Pearl-clutching liberals respond to instances of bigotry and bad behavior with “It’s 2017, ffs!” Well, I’ve consulted the zodiac, and 2017 has been the year of the mediocre white man. Blake Shelton is the sexiest man alive, and Donald Trump the most powerful. White male mediocrity is simply the opposite of surprising.
White women are not at the same level of white men yet. They don’t get away with as much mediocrity—besides, they have it pretty hard in media. You can make Rotten Tomatoes’ most highly rated film of all time and still be snubbed by the Golden Globes.
But you know who else has it hard? The audience. We’re forced to consume the same iterations of white feminism on loop—yes, it would seem that familiarity does breed contempt. I started to look back at the types of white women we have to endure in film and television in the name of “If it’s a woman, it’s feminist” progress.
Yes, her name is Lena Dunham, and of course, everyone hates her now that she caped for a sexual abuser because they are friends. (She’s so anxious about her public relations disaster that she’s now telling anyone who will listen that she “warned” Hillary Clinton about Harvey Weinstein. So she knew about it? OK.)
Our generation’s “voice” makes plenty of “art” about her own life—it is, after all, shocking to see privileged kids have sex in pipes (see Tiny Furniture)—and is often portrayed as a sex-positive, third-wave feminist. But when it comes to her personal life, Dunham not only feels entitled to sexual attention (remember how she reacted when Odell Beckham Jr. “ignored” her?) but also supports white male abusers over women of color like Aurora Perrineau. I mean, she refers to herself jokingly as a predator in her own book, in which she detailed touching her younger sister inappropriately, and wants to win the oppression Olympics so badly that she “wishes” she had had an abortion. Talk about sex-positive cred!
Here’s to hoping you have enough wine and mindfulness to take you through the fifth holiday party of the season, where a white girl, who’s friends with the host but not close to anyone else, will drone on about her shocking sex life so loudly, nobody else can talk over her.
Amy Schumer is such a joker. She’s almost too funny, you know? She’s so good at comedy that she can get away with just about anything, like stealing jokes, being openly racist and parodying Beyoncé—BEYONCÉ! In response to all those #Haters, Schumer was quick to remind them that feminism is #StrongerTogether and that her use of black art for a cash grab was totally fine because she’s a woman and therefore it’s a tribute.
So many fond memories, our body-positive queen. Remember her pithy observation about her Asian friend Kim, who met someone who looks like her dad ... and her mom ... because all Asians look alike? Oh, and wow, remember her adroit observation that black women had “wild” names?! Super clever, and not at all disgusting. Oooh, Amy is just so funny, she thinks Latina women are all “crazy” and Latino men just don’t do consensual sex! Looks like she agrees with our president. Just love her.
The proliferation of the manic pixie dream girl in cinema is so complete that I’m having a hard time parsing trope and genuine quirkiness now. Rooney Mara, spawn of privilege, leads the pack with her wide-eyed look of confusion in movies like Song to Song, Lion and Carol. She’s so random, she even plays dress-up on-screen as Native American Tiger Lily. Mara is just one of many “tweeatre” white girls—cute, theatrical, weirdly sexy. Like Zooey Deschanel’s bangs or Anne Hathaway’s mouthy, fake surprise.
You spend your entire life looking for media to be the mirror into your own world. You need representation. You want to be seen. And then Jennifer Lawrence comes along, giving you all the relatability one could want in one person: She can be so normal, not super skinny (and therefore “obese”), and can also be bigoted! Man, she totally fell down on national television by accident and definitely not on purpose—just like any of us would! She also thinks all cats are female and all dogs are male because of their “energy,” which is also super normal.
Don’t you just love that crazy character she played in—what was it?—Silver Linings Playbook? Or was it American Hustle? No, it was Mother!—which half the audiences totally didn’t get, it was so brilliant. Love how she makes being “crazy” so relatable! It’s almost no big deal! Everygirl J.Law experiences such everygirl problems, like having a butt itch so bad that she dislodged a sacred Hawaiian rock with her white ass scratching, almost killing a crew member on a film shoot. She’s so proud of it that she told the BBC about it.
A subcategory of the ubiquitous “I’m Not a Bigot, I’m a Woman!” white girl (hello, Scarlett Johansson), we now turn to the less common outspoken feminist who is kind of doing good in the world and who broadcasts her virtue with a resounding pat on her own shoulder. Emma Watson was everyone’s darling Hermione, the clever white girl cast in a role that should have been played by a black woman.
In similar fashion, Watson continues to usurp the platform of feminism from black women and other women of color with her massive fame, co-opting it for white feminism. She even had time to police Beyoncé’s body by utilizing feminist rhetoric like “male gaze.” In response to the critique of the lack of intersectionality in her #HeForShe campaign, Watson literally said that she was in the clear because her bosses were two black women. Sure, Hermione didn’t need those two boys at all, but maybe we didn’t need a white Hermione.
Sofia Coppola, also the spawn of privilege, made waves with her second feature, a wistful look at two white people feeling lost in Japan—so, basically, any day in any foreign country. I dare you to count the number of Lost in Translation posters in the frosh-year dorms of white millennial sad bois. And like those sad bois, Coppola loves white women. Her movies, whether they’re about white girls killing themselves, or white girls stealing because they can, or white girls being queens, Coppola is notoriously weak at understanding intersectionality.
Coppola, who thinks it’s possible to look at gender dynamics while ignoring racial ones, is the same Coppola in 2017. The Beguiled, the second adaptation of a 1966 novel, is set against the backdrop of the Confederacy while omitting women of color, giving color only three words in a movie idealizing Southern white femininity: “The slaves left.”
The reason Coppola made the movie? “I felt like I had to give these women a voice.” We know which women she deems most worthy of being listened to.
Are there more than six types of mediocre white feminism? Probably, in every industry, but I didn’t want to think about Taylor Swift too much this December. Sure, 2017 was a tough year, but it also gave us Get Out and Girls Trip. So here’s to hoping that in naming the problem, we’ll be able to see less of it in 2018.