TIME movies

GLAAD Report: Only 17 Major Studio Movies in 2013 Had LGBT Characters

MCDHANG EC129
Ken Jeong as Leslie Chow in The Hangover Part III Warner Bros.

The advocacy group also found that many of those depictions were offensive

On Tuesday, the LGBT advocacy group GLAAD released its second-ever annual run-down of depictions of gay, bisexual and transgender characters in major Hollywood movies, the Studio Responsibility Index. The organization took a look at 102 major studio releases from 2013, and found that not much had changed: about 17% of the movies examined contained LGBT characters, versus last year’s 14%; about 7% of them passed the “Vito Russo Test” — GLAAD’s way of measuring whether a depiction is both positive and substantial — versus last year’s 6%.

Though the number has increased slightly in both counts, only one character out of a whole cast is needed to move a movie into the “yes” column — and many of the films that don’t pass the Vito Russo Test get a “no” for actually being offensive, not just for lacking an LGBT character. (Among the offenders: The Hangover Part III for the character of Leslie Chow and Grown Up 2‘s “recurring jokes about a female bodybuilder character secretly being a man.”) In addition, GLAAD found that none of the LGBT characters counted were leads, the group was not very diverse (three-quarters of the gay characters were white) and the genres where Hollywood money is most readily spent, such as action, are the least likely to feature LGBT characters.

But despite numbers that GLAAD calls “depressing” in its findings, there were a few bright spots. Notably, in a studio-by-studio tally, Sony Columbia became the first major studio in the study’s history to receive a “good” score, after being marked “adequate” last year, on the strength of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and Battle of the Year, both of which pass the Vito Russo Test. 20th Century Fox and Disney both went from “failing” to “adequate.” The number of transgender characters overall also increased from zero to two.

The reason GLAAD takes the time to track these movies, the report explains, is that Hollywood films are — in addition to being entertaining — capable of spreading ideas worldwide. When a gay character gets significant screen time but perpetuates stereotypes (as in the case of Riddick, GLAAD points out, where a major lesbian character is routinely insulted and later successfully seduced by the ultra-macho protagonist) that may be worse than having no depictions of gay people at all.

“These studios have the eyes and ears of millions of audience members, and should reflect the true fabric of our society,” said GLAAD CEO and President Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement announcing the report’s release, “rather than feed into the hatred and prejudice against LGBT people too often seen around the globe.”

TIME celebrities

5 Things We Learned from Kanye West’s GQ Interview

Kanye West
Kanye West attends the 2014 Cannes Lions on June 17, 2014, in Cannes, France Didier Baverel—WireImage / Getty Images

Did you know? He's a blowfish!

When Kanye West spoke to GQ magazine last month, it was mere days after his news-making wedding to Kim Kardashian. Now, though it may already seem that married-Kimye has existed since the beginning of time, the results of that conversation — including new information about the wedding — are finally available for public consumption at GQ.com. The many things can be learned include:

West has a new album on the way, but he’s not sure he wants to be the biggest name in rap: In addition to a forthcoming menswear line, West is working on an album. He still doesn’t have a release date, though September looks like a possibility. But, he says, Drake is now the most popular artist in the genre — and when asked whether he feels the urge to best his rival, he equivocates. “It’s a real question for me,” he tells GQ. “Do I want to?”

His speech at his wedding was about the state of celebrity: Though wedding toasts are more typically the land of drunk maids-of-honor recounting embarrassing stories, West himself spoke for an extended period of time at his reception. Though previous accounts had said that he talked about himself, he says that what he discussed was “the idea of celebrity” and how he and Kardashian planned “to find to raise the respect level for celebrities so that [their] daughter can live a more normal life.” There’s a class system among celebs, he said, with people like the Kardashian family not as well respected as high-fashion figures or film auteurs; both of those groups were represented at the wedding (by Carine Roitfeld, whom West calls “the Walt Disney of what Tumblr is today,” and Steve McQueen), all spending time together. West plans to erase the lines between which the celebrities who receive respect from audiences and paparazzi and those who don’t.

He wants to make being a dad cool: West admits that he doesn’t like to do anything that might be perceived as uncool, but he also knows that he has “the ability to make things cool.” The next thing on his list is being a family man. “Going home to one girl every night is super cool,” he says. He also shares the reasons he fell for that girl: her body, face, style, niceness, financial independence and family-orientedness. (Also of note: West apparently calls her “Mom.”)

He’s a blowfish: “I’m not a shark, I’m a blowfish,” West says, speaking of his relationship with the paparazzi — meaning that he doesn’t go after anyone, but he will defend himself when necessary. He also compares himself to a porcupine to make the same point.

He’s a fan of Step Brothers: He is, he says, the ultimate embodiment of a motivational speech from the 2008 Will Ferrell comedy Step Brothers. Even as his star rose, he says, he never lost track of what he was looking for in a relationship — his, as he puts it, dinosaur:

There’s more where that came from — including West’s take on which of his tracks contains the best rap verse ever — over at GQ.

TIME movies

Why Movies Rely on Science to Get to Spirituality

Lucy / I Origins
Top: I Origins, Bottom: Lucy Top: Fox Searchlight; Bottom: Universal Pictures

I Origins and Lucy both use science to get to even deeper subjects

In 1985, the famous “Afghan Girl” photograph appeared on the cover of National Geographic. Her eyes captivated the world, but even the photographer, Steve McCurry, didn’t know her name. Nearly two decades later, the magazine announced that they had made a discovery: they knew her name, and they were sure. The woman’s identity had been confirmed by comparing a scan of the eyes in the photograph to an iris scan of her grown-up self; irises are as unique as fingerprints, and a “print” can be taken from a high-resolution photograph if the eye in question is not available.

“I thought this was a really beautiful story,” says filmmaker Mike Cahill, best known for Another Earth. “It felt like a great place to have the conversation between science and spirituality.”

He liked the story so much that it became the inspiration behind his new movie, I Origins, in theaters today. It’s a trippy tale of iris scans, love, genetics and — though Cahill was extremely careful never to say the word during the movie, so that viewers could draw their own conclusions — the possibility of reincarnation. In that, it’s an example of the way that movies can use science to get at the questions their creators care about.

And it’s not alone: Lucy, arriving in theaters next week, on July 25, takes a similar tack. Lucy, from writer/director Luc Besson, is an action-packed fable about a woman, played by Scarlett Johansson, who is, due to a series of unfortunate circumstances and a mysterious drug, able to harness the full power of her brain. Besson’s film was also born of a real-life interaction, a conversation with a young scientist he happened to sit next to at a dinner party. Besson says that he had always wanted to do a film about the concept of intelligence and that this was his chance; he could use some of the ideas from the conversation about the way cells work to say what he wanted to say about how knowledge is power.

“I like this combination, when the science leads to beauty or art or philosophy,” Besson tells TIME. “It’s something very unique and very beautiful.”

But where Cahill and Besson differ is in just how much actual science has to be in the scientific part.

Cahill stresses that the science of I Origins is all fact-based, from the particular genes mentioned to the international uses of iris biometrics to, he says, the theoretical possibility that we may have senses not yet detectable. He also wanted his scientist characters to be accurate representations, so he consulted with his brother, a molecular biologist, and brought the cast down to his brother’s lab at Johns Hopkins to do character research. Besson’s starting point, meanwhile, is famously nonfactual: the idea that humans walk around with 90% of their brains going unused so infuriates some neuroscience fans that they’ve sworn off the movie preemptively. But, though Besson says he did a lot of research before starting, he’s less concerned about those details. For him, the “scientific” part is less about facts than it is about a grounding in reality. For example, he objects to the characterization of Lucy, his heroine, as having super-strength or super powers; instead, he sees the film as a meditation on what might be possible if a person could make her mind and body do exactly what she wished. Staying away from a superhero-esque way of seeing it helps the movie make a point about something real, says Besson, who adds that at this point in his life he’s too old to make an action movie that doesn’t have a deeper meaning.

“Half of the things in the film are true. The other half is not true. But if you mix everything together, everything looks real,” he says. “It’s funny because today everybody knows that movies are fake, but in a way we’re in such a crisis that everyone is looking for a little piece of truth in it. Politicians are supposed to tell the truth and they’re lying all day long. Films are supposed to be fake and sometimes you get some truth.”

That relationship between fact and fiction explains why, even though Besson and Cahill don’t feel the same way about how factual their facts have to be, they both use science-y concepts to get at something that couldn’t be examined in a lab. For Cahill, it was that mysteriously romantic feeling of looking in someone’s eyes and feeling like you’ve known her forever. For Besson, it was the more theoretical question of what a person who can know everything should do with that power. For both, it was the idea that human beings may be capable of more than we know. That’s an end goal that may easier for audiences to swallow if it comes from a world that feels like it might be real — but, for Cahill and Besson, that doesn’t make it any less fantastic.

“It’s incredible to think about the fact that the sum total of human knowledge, everything that we know, expands every day, just like the universe,” says Cahill. “And the force behind that expansion is scientific discovery.”

TIME Music

In Semi-Defense of “Brooklyn Girls”

Catey Shaw isn't really singing about Brooklyn

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If you saw the video above, Catey Shaw’s “Brooklyn Girls,” on the Internet yesterday, you probably figured out that it was instantly hated — and not because of the song or the singer, because of the subject matter. Its presentation of the much-beloved and much-maligned New York City borough is enough to make residents want to leave, apparently.

But Catey Shaw isn’t actually singing about Brooklyn the place. She’s singing about Brooklyn the adjective. She says so herself, in a teaser video for the song: “The whole thing about a Brooklyn girl is you don’t have to be from Brooklyn,” she states, with an actual bird perched on her shoulder. “It’s more the whole idea of the strong female.”

And Marc Spitz, author of the recently released book Twee, sees what she means. He says the song called to mind the idea of “très Brooklyn,” the supposedly trendy French terminology for coolness — to the point that he first guessed the song and video were Swedish, with non-Brooklynites just imagining the place. (Though “Brooklyn Girls” is definitely not twee, Spitz writes about the relationship between the two, saying that “Brooklyn” and “twee” are often confused these days.) The reason why there’s been such a backlash, says Spitz, is that “anything that’s ‘Brooklyn’ is going to produce a backlash.”

“It’s an authenticity question. We haven’t really progressed that much since the ’90s; you have to be super sincere or else you’re going to get a lot of shit,” he says. “Now [Brooklyn] is kind of a faux neighborhood with a prefabricated culture.”

But once you see it that way — the faux neighborhood and the real neighborhood being different — Shaw’s song doesn’t seem worth the hate anymore. That’s because if you separate the idea of Brooklyn from the place where people live (myself included, full disclosure), Shaw is being authentic.

The pre-fab culture Spitz describes is a real thing, and she’s really singing about it with seeming sincerity. Though New York-based outlets are understandably upset (with some exceptions) that someone is capitalizing on their hometown in a such a lame fashion, it’s hard to be upset at someone commercializing an intentionally commercial concept. Moreover, it’s not like the idea-vs.-place struggle is new. Manhattanites figured out long ago that while feeling protective of your territory is one thing, getting upset about other people’s ideas of what that place means is pointless.

“You have to remember that everyone since the dawn of time has bitched about New York and what it’s become, but nobody owns New York,” Spitz says. “When Bob Dylan came here, they said the scene was dead. When the Dutch came, they probably said the scene was dead. One of the great and terrible things about New York is that we expect the real, and this is clearly not ‘the real’ — but also it’s bullshit to think that we own it.”

Just as Manhattan — like Paris and Los Angeles and Tokyo — has had to come to grips with existing as both a place and an idea at the same time, it’s too late to take back “Brooklyn,” even if the idea’s existence is still novel. “Personally, I lived on Bedford and Grand in 1992 and there was nothing there, and I go to Williamsburg now and I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone,” Spitz says. “The fact that any of this is happening is rather strange to me, even though I wrote a book about it.”

TIME Music

“Rude” Is the New #1 Song — But Is It Really About Being Rude?

An etiquette expert weighs in

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Well, fancy that: Billboard‘s latest update of their Hot 100 songs chart has finally brought a little change to the world of pop. After nearly two months in the top spot, Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” has been displaced — and the new top song is “Rude,” the reggae-inflected single from MAGIC! that tells the sad tale of a man who unsuccessfully asks his girlfriend’s father for her hand in marriage.

He’ll never give his blessing, the father tells the song’s protagonist, as well as, “Tough luck, my friend, but the answer is no.’”

But, in the grand tradition of people criticizing Alanis Morissette because it’s not actually that ironic for it to rain on someone’s wedding day, let us ask the awkward question: is “rudeness” really the problem here?

Lizzie Post has the answer. She’s the co-author of the sixth edition of Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette, great-great-granddaughter of the original Emily Post and someone who knows the song well. “I was just singing it!” she exclaims when asked about it; she says her friends razz her about etiquette showing up on pop radio. But as it turns out, the level of rudeness in “Rude” is not so clear-cut.

For one thing, the etiquette of asking for someone’s daughter’s hand in marriage is complicated. Though there are some American regions or cultures in which asking a parent for permission prior to proposal is still done, Post says that it’s largely a remnant of a time when brides tended to be much younger, before the average age of marriage for American women edged into the late 20s. (It’s even later in Canada, from where MAGIC! originates.) When most brides lived with and depended on their parents, it made a lot more sense to involve them in the decision than it does now, when engaged women are older and more likely to be self-supporting. “Most parents end up saying that ‘She’s a grown woman and it’s up to her,’” Post says. If the parents are going to get a heads up, Post suggests asking for “blessing” or “support” rather than “permission.” And, if the woman comes from a family where permission is still required — as is perhaps the case with the “old-fashioned man” in the song — the couple should have an open conversation about that in advance, so they’re sure they have the same expectations about family involvement.

“If they don’t give [their blessing] to you, it’s not welcoming,” she adds. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s rude.”

On the other hand, that’s not to say that “tough luck” is the most polite way to turn down your daughter’s prospective fiancé. Rather than a straight up “No,” Post suggests a father talk around the question and acknowledge that his opinion — as is the case in the song — may not actually determine whether the marriage happens. For example: “I hope you can understand that I’m not completely comfortable with this.”

Nor is the dad in the song the only one not exactly prioritizing etiquette. Post says that, in talking to a parent about something like this, a man might ask the father out to lunch or, during a longer visit to the family home, ask to speak to him privately, which will give him notice that a serious conversation is about to happen. (“He’ll know what’s coming,” she says. “Dads aren’t stupid.”) Showing up unannounced on his doorstep isn’t exactly the most considerate way to go about it.

So there’s your answer: both parties in the song are, in fact, being a bit rude to one another — but rudeness isn’t what the song is about. Having a negative opinion about something isn’t inherently impolite. The truth is not as amenable to a pop chorus as the one-word assessment “rude” may be, but the situation described in the song is evidence of a deeply dysfunctional family and a father who, though his daughter seems eager to marry her boyfriend, doesn’t respect her choices and autonomy.

As Post puts it, “You’ve got bigger problems if your future in-laws aren’t excited for you to become part of the family.”

TIME remembrance

Elaine Stritch on Learning About Yourself: “They’re Hard Lessons”

Elaine Stritch performs at the Kennedy Center Honors on October 29, 1994.
Elaine Stritch performs at the Kennedy Center Honors on October 29, 1994. CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

The late, great actress spoke to TIME earlier this year

Elaine Stritch, who died Thursday at 89, was best known as the legendary stage performer who made Broadway brassier — but her most recent acclaimed performance had been as herself. Stritch was the subject of a documentary, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, which was released in February.

Then, Stritch spoke to TIME about the release of the film. What she had to say about seeing herself on film in that manner was a lesson that can apply much more broadly:

What did you learn about yourself from [making the documentary]?

A great deal. They’re hard lessons to learn. You have to stand up, throw your shoulders back and say, ‘Go ahead, hit me.’ I think I’m better at it than I used to be. Especially when the reaction to the show was good. I think that helps a lot, when they’re entertained. Because I wouldn’t do a documentary unless I made it entertaining, and that does not necessarily mean lies. If you make a lot of lies up that make you look fun and up and attractive and all those good things, what good does it do anybody else? But if you really tell the honest-to-God truth, I think it’s a pretty revealing experiment. I think it makes a documentary honest, and your honesty spreads, and I think people are affected by it and tell the truth as well. You get a lot of people sitting around telling the truth, and you get a pretty interesting documentary.

Stritch also told TIME that, as of February, though she had left New York City for a quieter life, it wouldn’t be accurate to call her retired.

“That is not accurate at all,” she said. “I’d be thrilled to death to find a good new play.”

TIME Television

Jerry Seinfeld Says He Wouldn’t Consider Another Sitcom

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon - Season 1
Jerry Seinfeld on The Tonight Show on Feb. 18, 2014 Lloyd Bishop—NBC / Getty Images

The comedian answered questions from fans on Facebook

As part of his promotional run for his web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry Seinfeld took to Facebook on Wednesday afternoon to answer questions from fans.

And, in one of the first exchanges of the session, he put to rest any notion that he might be thinking of working on something other than CCC, at least not a post-Seinfeld return to half-hour television:

“Would you ever consider doing another sitcom? Either writing or acting?” a fan asked. The response was one word long: “No.”

Other participants in the Q&A expressed both surprise and resignation about his response, with the original questioner responding that “if you do it right the first time you don’t need a second try.”

Seinfeld — whose eponymous TV show first aired 25 years ago this summer — also answered questions about which comedians he hopes to get on the show but hasn’t yet (nobody, because everyone says yes), his favorite cars and sneakers, as well as another matter that got a blanket negative from the comedian: whether it’s ever acceptable to tuck in a polo shirt.

TIME Pop Culture

The U.S. Government Agrees With Jason Segel About Sandwiches

Food definitions are no laughing matter

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Jason Segel knows better than to joke about sandwiches. On the Tuesday night episode of the Late Show, the Sex Tape actor told David Letterman that a casual remark about the superiority of sandwiches to burritos caused such a firestorm on Twitter that it caused him to quit the social media service.

“Sandwiches are more diverse than burritos,” was the actor’s pronouncement. “I do know about burritos,” he added. “If they get too diverse, they’re a wrap.” Sandwiches, meanwhile, can encompass the wide variety seen within his top five list: from the BLT to the Reuben to the tuna melt to the grilled cheese to the PB&J.

But, though Segel has clearly given serious thought to the topic, he’s not the only one.

Last week, NPR covered one of the deep complexities of the sandwich vs. burrito debate: the fact that burritos may actually be sandwiches, by some definitions. According to the USDA Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book, a sandwich (of the closed variety) consists of “two slices of bread or the top and bottom sections of a slice bun that enclose meat or poultry”; the meat has to make up 35% of the total sandwich. A burrito, meanwhile, is a “Mexican style sandwich-like product consisting of a flour tortilla, various fillings, and at least 15 percent meat or 10 percent cooked poultry meat”; whether or not the ends of the rolled tortilla are “tucked” doesn’t make a difference. A wrap is a ready-to-eat product that “is wrapped in a dough based component” and contains a minimum 2% meat or poultry.

The reason the USDA cares is that these definitions help determine how products are inspected, labeled and taxed. For example, if a company tried to pass something off as a “ham croquette” that had less than 35% ham in it — an actual example from the book — they couldn’t get away with it. Different foods are inspected at different points in being assembled, and some fall into different tax categories.

Which is where sandwiches and burritos come in. As NPR notes, the state of New York taxes burritos under the heading of sandwiches, asserting that burritos aren’t merely a sandwich-like product. So, in New York at least, Segel would be legally correct: sandwiches are more “diverse” than burritos because burritos are a subset of sandwiches; furthermore, even outside that state, a burrito that gets too diverse — i.e. one in which the variety of ingredients is either no longer “Mexican style” or is of such quantity that the amount of meat sinks below 15% — does in fact become a wrap.

But, though the government seems to generally concur with the comedian, that doesn’t mean they’re on the same sandwich wavelength across the board. After all, the USDA definition of a sandwich — that it must include meat or poultry — means that grilled cheese and PB&J aren’t sandwiches at all. Even a BLT is unlikely to meat the threshold, since it would have to be 35% bacon to fit the bill.

The USDA’s position on peanut butter and jelly, as set out by the labeling policy, is clearly ludicrous — nearly as ludicrous as the way that David Letterman says “taco.” So, though Jason Segel isn’t the only one thinking about sandwiches, maybe he’s the one who’s thought about them the hardest. And for that, he deserves a sandwich.

TIME Music

Listen to Anthony D’Amato’s New Track “Good and Ready”: Premiere

Anthony D'Amato
New West Records

The song is taken from his upcoming album The Shipwreck from the Shore

Anthony D’Amato’s new record The Shipwreck From The Shore isn’t out till Sept. 2, but somebody has already asked him to play the song “Good and Ready” — officially premiering here at TIME — at a wedding.

“I was kind of confused when I got that request,” he says. “This song has the phrase ‘let me die’ like a dozen times in it.”

But that confusion is a good thing. D’Amato says that he likes that the song can be interpreted as both a sweet love song and a dark break-up song. On the one hand, there’s all the dying; on the other, there’s an upbeat melody and and catchy chorus. Besides the joy of love, there’s another good reason for the hummable hook on “Good and Ready”: it was one of the first songs that the singer-songwriter — whose previous albums were DIY — wrote after beginning to play with a full band, rather than just himself, a harmonica and guitar. Previously, though he could use technology to create many layers of recorded sound on a record, he didn’t want to write anything he couldn’t play live by himself. With a full band, the world of the instrumental hook was opened up. When the song was recorded at an 18th-century farmhouse studio in Maine, that band was in full effect, with appearances by Matt McCaughan of Bon Iver on drums, Brad Cook of Megafaun on bass and Sam Kassirer, of Josh Ritter’s band, on keyboard.

Listen for yourself below, and see whether you’re feeling like a romantic or a pessimist. Either way, you’ll be right.

“I like that there’s room for interpretation,” D’Amato says. ” That’s what I love about so many of my favorite songs, that I get something different out of it each time I listen to it, depending where I’m coming to it from.”

TIME Books

Nadine Gordimer: 5 Essential Reads from the Award-Winning Author

Nadine Gordimer
Nadine Gordimer on June 12, 1983 in Paris Ulf Andersen—Getty Images

Where to start with the author, who has died at 90

Over the course of more than six decades, the Nobel-winning South Africa author Nadine Gordimer, who died on Sunday at 90, wrote more than a dozen novels and many more short stories. It’s a daunting oeuvre, throughout which she often returned to themes related to apartheid. For those daunted by her extensive bibliography, here’s where to start:

Face to Face

Year: 1949

Gordimer’s first novel was still a few years away, but Face to Face — a collection of short stories — was the young author’s first book.

Telling Times : Writing and Living, 1954-2008

Year: 2010

Telling Times wasn’t Gordimer’s last book (in 2012, her novel No Time Like the Present was published) but it’s the place to look for Gordimer’s nonfiction. The compendium of a half-century of work ranges from autobiography and travelogue to reflections on South African history and the great leaders of her time. The New York Times review of the book said that, even though a collection so vast is bound to have ups and downs, the work “reveals the power of ‘engagement,’ in the broad and humane sense.”

Burger’s Daughter

Year: 1979

One of her best-known works, Burger’s Daughter concerns the life of a young daughter of South African anti-apartheid activists and how politics affects the personal. Along with A World of Strangers and The Late Bourgeois World, it’s one of the three Gordimer works banned by the South African government; Burger’s Daughter was the subject of a 1980 book about that nation’s censorship practices. Gordimer later said that she wasn’t surprised the book was banned, but that “if you are a writer you must write what you see.”

The Conservationist:

Year: 1974

Gordimer won the Booker Prize — one of literature’s most prestigious — for this novel, about a rich South African man who buys a farm in order to find meaning in his life. The work was later shortlisted for the extra-prestigious “Best of the Booker” prize.

Loot

Year: 2003 for the collection of the same name; the story is copyright 1999.

For those who want to read her work right away, this is the way to go: the short story “Loot” is available for free on the Nobel website.

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