Carrie Polansky is a Senior Editor and Founder of Gender Across Borders, a feminist blogging community focused on international feminist issues. I found her personal blog, Carrie on Carrie, back in September when she kept coming up on my Goggle alerts for things I didn’t have a Google alert for. I so appreciated her unapologetic use of feminist theory in relation to the storylines in SATC that I decided to talk with her this past week about the online feminist community, talking back to pop-culture and whether blogging actually makes a difference.
I never feel like I write enough. Then again, I’ve never met a writer who does think ze writes enough, so maybe that’s a good sign.
Hey Carrie. First off, I want to tell you how much I enjoy your WordPress theme for the Carrie on Carrie blog. What motivated you to create two very different blogs and were you hoping to engage only feminists? Gender Across Borders (GAB) is the brainchild of Emily Heroy, who, in 2009, realized there weren’t a whole lot of blogs (or any) in the feminist blogosphere that directly focused on international issues and global feminism. She decided to change that and I was one of the original editors who helped her do it. We wanted to engage feminists and other socially conscious readers in the U.S. and abroad in conversations about international issues. It’s been a struggle at times but we have dedicated readers who love the blog and are glad that we’re focusing on international content. Unfortunately, I’m not seeing more of those conversations continuing elsewhere.
That’s good for your blog hits, though.
Carrie on Carrie grew out of my desire to start blogging about pop culture. I wanted to take a show I didn’t know well and critique it objectively. My tagline for the blog is “Watching Sex and the City so you don’t have to,” meaning that I wanted to initially engage readers in feminist and media crit circles who didn’t have a specific interest in Sex and the City. What ended up happening was fans of the show started reading and commenting and that’s lead to a lot of fascinating conversations!
In Carrie on Carrie you say “But sometimes I wonder if I’ve prejudged her [Carrie Bradshaw] — and her world — too harshly.” As a feminist, do you think you sometimes judge things, especially when it comes to pop-culture, too harshly? I have gotten into arguments with friends who think I do judge things too harshly but I’m willing to call the media out for being too thoughtless with its’ representations. Sometimes, it’s easy to turn that lens off but I’ve consumed pop-culture critically because I always watch from a gender and queer perspective. To be a good fan, you have to also be a critic.
I like that you write about non-fiction media narratives. Many academics and fans look to the fiction/sci-fi world for better stories but for me, if it didn’t happen on Earth, I can’t really get in to it. What else are you in to? One of my all-time favorite TV shows is Queer As Folk. It’s brilliantly written and acted with sensitivity and thoughtfulness, tackling previously unaddressed topics like gay parenting, drug use, homelessness, serodiscordant couples and non-monogamous relationships. There are even sexually active characters above the age of 50, a creative risk rarely seen on television. However, the show is also incredibly problematic. There are almost no recurring roles for people of color, bisexuality is terribly portrayed and while there are many drag queens, there are few, if any, trans-identifying people. It’s a toss up: Queer As Folk tells a good story but sometimes it gets it’s issues wrong and my head hurts to watch those episodes.
Ok, so who are some of your favorite female characters on TV and in the movies? Even though Woody Allen is often criticized (and rightly so) for his female characters, for me it doesn’t get better than Annie Hall: earnestly quirky (because hipster irony didn’t exist in 1977), smart, sexually uninhibited, adventurous, professionally driven and romantically available but not desperate enough to end up with a man by the end of the movie. She doesn’t depict Hollywood femininity; her style is androgynous. My other favorites include Maude Lebowski (Big Lebowski), Baby Houseman (Dirty Dancing), Sally Albright (When Harry Met Sally), Shosanna Dreyfus (Inglourious Basterds), Melanie Marcus (Queer As Folk), Debbie Novotny (Queer As Folk) and Sharon Agathon (Battlestar Galactica).
My favorite character is Elaine Benes. If you could envision a more inclusive Hollywood or just entertainment culture, what would it look like? I wish the only standard to which women in film were held was whether or not they create good art. Kathryn Bigelow’ is a woman and The Hurt Locker was an incredible film but she was criticized for not making a film that was women-centric. Bigelow doesn’t make women-centric films! That’s just not who she is as a filmmaker. I was so happy she became the first woman to win an Oscar for directing because she represents a type of female filmmaking that isn’t stereotyped. And she has talent.
At this point, conversations about women and film seem completely caught up in gender and not in talent. Both are important, but the second is why filmmakers are remembered. I think Kathryn Bigelow and Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone) will both be remembered, not because they are women but because they make damn good films.
What impact, if any, do you think feminist pop culture blogs have in our society? That’s a good question. Thank you. Pop-culture blogs have actually made a difference in the way writers and media makers address social issues in film and television. Sady Doyle wrote an article for The Atlantic last week called What Aaron Sorkin, Jon Stewart, and Tina Fey Learned From Their Internet Critics that addresses the criticism those writers have received from Doyle’s blog, Tiger Beatdown, and other feminist blogs, like Jezebel. Doyle illustrates the writers’ responses to such criticism, reaffirming that bloggers can actually make a difference in the way media is produced. That’s an incredible feeling.