If you’ve seen them around Tumblr you may be asking this. The short answer is that it’s a form of solidarity.
The long answer, well, let me try to put it in the most concise way possible:
At the Oscars Sunday night, The Life of Pi won best Visual Effects (VFX) award. The animals on that boat, the ocean, and the backgrounds are all visual effects, meaning there are guys and girls in a cramped studio creating and animating these characters, painting the sky and water as realistically as possible so that Suraj Sharma doesn’t look like an idiot talking to himself on a boat bobbing up and down in a pool inside a small building.
The studio who did exactly this and helped made the movie a sucess that it was, Rhythm and Hues, have recently let go a bunch of their artists and filed in for bankruptcy because they were not making enough to survive.
This is a big issue surrounding the VFX community. Movies with VFX make hundreds of millions, even billions, but with Hollywood execs continuously trying to lower costs, the VFX industry has become a battle royale of studios tabling bids to work on movies for the least amount of pay. This is VFX studios (as well as their artists) have been finding it difficult to survive in this industry. When receiving the award, Bill Westenhofer of Rhythm and Hues tried to bring up this issue, only to be droned out by the music from Jaws and eventually, when he wouldn’t stop, they shut down his mic. There were also protests happening outside the Dolby Theatre, but of course all of that was censored from being broadcasted.
I’m not a VFX artist, but I’m an artist, and most of you here are too, whether you’re professional, semi-professional, amateur, hobbyist, or just an admirer. I’m not trying to patronize you to take sides, or to boycott or make petitions (both are usually useless), but I do want you all to be aware of this issue and spread it so more people are aware, because eventually you’re the one paying to be entertained, and you can’t possibly be happy when you realize that a good chunk of the money you’re paying isn’t going to the artists who worked hard to entertain you. Keep in mind that I’m not advocating for artists to be given a share of the profit that a movie makes, but when you’re working a 16-hour day, including weekends, to meet the deadline that the producers give you (that’s 112 hours per week, by the way), and you’re only getting paid for a 40-hour week, something is seriously wrong.
More on this you can read up in these articles, as they’ve been written a lot more eloquently. Be informed, let others know, create a discussion. Understand what it is you’re enjoying.
VFX Community Snubbed - Drew McWeeny at Hitflix
Oscar protest you didn’t know happened - Big Social Picture
State of the VFX industry: what’s going on at other studios.
Essentially, Hollywood execs are pulling the equivalent of the internet’s ignorant view that because something is “digitally” created, then all they need is the computers to create the art, and not the artists behind the computers. There is no computer or program creating these visual effects. There are, however, passionate artists using these computers as a mere tool to create these visuals, and it’s these artists who deserve the respect and the fair treatment of the studio execs.
On a lighter note, if they have some sort of movement or protest group, I really hope they name it “50 Shades of Green.”
When I was 10 years old, some moms in my fifth grade class organized an end of the year pool party for our entire grade. It was one of the first times I can recall being sent into a tailspin of anxiety for weeks, because it meant I had to wear a bathing suit in front of my classmates. After many sleepless nights agonizing and envisioning endless mocking and scrutiny, I opted for a giant t-shirt and jumped in the pool fully clothed. Looking at photos of myself at that age now, I can’t imagine what I was thinking. I was completely average sized (though tall and developing). And yet I was putting myself through an incredible amount of body shame, while only a child.
I thought about this pool party this week when discussing Sunday night’s episode of Girls with various women on Twitter and during the daily web chat I host for VH1. Something very obvious hit me, and I haven’t been able to shake it: Lena Dunham is really the first woman I’ve ever seen on-screen who looks like me. But not only that - she’s comfortable in her skin, in her nakedness, in her sexuality, and as herself.
Of course she doesn’t exactly look like me. I am tall, she seems short. She has smaller breasts, I’ve had the same saggy size-C mom boobs since I was 14. But her thighs touch together when she stands, her shape moves, her arms aren’t skeletal, and sometimes her clothes don’t fit “right.” (See: the endless comments about the jumper she wore in ‘One Man’s Trash.’) But even in her own form, I still see myself. I see my thighs that touch when I stand, I see the round yet flat shape of my ass that moves when I do, I see my own non-skeletal arms. And every time Hannah/Lena takes off her clothes, every time she establishes that she is, for the most part, comfortable in her body, it gives me a little bit of hope for myself.
Because I am thirty-three years old, and I am still not comfortable in my own body. I haven’t been since I was eight and I sprouted breasts before everybody else, and would change into my bathing suit in the bathroom stalls at camp, certain that everyone would be horrified by what they saw. I wasn’t when I was twelve and towered over boys, slouching to bring myself down in inches. Nor was I at nineteen, skinny-dipping in the waters off of Long Island with my closest college friends. Even though I was drunk and stoned the shame was still able to find a way in, and I hid my body with my hands as everyone ran laughing into the ocean in the middle of the night.
I was not comfortable in my body in my twenties, when a male improv student of mine came to see me perform at the UCB Theatre and then said I slouched too much and needed to work on my stage presence because I was setting a bad example for my students. I wasn’t when I would start dating people and upon waking up next to them in the morning, would scurry off to the bathroom with my breasts in my hands because I was embarrassed about their size. I wasn’t when I dealt with the death of my mother by compulsively dieting and exercising, because it was the only way I could have control over my emotionally rudderless mess of a life. And I wasn’t after I gave birth to my daughter at thirty-one, and would drag my exhausted body to the basement of a temple to weigh in at Weight Watchers, desperate to return to someone I no longer would ever be.
The thing about self-inflicted body shame and self-loathing is that it seeps into other aspects of your life. It makes you feel unworthy in other situations; you give yourself less and less agency because really - why should you have any? It’s a cycle of worthlessness that weaves its way into social interactions, sexual relationships, and random moments of your life. It’s vicious and is something I am constantly aware of, something I constantly trying to improve upon and change in myself. And I’m confident from the many conversations I’ve had with other women that my experiences are hardly unusual.
So please, Lena Dunham, don’t listen to commentary on your shape and don’t stop being naked constantly on-screen. Don’t stop having lots of sex in Girls and please do ask another lover on the show to make you come first. That’s not being “ungenerous” (ugh Slate, your review in particular really sucked) it’s being an empowered and confident sexual being.
When people come down on Lena Dunham for these things, they’re coming down on all women. They’re reinforcing the negative criticism and commentary many of us already put upon ourselves.
And that…that is the real shame.