filed against Newsweek magazine in 1970 for gender discrimination. As the show tells it, the women “researchers,” like Camp’s Jane Holloway, do most of the work. But their male co-workers are the ones who get the distinction of being called real “reporters,” the pleasure of seeing their names in print, and are paid three times as much. Eventually, they decide to take their case to court.

Oct. 18 2017 7:19 AM

No, the Mar-a-Lago Parrots in That Trump-Ivanka Photo Are Not Having Sex

Franz Barwig the elder was already a well-regarded Austrian sculptor by the 1920s, when his former countryman, Austrian-American architect Joseph Urban, hired him and his son Walter to travel to Palm Beach, Florida to sculpt whimsical, tropical decorations for Marjorie Merriweather Post’s new home. You might know the Barwigs’ work, even if you don’t know the Barwigs, because of this 1996 Brian Smith photo of a father, a daughter, and a sculpture of what are alleged to be two parrots fucking:

Oct. 17 2017 4:08 PM

The Nancy Drew TV Reboot Is Getting Another Chance, With an Entirely New Concept

Does the phrase “Nancy Drew reboot” give you déjà vu? A year ago, CBS attempted to bring the character back to television as a 30-something NYPD detective, but Drew never made it past the pilot stage. Now, Deadline reports that creators Tony Phelan and Joan Rater, the creative team also behind CBS' short-lived Doubt, are reimagining Nancy Drew again, this time at NBC, with an entirely new twist on the famed teenage detective.

According to Deadline, the NBC show will conflate the fictional character, Nancy Drew, with her (equally fictional) author, “Carolyn Keene.” Keene is not a real person, but a pseudonym used by ghostwriters for the series since its inception and through the present day. This new Nancy Drew will be “the author of the most famous female teen detective book series” who finds herself in the midst of an actual murder mystery. She seeks help from two childhood friends, “who were the inspiration for all those books” and “have a real ax to grind about the way their supposed best friend chose to portray them all those years ago.”

That’s a very different concept from the one that Phelan and Rater conceived for last year's Drew, which stripped Nancy Drew of all of her fundamental characteristics—her 1930s origins, her age, and even her vaguely Midwestern hometown—and threw the character into a generic-sounding contemporary crime show set in New York City. This time, we're getting a mystery-writer-turned-mystery-solver concept more in the vein of Murder, She Wrote or Castle, but there is at least one notable quality that both the CBS and NBC reboots have in common: Nancy is no longer a teenager. In fact, in NBC’s Nancy Drew, the character and her friends, presumably Nancy’s longtime sidekicks Bess and George, will be even older, in their 40s and 50s.

This wouldn’t be the first time Nancy has aged for the screen—Margot Kidder played the character as an adult in the failed USA series Nancy Drew and Daughter, which was cancelled after Kidder was injured during filming—but making a show about famously teenaged detective with a middle-aged lead is a strange choice at the current moment. Why not just do a straightforward, contemporary reboot of Nancy Drew as a high schooler? Given the wild popularity of teen mystery shows like Riverdale and 13 Reasons Why, that seems like a no-brainer. Instead, Phelan and Rater's new show will lean into having middle-aged protagonists; Rater even called the characters’ ages “their superpower.”

“No one notices them when they walk in. It’s a way for them to fly under the radar,” she told Deadline. “They talk about how they feel unseen.”

Oct. 17 2017 3:21 PM

Molly Ringwald Didn’t Name the Movie Exec Quoted Saying a Very Gross Thing About Her. It’s Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Update, October 18: A representative for Jeffrey Katzenberg has denied that he ever made the statement, which was first reported by Esquire in May of 2004, and issued a statement from Katzenberg: “That Molly Ringwald had to read those words attributed to me and believe I said them is horrifying, mortifying and embarrassing to me. Anyone who knows me now or back then knows I do not use language like that as a matter of course, or tolerate it. Ms. Ringwald, 22 years too late, I am deeply, deeply sorry.”

In a New Yorker essay called “All the Other Harveys,” Molly Ringwald shares her own experiences of sexual harassment in the movie industry. Her brushes with Harvey Weinstein himself were relatively benign—she witnessed an unplesant exchange between him and a British film crew, and endured having him gut a movie she made with his customary “Harvey Scissorhands” flair. But as with so many other women, the stories of Weinstein’s accusers have triggered “a sickening shock of recognition” for Ringwald. She recalls:

When I was thirteen, a fifty-year-old crew member told me that he would teach me to dance, and then proceeded to push against me with an erection. At fourteen, a married film director stuck his tongue in my mouth on set. At a time when I was trying to figure out what it meant to become a sexually viable young woman, at every turn some older guy tried to help speed up the process. And all this went on despite my having very protective parents who did their best to shield me. I shudder to think of what would have happened had I not had them.

Part of what enabled this kind of behaviour to flourish is an endemic culture of Hollywood sexism, which Ringwald exemplifies with this anecdote about an unidentified “head of a major studio” who, after she put her acting career on hold and moved to Paris, was quoted as saying “I wouldn’t know [Molly Ringwald] if she sat on my face.”

Hmm, who could it be? Fire up the ol’ Google machine, and there it is, from a 1995 article in Movieline:

Molly Ringwald paid and still pays for her reign as a pop culture princess. In the play No Time Flat, a Ringwald-like character bearing the initials “MR” loses it and totals her car. The alternative rock group Sponge's song “Molly” eulogizes her, shrouding her in Warholesque glamour: Cigarette stains on your hands, wilted flowers in a vase ... Don't ask why, don't ask why ... Sixteen candles down the drain, Hollywood honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg has weighed-in on Ringwald's spinout: “I wouldn't know [Molly Ringwald] if she sat on my face.”

Yesterday, Katzenberg condemned Weinstein as “a monster,” but added that his actions would not have been possible without the actions of other men, whether they protected him directly or otherwise sustained an atmosphere in which women are demeaned and dehumanized. “There is a pack of wolves,” he said. Perhaps he should steal a glance in the mirror the next time there’s a full moon.

Oct. 17 2017 1:32 PM

Riz Ahmed in Talks to Be (Or Not to Be) Netflix’s Hamlet

A modern-day Hamlet is coming to Netflix, with Riz Ahmed in talks to play the Prince of Denmark. Ahmed developed the adaptation with his friend and writer Mike Lesslie, and is now inking out a deal with Netflix to star.

Ahmed recently picked up an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series for his performance in HBO’s The Night Of, in which the British-Pakistani actor played a Pakistani/Iranian-American college student sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. The 34-year-old actor, who also played Bodhi Rook in Star Wars: Rogue One, won't be the first to jump from space opera to Shakespearean drama, following in the footsteps of fellow Star Wars alum Oscar Isaac, who played Hamlet in the Public Theater’s adaptation earlier this year.

The exciting new Hamlet adaptation will be set in a turbulent, modern-day London, although it’s not clear how far from reality contemporary Hamlet’s London will be. Social issues are likely to be front-and-center; Ahmed, an outspoken activist, raps and campaigns on behalf of immigrants and refugees, and was recently named amongst Time's 100 most influential people in the world.

Oct. 17 2017 12:22 PM

Björk Offers More Graphic Details About Her Sexual Harassment by a Danish Director

On Sunday, Björk released a statement in which she alleged that an unidentified Danish director had sexually harassed and humiliated her on the set of of his film. While she has declined to explicitly specify the director in question, the fact that Björk has only ever worked with one director from Denmark was enough to prompt Lars von Trier to deny that he had been sexually inappropriate with her her on the set of his 2000 movie Dancer in the Dark. “That was not the case,” he told the Danish publication Jyllands-Posten. “But that we were definitely not friends, that’s a fact.”

Now Björk has shared further details about what happened to her, using the #MeToo hashtag under which women have been sharing their experiences of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault on social media.

here comes a list of the encounters that i think count as sexual harassment :
1 after each take the director ran up to me and wrapped his arms around me for a long time in front of all crew or alone and stroked me sometimes for minutes against my wishes
2 when after 2 months of this i said he had to stop the touching , he exploded and broke a chair in front of everyone on set . like someone who has always been allowed to fondle his actresses . then we all got sent home .
3 during the whole filming process there were constant awkward paralysing unwanted whispered sexual offers from him with graphic descriptions , sometimes with his wife standing next to us .
4 while filming in sweden , he threatened to climb from his room´s balcony over to mine in the middle of the night with a clear sexual intention , while his wife was in the room next door . i escaped to my friends room . this was what finally woke me up to the severity of all this and made me stand my ground
5 fabricated stories in the press about me being difficult by his producer . this matches beautifully the weinstein methods and bullying . i have never eaten a shirt . not sure that is even possible .
6 i didnt comply or agree on being sexually harassed . that was then portrayed as me being difficult . if being difficult is standing up to being treated like that , i´ll own it .

In 2000, the British music magazine Q printed an anonymous report that Björk had become so distraught while filming Dancer in the Dark that she ripped up the blouse she was wearing and ate pieces of it before storming off the set. But since she says in this new post that she was accused of eating a shirt and not a blouse, clearly she must be talking about some other mysterious movie by some other mysterious Danish director. Who that is, the world may never know.

Here is Björk’s most recent statement in full: