Cannes idiocy

This is a bit late, but I wanted to direct your attention to the fact that the Cannes festival this year featured no films directed by women in competition. That is correct: zero. That is also pathetic. Last I heard, eighteen men-directed films are in that competition, and they couldn’t even find one decent woman-directed film to add?!?!

A letter is being sent to the organizers complaining about this, and you can sign it at You Cannes Not Be Serious. It’s easy and quick, and you can add a comment of your own if you’d like. The text of the letter is below.

HT to Women and Hollywood, a lovely blog everyone should follow.

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To: The Organisers of the Cannes Film Festival

As people who care about and are interested in films we must protest the lack of female directors in competition for the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. Women make up over half of cinema audiences and we demand a fairer representation of female directors in the main competition.

We are raising our voices in protest in hopes that in the future this will never happen again.

We are watching. We will not be silent.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

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Manga sales and profitability

Every so often the blogosphere gets into a tizzy over scanlations: do they hurt or help manga sales? As ‘net-based discussions tend to, these spats frequently get dominated by one group of people claiming that scanlations are the ultimate evil and another arguing that everything, EVERYTHING should be free, at all times, in all ways. However, some smart people also comment. Sooner or later I will get around to adding a page to this site that rounds up some of the more thoughtful posts on the issue, but today I want to talk about a related problem.

Comic Book Resources’ Brian Hibbs has rounded up some hard numbers on manga sales for everyone’s perusal. These numbers probably represent about 75% of all translated manga sales in the U.S.

Hibbs has some interesting analysis that I want to think through a bit, so I won’t talk about that so much. Instead, I want to talk about the differences between manga and American comic books on this list. Those differences all amount to: American comics make more money. I don’t mean in terms of size of the industry, production costs or anything like that. I mean that across the board if you look at an American comic on this list it is liable to have brought in more money than those manga selling at a similar rate. In other words, comics cost more. The three million dollar-plus sellers were all American (and two of them were Watchmen). All three had tie-ins of some kind. All three also cost $20 or more. The exception to the higher-cost American comics is the mangaesque or manga-style comics, which have prices like the manga.

To some extent, this is an apples and oranges comparison. Manga have to pay translators and licensing fees that comics don’t, and comics have to pay for artists and (often) colour printing that manga companies can ignore. But what struck me most was not the difference between how much manga and comics earn as how very, very little manga earn. The last five manga on the list (which only includes the top 750 comics/manga sold in the year) earned within the $31,000-$43,000 range. Those numbers come from multiplying the cover cost of the book by the number sold, so they don’t reflect the coupons and discounts offered so frequently. Moreover, they don’t include the bookstore’s cut, shipping to the bookstore or ANY expenses – not printing, not translation, not salaries for anyone working on the manga… That’s not a lot of money for all of the effort involved. I’m just trying out different estimates of how much each of those titles brings in, and really… it’s not looking good. On the other hand, the publishing industry has always been based on the idea that some works will sell like hotcakes and some will slowly wend their way through the market before dying a miserable death in a remainders store. I’m worried that, with manga, there aren’t enough hotcakes properties to carry a full industry, based on the current sales set up.

The Role of Adults in Taming Miley Cyrus

Sorry for the slow updating – many things have been going on lately. I’ll update you on them in a few months. They’re good things, I just can’t write about them yet.

There’s been a lot of talking/blogging about Miley Cyrus’ new video and song Can’t Be Tamed. Both song and video are similar to the sorts of songs/videos we’ve seen from pop singers like Britney Spears and groups like the Black Eyed Peas. The video, in particular, features another outing of the more sexualized Cyrus that has been cropping up lately. Here she’s presented as an exotic bird on display for a bunch of rich people. Over the course of the video, she scares off the rich folk, breaks out of the cage with some feathered friends and dances about the building, only to return to the cage at the end.

She’s gotten a lot of flack for it. Even people who defend her recent attempts to mature her image are disappointed, as here:

So it’s not surprising that Cyrus would want a more adult image. And unlike many prefab pop tarts who’ve gone before her, Cyrus actually has talent galore. She’s got a hell of a set of pipes; she’s a naturally gifted musician; she’s a far better actress and comic presence than Madonna ever was — and it doesn’t hurt that she’s also stunning… What a letdown, then, is how predictable, derivative and dumb her chosen breakout vehicle turns out to be. At the top of her game, Cyrus is an artist who could do anything she wants right now. She got Nicholas Sparks to write a movie for her, for God’s sake. Why would she release a song that sounds so tinny and mechanical?

I don’t hold particularly specific taste in music, so I’m not going to get into the relative merits of different types of songs. I will say that Cyrus deserves some slack to try new things, period. She’s uberfamous, so she’s doing it all under a spotlight, but if you’re inclined to give her the slack to try out different ways of expressing her sexuality, you’ve also got to give her some slack to try out expressing herself in music through a pretty tried and true character type. And it is a character type: the reason that we can list off a handful of similar singers/songs/videos is because this is a clear, accepted way for teenage pop singers to act. Why wouldn’t she try it out?

I really want to talk about the video, though. I’ll just highlight an aspect I found interesting. It opens with a number of shots of the crowd of adults around the cage that we (eventually) find Cyrus in, and it ends with Cyrus back in the cage, but the room it was in is now empty and desolate. The “rebellion” that scares off the crowd consists of spreading her (CG) wings and singing – by the time she escapes the cage, the adults are long gone. Instead of a video about being tamed, this seems like a video where a young women is first put into a box by a bunch of older people who just want to look at her (or subject her to the gaze, if you prefer more theoretical terminology). Then, upon, quite literally, stretching her wings, she is abandoned by the audience. She wanders around with some wild friends, but they eventually disappear and leave her quietly sitting in her cage, alone. It seems to me like the message is a more angsty “Adults will pressure you without being clear what they want, but if you try to figure things out on your own and get it wrong they’ll take it out on you.” That seems awfully teenager-y to me. Maybe some of the worriers should chill a bit.