Oscars 2016/ The Men of the Oscars humiliate a brilliant woman
The Men of the Oscars humiliate
a brilliant woman: Mallick
The treatment of British costume designer Jenny Beavan as she won her Oscar for Mad Max: Fury Road was profoundly awful
By Heather Mallick
Published on Wed Mar 02 2016
I don’t watch the Oscars. They’re cheesy yet pompous, tacky yet money-larded, and particularly brutal for women, both those nominated and those watching. So there’s that.
But the ceremony outdid itself this year. As with human beings — the ones who don’t tip the pizza delivery man or who underpay the nanny — it’s the small moments that are most revelatory about one’s character.
The treatment of British costume designer Jenny Beavan as she won her Oscar for Mad Max: Fury Road was profoundly awful. A series of men in the seats lining the long walk to the stage — important men are always given easy access — stared at her with open loathing, refusing to applaud.
Spotlight director Tom McCarthy, 49, openly laughed at her. Best Director (The Revenant) Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, 52, drew his eyes up and down her entire body, looked repelled and kept his arms crossed. Steve Golin, 60, a rich man, producer of The Revenant and Spotlight, studied her and remained frozen.
Beavan is 66, heavy-set, with frizzy hair and little makeup, if any. In a Mad Max tribute, she wore leather jeans, a leather jacket with jewelled skull on the back, heavy scarf, and chunky jewelry. She looked brassy and cool, in other words a person who has worked on the signals, purpose and esthetics of film costuming for decades. Clothing sends out a declaration: hers said, “I’m the real thing. I design. I am not to be consumed.”
The men who despised her wore almost identical tuxes that said: “Clothing is irrelevant. It is merely the lesser costuming that accompanies my singularly fine masculine mind.”
Actress Cate Blanchett (L) and costume designer Jenny Beavan, pose in the press room during the 88th Annual Academy Awards. Blanchett was clearly thrilled to bits that Beavan won on Sunday; she’s generous, writes Heather Mallick.
And the intelligent Cate Blanchett, who gave Beavan her prize, was wearing Maximum Barbie Prom Gown, a frothy mint thing covered with feather flowers, because Hollywood women go along to get along. Blanchett was clearly thrilled to bits that Beavan won; she’s generous.
Beavan’s designs for Mad Max: Fury Road were unearthly: bullet-belt headdress, black leather pants and ratty scarlet onesies, human skull masks with horse teeth and tubes leading to a bladder, codpieces of doll heads, a guitar built out of a bedpan, filigree covers on leprous noses.
The lesson is clear: in the future we will wear whatever we find in the gutter and try to convey “I will hang your liver on my codpiece.” Well done, Beavan.
Beavan worked on many of the Merchant-Ivory films, she and John Bright winning in 1986 for A Room with a View, lace for women, linen for men and hats on both. She worked on The Black Dahlia, with 1940s shoulder pads, beestung lips, and baggy-suited men staring at Elizabeth Short’s hollow half ‘n’ half corpse.
And then there was my favourite Beavan scene ever. In 1992’s Howards End, based on E.M. Forster’s 1910 novel, we saw the class system in the form of a house, the ownership of which troubles everyone. Beavan had to cram that information into the first scene, using clothing.
It is twilight. We are outside a grand house in the darkening countryside, the interior glowing gold. Vanessa Redgrave is not in but out, walking in the lush surrounding meadow in a long silk dress of teal blue, scalloped and gathered, carelessly letting her full skirts trail in the tall wet grass.
I’ve never forgotten that, the flowers in her hair, the combination of colours in the dimness, the luscious fabric, and the information conveyed: it is the industrialized turn of the century, she is outside the house, her husband is inside, she is wealthy but not rigid, hard financial facts vs. idealism, a clash is coming. Handily done.
The Men of the Oscars disliked Beavan for not being a damp gamine in a gown.
Beavan, who had earlier been ridiculed at the British BAFTAs ceremony for looking like “a bag lady,” briskly said of this second man-shaming: “I don't do frocks and absolutely don't do heels, I have a bad back. I look ridiculous in a beautiful gown. This was a homage to Mad Max.”
But who cares how a genius looks? Hollywood is hell for smart women. Your best-before date is your early 20s, which means you have no time for education. You must be skeletal, obedient, and fantastically pretty and you must be lucky in the powerful men you meet and audition for.
I always tell female student audiences, “Never underestimate how much you are hated.” The Beavan serial humiliation was proof. Brains and talent won’t save you from ridicule.
Hollywood views the world inside out, and it has no shame.