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Zendaya Says Criticism of “Malcolm & Marie” Stripped Her and Co-Star John David Washington of Their Agency

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  • The Netflix film “Malcolm & Marie” faced criticism from viewers who said writer and director Sam Levinson used two Black actors, Zendaya and John David Washington, to voice his own personal opinions on race and identity politics in Hollywood.
  • However, Zendaya told The New York Times the criticism was unfair because both she and Washington helped Levinson craft the script and were producers of the film.
  • “I think a little bit of our agency was stripped away,” she said. “John David, I and Sam equally own this film.”
  • She later told the Los Angeles Times that she feels the conversations she had with Levinson about race came through in the film’s script.

“Malcolm & Marie” Faces Criticism

Zendaya is addressing the backlash and criticism that her film “Malcolm & Marie” has received for its discussions of race in Hollywood. 

The film, written and directed by Sam Levinson, co-stars Zendaya and John David Washington as a couple that spends the night arguing after getting home from the premiere of a film Washington’s character directed.

“Malcolm & Marie” is full of long and winding monologues not just about relationship troubles, but also about the roles race and identity politics play in the interpretation and criticism of film.

Ironically but perhaps intentionally, those monologues are at the center of the criticism the movie has received. Journalists have panned the film, and speeches delivered by Washington’s Malcolm in particular, for their trite and exhausting dialogue that ultimately runs in circles. 

Many have specifically taken issue with the fact that Levinson, a white man and the son of a famed director himself, seemingly inserted his own angers about film criticism into words uttered by two acclaimed Black actors. 

“There are many moments where it feels as if Malcolm, who is a Black Hollywood director, serves as a mouthpiece for Levinson’s own opinions on race and filmmaking,” Micha Frazer-Carroll wrote for The Independent.

In a piece for The Guardian, Robert Daniels wrote that the film uses Black actors to vent white frustration. Daniels suggested that Levinson could have used the character of Malcolm to discuss the way white critics interpret work by Black filmmakers, but instead, “uses Malcolm as a black shield for his real target, not the critics who analyze black works, but the ones who interpret his.”

“As ‘Malcolm & Marie’ unfurls, Levinson shifts Malcolm’s voice from a black one, to the white director’s own,” Daniels continued. 

Zendaya Addresses Backlash

However, Zendaya feels these criticisms are unfair and disregard the fact that both she and Washington produced the film and were heavily involved in every aspect its creation. Levinson and both of the stars have talked numerous times about how collaborative the set was and how Zendaya and Washington were part of the process of crafting the script and their characters.

“I think a little bit of our agency was stripped away,” she told The New York Times on Sunday. “Like this was just kind of Sam spewing things through us without realizing that we are not only actors in this, but we’re co-financiers and producers with P.G.A. marks. You can’t get those unless you actually do the job.”

“John David, I and Sam equally own this film,” she continued. “It’s not like it belongs to someone else and I just got cast in it. He wrote it for us too, and I think if you’re going to write something, you have to acknowledge experiences of the [Black] character you’re writing.”

In a Tuesday piece from the Los Angeles Times, she expanded on how personal producing this project felt to her.

“I’m putting my own money into it,” the actress explained. “I’m producing something, so I’m putting myself out there in a much more vulnerable position than I’ve ever been in.”

She also said that she spoke about Levinson about race and Hollywood and felt that her ideas did come through in the script.

“There’s conversations that I’ve had with Sam that reflect a little bit in things that Malcolm says about his creativity and being boxed in, specifically being a Black creative that feels like there’s a certain lens their work is looked through — those kinds of things,” she said.

Levinson has similarly dismissed criticisms made about him being white and making a film with Black protagonists. 

“I have faith in the collaborative process and in my partners that if I write something that doesn’t feel true, that JD or Z don’t respond to or feel to be honest, that they are going to say something and we’ll work it out,” he told Esquire. “I didn’t have anxiety in that sense because I have too much respect for the collaborative nature of filmmaking.”

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (New York Times) (IndieWire)

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Taylor Swift Slams “Ginny & Georgia” for “Deeply Sexist” Joke About Her

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  • Netflix’s new series “Ginny & Georgia” is facing criticism for featuring a joke about Taylor Swift’s dating history.
  • “You go through men faster than Taylor Swift,” a character in the show said, which the singer’s fans have denounced as a misogynistic remark. 
  • For many, the joke is especially frustrating because Swift has long been critical of this narrative and sexism in general in several interviews, songs, and even her own Netflix documentary: “Miss Americana.” 
  • “2010 called and it wants its lazy, deeply sexist joke back,” Swift tweeted Monday, adding, “Also, @netflix after Miss Americana this outfit doesn’t look cute on you 💔 Happy Women’s History Month I guess.”

“Ginny & Georgia” Sparks Outrage

Singer Taylor Swift criticized Netflix’s new series “Ginny & Georgia” on Monday for including a “deeply sexist” joke about her dating history.

In one episode of the show, which debuted last week, the character Georgia asks her daughter Ginny if she has broken up with her boyfriend.

What do you care? You go through men faster than Taylor Swift,” Ginny replies.

After seeing this, were quick to defend the singer, slamming the remark as misogynistic and causing the phrase “RESPECT TAYLOR SWIFT” to start trending Sunday.

It even prompted fans to point to a 2017 episode of” Degrassi: Next Class,” which is also co-produced by Netflix, along with other companies.

In that episode, a character says, “Taylor Swift made an entire career off of her exes.”

“RESPECT TAYLOR SWIFT” Becomes Trending Topic

For many fans, these types of jokes are especially frustrating because Swift has long been critical of this narrative and sexism in general.

She’s addressed it in several interviews, songs, and even her own Netflix documentary: “Miss Americana.” Some online even pointed out that Swift trusted Netflix with that documentary as well as the concert film for her Reputation tour.

Swift took to Twitter Monday to address the joke herself.

“Hey Ginny & Georgia, 2010 called and it wants its lazy, deeply sexist joke back,” she wrote.

“How about we stop degrading hard working women by defining this horse shit as FuNnY. Also, @netflix after Miss Americana this outfit doesn’t look cute on you 💔 Happy Women’s History Month I guess”

Now, many are calling on Netflix and the series to apologize. Others are pointing to other stars who are often shamed for their dating history in the media, including Ariana Grande and Lori Harvey.

See what others are saying: (Cosmopolitan) (CNN) (PEOPLE)

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Netflix To Invest $100 Million in Diversity Initiative

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  • Netflix will invest $100 million into a creative equity fund over the next five years in an effort to boost diversity both in front of and behind the camera. 
  • This comes after the streaming service released a report on diversity in its original programming, which found that the company made strides for women and Black characters on screen but lacked in other areas.
  • For both film and television, Latino characters only made between 1.7% and 5% of lead roles and main cast members, despite being 12% of the U.S. population.
  • The report also found that just 2% of speaking roles in film and 3.3% of speaking roles in series were for LGBTQ characters.

Netflix Invests in Diversity

Netflix announced plans on Friday to invest $100 million into a creative equity fund over the next five years in an effort to boost diversity in all areas of production.

Ted Sarandos, the co-CEO of Netflix, wrote in a blog post explaining that this fund will invest in company programs aimed at identifying, training, and providing job opportunities for-up-and coming talent in the industry. It will invest in numerous organizations with “a strong track record of setting underrepresented communities up for success in the TV and film industries.

This comes as the streaming giant just released a massive report on its own diversity, done by Dr. Stacy Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. The study analyzed 180 scripted series and 126 films Netflix released in 2018 and 2019 to find where the studio has succeeded and where it needs to break ground. 

Dr. Smith said a report of this nature is both unique and historic. 

“At the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, we’re not aware of any other company taking a leadership role and making their findings as transparent and rolling out those results to all the communities,” she claimed in a video explaining the results of her research. 

“Given the size and scope of Netflix content, particularly as it relates to its entertainment industry peers, the results show one thing very clear — Netflix is committed to inclusion across its content portfolio,” she continued. 

Findings of the Report

Among the more positive findings, the report said that Netflix programs reflect gender equality when it comes to main roles, with 48% of films and 54% of shows having women leads or co-leads. It also found that 19% of lead roles went to male and female characters with unrepresented backgrounds, which is more than the industry at large did in the top grossing films of 2018 and 2019.  

When it comes to behind-the-camera film roles for women, Netflix is also outpacing the progress the industry is making overall. The company hired women to direct 23% of its movies, compared to just 7.6% of women who directed the top grossing films of 2018 and 2019. Netflix also employed female writers and producers at a significantly higher rate. 

The report found that the more women were working behind the camera, the more women wound up in front of it as well. 

“Inclusion happens when women are given the keys to the kingdom,” Dr. Smith said in a video explaining the results of her research. 

Still, there were many strides Netflix has yet to make when it comes to representation. While it did hire women of color to direct its films at three times the rate the industry in general did, they still only totaled just over 6% of directors for the studio. When it came to women of color directing television, Netflix fell behind industry-wide statistics. 

The report found that 15% of leads and co-leads were Black characters and almost 20% of main casts were Black, which is on par for the U.S. population. However, when it comes to other underrepresented groups, the studio lacked. 

For both film and television, Latino characters only made up between 1.7% and 5% of leads or main cast members, despite being 12% of the U.S. population. Additionally, the report noted that when it came to series, just 3% of creators and producers and 2% of writers and directors were Latino. For film, the studio employed just one Latino writer and director and only five producers. 

LGBTQ characters and characters with disabilities were likewise underrepresented. Just 2% of speaking roles for film and 3.3% of speaking roles for TV went to characters that identified as LGBTQ. 

Less than 2% of speaking film characters and 2.4% of speaking television characters had disabilities, compared to 27% of the American population identifying as having some sort of disability. 

What Netflix Will Do Next

Netflix plans to take this data and build upon its findings. 

“Great stories can truly come from anywhere, be created by anyone, whatever their background, and be loved everywhere,” Sarandos wrote. “And by better understanding how we are doing, we hope to stimulate change not just at Netflix but across our industry more broadly.”

During a virtual symposium, leaders at Netflix discussed the research and why it is important to the industry and the company. 

“Part of young boys and girls seeing themselves, seeing who they are in those roles and making sure that we don’t have ‘Black Panther’ once a decade, that we have films where young people of color, young women can see themselves as heroes in active roles,” Netflix’s Vice President of Global film, Scott Stuber said. 

He added that the new Netflix film “Jingle Jangle” starring Kegan Michael Key and Forest Whitaker was just one recent example of diversity on screen making a difference. 

“The outpouring from the Black community, having a holiday film that represented them and their families, was an incredible thing for our filmmaker and for our company. And I think we have to continue to think in those terms.”

Sarandos says Netflix is committed to its work with Dr. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. The two will work together to release a report every two years between now and 2026. 

See what others are saying: (Variety) (Deadline) (New York Times)

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Lady Gaga’s Dog Walker Shot, Singer’s 2 French Bulldogs Stolen

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  • Lady Gaga’s dog walker, 30-year-old Ryan Fischer, was shot Wednesday night by thieves in Los Angeles who stole two of the singer’s French Bulldogs.
  • Fischer was transported to the hospital in unknown condition, though he appeared responsive when talking to authorities at the scene. 
  • Gaga is reportedly offering a $500,000 reward for the safe return of her pets. 
  • Authorities said it wasn’t yet clear if the suspect knew the dogs belonged to Gaga, noting that French Bulldogs are often targeted because they’re expensive and in high demand.

Dog Walker Shot in Armed Robbery

Lady Gaga’s dog walker was shot and robbed of the singer’s two French bulldogs in Los Angeles Wednesday night, according to TMZ.

The incident happened at around 9:40 p.m. and the suspects remain at large. The victim, 30-year-old Ryan Fischer was transported to the hospital in unknown condition, though he appeared responsive when talking to authorities at the scene.

Aerial footage from ABC7 shows Fischer lying on the sidewalk as responders rushed to help him, cradling Gaga’s third dog who managed to run away from the attackers.

Tabloids initially reported that Fischer was shot in the chest four times and was recovering well, but authorities have not explicitly confirmed many details about his condition at this point.

TMZ then released a graphic surveillance video Thursday of the entire ordeal. The footage shows Fischer being grabbed by the robbers, who appear to shoot him once before driving off in a white car with two of the three dogs he was walking.

In the video, Fischer can be heard desperately calling out for help, saying he was shot in the chest.

Suspects At Large, Motives Unknown

Authorities said it wasn’t yet clear if the suspect knew the dogs belonged to Gaga, noting that French Bulldogs are often targeted because they’re expensive and in high demand.

According to TMZ, Gaga, who is currently in Rome shooting a new movie, is “extremely upset.” Several outlets claim she is offering a $500,000 reward for the safe return of her pets “no questions” asked.

An email address has also been created for anyone who may have information about the case: KojiandGustav@gmail.com.

See what others are saying: (PEOPLE) (TMZ) (ABC7)

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