The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo - Amy Schumer (2016)
AN EXCITING TIME FOR WOMEN IN HOLLYWOOD
Imagine you just wrote and starred in your own movie for the first time. The movie premieres, it does well, and you feel like you’re on top of the world. And you are exhausted because making a movie is a lot of work, and also because you had to lose (and keep off) ten pounds you usually like carrying around with you. (Because no woman is believably lovable unless you can see her clavicles from all angles.) Then, before you’re even done celebrating the premiere of your movie, which you poured your guts into, it’s explained to you that actors aren’t really paid to act. What they’re paid for is to do press.
What a gross discovery.
I get it. Movies are really expensive to produce so the studios have to make sure people actually go see them. I apologize if you saw way too much of my face in ads and billboards and commercials in the summer of 2015. If this is how you’re feeling, you can thank the marketing people. And trust me, no one was sicker of hearing my voice than I was.
I’d never starred in a movie before Trainwreck, so I was virtually unknown in other countries. This meant I had to sign up for an intense international press tour to promote the movie. Press tours consist of visits to multiple cities where you sit in rooms with journalists (usually while on camera) who ask you to talk about your movie so they can go away and write hopefully positive stuff so people will go see your movie. On that press tour, I was interviewed by what felt like every journalist in the world—from the most well-known news stations to dudes who were taping the first episode of their podcast. I had to say yes to everything, because the studio was taking a chance on me. I was a new employee, and that is when you have to act excited for the opportunity and be a good little worker bee.
When you first hear that you’re going to Australia, Germany, London, Amsterdam, Dublin, and on and on, you think, FUCK YEAH! Free trip! I’ve never been to Berlin! And then you realize that you will spend every second of every day being asked the same questions by every single interviewer, and you will be expected to perform the answers for them as if they are freshly coming out of your mouth for the first time, every single time. Without fail, every last one of them asked, “How autobiographical is your movie?” I started to feel like a soulless show pony. Talking about yourself all day long like that leaves you with a kind of emptiness that’s hard to describe. And it’s a lot to take on for someone like me who is so unfortunately prone to honesty.
On top of feeling like it was up to me to convince people to buy tickets, there was the added burden of being a woman. Because every time there is a female lead in a movie, everyone bugs out and says, “Will this be a turning point for women?” or “What does this MEAN for women in comedy?”
So the pressure is on. Because the movie doesn’t just have to do well so that I can feel proud of it or so the studio can make money—it has to do well for the 50 percent of the population I am now apparently representing. What will this mean for our gender for years to come!?? That line of questioning is pretty loaded. Especially since this was my first movie, and I don’t even pretend to speak for all women. I write about my life and how I see and experience the world, without assuming that my views are universal.
So anyway, I went on a huge press tour, not just for the movie but for all of female-kind. And just like everywhere else, since the dawn of man, every interviewer’s favorite question was, “Is this an exciting time for women in entertainment?” or “What does this mean for women in Hollywood?”
“Isn’t this an exciting time?!”
And I wanted to scream, “NO!”
First of all, I don’t consider myself a “woman in Hollywood.” I’m not even totally sure what that term means. But if I were to play free association with myself and I heard that term, I guess I would think of someone who either has her own abbreviated celeb name, like J. Law/Lo, or someone who has looked very hot in a few movies who also, I don’t know … has her own lifestyle blog or her own product line? Like an Alba or a Paltrow. I have none of those things. “A. Schu” never really caught on like we were all hoping it would.
Also I am literally not a “woman in Hollywood.” As you know, I have always lived in New York, and no, it doesn’t feel like an exciting time. The exciting time will come when nobody has to answer that stupid question. Everyone, on the count of three: Stop asking that. Forever. Just stop. One. Two. Three! And besides, Hollywood is not at all exciting for women. I’m sure no one is too shocked to hear that it’s an industry of people who judge most women almost solely on their appearance, and where every day women feel themselves barreling toward death and decay while smaller, hotter actresses like Selena keep appearing like Russian nesting dolls. It’s an industry where you go from playing a lead love interest to a turtleneck-and-knit-vest-sporting grandmother who, despite missing her husband, still has a lot of love to give to pets, in half the time a leading man turns into a grandpa.
I’m of the belief that in most industries, women have to work twice as hard to get half the credit. After putting in so much effort to make a good movie, it felt pretty demeaning when they called it a “female comedy.” This meaningless label painted me into a corner and forced me to speak for all females, because I am the actual FEMALE who wrote the FEMALE comedy and then starred as the lead FEMALE in that FEMALE comedy. They don’t ask Seth Rogen to be ALL MEN! They don’t make “men’s comedies.” They don’t ask Ben Stiller, “Hey, Ben, what was your message for all male-kind when you pretended to have diarrhea and chased that ferret in Along Came Polly?”
On the press tour, many interviewers actually acknowledged this issue and came right out and asked, “Is there a lot of pressure on you to speak for all women?” I appreciated that they got right to it. Maybe it’s a good question. I understand that I have enough eyes and ears on me that what I say and do matters. This is a responsibility that I’m honored to have—because it’s an opportunity to do my best to help empower women in the only way I know how: by writing a story about a woman from the woman’s point of view.
Trainwreck was about equal opportunity. Equal opportunity to be a commitment-phobe—even if you’re a girl. But some of the interviewers were thrown off by this. Many of them asked me why I chose to write a role reversal for the guy and the girl. Meaning, why did I make the girl the one who had trouble being vulnerable and the guy the one who wanted more of a commitment? Why was the girl the one who had a bachelor pad and a string of one-night stands, and the guy was the one with a highly respected career and a sober lifestyle? Interviewers were always shocked when I explained that I hadn’t done this intentionally, but that I wrote something true to my experience. Women get a reputation for being the crazy, overly sensitive ones in relationships, but in my experience, it’s the dudes who do that. Not that I and most of my friends aren’t sensitive flowers. We just don’t invest as much or as quickly in relationships, and we don’t get our egos as involved. I’ll admit to exaggerating LeBron James’s character. We made him overly concerned about his friend’s love life, the way girls are often characterized—and this is something I haven’t actually witnessed from my male friends. But that is where the gender role reversal begins and ends in Trainwreck. I was writing what felt honest, real, and compelling, coming from my perspective and my real life. And even though I’m not gonna cop to representing all women, I’m also pretty sure I’m not the only chick with these experiences.
Nonetheless, the slut-shaming was off the charts. Maybe it was just a cultural thing that made the foreign journalists seem out of line. Some interviewers brought this vibe: Well, you talk about sexual subject matter in your movie, so I can say anything I want to you. Which made me want to shower for the rest of my life. One of the interviews I did in Australia went viral when the journalist asked me the question “So your character is a skank, do you have a word for skank in America?” I told him that it was a rude question and we went back and forth a little bit, and of course, if you do anything other than just smile and nod and thank them for their time, if you actually have an unfavorable or emotional response to a rude question, the shit hits the fan. People react as if you obviously can’t take the heat and need to get out of the kitchen. But I’ve never been a smile-and-nod type of girl, nor have I ever been one to get out of the kitchen.
The worst experience was in Berlin—surprise, surprise—when I sat with the same interviewer twice. He was a man in his late fifties or early sixties, wearing jeans and a button-down. He was balding up top and was letting it grow a little long in the back, half pageboy, half Robert Plant. He wore glasses and didn’t let social norms pressure him into smiling, ever. I first sat with him and Bill Hader. He asked Bill if he liked playing a doctor, and then he asked me what I was like to have sex with. Bill didn’t like this question and stood up for me, but I said it was fine and explained that it was like being with one of those performers who stand on boxes on street corners spray-painted entirely silver. You can’t tell if they’re statues or not but every couple minutes they move slightly. The only difference, I said, is that no one ever gave me a dollar. (I need to amend this at this time and say that since then, my boyfriend did, very generously, slip a dollar under my door once after sex. I sat on the toilet and watched it make its way into the bathroom as I waited until my body agreed to pee so I wouldn’t get a UTI. I stared at that dollar feeling loved.)
That same Berlin interviewer was, for some reason, allowed to come back later and interview me again, this time with Vanessa Bayer, who plays my friend and coworker in Trainwreck. He was immediately abrasive and started asking me things that seemed to express not only his dislike for the movie but also for every breath I had ever taken. He said these exact words: “Why do you think it’s okay to make people uncomfortable?” As he said this I caught sight of a large hole in the crotch of his pants and realized that not one but both of his testicles were exposed. I looked him in the eye and said, “I don’t want to embarrass you, but I would like you to cover your lap.” Vanessa looked down and saw and nodded while her face turned bright red. She concurred that his balls were like the answer, my friend, blowin’ in the wind. He looked down, crossed his legs, regained his composure, and said, “Where was I?” I said, “You were asking me why I thought it was okay to make people uncomfortable.”
After the three hundredth interview talking about how many people I’d slept with and then awkwardly transitioning to my dad’s illness, I thought, Fuck this, I’m never doing a movie again. Just kidding! I am going to make more movies. But I’ll never do that much press again. And I’ll never lose weight again. Well, not that much anyway. I look stupid skinny. My large, Cabbage Patch head stays the same size and the rest of me shrinks to a different proportion. And what’s the reward? To be a “woman in Hollywood”? No thank you!
Then again, maybe what it means to be a “woman in Hollywood” is to be one of the many angry, bemused, and ravenous women who just wanted to be actors or artists, and who were made to believe this option would actually be available to them after they jumped through five thousand hoops in high school and college and in the gross offices of agents and managers and the quiet church basements where they performed one-act plays and musicals within an inch of their lives. Maybe a “woman in Hollywood” is just a person who was going about her business and trying to live her dreams—the same as all her male counterparts—but along the way she got held up, hungry and exhausted, by fending off insane double standards and stupid-ass questions from journalists.
If that’s a “woman in Hollywood,” then fine, maybe I am one. Guilty as charged.
But even though the foreign press couldn’t be more wrong about the “exciting time” all us women in Hollywood are having, not all journalists misunderstood me and my movie. I was so grateful I got nominated for a Golden Globe, which is determined by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The night of the Golden Globes was a dream. My whole family came with me, and even though I didn’t win, I was lucky enough to lose to a friend whose work blows my mind. Some of the journalists from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association who were there that night were amazing. I spoke with many of them and left the interviews feeling nourished, grateful, and understood. Maybe I wasn’t just a trainwreck of a girl after all! I started to feel better and comforted myself by trying to see myself through their eyes, remembering some of the kind things they’d said to me. But I was promptly brought right back down to earth when I saw how Trainwreck had been renamed in some of the foreign markets:
Italy: A Disaster Girl
Bulgaria: Total Damage
Czech Republic: Derailment
Russia: A Girl Without Complexes
Germany: Dating Queen
Finland: Just the Night
Portugal and Poland: Derailed
France: Crazy Amy
French Canada: Hopeless Case
Argentina: This Girl Is a Mess
So since I didn’t win the Globe that night and get to stand at the podium to make a speech, I want to take this opportunity to thank all the journalists in all the different countries I visited. First, I’d like to thank all the people who pointed out that I was a woman. Your compliments were phrased very precisely so that I was never just described as “funny,” but rather, a “funny woman.” You made sure I didn’t lose sight of my ovaries. Thank you. Without your constant reminders, I may have just forgotten my uterus on a crosstown bus, but you guys made me perpetually aware that I bleed once a month and I can tell a joke! I also want to thank the guy who called me a skank. I could see how unhappy you were in your own life, and I deeply felt for you. If you’re out there, I want you to know that I am very happy and experiencing a good time in my life. And lastly I want to especially thank the balls of that journalist in Berlin. If it weren’t for you guys I would probably be able to sleep at night, and who the hell wants that. Auf Wiedersehen.