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Diablo Cody on the Athena Film Festival and Male Versus Female Strippers

Diablo Cody. Photo: Getty Images

Now in its third year, the Athena Film Festival kicked off last night in New York, celebrating the works of female directors, screenwriters, and producers (among those on the slate are Beasts of the Southern Wild and Ginger and Rosa). Onetime stripper turned blogger turned screenwriter Diablo Cody serves as co-chair of the festival, which is why Vulture encouraged her to go off on some feminist rants about Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar snub, imposter syndrome, and films about male strippers (yes, we’re talking about Magic Mike).

The Athena Film Festival always seems to happen every year soon after we get the Celluloid Ceiling reports, which show how few women are behind the camera in the top grossing films, and after we get the Oscar nominations, in which women were only nominated as directors for documentaries and animated films, and only as co-directors with male partners at that.
That wasn’t great. It’s always mysterious and frustrating, that data. That data is not good. And what, not even the one woman who’s won before can get nominated? I have to say, Zero Dark Thirty is an amazing movie, and I don’t understand why Kathryn Bigelow wasn’t nominated. Unless it’s related to the controversy? I don’t know. But the Academy’s already embraced her, so why can’t she get the nomination? Are they still patting themselves on the back for giving it to a woman once before? Did her previous win [for The Hurt Locker] fill the quota or something? It was so disappointing. I remember when they announced the nominations that morning, I ran into the bedroom as my husband was getting dressed, yelling, “Kathryn Bigelow wasn’t nominated! It’s pathetic!” It drives me crazy. I can’t explain what’s going on. But this is why it’s necessary and important to have the Athena Film Festival, to do anything we can do to help spread the word and support women in leadership positions in film.

At least you can take consolation in that women will always be nominated for Best Actress, if nothing else.
[Laughs.] If men could find a way to dress up as women like in Shakespearean times and get considered for Best Actress, I’m sure they would. I just find it frustrating, because, sure, I’m privileged enough to have my foot in the door, but I want to bring in as many women as possible.

Part of Athena is the documentary Women Aren’t Funny. Are you amazed that this is a question still being asked to this day?
Yeah. People know better than to get in that argument with me. Things are going to get ugly very fast! But some people really get off on that, and if you argue with them, you’re only feeding the trolls, indulging them, giving them that negative attention. But the fact that even some women would say women aren’t funny is what’s really frustrating. It’s part of the problem. I feel like one of the reasons we’re not hired more to write and direct is that some women are complacent and want to be part of the boys club, and part of savoring that acceptance is following the rules. And that’s dangerous, to be scared to offend anyone.

You’ve been working on your directorial debut. Do you still feel like an imposter? Or less so now that you’re a director on top of being a screenwriter?
Oh my God, it’s worse than ever! The only thing that makes me feel better is the realization that I’m surrounded by lots of other imposters. A lot of people have no idea what they’re doing, although that doesn’t make me feel like I have any more mastery over my craft. I just thought I could either try to explain this film to another director or go direct it myself. Why not? But this experience has knocked me down quite a few pegs, learning how to do this every day, making lots of mistakes. Plus, I was six-months pregnant while we were shooting, but I didn’t want to delay production because of that. I have so much respect for anyone who has a great first film, because I don’t know how you do that, how you do it on instinct. I’m struggling to do my best every day. But I’m happy with the film that I made. It feels new to me.

You were going to call it Lamb of God until the metal band by the same name said no way? And now you’re calling the story [about a conservative burn victim who goes to Vegas] Paradise?
It’s really fitting once you see the movie. It has a double meaning.

What do you make of all the love Channing Tatum’s gotten for turning his stripper past into a film, possibly a franchise?
Nobody wants to talk about this but me! Nobody’s asked me this before. I find it very interesting that a man can be a stripper, talk about it openly, go on SNL and parody it in several sketches, and nobody accuses him of leveraging his sexuality to get ahead. They applaud it. And he did make a quality film, and it obviously did really well, and it had a certain pedigree — it wasn’t trashy — but I do not think a woman would be treated the same way. I’m living proof of that. A woman’s sexuality is dangerous and threatening and dirty, and for Channing, it’s a charming tool in his arsenal. And I love Magic Mike. I love Channing. This is in no way a diss on him.

Could Channing ever replace Robert Pattinson in your Red Trailer series?
No. I will love Patzy forever. I will never stop. I stand by him through everything!

Diablo Cody on Male Versus Female Strippers