Whatever your politics, it’s been a crazy year. There are endless questions to
ask and too few clear answers. Perhaps that makes this a good time to
be a nonfiction writer. We talked
to three authors whose new books
investigate sexism in Hollywood, the
unjust treatment of black men by
police, and the history and seductiveness of fake news. They are asking
some of the true questions to which
we crave true answers.
LEADING LADIES: CARINO CHOCANO
Chocano, a former TV and movie critic, got fed up with one-dimensional
female characters. Her new essay collection, You Play the Girl: On Playboy
Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Train Wrecks &
Other Mixed Messages, offers a passionate critique of sexism in Hollywood.
Was there a particular film that
got you going on this book?
Knocked Up. I expected to like it, but I
Do you think things have gotten
didn’t, at all. But I was really nervous
about not liking it. I felt like I couldn’t
say anything bad about it, or I’d be
attacked. Katherine Heigl told Vanity
Fair that it was “a little sexist,” and the
backlash was massive; it pretty much
ended her career. Actress Isla Fisher
had suffered the same kind of attacks
after Wedding Crashers, when she told
an interviewer that all of the scripts
she saw are for men, offering women
the option to “play the girl in the
hot rod.” I thought the hostility just
proved that she was right.
any better over the last few years?
I intended to write this book in 2009,
but I put it aside and picked it back up
again because the culture was starting
to become more open and you could
talk about these things. But every
time there’s a new surge of feminism,
there’s also a backlash. It’s a cycle. I
think that women have really changed
and people have changed, but the
system hasn’t changed. Yes, it’s easier
to talk about this now than even seven
years ago, but there’s danger in just
thinking we are done progressing.
Do you feel hopeful about better
roles for female actresses in the
It’s gotten a lot better among the new
digital players, especially compared
to movies and network TV. There are
more women writing, and there are
more dynamic female characters. In
a lot of new shows like, Orange Is the
New Black, you are seeing individual
characters who are really vastly different from each other. In the opening
credits, you see all of those different
faces, many that you would never see
on TV before. It just shows you the
range of things that we hadn’t been
seeing. So there is hope, but we still
have a long way to go.
POLICING THE JUSTICE SYSTEM:
ANGELA J. DAVIS
Davis, a law professor and former
director of the D.C. Public Defender
Service, edits Policing the Black Man,
a powerful collection of essays on the
treatment of African-Americans by the
U.S. criminal justice system.
You make a profound statement at
the opening of your introduction
by naming many of the victims
who have died at the hands of the
police: Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, among others.
These men are the inspiration for the
volume. These awful killings made
the nation and the world start to pay
attention to what is going on in our
criminal justice system, in terms of
how black men and boys are treated.
The idea was to put together a group
of essays that would discuss, explore,
and contextualize these killings.
Carino Chocano, Angela J. Davis, and Kevin Young
L. to r.: Carino Chocano © Titia Vermeer, Angela J.
Davis ©Lukas North, and Kevin Young ©Melanie Dunea